Is anyone else disappointed that we were told which brand Auska is headed to? I would have rather been surprised at her Raw debut. Because of social media, there is hardly ever an element of surprise anymore when it comes to wrestling storylines. Even with the Hardys, we all knew they were debuting, even though we didn’t really know for sure until their music dropped. That’s part of the problem with wrestling today. There is not enough separation between the fans and the show. They’re breaking kayfabe too often. Due to leaks, we already know everything that’s going to happen before it happens. We don’t need the company telling us more, like who’s debuting and where they’re going.
Whether you hate John Cena and Roman Reigns, or love them, or hate one and love the other, you have to acknowledge that their contract-signing promo this past week on Raw was buzz-worthy. Everyone is talking about it. After the promo aired, there was some speculation that Cena went off-script, but other sources suggest that it was “exactly what the WWE wanted” (https://wrestlingrumors.net/john-cena-go-off-script-raw-segment-roman-reigns/). But more importantly than that, it was exactly what the fans wanted.
When the John Cena vs. Roman Reigns match was announced for No Mercy, I have to say that I was honestly kind of dreading it. Cena and Reigns both have a very limited technical wrestling arsenal, and they don’t really provide a lot of shock-value with their moves. They’re both predictable wrestlers. Earlier in the Raw episode, after seeing an ad for No Mercy, I thought, “Wow, they really haven’t built up this match/rivalry at all.” But their promo changed everything for me – even how I feel about the future of WWE.
Before I say anything more, watch the promo if you haven’t already:
At (9:40) Roman says Cena gets booed because he sucks, to which Cena responds, “According to them [the fans], so does he [Kurt Angle], but that’s okay because he won a gold medal.” This is the part that felt to me like it was off-script. It seems as if Reigns – based on his expression – didn’t expect Cena to say anything in that moment. So far, the argument has been a lot of back and forth, without interjections, up until this point when it deviates from that pattern. And realistically, that isn’t how an argument goes. When two people argue, they don’t exactly listen to what the other has to say, and then respond. They yell over each other when they hear something they disagree with.
Further proof of straying from the script is that Roman loses his train of thought. You can see it happen. He pauses for a moment, then suppresses a grin. Of course, Cena points this out: “Go ahead, find it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.” Officially we don’t know whether this moment was scripted or not, but either way it’s typical Cena. He’s witty and quick, and that is one of the main reasons why he has been so successful in this business. When Roman can’t seem to come up with a response, Cena tells him, “It’s called a promo, and if you’re gonna be the Big Dog you’re going to have to learn how to do it.” This moment was mic-drop worthy. Later, he calls Roman stupid: “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and to have people think you’re stupid than to open it and prove them right,” and “It took you five years to cut a half-way decent promo” (10:25). In this segment, Cena becomes a champion of the people by telling Roman what has been on our minds since the company starting pushing him. It’s like Cena read all of my angry tweets directed at Roman Reigns.
Cena is not only speaking for the people, but he is speaking candidly to the people. He breaks the fourth wall, addressing the fact that people want him to have a heel turn. Typically, we’re supposed to pretend that the entertainers and their characters are all one in the same. They’re not supposed to break kayfabe by using backstage terminology such as “heel,” “face,” and “promo.” Cena even says at one point, “See ya fourth wall!” We feel close to him in this moment. We feel as if there isn’t this huge barrier between the company and the fans, between the storylines and the entertainers themselves.
The most profound quality of this promo is that it seems as if the writers are reading the comments section on social media and responding to the people. They are researching what the people want. This is confirmed when Cena says, “they [the fans] hold the keys, they always have.” This gives me hope for the company’s future.
Every week, it seems like, WWE hits a new record for low ratings. Both Raw and Smackdown’s ratings are poor and continue to decline week by week. There are even talks of NBC terminating their contract with WWE, to take Raw and Smackdown off the air in 2019, when the contract is up for renewal.
So what can WWE do to improve their ratings and keep their spot on cable TV?
Here are some ideas:
Listen to the people.
We – as a majority – do not want Jinder as champion, and we want the company to stop pushing Roman. These two “athletes” do not belong in the Universal/WWE championship running. The title does not carry the same amount of respect when it is given to just anyone. Roman has about three moves: punches, spears, and clotheslines. I want to see WWE favor superstars with actual talent. AJ Styles, in my opinion, is the most talented wrestler in the business right now. He is not my favorite (character-wise) but he has some serious talent. I think that the WWE needs to reward those with actual athletic ability and wrestling skills by giving them long title runs until there is someone worthy of holding the title. I feel the same way about Charlotte in the Women’s Division. She is clearly the most athletically gifted female wrestler on the roster. So to give the title to someone like Bayley – who has a good amount of fans, no doubt, but struggles with wrestling and talking – isn’t right. Ultimately, superstars that can wrestle should have a place in the business, even if their mic skills need improvement. Generally, the fans will accept superstars that are impressive wrestlers, even if they can’t talk well. If you can speak naturally and believably, that’s great, and you can gain acceptance from viewers in that way. But there are only so many places on the roster for people that are only good on the mic. This isn’t a talk show. And for some reason, there are superstars on the roster that can’t talk OR wrestle (aka Roman & Jinder). This isn’t right.
Expand the roster.
I don’t care whether this means bringing back former WWE superstars, stealing superstars from TNA, recruiting Indy wrestlers, sending up more superstars from NXT, or going to high schools and scouting graduating kids. WWE needs more variety. We are tired of seeing the same matches week after week, and being able to predict what is going to happen based on storyline patterns. There are almost no surprises on Raw or Smackdown. They rarely have superstar returns, or championship matches on the two main shows. Rather, they save everything good for the pay-per-views. And yes, you want your jaw to drop for the PPVs, but I remember ten years ago when I had this reaction every Monday night when I watched Raw. It was pure excitement.
I have to believe it’s possible to recreate the atmosphere of what wrestling used to be.
Fast forward to 0:45.
Kurt Angle was great on the mic as a wrestler. Now that he’s general manager, I feel like his mic skills could use some work. He never had a problem speaking before. Has he spent too much time away from the company? Maybe he isn’t used to such a large audience anymore, and he’s nervous? Is it because he is best known for being a heel, and he isn’t really sure anymore how to be a face? Either way, it sounds like he’s reading off a script. His eyes are all shifty, and he just looks uncomfortable.
The WWE has come a long way in its treatment of its female superstars. Women wrestlers are no longer called Divas, commentators don’t yell “puppies!” whenever a woman walks down the ramp, and their wrestling gear is much less revealing.
The 2016 WWE Draft was majorly significant for the women’s division. The most exciting part of the draft for most people was the integration of the NXT talent. Both Raw and Smackdown acquired female superstars from NXT, including: Nia Jax, Carmella, and Alexa Bliss. That means that half of the NXT acquisitions were women (only six picks came from NXT). It does not get more equal than 50/50.
Charlotte, the WWE Women’s Champion at the time, was chosen in the first round, as Raw’s third overall draft pick. However you feel about Charlotte, this fact is impressive and boundary-breaking. However, I think it says more about the WWE’s changing attitude towards women than about Charlotte herself, although she is very talented. A few months later, Bayley joined the Raw roster. In recent weeks, there have commonly been two women’s matches per episode, even in NXT’s one-hour segment.
Most recently, last night on Monday Night Raw (10/3/2016), Charlotte faced Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship in the MAIN EVENT. While NXT has had women’s matches as the main event, I’m pretty sure this was a first for the flagship show. While I personally believe that despite her loss Charlotte had a better performance last night, this match was career-changing for both women, and industry-changing for the WWE.
On another note, the Champ needs to do something about that hairline.
Most of us are aware that WWE matches are scripted. However, I have been wondering recently if WWE Commentators also follow a script, or whether their reactions and comments are genuine and spontaneous.
The moment that brought this question to my mind was a match during Monday Night Raw, on September 26, 2016. In this match, the New Day faced The Club, in a Clash of Champions rematch for the WWE World Tag Team Championships. At the end of the match, there is a moment of confusion. There is blood in the ring. Outside the ring, Luke Gallows’ hands and gloves are drenched in blood, but he does not appear to be in pain. The camera zooms out. You have to squint. Where is the source of the blood? The camera zooms in to the men in the ring, the New Day. Kofi Kingston is bleeding profusely from his forehead. Xavier Woods presses a towel to Kofi’s head. You ask yourself, when did Kofi obtain this cut that caused such a massive amount of bleeding? Was it when he was slammed into the steel steps?
Then you wonder why you have to wonder this at all. Shouldn’t the commentators comment on when the injury was received? But instead, they say nothing about the blood, the bleeding, still going on in the ring. They do not say a word. This appears strange to me. Obviously, they were not prepared for this injury. It was not in the script. But even if it wasn’t supposed to happen, shouldn’t they acknowledge it anyway? It’s a big deal when someone bleeds. It’s an even bigger deal when it’s not supposed to happen.
I did a little research on whether or not WWE Commentators follow a script, and found out that they do. However, some commentators are known to forfeit knowledge of the endings of the matches in order to better commentate and react honestly. One website, deadspin.com even released a WWE Raw script, which contains certain points they must hit during certain matches. The script even includes wrestlers’ speeches and promos. It’s pretty interesting. Here’s the link:
A nine page script of dos and don’ts for WWE Commentators was posted on a website called SEScoops (http://www.sescoops.com/photos-full-nine-page-wwe-raw-announcer-script-leaks-online/). One of the rules is “don’t call blood,” which might answer my question. However, the rules are in place to make the commentators sound natural and honest. The natural response to seeing blood is surprise, even in wrestling. The way the commentators ignore the blood achieves the opposite effect; it makes their response (or lack of one) seem illegitimate.