Hello everyone, I apologize for my absence from WWEpodcast.com in the last few months. I work producing merchandise for clothiers and we also supply the NFL as well as collegiate teams. This has been a hectic time for me, however…..I’m back! Thank you to everyone that read my last opinion column on NXT: UK, and all my new followers in the UK on twitter. The overwhelming response was humbling, exciting, and blew my mind. Thank you once again, the support drives me to create for you. Now this isn’t about me, it is about WWE wrestling and why so many casual fans have shut out the product. This is about how the ratings are at an all time low. This is about how the long term fan has heckled the product. This is about the reason we demand a real directional and creative change. What happened to the viewers, or the cultural impact of WWE ? Let us dive in and look at the last fifteen years under our magical wrestling microscope.
Chris Jericho, remember his name as I will reveal why he is so important to this article. If you have figured it out already you are very smart, if not you will in the end. Sometimes one moment or one superstar can make a major difference and signal a new beginning. It may have already begun and in due time we will get our answer. For now though we begin where many felt the hype started to fall off: The death of the “ Attitude Era”.
Once the monday night wars were won with the death knell of WCW, WWE began a new phase to calm the product and concentrate on longevity. Thus from this transition we had the “ Ruthless Aggression” era dealt to us. At first it didn’t seem so bad as WWE had employed Ohio Valley Wrestling to create new talent for television. Far from the days of jumping from one promotion to another; and with most former WCW and ECW wrestlers either buried or past their respective primes WWE needed a foreseeable future. With Jim Cornette leading the charge to teach the upstarts, WWE television was soon beginning to saturate with new faces, gimmicks and youth. Plans were made for a select few that grasped sports entertainment early on. Some showed tremendous potential to be the faces of tomorrow. The designation of the top tier youngsters became apparent in a short time there after, but a new era was upon us.
So much youth! So many directions to go in! It really did look like everything was on path for an amazing movement. It makes one want to ask how was this the beginning of the decline? I think we all know that. Out of all the newer talent the only constants that stayed with the company until now are John Cena and Randy Orton. While giving us new blood and hope at first their repetitive feuds with one another, domination of main event and crushing of superstars new and old grew stale in years followed. While these two became supreme chancellors of WWE, veteran talents began retiring or getting released. Unfortunately the “ future endeavors”, stemmed from lack of creative, multiple wellness policy failures, and talent demanding release. Orton and Cena heal their respective grounds and continued to improve as performers as tenured stars like the Undertaker, Kane, HHH, Big Show, and Rey Mysterio began working with as much new talent as possible. However the tide turned with two incredible incidents that shocked the wrestling community.
Eddie Guerrero passed away unexpectedly in 2005, apparent natural causes of heart failure being the culprit. Earlier in his career Eddie was released temporarily from WWE for failing wellness policies. His aforementioned problems with addiction were not exactly hidden to the WWE viewer. With the internet wrestling community growing rapidly, Eddies death became synonymous with his past demons, giving the WWE a murmur of bad publicity. With Eddie’s passing stirring up the lifestyles of wrestlers on the road a couple things hit WWE even harder.
Plans had been circulating the internet wrestling community that the McMahon family is interested in becoming politically involved with the U.S. Senate. Linda McMahon had began the roots of a campaign to run for primaries. Politics cannot have the stench of controversy, which lead to idealizing the next era of WWE history. The era was preempted by more bad publicity, this one gave the WWE a black eye and effect and still linger to this day. In 2007 Chris Benoit commit a grizzly double murder-suicide that sent waves of negative press in the WWE’s direction. After the death of Eddie and knowing he was Benoit’s best friend, the news stations delved deep into the investigation of this story to find out what happened. The results on Benoit’s brain came back as reported severely damaged from multiple concussions and blunt trauma. Steroid abuse was sighted as well, both results pointed the finger in one direction: Professional Wrestling was to blame, namely WWE. The panic button was on full blast and something had to change to save face for a publicly traded company and potential political run. The result was the first real blow to the ratings…. We usher in the new “family friendly” PG era to the dismay of many a long time or especially casual fan. Gone was Stone Cold and Mick Foley to retirement, the Rock off to Hollywood, and several star such as Christain and Booker T hopped off the boat to TNA. So who is going to lead us, the new generation of Cena and Orton and who? The answer was obvious, McMahon used an old tactic to try and steady the ratings while building new stars, how could it go wrong?
Bring out the dinosaurs! We now have a very watered down product from the “Attitude era” with extended comedic bits. To accent this the WWE brought in way too many “Golden era” stars such as Hogan, Piper, Flair, Duggan, Dibiase, and Sgt. Slaughter. While it would elicit a smirk, the dinosaurs were taking too much time from the in ring product and rising stars. This “dinosaur act” as I like to call it, is used today still but more to promote a special announcement. In this early stage some were used as guest hosts, or interviewers as other actually performed in the ring. Some such as DiBiase were present to help establish his second generation star son. Used sparingly this is ok like the DiBiase angle, as for the others performing in the ring… it hurt all the fans who craved the attitude era and shied away from the golden era cartoon like product to begin with. However if ratings dipped WWE would always call in the Rock or Stone Cold to make an announcement. This worked for a quarter hour ratings pop until we realized they are not going to wrestle, not now and maybe not ever. What, as the viewer were we left with? One of our attitude era heros advertising a new (Straight to dvd) WWE produced movie, or mediator of a contract signing segment. So we changed the channel and get our football scores, no need to worry about false hype, because it leads to false hope.
In this time WWE was hemorrhaging talent almost yearly, youthful hopefuls like Carlito ( A powerful conduit to Puerto Rican talent, and access to WWC video library.) second generation star Ted Dibiase jr. due to lack of creative foresight, Rene Doupree walked ( They had plans for him as he was a teen when they first signed him, the proud French Canadian gimmick soured the viewers as a Quebecers retread.) after failing a wellness policy and being assigned to the new ECW sinking ship. WWE had kept cranking out talent from OVW and FCW but not every one lasted. Gone were characters, now we had first and last name wrestlers and most had to have super muscular builds to get noticed. As a casual fan trying to get back into the product, could you try to differentiate one big normal named adonis from another? I didn’t think so, and many more super pushed bodybuilders were released too. Out was Mason Ryan, Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson, in was The Miz, Sheamus, Santino Marella, and some really talented guys from the indie’s but more on them later. Wrestlers originally packaged terrible such as Nicky from the Spirit Squad and Festus became Dolpg Ziggler and Luke Gallows. WWE expected us to forget that we knew them before in former roles, at least CM Punk ( One of those indie guys.) gave Gallows a storied reason for his reinvention. As a casual viewer alongside the hardcore viewer confusion would set in. Nobody lasted as new blood, while the top card of HHH, Undertaker, HBK, Kane, Bautista was starting to grow stale. WWE still had Cena and Orton as consummate professionals and having them take the new guard. This was a very confusing time in WWE as everything in the ratings began to plateau. There is only one thing to do, if its getting stale .WWE needs star power and McMahon knew just where to get it!
Enter the guest host/GM phase, not to be confused with the anonymous gm because we always need an authority figure. I get at Wrestlemania 1-3 the celebrity factor was part of the pageantry and put mainstream eyeballs on a PPV product. Celebrities worked well and also harmed with the wrestling industry for decades. Great examples are the way Mike Tyson was used versus the David Arquette trainwreck. However if ratings start to slip, let us get a household name to appear, it might stop the remote from channel surfing. WWE went all out too, we were treated to such wrestling related celebrities such as Bob Barker, Verne Troyer, and Jerry Springer. Hundreds of thousands of Attitude era “serious wrestling” fans began switching channels through this mess. The sight of Jeremy Piven misnaming Summerslam shows how truly invested he was to be a host. Imagine at this time as a hardcore fan you are seeing the emergence of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, plus new faces like (Antonio) Cesaro and Wade Barrett and would love to share this new work rate. The excitement of seeing great indie workers on the biggest stage is worth showing or trying to reclaim a fan. Then you do it. You turn on Raw and Florence Henderson is the guest host. Florence Henderson! The mother of the Brady Bunch tv show and spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil, these are related to wrestling how? This connects with the lost dynamic like the Titanic hitting the iceberg. We changed the channel, and we are embarrassed for such a goof segment that WWE produced. Weeks later we tune in again, hoping our friends will dig it… instead we get the Muppets hosting Raw and the wrestlers interacting with them like humans. We are no longer embarrassed for WWE we are embarrassed for ourselves to offer it to a casual viewer. If you add up all the guest host and give them all 10 minutes of stage time, you have almost three episodes of wrestling with no commercial breaks for up-coming talent. Food for thought the September 17th, 2012 Raw was hosted by Jared Fogle. I wonder if that connected with fans pre investigation and washed out of history post sentence. Don’t get me wrong, done right like Tyson it can be well played but if done wrong it’s a blip on the map like Snooki when younger talents were held off television. It comes down to the script, what is the plan? If Dinosaurs and Celebrities aren’t holding the ratings steady then what is to blame? We have performers retiring, a couple indie stars rising, confused soap opera writers with constant released talent and policy violators being released. What we knew was gone, what we are given is mediocre and convoluted, we are in the early era of complete mediocrity. Hey, at least we had Orton and Cena.
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Thank you please return for part two as I do not want to make this too tasking. Thank you and anyone who would like to contribute towards the ratings loss reach out at @144captian on twitter. All feedback is good feedback and I want your opinion before the second part. Thank you.