WWE: Keeping Wrestling Fun by Matt Corton

TJR Wrestling

I’m not psychic. Not being psychic means I can’t predict the future. It also means that when I do know what’s going to happen in the future I don’t feel like I’ve read it in tea leaves or felt it in my water, it just means something has been a little too predictable.

If you can predict the future (without being psychic) does that mean that future isn’t something to look forward to? Well, I guess that depends on what it is you can see in the crystal ball.

I know for sure I’m not psychic because I thought I knew what to expect on Sunday. I got some of it right. I knew the lights would dim. I knew it would all start with spotlights playing on the centre of everyone’s attention. If there were a curtain, it would have gone up. I’d come to my first show, though I’ve seen many like it before.

That show, on Sunday, was a wrestling show. It had a mixture of everything. It had returning stars, in-ring action the crowd got into and two big men wowing the audience in the main event.

As the promo started everything off, I sat back smug, thinking I’d proved myself right – I knew what was coming. It didn’t take long however before I realised that whilst everything was similar to how I had expected it to be, it was completely different. I didn’t watch wrestling as a child; it’s something I came to later in life, but the show I was at made me feel like I was a kid watching wrestling. The pinnacle of the day was the main event, where I watched two super-heavyweights slug it out, giving their all. They killed it and I loved every second of it.

That’s right; Mason Ryan killed it on Sunday.

Sorry, what show did you think I meant? Hell in a Cell? Well, for starters I didn’t see that until Monday because I live in the UK and the rest of the world’s time is wrong. No, it was Allstar Promotions Superslam Wrestling that was proving my lack of psychic tendencies.

If there’s one thing I go on about all the time, it’s that I think the main thing about wrestling – about life – is the stories. Storylines drive the feuds, drive the matches and drive the audience’s involvement in the match. The guys from Allstar have reminded me this weekend of something else wrestling should always be which is more important than the stories – fun. They stuck to the basics and they did tell stories, but ones that weren’t that complex. There was a four-man tournament, 3 faces 1 heel. The face vs. face match was a plucky young debutant against the veteran from the WWE (Oliver Grey). It’s an easy story to tell. The newcomer tries is heart out, gets a few shots in, but ultimately the wily vet grinds him down in the end and shows him he has a way to go as he does it.

Then, you had the main event – Mason Ryan, babyface full of energy, against Avalanche – quite literally the mountain of a man the name suggests. Babyface in peril against the huge super-heavyweight for most of the match, comeback, win.

Standard wrestling formats that work – and it was interesting to see WWE use the tournament idea on Raw the very next night, because tournaments are, I think, a fantastic way of creating feuds and I don’t think we see enough of them. It gives the challenger an immediate credibility in being the challenger and if you’re lucky, you get a whole bagful of undercard feuds out of it as well (everyone’s assuming there’ll be loads of Survivor Series matches at the next PPV – I don’t believe that at all, but that’s for another column).

What Allstar did that was remind me of the less subtle origins of some of what we take for granted, such as a face asking the crowd “shall I?” before hitting the heel, or telling the crowd to chant for more. Both things WWE Superstars do, just in much more subtle ways. Cena holds his hand up to the crowd before hitting the F5 as they crow their approval .Sheamus asks us if we’re entertained – it’s all from the same well.

So all this got me thinking about just what is fun for me about wrestling because what WWE thinks is fun, cringe-worthy fun like the Bunny, isn’t always my idea of what is fun, the “this is awesome” fun of an awesome match.

Hell in a Cell was fun. Raw, this week at least, was fun. New Day are fun. Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Dolph and even Reigns – hell all of the guys on the roster – get the idea that this is entertainment, that it’s supposed to be fun, in whatever format of fun it’s presented as. There’s different styles of wrestling out there just as there’s different types of fun. Of all of those styles, British holiday camp-style wrestling wasn’t one I thought I would ever go and see along with about 30 other people in my local town, but I thought I’d give it a chance. So I’m sitting there, third row, my fiancée and I are the only adults there without having brought kids, and I loved it. I really loved it, because it was fun.

There’s always a ‘but’ in my articles, though. This but isn’t about how creative are struggling to create shows as fun as Raw was this week every week. This but is much simpler.

I loved the show I went to see on Sunday, but I can read the stars well enough to know that if I went to see it again tomorrow, I wouldn’t find it anywhere near as fun, because it wouldn’t be fresh. I’d have seen it before. So my but is that you can make something as fun as you want – if you just churn out the same stuff every week then it doesn’t stay fun for long.

Look at the New Day. They’ve recently added unicorns to their mix and it’s working really well. It adds something to their act which builds on what went before. They’re not just doing the same thing week after week, they’re changing it up and they’ll thrive on that. In this day and age when you can see the past and present any time you want, the industry has to change it up much more often to keep the wrestlers’ heads above water or it won’t be long before everyone nobody will need to be a fortune teller to see what’s going to happen next.

New Day aren’t just keeping their heads above water, they’re swimming, as is Bray Wyatt, by changing the little things up. Sheamus changed up his look but not really his move-set or anything to go with it, so it’s all fallen a bit flat (at least with me). Sure it’s engaged the crowd in the sense that they tell him he looks stupid now, but that’s it. Same with King Barrett – evidence if there ever was any that while King of the Ring is a really fun tournament, one I love, its results nearly always fall flat. Same with Big Show – heel or face, it’s the same thing time and again.

It doesn’t have to be a big change like a heel or face turn – just subtle things that let the character evolve. Cena’s a perfect case in point for this – his character has remained the same, I think I’m right in saying, since time began, and we’ve all been practically begging for a change. This despite the fact he regularly puts on some of the best matches of the year and improves as an in-ring performer with each of those years.

I’m having fun watching WWE at the moment, but I’m still left with that but. Keep it fresh to keep it fun, WWE. Keep bringing the unicorns. A small tweak like a finger unicorn for someone like Randy Orton would freshen him up no end.

Enough about what I think though, who would you guys add a tweak or two to? Who could you make more fun to watch?