As I’ve been living my life as a WWE fan this week, I’ve found myself both infuriated and excited by the product.
I’ve been infuriated because Breaking Ground has been winding me up.
Not the programme itself, I think it’s a great concept, but on that show, they talk a lot about how the more depth you can add to your character, the more believable your promos are. Tyler Breeze even spent a while talking about how he changed his walk when he burst into his last chance saloon. It all sounds great – give your characters depth, give them a back story and everything flows from there.
Well what the hell good is that when nobody knows anything about that depth from watching Raw?
So we get a great insight into the makeup of the guys behind the wrestling characters and I love that. I know a hell of a lot more now about Tino Sabatelli’s journey through the WWE and a little bit through life than I know about the wrestling character he portrays. I know Tyler Breeze was the first person in the industry to have live selfies posted on the titantron and that the guy really works hard on both his wrestling and his gimmick to make sure it works.
But let’s say I didn’t watch NXT or Breaking Ground. Let’s say I’d been watching Tyler Breeze on Raw (or watching him not be on Raw too) since his main roster debut. Why does he love himself so much? What does he think about other people? What drives him? What’s he in the WWE to achieve? What does he think about his wins and losses against Dolph Ziggler?
I know next to nothing about those things from watching Raw. He’s just a guy who comes out and takes a few selfies, poses with Summer Rae and then wins and loses in equal measure. No reason to care about him at all. Just another gimmick who could be anybody.
It’s the case for far too many and it’s really starting to wind me up. When the WWE had their blip a few weeks ago (actually, is it over? I guess time will tell on that) one of the things everyone was talking about was WWE Creative’s lack of stories – well, part of that has to be how difficult it must be to come up with credible stories when you have no idea about the character you’re writing for. Maybe Eric Rowan likes getting pinned all the time, perhaps that’s his thing. Maybe Tyler Breeze is so obsessed with his looks he doesn’t care about the actual matches, only the moments he can preserve on camera. Maybe we got no reaction from Dean Ambrose when he lost to Roman Reigns because they didn’t know how his character was supposed to react.
The point is we don’t know. I’m almost wondering if wrestlers are actively told not to react to things. Maybe depth and continuity is a bad thing in the age of instant gratification.
We got a bit of a reaction from Dolph the other week, but that seems to have died away again. It also wasn’t on Raw and I’ve been fine tuned by WWE to such an extent that if it doesn’t happen on the televised portion of Raw, then it really doesn’t “count”. It’s like when you’re kids and you lose to your friend at a game, but it was just a SmackDown practice, it doesn’t count.
Without wanting to go all “things were better in my day” about this, you never used to have to wonder about how wrestlers felt about their wins and losses because they showed you, either through emotions or through a promo. It doesn’t need to take 20 minutes at the top of Raw – just give some of the guys 2 or 3 minutes to explain that they’re pissed off they lost last week before their next match instead of just coming down to the ring no different to normal and smiling.
It’s certainly a great basis for a new GM to come in and sort out. I can almost see Mick Foley screaming at wrestlers saying “I want to see you care!” to get some emotions out of them.
I watch, read about and listen to podcasts about wrestling every week and I don’t know the answer to the question of why they don’t do it more, particularly as the most maddening thing is, they know how to do it. When Alberto Del Rio debuted for the first time, we all knew about the Mexican Aristocrat. His vignettes (where have vignettes gone?) told us all about him before we saw him so when he debuted we were already turning the page of his story.
Even when Kevin Owens joined, we got a few promos with Cena to embed his character for us, but for most it’s just in one week, out the next.
Then I got to thinking that maybe I’m too old.
I don’t give a crap about social media. I barely use Facebook, am very rarely indeed on Twitter and don’t have accounts for Instagram or any of the other tools or apps. People mention sites and apps now that leave me feeling like a bewildered dinosaur of a man who’s woken up twenty years in the future.
I mention my decrepitude because maybe we’re supposed to get all this character background from social media. Maybe I’m supposed to go onto Tyler Breeze’s Instagram page and look at the great shots from his match, with the caption “worth the loss to get this shot”… but my gut instinct is to say that isn’t happening on social media either.
Raw is a TV show. The live shows are the live shows where wrestling is all that matters – Raw is a TV entertainment product. As such, I want to lose myself in it – I want to buy into the characters, the situations and the dialogue like I would a TV show and that helps me buy into the matches.
Which leads me on to what excited me this week.
Man, but I’m loving the actual in-ring action from the past few months. It’s really been great – not necessarily all 5* matches, but the matches on PPVs have been consistently really worth watching, which a few years ago, quite a lot weren’t in my opinion. Matches on Raw and SmackDown both are getting more time and we’re getting at least one match each show that makes it worth tuning in for on a consistent basis.
I honestly think that if the invested more drama into these matches they might even go up a star or two in rating, because the wrestlers having more to go on for their character, as they clearly care about from watching Breaking Ground, would lead to those motivations and reactions coming through in their matches.
Even without that though, I’d watch the shows at the moment purely for the wrestling because there’s so much talent on show and so much different talent too, that the shows can live on that.
Which might be part of the problem with creating stories. If the wrestlers aren’t supposed to react to things, then maybe that’s because the company knows the wrestling can stand on its own two feet without spending too much effort on the build or reaction. I don’t know – if that’s the case then it’s a risky thing to do because eventually you’ll see all the match-ups that are there to see and there will need to be another reason to see them again. Eventually they’ll have to build some more depth into the characters and stories because they’ll run out of good wrestlers to pair against each other.
I’m normally a pretty positive person, so I’m going to go into next week living my life as a WWE fan hoping for the best. They got so much right in the past few weeks (in case anyone is wondering, I’m ignoring the Slammies completely, on purpose) that I’m hoping they’ve got the message and depth is coming. We got it, a little bit of it, from Kevin Owens and we’re getting it from Roman.
I just hope they’re getting it too.