It’s very rare that WWE does something that genuinely riles me, or I find myself struggling to shake their decision from my mind, but last night’s Monday Night Raw was one of those rare occasions. In fact, the more I think about it, it was a tipping point. You see, I’m not so deep into WWE or professional wrestling that I analyse every booking decision or log my gripes in a journal, but there are times when they just piss me off.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, on Monday Night Raw, the War Raiders – the big, bearded tag team who currently hold the NXT Tag Team Championships, made their debut on the flagship show. All good so far, right? Wrong. They didn’t enter as the War Raiders, but were now re-branded (in name only, it appears) as The Viking Experience. W.T.F? Seriously? That’s the best name they could come up with? To me, the Viking Experience is a Disney exhibition in EPCOT or part of the well-known Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England. That place is cool, you should check it out if you’re in the area.
Rumor has it that Vince McMahon made the change as WWE didn’t want to affiliate themselves with something branded with ‘War’. Thank goodness ‘Raw is WAR’, The Ultimate WARrior, WAR Games and the WARlord aren’t a thing in WWE, eh? Stupid doesn’t even cover it. These guys are a relatively new team, not just in WWE but in NXT too. They’ve been establishing themselves as hard-hitting, no-nonsense competitors who have a great entrance on the NXT Takeover PPVs, as you can see here.
Hear that crowd? They’re chanting ‘War. War. War. War’ Not ‘Viking Experience’. The big man Hanson is now Ivar and Rowe, who has Rowe tattooed on his body, is now Erik. Sigh.
As I said, this is just the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, WWE has been dumbing down lately and oversimplifying things for the fans. Yes, I understand that they target kids in their merchandise and marketing, but there’s no need to cut down on what makes fans like the product and the stars. It’s hard enough for the talent to make a name for themselves in the highly competitive business of professional wrestling without them literally having their names cut. Want some more proof?
- Andrade Cien Almas – Andrade
- Eric Rowan – Rowan
- Antonio Cesaro – Cesaro
- Luke Harper – Harper
- Mustafa Ali – Ali
- Alexander Rusev – Rusev
I just don’t get why WWE sees fit to trim the names of the talent. It makes it too generic, too simplified like they’re cookie cutter stars that are interchangeable; insert singular name here, re-brand and market appropriately. It doesn’t make anyone stand out, instead it forces them into the background and they all blur into one.
Not to harp on about the past, but some of the most memorable and popular stars in yesteryear rarely went by one name. They had lots of monikers: The Great One, The Heartbreak Kid, The Nature Boy, The Phenom, The Eighth Wonder of The World, The Rattlesnake. See? A little imagination goes a long way. It distinguishes the star from the rest of the pack, breaks the paradigm and sets them apart. It’s not just their ability, but how they’re recognized by people talking about them. They have that tagline, that phrase that creates an image in your mind as to what that person represents and what to expect of them. I think WWE are deliberately losing that by cutting what sets their stars apart from the rest.
Where do WWE go from here? I’m almost certain that Charlotte would be her only name if she wasn’t a Flair, but I wouldn’t bet on it lasting too much longer. In the next six months, I can see WWE chopping some names of their current stars to make the product more streamlined. I fully expect Aleister Black to lose the Black, Becky Lynch to be simply Becky and Roman Reigns to be one or the other – I predict Roman. Follow that up with a PPV that has matches like Rollins vs Orton, Styles vs Bryan, Kofi vs McIntyre, Sasha vs Cross and much more.
They can go further than that. Soon it’ll be WM36, where Strowman will face Balor for the IC (Intercontinental Championship), The Viking Experience will put their titles on the line against AOI (Authors of Irritation – because WWE doesn’t like to say ‘Pain’), and “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey will shorten her name to Triple R and align with The Authority, who will be the only talent on the roster permitted to have two names because one of those is McMahon.
Phew, that feels better. Therapeutic, almost. What do you guys think? Is WWE oversimplifying their roster? Should some of the talent be renamed? Where do you stand on the War Raiders name change? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.