Undercard Overhaul 2: 5 More Angles to Improve WWE TV
In the first installment of Undercard Overhaul, we discussed a basic rule of professional wrestling: the very definition of career suicide is the ability to be forgotten.
This industry thrives on spectacle and people have millions (if not billions) of entertainment alternatives if WWE and its performers fail to deliver a compelling product.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five more angles that can turn WWE's undercard from miserable to memorable.
5. Marked for Death
Bounty angles are nothing new in wrestling but it's been a good long while since WWE had the opportunity to elevate an existing program with this particular story-line flourish and have the ability to give it a meaningful twist. Case in point: the current feuds between Jinder Mahal and Sheamus, and Mahal and Ted DiBiase Jr.
"The Punjabi Prince" has been established as a man of means, both on television and WWE.com, "coming from a wealthy and powerful family in India."
It only follows that his weekly frustrations with both Sheamus and Ted DiBiase would culminate in Mahal, unable to get the job done on his own, posting an open bounty on his foes. $25,000 to end either man's career.
Mahal would enjoy weeks of watching Sheamus and DiBiase being targeted by money-hungry heels, sneak attacked in the back and having their matches interrupted.
Teddy Long couldn't do anything because, technically, the bounty isn't a legal document and he can't tell Mahal to back off because sports entertainment has a decades-old precedent of not legally interfering in threats -- "It's kind of what fuels our business, playa!"
The twist comes when DiBiase, also a man of means, puts a hit out on Mahal in return, resulting in a dueling war of bounty hunters...some of whom could be one-night-only appearances by Legends and peanut vendors coming out of the woodwork to claim a prize.
Mahal hires Mason Ryan as his bodyguard but, even then, the attacks are relentless. DiBiase offers to rescind his contract if Mahal rescinds his first, and Jinder and Ryan face Sheamus and DiBiase at a pay-per-view to "settle this like men."
The faces go over, the angle is done, and everybody goes their separate ways.
4. Kofi Kingston, Problem Solver
Kofi Kingston is one of the most likable guys on the planet but he doesn't have much depth. He's athletic and fun-loving but what else can you say about him?
The preceding "uh" makes Kofi a liability in today's character-driven WWE and he's going to struggle at recovering momentum as a singles Superstar in the wake of Evan Bourne's persistent Wellness Policy violations.
To make a comic-book analogy, Kofi's like Superman. By themselves, you really want to like them but they're ultimately kind of bland.
They're not trouble-makers. They're straightforward, fret-less good guys, which might have sold tickets "back in the day" but is a recipe for disaster in the modern era. (Ask Roddy Piper what his career would've been like if he didn't always rock the boat.)
Also like Superman, it's possible to draw out Kofi's innate goodness (thereby making it marketable) by surrounding him with outside elements to contrast and interact (and thus energize) Kingston's uncompromising Boy Scout image. Let's put him in a situation that's dirty (psychologically, not sexually) and let squeaky-clean Kofi shine by comparison.
The most successful angles are ones based in reality but cranked up to full volume, so let's bring in Kofi's sympathetic little sister. She just had a baby and her deadbeat boyfriend walked out, leaving our hero morally obliged to take care of them.
He begs both Raw and Smackdown general managers for more matches (because more matches equal more fight purses and the chance to pursue championships, not for their prestige but the dollar bonuses that accompany them).
The bills pile up and Kofi pulls double duty on both shows for several weeks before other wrestlers complain and the GMs, in all fairness, have to cut him back.
Kofi offers to referee matches along with wrestling, and he does that for a couple of weeks before it's obvious that he's no good as a zebra and other wrestlers complain that he's screwing them in order to get ahead. Again, management's hands are tied.
Kofi attempts to work in other areas of the business, with Kevin Dunn in the production truck and with the sound guys, but he becomes more of a burden than an asset and is forced to look elsewhere for opportunities.
Big brother's at the end of his rope when John Cena makes a suggestion: "Why don't you go into business as a Problem Solver?" And thus Kofi begins working odds-and-ends jobs for other Superstars to help make ends meet for his sister.
One week, Kofi will play love guru/matchmaker for an uncharismatic coworker.
The next he’d be a fetch or a gopher – on a beer run for Austin!
Vince McMahon spontaneously “hires” Kofi to fill in at the commentary desk when Michael Cole gets attacked by Daniel Bryan.
Del Rio needs his car washed.
Creative could liberally insert Kofi into other ongoing angles or hot feuds for a main event rub. The gimmick is flexible, the audience never has to see the same thing twice (which is key), and people will feel good about it because he's trying to do a good thing. (Not to mention how a loss would tug at their heart-strings and generate heat for a heel who cheated to win and essentially took food out of a baby's mouth.)
Near the end of the gimmick’s lifespan, Creative could set Kofi up with a manager, someone to act as a secretary and accept jobs, and this manager would do good at first, but then he'd start teaming Kofi with bad guys and low-lifes.
Kofi wouldn't feel good about taking their money but he'd go through with it anyway for his sister and her baby.
After Kofi's had enough, he'd threaten to fire the manager, at which time the manager would promise to only take “good” jobs from now on. Secretly, the manager would be angry and sabotage Kingston so he had to battle a string of really angry clients.
Kofi would have to fire the manager and immediately deal with the following revelation: his sister’s deadbeat baby daddy is none other than a heel worker on the opposite show.
This villain would be someone Kofi’s never faced or did a job for, or even ran into on-screen, who he must then fight to defend the honor of his sister (whom the heel will constantly disparage).
WWE could cat-and-mouse the feud for months before a blow-off pay-per-view match with child support on the line.
3. Christian's Curse
Ezekiel Jackson is tired of being lost in the shuffle. He's a former Intercontinental and (last) ECW Champion. He promises the WWE Universe a turnaround, that he's not going to sit on the back-burner anymore, when Christian comes out and says that he's heard enough.
"I won the Number One Contendership last week! TV time is valuable and belongs to Superstars like me, guys people care about, not some jacked-up Chump Nobody™ like you!" He yells, "You were only ECW Champion because I had a bad night. I was overwrought with grief. My dog ran away that morning and you got lucky!"
Big Zeke dares Christian to put his money where his mouth is and Christian agrees to put up the No. 1 Contendership if Jackson also agrees to a mystery stipulation, which he'll reveal "after I beat you in the main event!"
Jackson replies, "Have all the mystery stipulations you want, Christian! They won't matter! All that matters to me is the World Heavyweight Championship! I've beaten you before and I'll beat you again!"
Throughout the night, announcers wonder what Christian’s mystery stipulation is and whether it matters, if Big Zeke can win the coveted No. 1 Contendership. Will Christian make Zeke retire? Will he force him to face Kane and Big Show in a handicap cage match? Ezekiel Jackson’s taking a tremendous risk for a shot at the title.
Later that night, Christian cheats to beat Jackson in a lengthy, competitive match and reveals his stipulation: if Zeke ever loses a match again, for the rest of his life, he'll suffer a humiliating consequence of Christian's choosing -- starting tonight!
"Do the Charleston, Zeke! I wanna see Chump Nobody™ dance!"
When Zeke refuses, Teddy long appears to remind Jackson of the agreement he made earlier in the evening, that he's contractually obligated to do what Christian says if he loses a match. He says, "You made a deal with the devil, playa! You gotta live with the repercussions!"
Zeke dances while Christian points and laughs maniacally to end the show.
"This is awesome!" Michael Cole squeals. "Christian's my new favorite Superstar!"
The announcers start calling it "Christian's Curse" and, from then on, Captain Charisma will start interfering in Big Zeke's matches and causing him to lose, then force Jackson to do something ridiculous (like wrestle in a Doink costume next week, fight with one hand tied behind his back or streak through the arena buck naked).
The possibilities are literally endless and it's a story people aren't likely to forget.
Christian could even get clever and let fans on WWE.com vote for Big Zeke's next humiliating consequence, and this whole thing would go on for months, with Zeke costing Christian his shot at the World Heavyweight Championship somewhere in the middle.
Zeke would out-smart Christian one night, however, and win the No. 1 Contendership for himself and then the two would do battle at a pay-per-view, the end of Christian's Curse vs. a shot at the title, which Jackson would win to put an end to the angle (and still be No. 1 Contender).
2. Attention-Seeking Hypochondriac
If what you do is lose, how about you really lose?
It would start small at first, with a big crack on the head and a trip to the on-site doctor, who would diagnose Curt Hawkins with a clean bill of health. "You're just shook up," he'd say.
Next week, paranoid that the doctor missed something, Hawkins would plead with the general manager to get out of his match against Mark Henry (to no avail). Henry decimates Hawkins and he has to be carried to the back by referees because it feels like he blew his knee out.
A different doctor then shows Hawkins a healthy x-ray and clears him to wrestle the next week.
Our lovable loser would again plead with the GM, telling him “there’s got to be something wrong,” that he’s feeling phantom pains and he’s been running a temperature. "I can barely bend my knee!" he says, selling an injury we're not sure exists.
The doctors continue to say he’s fine, though, and the GM forces Hawkins to compete in a match later that night. This time, he gets thrown over the top rope and has to be carted out on a stretcher.
The announcers continually question Hawkins' health, wondering if he’s trying to “fake sick” to get out of matches or if there's some genuine conspiracy against him.
Hawkins comes out to his match the next week (and every week thereafter) wearing a hospital gown and pushing a fluids stand, and over-sells everything like Shawn Michaels fighting Hulk Hogan.
Even a basic chop will send the New York native, now acknowledged as a full-blown hypochondriac, flying across the ring. He adds the classic Flair flop to his arsenal and starts begging off when confronted by danger.
After the act has run its course, it would end with another sizable blow to the head that knocks Hawkins back to his senses.
He’d say, “It feels like a fog has been lifted. I feel so much better now, so much more alive!” at which point he'd become an extreme sports enthusiast, a hedonist or a daredevil in the ring with that creepy Diamond Dallas Page “I like you” smile, trying to “live life to the fullest ‘cause you never know when it could be over!”
"Listen up, maggots!"
It’s been too long since Sgt. Slaughter retired and it’s time for everything old to be new again. The military is a huge supporter of WWE, so they’d be solidifying their fan-base by introducing a team of military-themed, American flag-waving, whistle-blowing, helmet- and camo-wearing patriots who just “want to honor the glory and sacrifices of the U.S. Armed Forces!”
Sarge could even be their manager, or drill sergeant in “boot camp” vignettes, and they could eventually run deep angles about PTSD and against anti-Americans or conscientious dissenters, saying things like, “If everyone agreed with everything, we wouldn’t need a democracy. Congress might make decisions you don’t like but that’s got nothing to do with the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep this country safe! Presidents come and go. The Armed Forces are forever!”
Trent Barreta and JTG could fill this role nicely.