On the surface it would seem that the WWE is flying pretty high these days. Sure it may not have the world-wide media attention it did in the late nineties, but with just a few short weeks until Wrestlemania and a marquee main event featuring two of the biggest stars of all time, one would think that the WWE could do no wrong in pleasing its mainstream audience.
But they are doing plenty of wrong all of the time.
The WWE seems to running on auto-pilot. Every week we see a product that at times can be quite entertaining, but at times a complete bore. Very rarely are we treated to a surprise comeback or an unannounced headliner. For the most part, we see a tightly-scripted machine, which is currently churning out a production line of seemingly cloned talent. Sure, guys like Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder provide us with decent matches and even cut an entertaining promo from time to time, but in 15 years, will they be remembered as top stars?
Here are the facts as I see them. John Cena is the WWE's top guy, but he is polarizing. People love him and people hate him. I cannot think of a top talent who, in their prime, had a divided fanbase. Not Hogan, not Rock, not Austin. The WWE knows that they desperately need John Cena to carry the weight of the company for years to come. Sorry folks, but C.M. Punk is not the answer.
Punk is a talented guy with tons of charisma, but at the end of the day he's a watered down Steve Austin. If C.M. Punk would have been wrestling in 1999, we'd be talking about a different guy all together. Tuning into Monday Night Raw during Steve Austin's prime was an event all in itself. The "anything can happen at anytime" aspect of wrestling back then just does not exist in today's product. When is the last time we had a truly remarkable moment on RAW? I would say last summer. The infamous C.M. Punk promo which shook up the Internet in a way we haven't seen in a long while.
But where did that take us?
Nowhere. What came of it? How is the WWE putting out a better product as a result of C.M. Punk's innovation?
They aren't. There is no need to recap the last six months in the WWE. We've all lived it, digested it and spent a hell of a lot of time complaining about it. I am sure that Wrestlemania will be a great event and will most likely trump last year's bust, but what happens after that?
The Rock will not be hanging around in the wake of Wrestlemania. The book is closing on the careers of Triple H and The Undertaker, especially the latter. John Cena and Randy Orton have all but exhausted their own respective feuds and title reigns.
Sure, there's some great talent swimming in the pool. Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan come to mind has wrestlers who could eventually make a huge impact on ratings, if given the chance. The question is, will WWE be willing to roll the dice like they have in years past, or are they content with their current ratings and marginally entertaining story lines?
I am a strong believer that the WWE is too focused on branching out as a international media company and not focused enough on its core product. Any company, big or small, that tries to be too many things to too many people will eventually fail. What if eBay started its own movie studio? Or if Facebook started a wrestling company, for that matter?
The next five years will be seminal in determining the future of the company. Vince McMahon is only getting older, and sooner or later the major decision-making powers will shift towards Stephanie or Hunter.
Something tells me that WWE could be in big trouble soon. The company will always rely on its superstars, and superstars are the one thing that they are lacking right now. The legendary names of the last twenty years are slowly disappearing, and nobody is stepping in to fill their shoes. To me, this is a major cause for concern.