Although you’ll find me writing weekly Ring of Honor reviews, my real passion is education. Students have been flowing into my history and government classes for a week now as I begin my sixth year of teaching.
Two years ago, I began taking classes as part of a master's program in teaching and learning. One of the first things we learned about was “backward design.”
When I started teaching, I created a curriculum, taught what I thought was important, then tested students on what they learned.
Backward design flips the script.
It says that any test should assess the most important ideas and concepts of a unit. Therefore, educators should write the test first, and then design lessons that make sure students can answer every one of those questions by the end of the unit.
It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but it is the best way to make sure that students leave my course having learned everything that is essential.
Recently, it occurred to me that WWE could improve the quality of their pay-per-views by doing the same thing.
Since Extreme Rules in April, every pay-per-view until SummerSlam has featured two or three matches that had no build or story whatsoever.
Random Divas matches, Ryback squashes, and unannounced tag team clashes filled space where meaningful stories could have been told.
The story is the most important element of professional wrestling. There’s no reason to invest in a match if it’s not part of a larger story.
Without “story,” matches do nothing more than kill time.
Night of Champions should be the easiest pay-per-view of the year for WWE’s creative team. One person holds a championship. Another person wants it. Instant conflict. Instant story.
However, we are a week away from Night of Champions, and neither the United States Champion nor the Intercontinental Champion has an opponent.
It seems pretty obvious that Vince and Creative fly by the seats of their pants. They bounce from week to week advancing the stories that seem most important.
It’s why every pay-per-view has two meaningful world championship matches, but we haven’t seen one significant United States Championship defense since Night of Champions LAST YEAR.
Instead of planning shows and using pay-per-views as the culmination of the rivalries they create, WWE should plan their pay-per-view cards and then use the next month to advance stories for each of those matches.
Just like in a classroom, it will guarantee that everything that needs to be done will be done. Every match will have purpose beyond filling space.
Certainly, suspensions (Jericho, Orton), injuries (Sin Cara, Barrett) and poor crowd reactions (Tensai) will come up. Adjustments will need to be made.
However, even if something needs to be changed, it’s not going to be any worse than it already is. But it can get a whole lot better.
WWE has 7.5 hours of programming every week. If they make use of it, they could easily feature eight meaningful matches every pay-per-view.
Just like a good education, that’s something from which we would all benefit.