Now that 2012 is drawing to a close, it's time to take a look at what the future holds for the WWE.
The last year had its fair share of memorable moments, great matches and shocking debuts, but it seems as though the same problems plague the company year after year. Repetitive matches, John Cena overkill, and a plethora of short, meaningless feuds.
The number of talented new stars appearing in the roster has given some fans a real sense of optimism, with a new generation solidifying themselves as genuine talents.
For instance, Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro have both impressed in the mid-card, and Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler seemed poised for main-event stardom. And this is without mentioning The Shield, currently the biggest talking point in the company.
With 2013 drawing ever closer, here are my simple solutions to improve the WWE over the next year and beyond.
NXT has been completely revamped from a glorified talent show to a genuine developmental territory. Taking place in front of an intimate crowd, the rookies are given more time in their matches to develop a better understanding of the business. The change will no doubt benefit the company in years to come, with a host of talented youngsters coming through.
The Shield have made an immediate impact in the company, looking dominant in clashes with top stars including Randy Orton, Team Hell No and Ryback. The fact that they picked up a huge win in their first match in the company under such pressure at TLC, and were booked to attack Ric Flair on the following Raw, shows the faith the company have in Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. The angle has been executed perfectly so far, I only worry what will happen to the trio when they come up against John Cena...
Ryback has generally been accepted by the audience as the newest member of the company's top tier. Despite mainly featuring in squash matches since his debut, 'Big Hungry' has been well-protected in his lengthy pay-per-view matches with CM Punk, John Cena and The Shield. Still yet to suffer a clean loss, Ryback's huge push shows that the WWE can still create new superstars when they want to.
Now on to what needs to change...
I know that authority figures are a necessity on WWE television whether it be to announce matches, add stipulations or become physically involved in certain segments. However, this is an area where the company has gone into overkill in recent times.
The likes of AJ Lee, Vickie Guerrero, Booker T, Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis have traded positions of power on a regular basis, whether it be as an interim or permanent general manager, assistant or advisor. And how can we forget the anonymous General Manager that was quickly abandoned after months of build-up, only for the big reveal to be none other than Hornswoggle.
And this is without mentioning onscreen Chief Operating Officer Triple H or even Vince McMahon himself, and his underlings on the mysterious 'Board of Directors' who are often mentioned but never seen.
To add some continuity to the product, each show should simply be allocated a General Manager that reports to Vince McMahon. Fans could not care less about the repetitive power struggles behind the scenes, and the time spent on these angles could easily be devoted to in-ring action.
How many times in recent years have we seen a new superstar debut by winning countless squash matches over 'local competitors'?
Chris Masters, Heidenreich, Vladimir Kozlov, Brodus Clay and Ryback instantly spring to mind, but there are numerous others. With the exception of 'Big Hungry,' none of the aforementioned stars ever made it past mid-card status and their pushes were subsequently abandoned.
In today's WWE, almost every new star will embark on some kind of undefeated streak after debuting. However, the gimmick wears old very quickly, and fans will lose interest in someone that is only seen to dominate the competition, with no real threat.
Instead of sacrificing no-name wrestlers and lower-card talent, a better way to integrate a new member of the roster is by placing them in longer competitive matches, allowing the audience to accept their ring style and personality over an extended period of time.
A new name has a better chance of succeeding if they booked to capture a hard-fought victory every week rather than a win a one-sided squash, and by doing this over a number a months the wrestler will be seen to have paid his dues by the time they move up the card, with the full support and respect of the audience.
One of the most common problems leveled at current WWE product is the sheer volume of talent on the roster that is given nothing to do. While the company seem happy to constantly promote Twitter and show recap videos of the top feuds several times per show, a plethora of low and mid-card talent are left kicking their heels on the sidelines.
Names like Christian, Tyson Kidd, Ted DiBiase and Jack Swagger are rarely seen on television, and are usually the victims of squash matches when they do appear. Unfortunately, the closest these guys are most likely going to get to a pay-per-view match is a pre-show Battle Royal.
Even cult stable 3MB was seemingly thrown together with little motivation or direction, and continue to find themselves on the losing end of their matches.
There are too many names being underutilized to list here, but it borders on the nonsensical that so many stars under contract are being left off television when instead they should be building a competitive lower-card division.
To improve the standard of the current WWE product, it needs to start from the bottom of the roster.
One of the main reasons that the WWE has failed to create new top stars in recent years is due to the way the creative team has overlooked the mid-card ranks.
Whereas once the Intercontinental and United States titles were viewed as a major accomplishment and a stepping stone to main-event status, the belts have now been devalued so much that they mean little to anyone bar the man holding it.
Kofi Kingston is currently in his fourth reign as Intercontinental champion, but has his career advanced any further than when he first lifted the strap? I don't think so.
And while United States champion Antonio Cesaro has restored some prestige to the belt following the tainted reign of Santino Marella, all of his high-profile television matches have not seen the once-coveted belt on the line.
Instead of constantly making the mistake of pushing certain stars to the top before they are ready, the company should devote more time to restoring the credibility of its mid-card titles. With the recent emergence of new talent on the roster and the number of stars desperate for television time, it would not be difficult for the WWE to revamp the mid-card scene into the dynamic, competitive division it once was.
Names like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H battled for the Intercontinental title before ascending to the top tier, and with the right backing from creative the mid-card could easily become just as important again.
One of the problems in failing to create new stars is that it will inevitably leave a shortage of main-event feuds, and over time repetitiveness will begin to set in.
For example, this year we saw John Cena and CM Punk feud yet again, while the Sheamus and Alberto del Rio rivalry dragged on for at least one month too long, and Kane and Randy Orton faced off for the umpteenth time in the last decade.
On the other hand, CM Punk's feud with Daniel Bryan was one not seen on WWE television before and was arguably the best feud of the year. Wade Barrett's television clashes with Sheamus have shown great potential for a feud between the two, and Dolph Ziggler is receiving almost unanimous fan support in his recent feud with Cena.
The company has a habit of rushing through feuds with little reason for the audience to become emotionally invested; usually Wrestler A wants to fight Wrestler B for some reason and the cycle will repeat between pay-per-views.
There are a number of unexplored feuds involving various combinations of the company's top talent, but they must start devoting more time to the build-up in order to pique the fans' interest and engage them in the rivalry, instead of rushing through the whole thing without thinking of the long-term ramifications.
Since John Cena established himself as the undisputed top guy in the company, the WWE have failed to create enough new main-event stars. The top-card scene in the company is desperately thin, with Cena and CM Punk recognized as the only genuine top stars on the full-time roster.
Sheamus is a recent addition to permanent main-event status, but even he has been pushed heavily ever since his debut back in 2009. As Triple H's pet project, it seemed we were destined to get used to 'The Great White' as a top-level star but he has proved himself this year.
Despite this, there are notable cases when the WWE has failed to capitalise on a star's undoubted main-event potential;
Daniel Bryan has taken every terrible angle the company has thrown at him and made it a success, and has managed to get himself over, no matter how he is booked. It could be argued he is currently the most over star in the company, and he himself deserves most of the credit.
After his return from injury, Wade Barrett was primed for a feud with Randy Orton and eventual run at the World Heavyweight Championship. Instead, he lost an Intercontinental title match to Kofi Kingston.
Dolph Ziggler should have defeated Chris Jericho and Randy Orton to cement his place as a main-event threat. Instead, he was beaten in both matches and has lost clean twice to John Cena in their recent feud, picking up a cheap win in their ladder match at TLC in the process.
The key to creating new main-event talent is getting the audience to take them seriously as credible threats to the top titles, and the company cannot hope to build the stars of the future with the erratic booking model currently in place.
I'm not against the inclusion of legends for special appearances, but rather the sad fact that the WWE doesn't have enough faith in the current roster (bar John Cena) to book them in headline spots at the biggest events.
I understand that The Undertaker, Triple H, and especially Brock Lesnar and The Rock bring in the big bucks on pay-per-view and the mainstream media attention that Vince McMahon so desperately craves. However, it would most definitely be more beneficial in the long-term to have these icons of the business go up against some current talent.
The big names could still go over, but any up-and-coming star would get a huge momentum boost just from being involved with one of the all-time greats. It used to be the case that the older stars would give the rub to the younger generation, but the WWE are far too reluctant these days to have their biggest names lose clean.
Eventually the company will run out of matches featuring the legends of the past, and the current roster will be ill-prepared to step up and take their place. By featuring part-time performers against the best of their established talent, the WWE could put themselves in an ideal position to create the next true generation of superstars.
(And before anyone mentions CM Punk vs The Rock, as much as Punk deserves it, his 400+ day reign as WWE Champion has already cemented his reputation.)
When John Cena first reached main-event status in 2005, he was surrounded by notable peers including Kurt Angle, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Batista, Triple H and The Undertaker. For various reasons, all of these names have disappeared from the roster, and in the interim nobody has been elevated to the same superstar status as Cena.
He has been top dog in the company for the best part of the decade, and the only person who has even come remotely close to usurping his position was CM Punk in the summer of 2011, and even as WWE Champion, 'The Voice of the Voiceless' still plays second fiddle to Cena on pay-per-view.
I understand that he is the face of the company, merchandise seller and publicity machine, but he will not be around forever. Cena has been booed by large sections of the audience for years now, and he is fast approaching 40.
For a while back in 2005-2006, Batista was viewed by many as the No. 1 guy in the company and Cena desperately needs somebody on that level to challenge his superiority.
It even seemed as though the WWE were beginning to humanize the character following a high-profile loss to The Rock and the beating inflicted by Brock Lesnar early in the year. However, normal service soon resumed, and Cena continues to be over-protected on pay-per-view in losing efforts against CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler.
I'm not saying that the company won't continue to shove Cena down our throats, because I'm sure they will. It would just be a wise idea for them to realize that if the rest of the talent are presented as inferior to Cena, there won't be any viable candidates to carry the company when he finally calls it quits.
Are a few clean losses really too much to ask?
Bear with me for a minute here.
I know that since winding down his full-time schedule, Triple H has done the reputation that dogged him throughout his career no favors by burying CM Punk in their short feud in late 2011, and hogging the limelight after his loss to Brock Lesnar in August. But everyone knows that 'The Game' has an ego that needs massaged.
It's his backstage tole as Executive Vice President of Talent and Relations that interests me.
It could be pure coincidence, but since 'The Cerebral Assassin' took up his corporate role, changes have been made in the WWE. For instance, NXT has been completely revamped and now finally resembles a real developmental territory (and 'The Game' had a lot to say about it). And the tag team ranks are almost unrecognizable from the mess they were in a couple of years ago, with Triple H a known fan of the doubles division.
Like him or not, 'The King of Kings' is a true student of the game, and has a vast knowledge of the entire wrestling world and its inner workings. It takes a savvy mind to go from the whipping boy of the 'Curtain Call' incident to the greatest backstage politician in the business in a few short years, before eventually becoming heir to the entire WWE empire.
Vince McMahon will have the final say on all matters until his last breath, that much is for sure. But isn't it a relief that amongst all the yes-men and failed sitcom writers there is someone, who is first and foremost a wrestling fan, there to whisper in his ear?
So there's my take on how to solve some of the problems with the current WWE product. It's all hypothetical, but some of the solutions seem so glaringly obvious, it's a wonder that nobody in the company has noticed.
What's your take?
Do you agree with the article?
What would you change in today's WWE?
Is Vince McMahon out of touch with his audience?
What does the future hold for the company?
I'm interested to know what you think on this one as every fan has a different opinion.
As always, sound off in the comments below!