The Use of Tout and 5 Other Things That WWE Needs to Fix
WWE is renowned for its gripping, larger-than-life storylines and characters, but as WrestleMania 29 looms, several things could be changed to ensure a more all-around enjoyable product.
WWE's insistence on leaping to the front of the social-media revolution is something fans have had to grin and bear over the last 18 months.
However, with Tout now becoming a firm fixture of WWE programming, along with other needless segments, episodes of WWE Raw have become somewhat tedious to watch live.
On the whole, WWE does a fine job in keeping fans hooked each week, but a few alterations to its scripts could end up reaping dividends in the company's short- and long-term future.
Here, I'll look to analyze six changes WWE should make to ensure that it makes the most of its weekly broadcast time.
Make WWE SmackDown Worth Watching Again
For a program considered WWE's B-show, there are far too many pointless segments in WWE SmackDown that prevents it from being a worthwhile view.
As a British viewer, I record Friday night's two-hour offering on a weekly basis, and given the amount of engaging material produced, it can generally be watched in 45 minutes.
Nowadays, fans are treated to at least two flashbacks to events on Raw, a vintage bout from "The Vault," matches involving jobbers featuring a predictable winner, and the development of two storylines at most.
With Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus and Randy Orton technically still SmackDown Superstars, feuds involving these stars are generally featured, while CM Punk and John Cena remain on Raw.
Fans deserve more than this, and at least with Team Hell No making regular appearances, there is scope for the tag team division to thrive, such is the time SmackDown seems to have on its hands.
It has been years since the blue brand hosted a genuinely gripping feud, and progress must be made on this front to prevent the once-great show from falling into anonymity.
It would not be hard to turn SmackDown into must-see television once again, and elevating the midcard and undercard would be a strong start in regaining its path to relevancy.
WWE's Midcard Titles Mean Virtually Nothing Now
The United States and Intercontinental championships used to be prestigious titles in WWE, but nowadays they may as well not exist.
U.S. champ Antonio Cesaro and IC title holder Wade Barrett have both flirted with the main-event scene since their WWE debuts, but both have also endured horrific starts to 2013.
Cesaro enjoyed a fairly entertaining feud with The Miz recently, but has otherwise suffered countless defeats at the hands of Ryback and Sheamus, while Wade Barrett has won just two of his last 13 matches.
Stats like these indicate that WWE holds little to no regard for their midcard titles anymore, and perhaps a simple, yet sad, solution may be to eradicate them from television for a while.
With WrestleMania season in full swing, WWE creative's focus is rightfully focused on making the main events at the "Show of Shows" worth watching, but showing complete neglect for their midcard titles is disrespectful to past holders such as Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In 2002, WWE unified the Intercontinental title with the World Heavyweight Championship, which became the prime focus for a spell on Raw, and that may not be a bad path to go down, albeit temporarily, until WWE can find the time to make the midcard titles matter again.
One would assume that with five hours of television to play with on Raw and SmackDown each week, there would be staff who could concoct engaging feuds for the titles.
If that isn't the case, though, then scrapping the midcard championships for a period would be a much-preferred option to seeing them continually lose prestige and fall further into irrelevance.
Tout It Out, I'll Be Fast-Forwarding While You Do
For those unaware of what exactly Tout is, it is a free video-sharing site and mobile app where you can record and send 15-second video messages directly to WWE Superstars.
In itself, the premise is actually quite heartwarming, but for some reason, WWE now feels compelled to show these videos on its weekly broadcast of Raw.
Call me cynical, but when I cozy up to indulge in the latest antics in the WWE world, I am not tuning in to see what other fans have to say about storylines.
Over the last few weeks, we have been treated to members of the WWE Universe's feedback on Triple H and The Undertaker returning, and each time I was left completely stunned.
Admittedly, the actual video package takes up only a minute of time, but combined with Michael Cole's relentless Tout plugging throughout the show, it becomes more and more tiresome.
Essentially, should WWE devote as much time to the tag team or divas division as it does to Tout, then for at least five minutes each week, I'd be less inclined to reach for the fast-forward button.
Unfortunately, It's just not the fans who can get involved, with Brock Lesnar and Jerry "The King" Lawler amongst those who have recently promoted Tout, as WWE looks to force this product down our throats, whether fans like it or not.
Focusing its efforts on producing constantly entertaining broadcasts should be WWE's priority, and this is a prime example of energy spent that would be much more valuable elsewhere.
Calling Daniel Bryan 'Goat Face' Is Not Funny Anymore
When CM Punk called Daniel Bryan a "goat face" in mid-2012, it was an incredibly amusing observation that gave everyone who watched a big laugh.
Nine months later, it is no longer funny.
Furthermore, it is impossible to sit back and enjoy a Bryan match, such as his thrilling battle with Ziggler on the March 11 episode of Raw, with Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler constantly referencing it.
Admittedly, this is a minor peeve in regard to the overall landscape of WWE programming, but such is the regularity of the phrase usage now that Bryan's career is starting to become defined by it.
Bryan is one of WWE's best in-ring talents, and arguably its best technical wrestler.
However, while his current babyface run with Kane results in "goat face" being taken in a light-hearted manner, should he become heel again, it will be impossible to take him seriously if this nickname continues to stick.
Sadly, Bryan's beard-off with Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick will only invite the phrase to be used further as long as the WWE Tag Team Champion sports his remarkable facial hair.
For now, this is a limited grievance, but if "goat face" is still associated with Bryan in six months' time, then his career progression may begin to suffer as a result.
Stop Overexposing SmackDown Stars on WWE Raw
When WWE Raw became WWE Raw Supershow in 2011, SmackDown stars started featuring heavily in a bid to gain them some notoriety.
Two years on, SmackDown has yet to host one spectacular feud that will live long in the memory, and it is largely due to its talent constantly appearing on WWE television.
With the current World Heavyweight title feud between Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio reportedly failing, blame can be found due to its frequent spotlight on both Monday and Friday nights.
Fans such as myself are relatively happy with the Swagger vs. Del Rio feud when tuning into SmackDown, but on Raw, this rivalry feels like filler material before the likes of John Cena and CM Punk turn up.
Should the WWE Championship also be featured on SmackDown, then it would be a different matter, but it isn't, and as long as World title feuds stretch out on to Raw, fans will remain as indifferent as they have during most of the recent rivalries for the title.
WWE has sadly ended up sacrificing the World title as a result of moving Raw to a three-hour show, with the WWE Championship elevated as a result due to its main-event focus on Monday nights.
WWE's roster is vast and diverse enough to fill Raw each week, but as long as stars technically bound to SmackDown keep appearing, their careers will continue to be marred by constant overexposure.
Sheamus, Big Show and Alberto Del Rio have all been victims of this, and unless WWE finds fresh ways to fill their time on Raw, then the World title will continue to decrease in its grandeur.
Leave the Comedy for the Superstars Who Are Actually Funny
WWE is in quite a worrying decline in regard to its recent attempts at comedy.
From Mae Young giving birth to Hornswoggle, to Sheamus still treating us to god-awful anecdotes, it may be fair to say WWE's comedic offerings are at quite a baffling low.
Why this is, however, is quite hard to explain.
Some critics may direct blame toward WWE's TV-PG programming, which has seen the product lose a lot of spark since the rating's inception in 2008.
This may be a simplistic answer, but it is hard to deny that The Rock retains his humorous talents through a clear lack of respect for WWE's reluctance over live swearing.
In fact, his crackhead promo in February was as edgy a promo seen on WWE television in recent years, and a stark cry from many of the company's bland, pandering full-time babyfaces.
Sheamus and John Cena's corny attempts at humor have marred their characters to no end, and only Daniel Bryan offers salvation due to his timing, wit and unpredictability.
While the babyfaces are failing, heels such as CM Punk and Damien Sandow have been relied on to carry the comedy baton in recent months, a damning indictment of why top faces are booked so strongly by WWE, to compensate for their lack of personalities.
The fact remains, though, that if wrestlers who fans are meant to dislike make them laugh, they will endear themselves to supporters far more than dominant, rigid behemoths like Ryback.
Comedy plays a role in professional wrestling, but unless WWE reiterates its focus on who should be making the fans laugh, then more problems may lie ahead in the future.
Jack Woodfield is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JWoodfield365
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