For years, the WWE (nee WWF), and WCW alike, had a pretty "cookie-cutter" system for booking and promoting their shows. They would sit around in booking meetings, lay out the clear faces and heels, figure out how the hero would overcome the odds, and put it to tape.
It was a predictable mentality, geared towards the youth that were the main clientele of the industry. To that clientele, the excitement was there, the anticipation of hopefully seeing their hero defeat the powers of evil were there, and the pure enjoyment of the product was there.
Then they began to grow up.
When the clientele of the professional wrestling business began to mature in age, the "cookie-cutter" mentality didn't cut it anymore, the fans began to grow restless. It was this, along with the emergence of ECW to a more mainstream stage, that caused the executives and writing staff to begin to rethink how they pulled off their shows.
It all culminated in the mid-'90s (between 1996-1998) when the face of sports entertainment changed.
At the 1996 edition of the WWE King of the Ring pay-per view, the face of the "Attitude Era," as it is known now, was born. In the finals of the King of the Ring Tournament, Jake "The Snake" Roberts was defeated by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Austin, who was supposed to be the clear heel, changed the minds of the entire wrestling world with one speech as Jake Roberts was exiting the walkway area:
"... You sit there and thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16, Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!"
It was with those words, the world of professional wrestling was turned on its head. From this point forward, until roughly early 2001 the WWE would be in the middle of the "era" it now calls the "Attitude Era."
Throughout this "era" of professional wrestling, the shows were edgy, the characters were edgy, and the product exploded. The WWE produced characters like Austin, The Rock, D-Generation X, The Godfather, etc.
They were able to have storylines involving the battles between anti-establishment mentality of "Stone Cold," against the corporate mentality of Vince McMahon, D-Generation X "invading" WCW in Norfolk, VA, and the most infamous, the "Screwjob in Montreal."
Unfortunately, when the WWE bought out their chief competitor, WCW, it effectively ended the era that made wrestling bigger than ever.
Since then, the business of professional wrestling has been pretty stagnant overall. There has been a noticeable lack of creativity in storylines and development of new talent. Obviously, there have been a few exceptions, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, and Jeff Hardy most notably.
It is this reason I write this column.
Over the past couple of years, I knew that Vince and the WWE were really trying to "get their feet under them." But it has gotten to the point where it is resembling the old "cookie-cutter" style, but on a more predictable and more ridiculous level.
Last night is the best example I have. The WWE had a special three-hour edition of Monday Night Raw, that was hyped because of the fact it would see the three top championships, between the three brands, defended live.
The week prior, Vicki Guerrero had "resigned" as the "General Manager" of Raw, and Vince was also expected to name the successor to her reign.
Instead, Vince went for another attempt to be "shocking" and "surprising" by announcing he had "sold" the rights to Monday Night Raw to Donald Trump.
Now for those who don't know, Trump and McMahon "battled" at Wrestlemania XXIII, which culminated in Vince getting his hair shaved.
So now Trump has "purchased" Raw. Why? Truthfully I wish I could see the point of the storyline now, to hopefully see some promise in it. Instead, all I see is desperation by Vince to do something he sees as "different."
Everyone knows this will end in another Trump/McMahon battle, and Vince will somehow get Raw back. As for promise, I see none.
So, what should be done? The answer to that is easy in theory, but with the mentality of Vince and the writers, damn-near impossible to pull off.
To begin with, Vince needs to move away from his "core" of "safe" superstars he puts in the main events. This "core" consists of Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton, John Cena, Edge, Jeff Hardy, The Undertaker, and Big Show.
Every "main event" at a pay per view consists of a pair or trio of those guys meeting up every single time. Vince is known to think these guys are the "safe bets" to put into a main event match.
At Wrestlemania XXV, which I attended in person, the co-main events involved Triple H versus Randy Orton, and a triple threat between Edge, John Cena, and Big Show. Both were horrible busts compared to the match they had to follow, and the Triple H/Orton match was damn-near unwatchable.
Another issue with the "core" superstars in the WWE is the fact that a couple of them only know how to perform one match, and that is even difficult for them at times. Batista and Big Show don't have an ounce of "entertainment" in their blood. Every match the two of them wrestle, against anyone else, is the same formula.
Of the two, Big Show is the worst! His new gimmick of "punching" people is about as stupid as they come. Since he "fought" Floyd Mayweather, we're supposed to believe Big Show has this superb punching power now? I think not!
The next thing Vince needs to do is have faith in some of his younger stars. The word backstage is that Vince has little faith in the likes of Christian, MVP, CM Punk, and Kofi Kingston to fully perform on the "big stage" reliably. The problem is, it is these superstars who crowds are starting to react to more.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin was one of these types of guys. He was never intended to become the superstar who took the business to a level that surpassed everything his predecessors had, but Vince said to just let Austin be Austin, and look what happened. He became, arguably, the greatest persona in the business.
Just a note, Mr. Kennedy would have been on that list too, but he was recently released, much to my chagrin.
Finally, Vince needs to get away from these gimmicky ideas he has. His version of the Denver/Los Angeles series from the NBA was worthless. Everyone knew who would win. The same goes for this horrendous idea of "selling" Raw to Donald Trump. These "gimmicky" ideas he gets are bad at their best.
They don't draw in more fans, they don't captivate audience, and they are simply not enjoyable to watch.
Vince needs personalities to carry the WWE, and the ones he wishes would do it are failing miserably. We've seen them time and time again. We get it already. Orton is going to kick people in the head, make retarded faces, and then repeat over and over again.
Triple H is going to be his opponent again, spew water, probably win because he's the bosses son-in-law, and then that'll happen over and over again. Batista will come back for three weeks, and then get injured again. Edge will somehow sneak in at the last second and somehow win.
Big Show will come in and punch someone and it'll somehow be hard enough to render them unconscious. And lastly, John Cena will come out, salute, be cheered by half the crowd, and jeered by the other half.
Vince, we get it already! Quit forcing the same thing down our throats time and time again. Give us entertainment. Give us "Attitude."
Quit pandering to the "youngins" that you think are the main demographic. Cater to everyone. Have some of the "kiddy" stuff, and then balance it out with some of the edgier stuff, and everyone will, at least, be a little more content with it, instead of absolutely bored.
Just know, if the best thing you have going is Santino Marella and his tranny sister, you need to seriously, and I emphasize SERIOUSLY, reevaluate your product.