WWE's week of publicity stunts started with the shrewd courting of Michael Sam and has somehow transitioned to the booking of Jerry Springer. After all, there's nothing wrong with a little organized soap opera to go along with professional wrestling.
The Monday Night Wars have returned, but not the kind that make the wrestling business better. Over the years, Monday Night Football has been the stiffest competition WWE has had since WCW Nitro but with triple the ratings and seven times the staying power.
In hindsight, Monday’s lackluster main event almost seemed like a backdrop for Michael Cole to promote next week’s show, which will go head-to-head with the season premiere of the prime-time juggernaut.
Next week's Raw will feature a Steel Cage match between Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt. It will also pit a second-generation wrestler against a third-generation wrestler as Roman Reigns takes on Randy Orton. Neither of those matches, however, will be the most “pro wrestling” aspect of the program.
In true carnival-barking fashion, WWE advertised a potential appearance by historic NFL player Michael Sam. According to the promotion, Sam, the first openly gay player ever drafted in the NFL, was to receive an open microphone to say whatever he wants.
Which program are you more interested in next Monday?
WWE did make it clear that Sam was only being invited to appear, but the visual of Sam’s picture next to the WWE Raw logo could have easily misled fans to believe he is actually being advertised to appear on Raw. It’s an old parlor trick and part of WWE’s one-sided agenda to get attention, because Lord knows Sam doesn’t need it.
Sam has already felt the backlash of publicity. Earlier this year, TMZ reported plans for his would-be reality show on Oprah’s OWN Network were placed on hold amid negative backlash from the St. Louis Rams.
Following a solid preseason with St. Louis, Sam was cut by the Rams but has recently landed on the practice squad with the Dallas Cowboys. With no guarantee of making a main roster, Sam needs to focus on all things football while proving he will not be a distraction.
Appearing on WWE television with an open mic will not prove that point.
With the aforementioned signing of Sam, the promotion knows there is no chance of Sam appearing on Raw. As of this writing, WWE has since extended its invite to any future Raw he wishes.
At the end of the day, this was nothing more than a publicity stunt to pique the interest of viewers like myself who follow both the NFL and WWE.
NESNY (@_NESNY) September 3, 2014
When assessing whether or not the Bella angle should win an Emmy, it has severely underwhelmed. I get that. But in terms of a professional wrestling soap opera, this angle has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
Nikki Bella, who has been the better performer of the two, once again shined with her intentionally over-dramatized "Growing Up Bella" vignettes. Nikki's charisma and over-the-top heel character traits are needed for fans to better sympathize with the more wooden Brie.
Fans were chanting "boring" to begin their live segment Monday on Raw, but the Bellas won them over as the crowd popped for Brie's attack on Nikki during an otherwise sloppy segment.
WWE.com is now advertising Jerry Springer for next week's Raw, which is the perfect way to escalate a storyline that has been cheap fun for those willing to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the angle.
It's fair to say this angle has lost some of its luster in comparison to what it was when Stephanie McMahon feuded with Brie. But the Bellas continue to be at the heart of one of WWE's top storylines.
Its been a while since WWE Divas have received such steady spotlight both in and out of the ring. If done correctly, the eventual match between Nikki and Brie will outshine the majority of pay-per-view matches between WWE Superstars.
— Michael (@antaa4) September 3, 2014
WWE teased having multiple contenders for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on Raw. Meanwhile, an army of contenders are competing for the NXT Championship during NXT Takeover 2, and the Divas title picture has also become crowded all of a sudden.
Booking like this is usually a sign of laziness and disjointed storytelling. Pro wrestling is best, and at its most dramatic, when two deserving combatants vie for a valuable championship. But if there are so many contenders for a top championship, how valuable can it be? It's basically the reverse scenario of having too many championships, except with the same result of everything becoming less meaningful.
The multiple-contenders storyline goes hand-in-hand with an authority figure losing control, which can just as easily be a storyline as it can be a legitimate concern backstage.
One of WWE's more historically disappointing pay-per-views was 2010's Fatal 4-Way, a gimmick pay-per-view that boasted multiple Fatal 4-Way matches.
After doing only 143,000 buys, according to WWE's Corporate website, the pay-per-view was discontinued after its first year. The buyrate was down over 30,000 buys from The Bash's figure from the year before.
It's too difficult for fans to spread their interest across multiple characters. Multiple contenders means more than one face and/or heel, thus diluting the all-important emotional connection with fans.