Vince McMahon has been an institution at WWE since he started his career as an announcer.
But what if the Chairman and CEO of WWE left the company?
What would happen if I was awoken tomorrow by a phone call from WWE headquarters asking me to take over the top job?
I know there are a lot of articles that deal with similar "What if's?" on this site, but I wanted to come at this from a slightly different angle. I want to discuss things like keeping the current audience and the stockholders happy, rather than just making myself happy by pushing my favorite wrestlers.
A New "Spotlight."
So what would I do?
Well, I have four shows to play with—Monday Night Raw, Tuesday's NXT, Thursday's Superstars, and Friday Night SmackDown.
The first thing I'd do is cancel NXT, and not just because I've never really liked it. My personal opinion doesn't come into this; I'm running it as a business, remember?
No, I would cancel NXT because it has not gone over that well with the public, it's had bad ratings, and I don't think it's the best way to push new talent.
In fact, ECW, the show that NXT replaced, was really serving as a way to push new talent. ECW was getting higher ratings and I think that format was more enjoyable and more beneficial for pushing new stars.
I think that alumni of WWE's ECW, such as CM Punk and Jack Swagger, received a much better introduction to the world of WWE, and to audiences, than anyone got by spending several weeks on the faux-reality show that is NXT.
With NXT canceled, I would replace it with a more conventional show of the old ECW format.
But I would make a few changes.
First, I wouldn't insult the original ECW by calling it ECW and getting the fans' hopes up that they'd be seeing something very different from what I was offering. Instead, I'd call it WWE Spotlight.
That might not be the best name (it would be open to change), but it would describe what the show's focus is—a chance to cast the spotlight on a combination of seasoned pros and upcoming talent.
As is currently the case with NXT, Spotlight would be filmed on the same night and in the same locations as SmackDown, allowing the brand to feature its stars in front of a regular audience in order to help familiarize the paying public with the stars of tomorrow.
The brand would carry two main titles—the Spotlight title and the Spotlight tag team title—and these two titles would carry one other stipulation (to avoid them being seen as worthless titles). The holder could cash in his reign for a match on either of the senior brands, Raw or SmackDown, which would allow the Spotlight to assess crossover potential for its top stars.
The brand would have a roster that consisted of a minimum of two rookie tag teams, two rookie heavyweights, and two rookie cruiserweights at all times in order to ensure that there was always a constant stream of talent to fill any vacancies that arise in the senior brands.
This would be to avoid the sort of vacuum that we recently saw in the tag team divisions.
In my opinion—and this is just my personal belief—the one area that the majors have failed in is with the disconnect to their roots, which I think cuts off the supply of innovation and change that comes from grassroots, independent promotions.
The cage match, for example, was an independent innovation.
The ladder match was invented by a British Wrestler in 1972, adopted by Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, and then introduced to the WWF/E by Bret Hart when he signed with the company from Stampede Wrestling.
Hardcore wrestling also came from the independent circuit, as did the loser leaves town match. And of course, Lucha Libre brought us more agile performers and more aerial maneuvers, whilst Japan brought us hard hitting martial arts style strikes and moves.
By disconnecting from these roots and becoming a national promotion, the majors lost touch with this conveyor belt of innovation, and in my mind, lost some of edge that they used to have, particularly with local fans who no longer have a hero to cheer on.
I know that in the modern TV world of national promotions, we shouldn't go back to the past. But I do miss the regionalism element of wrestling, and I would like to see a national promotion brave enough to embrace it again.
I'd like to see Spotlight fill that void. And I think that the institution of regional titles could help it accomplish just that.
When the show is in a certain region, it could occasionally allow a local product from a local promotion perform in a bout with one on their roster.
Because it would be national instead of local, nine times out of 10, I'd expect the established star to walk away with the belt. But if the crowd knew that once in a while their small town boy might win, it would go over crazy with the locals and add a real sense of excitement and uncertainty to the bouts.
I think it would be a win-win set up, as it would allow the Spotlight to scout talent and give local stars a try out in front of a proper crowd. It would be good publicity for the local promotions to be able to have one of their top stars being able to say he had a fight against a top television name, even if the bout itself wasn't always on TV and was sometimes only a dark match.
That would help bring money to the local promotions, which would help them survive, and it would keep that conveyor belt of innovation going.
Elements like this could help keep the WWE from going stale.
And I don't think, as I said, that it would do any harm to drop the occasional regional title to a local rookie, as WWE hits all of the regions often enough that it could pick it up again on the next visit to the area.
The next show I'd tackle would be Superstars.
Superstars has to often felt like an afterthought.
It is like the WWE says, "OK, who haven't we used this week? Let's put them on Superstars."
I'd want to change that mentality.
Superstars has no real drama and no major story lines, so it has a better chance to showcase pure wrestling than the bigger shows. A chance to educate a few people to the finer points of the art would help fans appreciate the wrestling side of things more than the drama.
To help achieve this, I'd take one or two of the superstars that often find themselves buried on RAW or Smackdown—such as Chavo Guerrero, Zack Ryder, and Evan Bourne—and I'd pretty much give the show over to them.
I would tell them to forget story lines and promos and just go out and dazzle the crowd with pure wrestling.
This probably wouldn't be the greatest ratings winner, so I'd have to freshen it up occasionally by sending over the occasional big name.
But the truth is, this show has never achieved huge ratings. There is so much wrestling on television that only the biggest fans tend to watch every show. So I would not be that concerned about viewing figures, and instead I would concentrate on the wrestling and the innovation that this show could inspire.
Even if the kids yawn at some of the technical stuff, it could still be used to showcase a few things and to try new moves. Anything that did go over well could be then used on the senior brands.
So while "Spotlight" would be an innovative show in terms of showcasing new talent, "Superstars" would be about showcasing wrestling itself rather than personalities. Together, these two shows would help keep the conveyor belt of innovation moving.
I'd perhaps also stick two titles on the show, as fans like that sort of thing, and have one as a cross brand title reserved for matches on the "Superstars" brand. This could be used to promote specific styles of wrestling.
I'd also reintroduce the Cruiserweight Title to this show.
I know that some smaller wrestlers disliked the Cruiserweight Title, as they felt that losing against other smaller wrestlers made it harder to get their character across when, or if, they ever got a shot at the main titles. But having the title on the "Superstars" would help avoid this, as it would be mixed in more with pure wrestling.
The Big Shows: "Raw" and "SmackDown."
Finally, that leaves us with Raw and SmackDown, the two flagship shows.
This is where I will disappoint a lot of people, because I wouldn't make many changes. However, let's face facts here—if we look at the The Economics of the PG Era, the truth of the matter is that it's generally working.
Therefore, to keep this realistic, and within the remit I set, there aren't that many changes a person can make.
I would introduce one final title, an apex title, so the world could find out the true number one wrestler. I would also ensure that most of the "comedy" stuff was kept on Raw, away from SmackDown.
But beyond that, changes would be minor.
Much as I loathe the guest host idea, I wouldn't stop the concept because it works as a successful form of cross promotion.
Let's have them keep promoting their product. That is fair enough—it's why they are here, after all—and helps drag in a new audience for the show. But let's not have them dominate the entire program.
Having thrown that bad news at you, and having to face the reality that not all that much can be done with the two flagship shows, there is a silver lining to this cloud of doom. By revamping and better utilizing the other two shows—"Spotlight" and "Superstars",—it should kick start that process of innovation again.
With younger wrestlers working up through the rankings in such a fashion, it should help bring more innovative wrestling back into the promotion, which would in turn have a trickle down effect for Raw and SmackDown.
It is my contention that by improving things at the bottom, on the lesser shows, it will create an audience fueled pressure where stars and innovations are forced onto the senior brands by way of public demand.
It is also my belief that by running things this way, you are offering something for everyone—from the Hornswoggle loving eight year old to the more mature fan, who would get more enjoyment from the edgy and innovative "Superstars" and keep an eye out for fresh talent from the new "Spotlight" show.
So, if I wake up tomorrow with a phone call from WWE headquarters asking me to take over the top job, should I take it? Or would you rather I passed?