WWE Superstars: The Exception To The Rule Of Diminishing Returns?
With the news that NXT is going to the great Television Network in the sky and has been relegated to an online-only programme, it seems that all WWE programmes are in decline creatively and in the ratings.
Raw, for example, has returned some shockingly low ratings over the past few months and while Smackdown is standing strong, the show has received an expected boost in ratings thanks to all the hullabaloo around it's move to Syfy in the next few weeks or so.
In all honesty, I would expect them to experience a dip in ratings once the furore has calmed down.
In addition to this, many have criticised WWE Creative's booking of the shows, with emphasis on skits, segments and other pieces of non-action in favour of actual ring time.
However, things aren't all bleak, because there's still one program which has actually gotten better and better in the last few months... WWE Superstars.
Mention that name to most people in the IWC and they will sneer. For a few years now, WWE Superstars seems only to have served as a method of filling up an hour's airtime and giving people in the UK who don't have Sky Sports the opportunity to watch some actual wrestling as opposed to highlights.
The brand was such a non-entity, it doesn't even get the luxury of having brand-exclusive superstars (Well, except Yoshi Tatsu, arf arf).
Adverts were used to pad out the show, and segments such as the WWE Rewind were used to fill out the rest of the bill, meaning that there was usually only 2 or 3 matches, one of which was either a Squash match against a newcomer or a Divas match, and ALL of which had no backstory.
They were just thrown together at short notice to fill up time before Raw or Smackdown and filmed to use on Superstars, and all were, quite frankly, mediocre. Nothing special to say the least.
However, over the past weeks and months, something has changed. First of all, we're seeing far more matches. I remember episodes where you would sometimes have TWO matches over the course of an hour with highlights thrown in.
Last week's episode had FIVE matches. FIVE. Any more and that would be an episode of Raw! Alright, so none of them were 20-minute clinics, but they were enjoyable.
Ever since they axed the Raw Rewind, there's been more room for action. Alright, so there's a fair deal of highlights in it still, but at least it's not at the expense of matches.
Furthermore, they've axed most of the Divas matches. I remember an episode a few months back with 3 matches, the first one was a Divas match and the main event was an intergender tag match!
That was the bottom of the barrel, in my opinion. Nothing could match that for rubbishness.
WWE seemed to sense this too and have toned down Divas matches considerably. Whether this is due to a downturn in the Divas division overall, I don't know, but it's a welcome one.
Not only this, but the quality of matches has improved significantly. There are far fewer 30-second squashes and the rest of the matches are actually pretty exciting.
Over the last few months, I saw one or two matches every so often that were genuinely great matches but as of late, every match has been a quality match, to a degree.
Look at Yoshi Tatsu vs. Primo from a while back, 11 minutes! I think my favourite as of late was 26/8 when Drew McIntyre and Chris Masters locked up.
It showed just how well Superstars as got as every match was solid and given time to flourish.
In addition to this, stoppages for blood loss and injury have been toned down, with matches now being allowed to flow and keep their momentum.
Finally, one of the true hallmarks of Superstars' arrival as a genuinely enjoyable programme. Matches with storylines behind them. This was exemplified by the main event from 09/09 where Big Show took on Luke Gallows.
The Big Show/S.E.S. storyline has been a hotly touted one in the WWE as of late, and for it to rear its head on Superstars shows that WWE are finally showing a bit of belief in Superstars.
We've even seen rivalries being MADE in the pretty-much-on-it's-deathbed Tag Team Division between Vance Archer/Curt Hawkins and the Dudebusters (two teams who I've always wanted to work a feud with each other) and even The Uso's vs. Santino/Kozlov.
Overall, Superstars is showing far more continuity for itself in every match than it ever has before.
So there you have, Raw's on it's knees, Smackdown's bubble may soon burst and NXT is down the toilet.
But don't worry, because there's a programme that will stop you tuning into IMPACT!, and that's the little man, the Faroe Islands of Wrestling. WWE Superstars!
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