WWE: Would Relying Less On Scripts Give More Superstars a Chance To Shine?
Until some time ago, promos were the responsibility of the person cutting them, for the most part.
They were written by the Superstars/Divas and funnily enough, back in those days, the promos were a lot more memorable and even history book worthy than many of the ones we get today.
From Sable hailing herself as the "original Diva" to Stone Cold Steve Austin giving his Austin 3:16 speech, promos on their own played a massive role in getting the talent over and had the ability to make legends of people.
So here is my problem.
Lately, promos are written by Creative and almost all of the thngs said by Superstars and Divas come from scripts.
I think it goes without saying that WWE's current Creative teams aren't the best and need a definite re-vamp.
While most blame the PG-TV rating for the almost awful writing that comes with the WWE these days, I feel as if most of the blame lies on the Creative team for simply being lazy and not giving talent enough freedom.
Need I remind you that Hogan's beginnings in the WWF was in a PG environment?
While I understand that it is not the easiest job in the world, sometimes it feels as if they are not even trying.
The generic interactions between the Superstars/Divas we get often come across as if they could have been written in a drama class of 14-year-olds and that is putting it lightly.
Another problem I have with the current writing is that it rarely creates/displays actual personalities. We get no insight into the characters. The face characters are good guys and the heels are bad guys and that is usually all we know about them.
Hey, this leads on to my next point.
The booking and direction too many of the characters are given are also a cause for concern. And by direction, I mean none.
What I said above about faces being faces and heels being heels is not only down to the writing, but the gimmicks (or lack thereof) the characters are given.
One big problem WWE has right now is character development. Most of the Superstars and Divas get little to no mic time as it is and because of that, they remain one-sided and easy to get bored of, regardless of whether they are face or heel.
They are given generic names and personalities and watching NXT has made me realize how generic too much of the FCW talent is in the ring, too.
I understand that perhaps the timing is no longer right for larger than life Superhero-like characters, but that is still no excuse for downright generic, boring "Sports Entertainers".
I mean, the fact that you could probably name 10 to 15 actually characters in the WWE right now says a lot.
Honestly, can you even blame the current crop of talent for being quite dull as a whole? How can you work with something you aren't given?
Yes, it is no secret that there are not as many great mic workers in the company right now compared to the beloved Era of Attitude, but at the same time, keeping the average to bad mic workers muted is not going to help them.
The weaker mic workers could make a big improvement if they were given the chance to do some improv on the mic every now and again to become more comfortable with their "characters." Or even to establish a character in the first place.
Even working, and I mean actually working with the Creative team on their scripts could make a big difference. That is, if they get any sort of mic time to begin with.
Currently, the only Superstars we hear from often are the main-eventers and upper mid-carders of Raw and Smackdown. Diva wise, only LayCool get to work the mic often, despite Natalya being the champion.
And they wonder why very few of their Superstars and Divas get over with the crowd nowadays?
The scripted nature of pro wrestling is nothing new though. Match outcomes have always been pre-determined and rivalries, storylines and angles are written by the company's team of writers and bookers.
The only thing that is relatively new (as in, under a decade old) is WWE's use of scripts to control almost everything their Superstars and Divas do.
I cannot stress enough how bad a practice this is.
Through WWE's Superstars/Divas words and emotions coming from a script, it makes it 10 times more difficult than it is already for them to get over with the fans and become their own characters.
They become boring a lot quicker and a lot of the time, it makes bad mic-workers more obvious.
Case in point: John Morrison.
As Johnny Nitro in MNM, Morrison could rely on Melina to carry him on the mic and this was the same for when the two broke away from Joey Mercury. Morrison's lack of skill on the stick was obvious from day one but his manager was there to help him get over.
Then, when Morrison joined forces with The Miz (a great mic worker) and began The Dirt Sheet, his mic work became so much better and convincing. Why?
Because his lines were written himself.
Not because he was a heel, like he was in MNM, but because he showed so much more confidence and natural ability when cutting Dirt Sheet promos that he wrote himself.
It was around this point that Morrison began to stick out to me and probably to many other people.
Now, Morrisson is stuck with some pretty weak lines ("You're a BULLY, Sheamus") and the delivery shows his lack of confidence with his scripts.
If Morrison had the confidence on the mic from the Dirt Sheet days, he would be a main eventer by now.
Now onto the other end of the spectrum.
With Jericho gone for the time being, the best mic worker in the WWE right now is hands down CM Punk. If you check out his promos from his Indy/TNA days, you'll probably think the same too.
Punk's 11 years of experience combined with his overwhelming passion for the business shows every time he has a mic in his hand and without those skills, I do not think he would be where he is today, despite his in-ring talent.
If you get to the point where, despite being a smaller, less conventional guy and you still have Vince McMahon on your side, there HAS to be something special about you.
For Punk, that is his mic work.
For anyone that wasn't convinced before, his brief time as a "Broadcast Journalist" on Raw, Superstars and NXT made millions watch in tears weekly for two reasons: one because of how goddamn hilarious he is (two words: diet soda) and two because we all knew that within months, he would be in the ring again and we would be stuck with the bland broadcast journalism combination of Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole.
It's weird when you think that Punk's time as a commentator was only down to an injury and gave us some of the best one-liners in the history of WWE.
The great thing about Punk's commentary was that he was given the chance to be himself and so nothing he ever said seemed forced.
Punk is also one of the few Superstars trusted enough to write his own promos and lo and behold, he is the best they have right now.
His work as leader of the Straight Edge Society put Punk in a league ahead of most of the other men in the back. He has passion worthy of the Attitude Era and knows how to draw people in and really make them hate him. This is probably why he is one of the top heels right now and is feuding with the top face of the company.
Speaking of Superstars writing their own promos, John Cena's "Goodbye" promo after being "Fired" (regardless of how pointless it seems now) was one of the best promos the "PG Era" has ever seen.
It was full of 100 percent believable emotion; had many shoot moments and whether you like the guy or not, made his mic skills obvious.
Guess who wrote it?
Not a bunch of Hollywood writers, but the man himself.
So why oh why, when you can see how well he can do on his own, would you give him "CM Sucks" to work with?
John Cena is definitely one of those guys who gets some godawful material to work with. With him being the epitome of PG, they feel the need to water him down until he makes actual water appear like a vodka shot.
This was made obvious during his promo with CM Punk a couple of weeks back where Punk clearly outshone him in what should have been more of a balanced, back and forth promo.
The Miz is another guy who should be writing his own work more often.
His "Locker Room" promo was truly amazing and showed each and everyone person in doubt why he deserves to be in the main-event.
One thing I've begun to notice is that promos work best when there is some sort of shoot element in them, where there are brief moments where we can stop suspending belief and acknowledge these Superstars as actual people.
This is what helps them get over. Not giving them dozens of accolades, a hot valet and recycled gimmicks.
It's what made guys like Stone Cold and The Rock legends. It's what makes fans everywhere scream "BROTHER" and "WOOOOO" at every chance we get because Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair just had that way with words.
Can you imagine what Roddy Piper would have been like if he was being held down by a script? Certainly not half as "Rowdy."
Chris Jericho, Edge & Christian, so many current favourites today whose mic work several years ago made them legends in the making today.
The whole point is that more often than not, scripts do nothing but hinder the Superstars and Divas.
Sometimes, when certain guys/girls REALLY struggle, scripts make sense, but relying on them constantly and not allowing them any room to throw their own selves and personalities in there can leave them stuck with a under-developed character (if they even have one) and no visible future.
So to answer the question I posed in my article's headline; yes. I've always said that letting the talent be themselves to a certain extent makes their characters work so much more than where they are simply told to do this and say that.
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