There is plenty of blame to go around when discussing WWE's recent struggles with ratings, which is especially problematic with other promotions like AEW stepping up big and SmackDown's impending move to Fox, which will shine an even bigger light on WWE's problems.
But two characters stand as good examples of the biggest issue of all: the booking.
Look at Drew McIntyre. Literally:
He's a beast, an obvious villain. He doesn't need to say much. Flanking this imposing look is an incredible moveset and skill for a man his size. Built the right way from a character and booking standpoint, he could stand nose-to-nose with Brock Lesnar and seem like a legitimate threat.
But he isn't even close. McIntyre's return to WWE television in 2018 was a big deal for fans who followed his career. The pale kid who left WWE after failing as CEO Vince McMahon's supposed chosen one went through the wringer, building up his skillset, changing to his current look and eventually dominating NXT while looking like a clear-cut main event-level talent.
Since arriving on the main roster, though, well, good luck keeping up. He was with Dolph Ziggler until he wasn't. He whipped his mentor and then got shoved into a weird partnership with Bobby Lashley, if not a smattering of Baron Corbin and others.
His entire booking has reeked of WWE simply throwing him in tag team matches so he has a spot on Raw because the roster is so bloated. Trying to think of all the tag matches he's been involved in could make a WWE fan nauseous.
And present day? McIntyre is not with Lashley anymore, but he's apparently with Shane McMahon, which inevitably means another clash with Roman Reigns.
The point is that McIntyre could have had a strong story direction by now with some wins and losses. Instead, he has been in a limbo while being a set piece for other characters' stories. So the next time he gets down on one knee and ominously tells his opponent to look at him and so on, fans will shrug it off.
Which is a shame, as McIntyre would have made one heck of a men's Money in the Bank briefcase winner. But the lack of appeal and wishy-washy status relegated him to playing a bit-role like the rest of the competitors at the pay-per-view before part-timer Brock Lesnar came out and won it.
And then there is Ziggler.
Before running off to pursue non-WWE paths, Ziggler was McIntyre's mentor of sorts in a storyline sense in between, doing his usual "I'm the veteran, and you fans will respect me" thing.
He's suddenly back again and doing the "I'm the veteran, and you fans will respect me" thing:
No seriously, this is the same old Ziggler promo—this time with a slight alteration to the delivery in the form of a few sniffles and tears.
WWE probably needed a last-minute match for Kofi Kingston because other Superstars don't want to make the trip to Saudi Arabia. Kevin Owens told WWE he won't go, according to Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp. So they picked up the phone and called a reliable veteran like Ziggler to come in on short notice and work a small program so a top champion isn't sitting without an opponent.
Better to not waste a legitimate feud down the road with someone else on a weird, controversial overseas trip.
But having Ziggler as the "break glass if you need a cardboard cutout storyline" option is the result of long-term booking. Which is a shame because he's fantastic in every respect. He's one of the best in-ring talents the company has, and he's amazing on the mic.
Rather than go a different direction with Ziggler, though, he's doing the usual. If fans had missed a stretch of time and turned on SmackDown, were it not for Kingston as champ, they might have thought they accidentally caught a re-run.
Two rare talents. Similar problems. In fact, McIntyre might end up fittingly following a Ziggler trajectory if something doesn't change soon. There was a point in Ziggler's career when he was arguably the hottest thing going in the company, and he had a briefcase and title feuds, but it all just sort of fizzled out.
To WWE's credit, there is clearly something of an attempt to fend off these problems. Kingston is a champ, after all, with WWE smartly riding the wave. Becky Lynch shoved her way into being the company's hottest commodity. Bayley is back at the top. New titles (24/7) and presentations (dark third hour of Raw) are happening.
But so much damage has been done to so many talents that it isn't any wonder Dean Ambrose left or that Sasha Banks is the subject of speculation because she's been absent since WrestleMania. Maybe something fresh will happen with Ziggler, but it sure doesn't look like it. McIntyre doesn't have a lot of wiggle room, either.
Everybody can't be pushed at once. But for all their skill and unique abilities, these two are a good embodiment of how long-term dragging of feet without change can harm characters and the overall product.