Kill the Squash Match: Why WWE Reliance on Easy Wins Is Turning into a Big Loss

Kevin Berge@TheBerge_Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

Kill the Squash Match: Why WWE Reliance on Easy Wins Is Turning into a Big Loss

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    Squash matches are a dime a dozen in WWE. This professional wrestling staple has existed since before the company even existed, but it is used more by WWE than any other promotion.

    The idea of the contest is simple: One wrestler is completely dominant over someone who is not on the roster at all or has been barely used, allowing the winner to seem like they are more important and powerful than others who might try to compete in the ring.

    A wrestler's reputation can be thrown out completely after being squashed, but that is not the biggest problem with a contest like this.

    The issue more than anything is that such a match doesn't accomplish anything other than boring the fans. It doesn't get the winner over or help to move any stories forward. It simply wastes time.

    The WWE Universe is not clamoring to see Sheamus or Bobby Lashley defeat talent in one minute flat every week. Braun Strowman did not become the universal champion because he just kept throwing around men half his size. These are artificial buffers at best.

    These contests are a detriment to the overall product, and it is easy to pinpoint the primary reasons why. Squash matches just cannot sustain the product in the same way the concept did decades ago.

The Pacing Issue

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    At three hours per week in length, WWE Raw overuses squash matches more than any other wrestling show. A good argument could be made that the red brand has never needed the full three hours, but that is felt now more than ever.

    WWE can be exhausting even on its best weeks, so strong pacing is important. Commercial breaks at the wrong time or long stretches with nothing to enjoy makes the experience agonizing. It's difficult to trust that anything is ever going to change.

    Squash matches artificially use the time, especially on Raw, but these are the matches that drive away viewers. There's no point. The roster is filled with talent everyone knows and their dominance is established already. It's just a matter of riding the wave of momentum.

    Especially in the current environment where the empty arena lacks energy, no one is excited to watch a big man throw around a smaller talent for a minute before the next commercial break.

    Even on two-hour shows such as SmackDown and NXT, one squash match can make countless viewers change channels. It is too much of a waste of time.

Failing to Get Stars Over

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    In 2019, Erick Rowan spent months squashing random talent only to lose when he fought real competition. He was released recently without any story left to tell.

    Following his 2012 debut, Ryback spent six months squashing wrestlers only to lose in his first big match and then disappear after a few attempts to give him real stories after that. He was released after voicing frustration with his start-and-stop booking.

    Moving to Raw after the 2016 draft, Nia Jax and Braun Strowman spent months throwing around enhancement talent and then stopped cold until WWE Creative finally found a real story for them. They have found success almost in spite of repeated slow periods immediately following months of squashes.

    The stories go on and on. Not everyone falls flat, but nobody goes directly from squashes to crowd adulation and title reigns. Fans quickly see through it.

    The WWE Universe will connect to a story not a match record. No one is fooled by a professional wrestling win-loss record in 2020. Not all victories are created equal, and no squash win is worth much of anything.

Distracting from Attempts to Tell Real Stories

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    The biggest problem with squash matches is the way they foster a lack of creativity. WWE doesn't care to put a new star in a real story for months because a local competitor can be hired to take the fall for the night instead.

    Every monster heel or babyface becomes the same character: dominant and boring. When veterans go back to squash matches—as Sheamus or Bobby Lashley have done recently—it doesn't change the perception of them as talent. It just shows WWE is struggling to use them.

    Many factors have contributed to the company's steady decline in television ratings for all shows. The lasting problem is that it doesn't create enough relevant stories and moments to hook audiences. There's no reason to tune in live when most fans can just check the highlights later.

    It's time to start considering the future. What will get fans excited to watch WWE? One answer we do know is that it will never be squash matches.

    Sports may have one-sided games, but these rarely attract viewers as much as intense competition that goes down to the final second. TV shows that waste time on filler and excess lose audiences fast. WWE is continuing to miss the value of scripted weekly entertainment.

    When everything is so tightly composed and scripted, the focus should be on the talent and giving them room to shine together.