Overused Gimmicks That WWE and AEW Rely on Way Too Much
Virtually everything has already been done in professional wrestling. There's only a finite amount of ways to tell the same stories every week.
Fans tend to be lenient about this repetition as long as there's some element to keep things fresh. Once habits form, though, they are difficult to break.
Both WWE and All Elite Wrestling have established tendencies and tropes that writers continue to turn to far too often.
Here are some of the most overused gimmicks that the companies should consider taking a break from.
WWE: Interference and Disqualification Endings
WWE is obsessed with finishes that are either disqualifications or involve some sort of interference to facilitate a pinfall or submission.
The company does this in an attempt to protect Superstars from taking a straight-up loss. In theory, if you muddle the finish enough, it creates excuses to justify someone losing.
Drew McIntyre isn't weak for having been pinned by Roman Reigns at Survivor Series because Jey Uso interfered and The Tribal Chief low-blowed him, and Bobby Lashley didn't really lose to Keith Lee on Monday's Raw because MVP stepped in and got him disqualified before he could be pinned.
When this becomes the standard way most matches end, it means most wins have little value to them.
WWE: 'For the First Time Ever!'
WWE takes every opportunity to remind its audience that something is happening for the first time ever, even if it isn't particularly interesting.
Clearly, someone with power and influence in the company thinks this is a genius psychological tactic to manipulate the viewers into thinking something is special just because it's classified that way.
The problem is that the interesting "first-time ever" occasions need no extra help, while the technicalities WWE harps on about aren't fascinating by default.
For example, having 40 Superstars in the Royal Rumble for the first time was an intriguing concept, while WrestleMania 36 being played out across two nights received considerable attention.
However, plugging that Riddle and Sheamus are fighting for the first time ever on Raw and ignoring the fact that they've already wrestled on SmackDown isn't special.
AEW and WWE: Superkicks and Suicide Dives
Years ago, it was astonishing when a wrestler launched themselves through the ropes and onto their opponent in what became known as a suicide dive.
These days, you have to mute your television to avoid hearing commentators shout "tope suicida" every minute. The same goes for superkicks.
Seemingly, every wrestler on the planet has to do both of these moves to the point where every match is riddled with them and they've lost all their value.
When Shawn Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music, it mattered. Now, though, it's the wrestling equivalent of filler.
WWE: Champion Looks Weak to Set Up a Challenger
There are two ways someone can look better: building themselves up or tearing someone else down in comparison.
Unfortunately, rather than giving Superstars more credibility to establish them as a threat to a champion, WWE tends to take the easy route by downgrading the titleholder.
Three ways it does this are:
- Booking a wrestler to pin a champion in a non-title match to immediately become No. 1 contender.
- Having someone attack a titleholder and skip to the front of the line as the next challenger since it's now a grudge feud.
- Making a champion look weak on the go-home show before a pay-per-view to tease how the title might change hands.
These can be effective strategies if done well, but they sacrifice depth.
It is almost always more interesting when a wrestler is able to naturally progress to a level of being worthy of fighting for a title by accumulating wins over time or being victorious in a more grandiose way.
This is why winning the Royal Rumble match means so much. Once someone accomplishes such a major feat, they appear worthy of challenging for a top title at WrestleMania.
WWE: Thinking a Series of Matches Is a Good Rivalry
The best rivalries in pro wrestling consist of bitter feuds that have a series of matches of high quality. Unfortunately, WWE often forgets that and thinks a rivalry can be epic if it just consists of a lot of contests.
The Street Profits have fought Andrade and Angel Garza maybe a dozen times this year. No one on the planet thinks that's a better feud than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock.
Bayley fought Nikki Cross more than anyone during her run as SmackDown women's champion, but all those matches combined are still less than one Undertaker vs. Mankind encounter.
Quantity and quality aren't always the same thing, but that doesn't stop WWE from leaning on that idea too often.
AEW: Getting Too Meta
AEW has a nasty habit of playing itself off as the cool brand to the point where it becomes self-deprecating.
Wrestlers like Orange Cassidy are amazing, but the company sometimes can't help itself but to lean into being meta for brownie points.
You can't go too long on an episode without being reminded that if you think this is all getting too silly, it's OK because AEW is in on the joke and you should laugh along with it.
Talent wink at the camera and are just shy of blurting out: "This is all fake and we know you know it, but we're all playing along here."
When using sparingly, those moments can be great. But Taz shouldn't talk about getting gimmicks over and exposing characters in AEW Dark every week, nor should comedic bits from Being The Elite spill over into angles on Dynamite.
WWE: The Card Is Subject to Change
Any match card is always subject to change. The coronavirus pandemic this year is proof that it isn't just injuries that can cause a lineup to shift.
However, WWE leans far too hard on that crutch as a catch-all excuse for what often is just lazy writing and a lack of motivation.
All too often, the company books something thinking the writers will figure out the plan as they go along. Months later, though, there's been no solid direction and the angle has failed.
This year's Money in the Bank is a prime example. The briefcase was given to Otis, but it's now clear there was no solid plan in place what to do with him as Mr. Money in the Bank and The Miz now holds the briefcase instead.
Similarly, Retribution had no members when the group debuted. Mustafa Ali was likely never planned to be its leader until the week it was announced. Currently, the faction is on the sidelines waiting for something to do.
It's fine when a random occurrence changes the plan at the last minute, but that should be a rare occurrence and not the norm.
WWE: Everyone on the Broadcast Team Not the Sharpest
Commentators and interviewers have never been the most skilled detectives, but WWE relies too much on them not being the sharpest knives in the drawer.
Interviewers used to ask questions like journalists and pitch back to the commentary team. Over time, WWE adopted an idea that they're glorified microphone stands and would have them stare off into the distance instead of addressing the camera.
On commentary, you'll likely hear someone say "Who is that? What are they doing here?" and questions being asked that make you wonder how these people got their jobs if they're that oblivious to what's happening in front of them.
WWE likely wants the broadcast team to be behind the ball at times so the viewer gets to the conclusion on their own. However, it can also make commentators and interviewers seem incompetent.
AEW: No Build If You Can Sell It as a Dream Match
Many matches in AEW have no actual storyline or build to them. They're just advertised as happening, and the hope is people will tune in purely because they want to see those people fight.
Sometimes, that works fine. A dream match such as The Young Bucks vs. FTR would have sold itself without a single promo or any extra plot. But it's a rare exception.
It doesn't hold the same weight when it's something like Private Party against Best Friends. Sure, it will be good, but AEW shouldn't rely on fans telling themselves that. There should be something more to it.
What was the hook for Cody Rhodes against Darby Allin at Full Gear? Not much time was spent on Allin having lost all their previous matches and telling a story of redemption as Rhodes was busy fighting with Orange Cassidy and Dark Order.
Instead, it was advertised mostly with the preface that you've seen Rhodes vs. Allin and you enjoyed it, so you'll enjoy it again and should buy the show. That's a risky move as AEW will run out of dream-match scenarios eventually and need to provide more substance.
WWE: Kendo Sticks Instead of Steel Chairs
Thankfully, wrestlers are much safer today than in the past and no longer take chair shots to the head. Unfortunately, WWE thought of two ways to get around this and hasn't bothered thinking of any other strategies in years.
These days, any time a wrestler picks up a chair, they will rarely do anything but hit someone in the stomach and on the back. Maybe one out of every 50 chairs will be used for something other than those two trikes.
The other alternative WWE has overused is replacing chairs with kendo sticks as the go-to weapon.
Not only does it not make any sense why those are under the ring to begin with, but it's also not interesting to see someone get hit by one anymore.
A regular kendo-stick shot will hurt, but it's about as interesting as a clothesline these days.
WWE: Inconsistency in Power Levels
If two wrestlers are in a No Disqualification match, they will beat each other with every weapon imaginable and still kick out until the grand finale.
However, if it is a regular match, a slap in the face or a slight bump from someone on the outside becomes infinitely more damaging and puts them out cold.
During contests like the Survivor Series elimination matches and the Royal Rumble, it somehow becomes much easier for Superstars to execute their finishing moves. On a regular match, that is evaded and it takes time to set it up, rather than running into the ring and immediately hitting five people with an RKO to clear the field.
The bigger the match—particularly at WrestleMania—the easier it becomes to kick out of finishers, too. It does make for a more exciting segment, but it gets hokey if you know each match on the biggest show of the year will have several near-falls because it takes someone's third or fourth finisher to end things.
Sometimes, it would be nice to see wrestlers win matches without their finishers, too. If a DDT is good enough for Jake Roberts, why doesn't it work for Drew McIntyre?
AEW and WWE: Contract Signings
Every contract signing is the same. A mediator reminds fans of the match, the wrestlers talk some trash and eventually, they fight.
The moment a contract signing is announced, it's basically a sign you can go to the bathroom as you're not going to miss anything.
Why are these so popular to begin with? In theory, watching people sign documents is incredibly boring and does not sound like an enticing segment for an outsider to get hooked on.
It's doubtful a casual viewer ever saw an advertisement for a contract signing and thought that was must-see television. So if it isn't for them and it isn't for the longtime fans who already know how it's going to play out, who are these segments for, other than the writers who don't want to think of a more innovative way to spread out a storyline?
WWE: Splitting Tag Teams Due to Jealousy
Rarely does a tag team ever split in WWE for any reason other than one Superstar being upset at the other.
The IIconics is a rare exception, as Billie Kay and Peyton Royce lost a match and were forced to split before being separated on different rosters. But nearly every other team in years has had the same promo after the initial break-up.
The one who turned on his or her partner gets a microphone the next episode and talks about how they're frustrated at the other for losing, not paying enough attention to the team and getting in their way of success.
Almost inevitably, they use the line "now, it's my time" or some variant to talk about how they're going to have bigger success as a singles star.
Then, since this story has been done to death, WWE loses interest in a few weeks and gives up on them. Within no time, they're on the back burner, losing on Main Event like Tucker after turning on Otis.
Perhaps everyone—fans and the writers themselves—would be more invested in a tag team split if there was another reason for it and a more interesting story to tell than the most basic option.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.