It is easy, lazy even, to establish the problem with WWE programming as "creative." That excuse is broad and encompasses a bunch of issues across a number of different brands. It doesn't begin to single out the most prominent difficulties with the product.
For that, you have to dive a little deeper. And in doing so, it becomes clear that one of the biggest problems facing WWE's lackluster efforts is its reliance on repetitive matches.
It is something that has plagued the television product for years now and something that needs to be fixed if the company ever wants fans to get genuinely intrigued and excited for its shows again.
Over and Over Again
On Friday's SmackDown, Shinsuke Nakamura will square off with King Corbin for the fourth time in five weeks, ending a feud that has become so watered down by the repetition that no one can possibly be excited about the supposed blow-off to the feud.
Why? Because they have already seen these two competitors wrestle so many times that it loses its impact. It's just another match, between two guys the writing team clearly had nothing better for. And their program isn't the only example of this.
Asuka and Rhea Ripley have squared off at least four times since Night 2 of WrestleMania 37 on April 11, when The Nightmare captured the Raw Women's Championship from The Empress of Tomorrow. And in May, Cedric Alexander battled Shelton Benjamin three out of four weeks on the flagship.
It's not just limited to the midcard, either.
Drew McIntyre has seen his entire main event run dominated by repetition.
First, there was the redundancy of the Randy Orton feud, which took place across several months and spawned at least six matches featuring the two of them. Now, The Scottish Warrior finds himself in a feud with Bobby Lashley that is preparing for a third straight pay-per-view title match Sunday at Hell in a Cell.
For whatever reason, WWE's head honchos and creative geniuses either think fans' attention spans are so short that they won't remember watching the same match multiple weeks in a row, or they think fans enjoy being bludgeoned with the same thing every week.
Vince McMahon is aware that the product is stale, according to a new report from Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co. A great deal of that staleness comes from the booking that makes every show look like the last one fans watched, thanks in large part to the reliance on presenting those same contests every week, often with no real storyline advancement to speak of.
There are other ways to present the same feud for weeks at a time, without oversaturating the product with the same faces and matches every week. All Elite Wrestling has perfected it and as much as it may pain Vinnie Mac and the rest of the WWE hierarchy to do so, it would behoove them to sit up and take notice of what the young company has accomplished.
The Path to Least Repetition
AEW has managed to present new and intriguing feuds each week on Dynamite without leaning on the same match, thanks to its use of vignettes, out-of-ring angles and video packages. It has maintained a freshness throughout the pandemic era that WWE hasn't.
It has also managed to preserve the blow-off matches to most of its feuds because it hasn't beaten its fans over the head with sameness. Every week, it manages to keep feuds like "Hangman" Adam Page vs. Team Taz alive while booking those involved in matches with other wrestlers on the roster. That way, the participants haven't faced each other six times leading into the PPV, thus preserving fans' interest in the eventual showdown.
AEW President Tony Khan even took a swipe at WWE's booking when speaking to Kenny Herzog of Entrepreneur. In reference to his commitment to the audience, he said:
"Following through on the things you say you're going to do and trying to deliver a show that's in the spirit of what the fans want to see week in, week out and offering fresh matches and fresh programs is a big part of it. You know, not doing the same matches 17 weeks in a row over and over again."
When the competition starts bringing up a major creative flaw, it is essentially calling out its opponent. It is daring its rival to do something about it. WWE? It doubled down. It continued to tell stories by booking the same matches every week in what essentially amounts to a Zack Snyder fight scene every week without any substance.
The matches just...happen. Again. And again. And again.
WWE has the talent at its disposal to avoid the booking it has presented in recent years. It just doesn't, though, which makes it that much more frustrating.
However, it's something that will plague the company until it takes off the blinders and realizes the repetition of its shows and matches have dragged down its overall quality.