It's become a well-known fact by this point that WWE has a moments problem that sees it prioritize one moment for the sake of big cheers and social-media numbers no matter what it means for long-term storytelling or the Superstars involved.
Or as the company's own talent might call it, a "quick cheer" problem.
It's pretty bad for WWE's outlook when big names like Baron Corbin are out there dropping quotes and fittingly accurate names for issues facing the company.
In a sitdown with BT Sport, Corbin hit on this topic while discussing things like protecting finishing moves and title reigns:
WWE on BT Sport @btsportwwe
"In our industry, a lot of things are thrown away, done to get a quick cheer." "I wish we would make everything we do mean more." Would @BaronCorbinWWE rather win the Championship, but someone kicks out of End of Days or never win it but his finisher record is 100%? 👀 https://t.co/FNf8oTK2cP
An expanded look at the scope of Corbin's comments:
"In our industry, a lot of things are thrown away nowadays and just, they're done to be done or to get an instant like, just a quick cheer, like, let's do this huge thing and move on to the next, and I think that hurts our credibility a little bit in what we do because I look at it also as a real life situation. If I punch somebody in the face, it's going to hurt them. I'm a trained fighter, and so I look at everything I do in the ring, the same. If I do this to you, it's going to hurt you, so I don't need to do it 10 times. I need to do it once...and it needs to be represented accordingly from what I am capable of."
It's not hard to come up with recent examples that fit this theme all too well in the worst possible way.
Take SummerSlam, where Becky Lynch returned unannounced and beat Bianca Belair with two moves to win back the SmackDown title. Lynch's return got a huge pop and did major numbers on social media, but to what end? The feud between the two has been fine, but it was hardly worth derailing Belair and doing her so dirty.
Or take one of the worst finishes in modern wrestling history that went down at Extreme Rules. Finn Balor, the first universal champ, brought out his Demon persona in an effort to win back his title several years later, had an amazing power-up sequence at the end of the match with Roman Reigns, only for the top rope to break, causing him to fall, take a spear and eat a pin.
Out the window went long-term storytelling, the mysticism of Balor's Demon and pretty much anything that matters. Because the only thing that mattered to WWE was the quick moment. Live commentary touched on it briefly and then started hyping up Reigns' forthcoming match with Brock Lesnar in Saudi Arabia. No explanation, no talk of Balor having a case for a rematch, nothing.
The fact that Corbin is even making comments slanting toward caring more about how he's remembered than actual title runs says it all. What do titles even mean in the moment era if they are on a part-timer like Lesnar for six months or Charlotte Flair keeps playing hot potato with the gold to inflate her number of runs?
That might seem like cherry-picking examples for the sake of it. But it's a little too common for comfort. Remember the hilariously bad Seth Rollins-Fiend finish from a couple years back that was a moment in the worst way possible? The one that Rollins has since said made him want to strangle CEO Vince McMahon?
The fact this bungling of characters and storylines can happen at any given moment makes it hard to buy into Superstars. Look at Big E's title run. He finally got the big solo-title win after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract in September. That was a brilliant moment, but can we trust that WWE will stay bought-in on him and not sacrifice him like it did with Kofi Kingston the next time Goldberg or another part-timer returns?
To stay on the Big E example, what's happening on Raw is terrifyingly predictable. WWE always does this when the NFL starts back up, kicking into high gear and actually trying in an effort to remain relevant during Monday Night Football. It doesn't hurt that All Elite Wrestling is serious competition and Raw has felt like the B-show lately, but how long will the effort last? Why do we have to talk about the company putting effort into things at all (just have an offseason, WWE)?
Raw is good right now, and SmackDown is too, even if actual wrestling doesn't always feature prominently on the shows. But the risk of a "quick cheer" moment derailing somebody like Belair or the Demon just for the sake of it looms large.
Keep in mind Corbin was smart to classify this problem with an "our industry" tag, but the reality is that of the big two, WWE is the only one with this issue. AEW's foundation is building up long-term stars and rewarding long-term storytelling, which is probably a big part of the reason it has moved so heavily into the mindshare of fans and brought back lapsed folks tired of the WWE formula.
Because that's the lesson, right? As AEW shows repeatedly, those moments will come either way. They don't need to be forced. Proper long-term storytelling will organically lead to the same "quick cheer" reactions/pops that WWE desires, but it will be exponentially more satisfying for hardcore fans and more rewarding, if not legacy-building, for the Superstars involved.
And clearly, WWE mainstays like Corbin know it.