4 Reasons to Be Excited for WWE's Future
It might not seem like a great time to be optimistic about WWE's future.
WWE is, after all, seemingly struggling with legitimate new competition in the pro wrestling space. It's cut more than 80 Superstars from the roster since the start of 2021, a revamp of NXT has gone horribly awry and whispers of ratings struggles aren't uncommon.
But the future remains bright.
While there are serious flaws in what WWE is doing, especially when compared to its biggest competitor, Vince McMahon's promotion has a stacked roster and some crucial things going for it.
That's not to say WWE will correct course on some of the problem areas immediately (looking at you, moments rather than storytelling). But the following factors suggest WWE will continue to provide a must-see product that, should it coincide with cleaning up those issues, will keep the company at the top of the food chain for a long time.
The Developmental Shift
NXT 2.0 is ugly. There's no getting around that. Cutting and/or losing some of the best talent on the globe and then focusing on a sexualized product in the hopes that will lure eyeballs in 2021 is laughably misguided. This isn't 1990.
But while the ratings might stink and the product is horrific to watch, the actual developmental shift is reason for encouragement.
Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Andrew Pollard of WhatCulture) suggested the wholesale shift in approach is real, suggesting WWE wants to develop its own in-house guys who fit its style. Not the indy style, but its bigger, versatile, can-do-a-press-tour-while-champion style.
And that's just fine and, dare we say, encouraging. It's heartening that WWE got spanked in a head-to-head matchup with All Elite Wrestling, admitted the fault and changed course to do its own thing. And let's not pretend most NXT call-ups got treated right anyway—the main roster had no idea what to do with indy-style call-ups for years.
If the developmental shift can produce in-house stars who fit the WWE mold, that's a win and is worth getting excited about, even if the program housing that talent is akin to a dumpster fire.
Working off that last point, yes, AEW is a reason to get excited for WWE.
AEW, after all, won that Wednesday night war WWE seemed to seek out. It forced WWE into a shift in developmental philosophy and helped the company decide that gobbling up as much indy talent as possible and hoarding but not using it wasn't the way to go.
And much as WWE might want to pretend it doesn't pay attention, rest assured, it is.
WWE is going to see what works in AEW. WWE is going to see what fans want. It's going to see the multiyear development of fan favorite "Hangman" Adam Page, who recently won the world title after a yearslong journey to the top. It's going to see how well fans react to a well-done, long-term tag division. It's going to see how to properly handle legends like Sting. It's going to see that world-class talents like Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and countless others want more creative freedom.
It's easy to be a cynic and think WWE won't learn or adapt from these things. But once AEW gets in television contract discussions with networks and points to its ratings and at WWE's asking price and gets a similar deal, it won't have a choice.
This is a big point—and not in a way onlookers might think.
Age is a big thing to note from here. This isn't 1980 (or, say, the NFL), when athletes exit their primes in their 30s. Brock Lesnar can still put on a classic at the age of 44. AJ Styles is still one of the best on the planet at the same age. Look at what Finn Balor can do at 40. Randy Orton is 41.
Now look at some notable ages for key Superstars:
- Roman Reigns (36)
- Seth Rollins (35)
- Big E (35)
- Bianca Belair (32)
- Drew McIntyre (36)
- Dominik Mysterio (24)
- Alexa Bliss (30)
- Montez Ford (31)
- Omos (27)
- Becky Lynch (34)
- Riddle (35)
- Sasha Banks (29)
That's an almost-random sample of mainstay Superstars and others with massive main event potential. Even if, for example, Reigns wants to become a part-timer soon and pursue interests in Hollywood, he would be undoubtedly able to come back and put on WWE-style matches over the next decade as the next Lesnar type.
These names headlining things while the new developmental runs its course before a new crop of talent is mixed in is a big reason for optimism. It takes proper booking to bring it all out, of course, but the next 10-plus years of WWE is clearly in safe hands.
The proverbial dam always seems to break.
Regardless of one's perception of how WWE holds back Superstars, forces unwanted things and doesn't push the right men and women, talent organically seems to rise to the top, break out and win over fans anyway. It's not a constant, but the highs when this happens are high.
Think Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania run. CM Punk paving the way for indy guys in WWE. The Kofi Kingston movement. Talent can and will rise above booking, making organic moments that WWE can't repress (which is part of why it was so frustrating to see the company ignore Reigns heel-turn requests—and so rewarding when it finally happened).
Some of the Superstars previously mentioned all have this sort of breakout potential. So do huge-upside prospects like a Bron Breakker or Gable Steveson in developmental.
Even if the booking isn't always superb and the performers must just work with what they are given, WWE will still be the only place to watch some of wrestling's most must-see Superstars.