This may be the most talented WWE roster in quite some time. When you look at the people comprising the roster, there’s talent all around: AJ Styles, Shinskue Nakumara, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, and, yes, even Roman Reigns. And that’s not even including the depth of the tag team, women, and NXT rosters. The overall wrestling talent on the roster in 2017 is unreal, giving WWE a real opportunity to create some awesome storylines.
With such a deep roster who can all go out there and do great things, the question is simple: why is the product so frustrating?
It’s a simple, but also loaded question to ask. It’s an easy, yet complex question to answer.
The easy answer is because the product feels stale. For some reason, the overall feel of the product just isn’t resonating with fans.
But what causes this stale-ness? Some would say the recent micromanaging of the entire product. Having trust in the roster to go out there and do their stuff is going away, as it feels like the product is being micromanaged at every possible moment. If you let the wrestlers have more reign over their characters, maybe it’ll make the wrestlers feel more “real.”
Another factor at play is the part-timers. For nearly a decade now, WWE has relied heavily on part-timers to sell tickets and increase PPV sales. Guys like Triple H, Undertaker, Batista, Sting, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, and The Rock have all been featured in prominent roles on the biggest shows of the year, taking away the spots from the current roster. Not only that, but all those guys, except Undertaker, competed for the WWE or Universal title, with Rock, HHH, Goldberg and Lesnar all becoming champion. The guys that Rock, HHH and Goldberg beat? CM Punk, Reigns, and Owens, respectively.
This leaves a lot of the hardcore fans feeling slighted come WrestleMania time. For example, the Universal Title match at WrestleMania this year should have been Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho. Those two carried Raw throughout the end of 2016, becoming the best of friends before Owens brutally turned on him in February. It was the best storyline in wrestling all year and deserved to be for the main title on Raw.
Instead, Owens was forced to job to Goldberg in 10 seconds, losing the title and making Goldberg vs. Lesnar for the Universal title at ‘Mania. KO vs. Jericho was relegated to the U.S. title. While Goldberg-Lesnar may be the more appealing matchup to the casual fan, Owens-Jericho deserved to be for the Universal title, polarizing the hardcore fans who watch every week.
And that’s what’s killing the product. The WWE is more focused on bringing in the casual fan than satisfying the true fans. Instead of trying to build up stars for the casual fan to like, WWE just brings in former stars of the late 1990s and 2000s to sell the big four shows of the year. They pay these guys a lot of money to show up for a few dates a year, killing most of the momentum the main roster guys. It’s a little like what WCW did with its guys, but not as damaging…yet.
So, how do you fix this issue? It’s simple: move on. WWE has a chance to move on from the part-timers after WrestleMania 34, and I would say they do so. Lesnar’s contract comes up then, and I think WWE would be smart to move on from this era dominated by part-timers.
Another way to fix it? Get out of the way. Let the current roster have more creative control over what they do. Let them sink or swim on their own, as opposed to having their character controlled by the writing team. Having promos scripted out word-for-word isn’t helping this current era of wrestlers develop into the stars we want them to be.
And finally: simplify it. Wrestling fans don’t need overly complex storylines to be entertained. Presenting easy storylines to follow with strong character work is all most wrestling fans ask for. If you do that, you can turn any fan into a hardcore fan.
Again, this is all easier said than done. It’s also not like WWE can fix this in one day. But WWE is at a crossroads with its product, and they need to act soon. Otherwise, the ratings will keep falling, ticket sales will stay down, and overall fan interest will stay low.