So much for all that change coming to WWE

wwe logoWWE chairman Vince McMahon made an emergency appearance on Raw last night, acknowledging publicly that the product has been tanking in the ratings lately.

McMahon, flanked by his daughter, Stephanie, son Shane and son-in-law Triple H, promised that things would change, meaning the tired, stale soap operas around who the show’s general manager is or isn’t, the 50/50 booking that has decimated the top of the roster, in favor of making everyone a mid-carder.

And then: the show went back to where it has been for months, devolving into a 4-on-1 handicap match involving Baron Corbin, defrocked from his GM post a night before on the TLC live event, then a match involving Finn Balor and Dolph Ziggler that, great on paper, but when you have it end with outside interference, not so great in execution.

I’ve long since resigned myself to the idea that this is just what WWE is: a company that employs dozens of the best pro wrestlers in the world, and doesn’t know how to use them, or just steadfastly refuses to use them correctly.

It’s to a point where I’m not sure what is most vexing about the whole thing.

Is it the 50/50 booking that makes it so that there’s basically nobody worth rooting for (or against) because, hey, who knows, they might just lose next week, out of nowhere?

Or is it more that they have all that talent, and choose to waste it, filling up a three-hour show with dumb comedy segments and backstage banter, with in-ring action limited to 3- to 5-minute bursts between in-match commercial breaks?

Or is it that WWE does this, and gets more money out of USA and out of Fox to do more of it, thus inspiring Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling to follow their lead and water down their own products to keep up with the big boys?

Professional wrestling in the U.S. is on the verge of being hopelessly lost, and, yes, it’s been here before.

The early 1990s, for instance, were a nadir, after Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett, and the people he put in charge didn’t know what to do with this ‘rasslin business that they were handed the keys to, and McMahon, up north, had his own troubles with the steroid scandal that looked for a while might end with him in prison.

What sprung out of that era was the golden days of the Monday Night Wars, a five-year stretch that had wrestling in the mainstream, making stars out of the nWo, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock.

The impetus to that was competition, which WWE, all due respect to the folks at ROH and Impact, is sorely lacking at this stage.

The hope that I have is that the rumblings we’re hearing about All Elite Wrestling actually come to some fruition, not necessarily to save wrestling in and of itself, but to at least build a viable competitor that will force McMahon on one side and the team that we’re hearing will be composed of Jacksonville Jaquars co-owner Tony Khan, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, perhaps Chris Jericho and Jim Ross, on the other, to up their games.

Because otherwise, WWE, left to its own devices, will continue to recess to the fringes of sports entertainment, down there with boxing, which, word is, still exists – and yes, I was as surprised as you were to learn that – and MMA and NASCAR, which are headed there post haste, due to similar vexing decisions as to the direction of their enterprises in recent years.

Is it any coincidence that these are all our favorite redneck things to watch and keep up with?

Another column for another day, that one.

Column by Chris Graham


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