The WWE Needs to Solve its Raw Problems

On Monday night, WWE Raw drew the show’s lowest ratings in its 25-year history—2.47 million viewers, down 11 percent from last week. That drop seems crazy just three months after the wrestling brand presented such a strong card at Wrestlemania in New Orleans. Still, you can look at that show and see where choices made set the company on the slide it has been on since. Here are a few examples and potential ways out.

Roman Reigns

The Effort to Get Roman Reigns Over Shows

The WWE’s efforts to get Roman Reigns over are why Reigns isn’t over. Rather than let audiences love him organically as was the case with A.J. Styles, the WWE broke up The Shield in 2014 and almost immediately moved Reigns into the main event picture rather than let him build a rep as a solo performer and work his way up the card. The sense that he was being foisted on the “WWE Universe”—as the company refers to its fans—prompted fans to reject him, but rather than stop pushing, the WWE only pushed harder.

Nia Jax Cries on the Road to Wrestlemania

When Alexa Bliss moved from Smackdown Live to Raw last year, she connived Nia Jax into being her pal/bodyguard as a way to avoid facing her in the squared circle. At the time, it looked like a program that could go to Wrestlemania with Jax as Bliss’ bodyguard/buddy until she realized she was being played. Then, they’d face each other with the crowd dying to see Bliss fight her own fights and get the payback she deserved.

The WWE's Top "Smackdown" Story is Great and a Mess

As Smackdown Live approaches “Fastlane,” its best story is also its dumbest. The ongoing drama between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan is incomprehensible as they manipulate the careers of A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. At the same time, Styles, Owens, and Zayn are three of the best performers on Smackdown Live—reliably creative on the mic and in the ring.

Jason Jordan's Angle Got Real in the WWE

Maybe the WWE always intended for Jason Jordan to become a heel. Maybe when Kurt Angle announced that then-member of American Alpha was his illegitimate son, WWE writers knew that crowds wouldn’t buy it or him. They certainly reacted to him with suspicious indifference, then wariness. Theoretically, he was a babyface, but once he became Seth Rollins’ tag team partner, Jordan got real heel heat, particularly as his serial bumbling cost them the tag team belt.

The WWE's MMC Makes FB Must-See TV

The WWE Mixed Match Challenge sounds like a gimmicky way for the WWE to get in on a gimmicky platform, Facebook’s new Facebook Live. Instead, it has been a pleasant surprise and a reminder of what the WWE does well. The series is a tournament of male-female tag team matches, each wrestling for a charity, and while such tag matches are often frustrating because they present non-committal wrestling, here they succeed because they’re all about personas.

Braun Strowman Buries the Opposition

Bottom line: I watch wrestling for the moments when something truly insane happens. Crazy feats of athleticism, ridiculous actions, or something so over the top that no respectable form of entertainment would do it. As I said last week, NPJW’s Chris Jericho/Kenny Omega had me when Jericho put the referee’s son in the Walls of Jericho. I’ll put up with a lot of soap opera to get to a “Holy shit!” moment. On Monday, the WWE manufactured one of those moments when Braun Strowman pulled a wall of scaffolding down backstage on Brock Lesnar and Kane.

A.J. Styles Wins 2017

[Updated] The winner of 2017 was A.J. Styles. He consistently gave good matches and put his opponents over. He gave Jinder Mahal his best televised match of the year and made him compelling—something few other wrestlers did. He started the year as a heel and was a convincing heel, but once he turned face, he was a clear, convincing face. He took shortcuts when he was a bad guy and stayed on the straight and narrow as a face.

Is Shane Turning Heel? No, He's Just the Boss

The WWE has got a lot of mileage out of the McMahon family as the onscreen bosses. Vince—Mr. McMahon in the ring—as Stone Cold Steve Austin’s greatest enemy, and Stephanie McMahon with husband/WWE C.O.O. Triple H manipulated Raw to stack the deck against Daniel Bryan and countless others. Now, Shane McMahon is running the same game, plotting the humiliation, punishment and sacking of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on Smackdown Live. The tricky part of that he’s plays a faces, and those are all shitty things to do.

Pages