For an organization that prides itself on being the biggest and best ‘sports entertainment’ company in the world, WWE’s popularity and success aren’t where they could or should be. They have arguably their most stacked and experienced rosters of all time, yet they keep making mistakes on a regular basis.
This keeps happening because of a constant change in direction from the very top of the company. Picture a typical WWE superstar’s booking as a railway line. Somewhere along that line is a junction with the line splitting into two new ones. And at that junction, there’s a switch with one person deciding in which direction the train (representing the wrestler) will go.
Now, on a few occasions, once the decision has been made from the top and the train has embarked on the new chosen direction, the person at the junction is happy with the way in which the train has gone. But in many more cases, the man at the junction keeps pulling the lever, uncertain of which direction to decide for that train.
And in other circumstances, once that train has gone down one path, the man at the junction radios the conductor to stop the train and turn it around because there’s been a sudden and inexplicable change of plans. That poor conductor now has the unenviable task of somehow turning the train around without causing too much damage to the train itself, and the only realistic thing he can do is turn the train around, wasting all the time and effort taken to bring the train to how far it had gotten.
This is what WWE looks like right now: several trains going down wrong paths because the people in control have no idea what they’re doing, and only a small handful of trains going in the right direction without any of this indecisive nonsense. Here, we’ll look at 10 things WWE is doing wrong, and 5 they’re doing correctly, starting with those that are and have been done wrong…
15. What They’re Doing With The Miz
When he was on SmackDown, The Miz was one of the brand’s hottest acts. His two famous promos on Talking Smack proved that he could talk with the biggest stars, and his storylines and rivalries were among the most intriguing in all of WWE.
Fast forward to the present and the Miz… is just another guy on RAW.
With RAW being the longer show with the larger roster and bigger stars (at least in Vince’s mind), the Miz hasn’t had as many opportunities to find a niche for himself. Worse, RAW’s a more controlled environment than SmackDown, and so Miz has fewer chances to say something truly interesting and is instead back in his old spot of repeating WWE-speak like every other heel on the brand.
Miz could be a much bigger star and should be in a different position than the one he’s in now. He already feuded with and defeated Dean Ambrose on SmackDown; why does this feud need repeating again?
14. Charlotte Flair As A Babyface
There are some people that are natural babyfaces or heels. Charlotte is an example of the latter.
Ric Flair’s daughter is horribly miscast as another babyface women’s wrestler. In this role, she’s shoehorned into the same type of good-girl character as everyone else instead of creating a new character for herself. As a result of all of this, her impact on the SmackDown audience is much worse than when she was a heel.
You can see it in virtually everything she does. From her facial expressions, to her tone of voice, to her body language, to her ring psychology, Charlotte was born to play a heel, just like her father. They had something good going with Charlotte when she was the top heel on RAW. For them to go in the opposite direction on SmackDown is an example of complete creative incompetence.
13. Bray Wyatt’s Booking
It’s truly saddening to see Bray Wyatt lost in the shuffle on RAW like he is right now. When he debuted four years ago (yes, it really has been that long), he was pegged as a future megastar. Unfortunately, someone messed things up on several occasions for him, and now, he’s a perpetual mid-carder at best.
This is someone who could genuinely become the next Undertaker if he were booked properly. He has the look, the presence, and the athletic ability. And, unlike the Undertaker himself, Wyatt can actually cut mesmerizing promos without the need of a manager.
But instead of all this, Bray’s just another guy on the RAW roster without much of a direction. He can’t get over to the top of the card because he’s not in Vince McMahon’s immediate plans. This is despite the fact that fan reaction to Bray has been consistently positive despite this lackadaisical booking. WWE could very well be sitting on a gold mine with Bray Wyatt; they’re just too ignorant to realize they’re digging in the wrong spot.
12. The Cruiserweight Division Is The New Divas Division
Once the cruiserweight division became part of the main roster, control over it shifted from a man who knew and understood its appeal (Triple H), to a man that would rather enforce homogeneity over uniqueness (Vince).
The Cruiserweight matches on RAW get the ‘Divas’ treatment of yesteryear: 3-minute nothing matches that are supposed to encourage fans to watch the main cruiserweight show, 205 Live, on Tuesday nights. But how are fans supposed to care when the show that reaches the biggest audience puts on average-at-best matches that don’t tell enough of a story or showcase compelling characters of which the average fan would want to see more?
No matter how much the actual wrestlers try, the cruiserweight division doesn’t match up to the billing it got when the Cruiserweight Classic ended. It isn’t being treated like a big deal despite being stacked with many talented wrestlers. If WWE were to take this division seriously, they should book it in the same way New Japan books its Junior Heavyweights.
11. The Supposed Brand Warfare
Last year, Vince said he wanted his children to go to war over each other, and he ‘wanted blood’. That was meant to be an over-the-top indication that we’d get actual competition between RAW and SmackDown, where brand superiority actually mattered.
WWE managed to screw this up within less than a month when Brock Lesnar, a RAW wrestler, attacked Randy Orton, a SmackDown wrestler, without any difficulty. It was almost as if SmackDown was expecting Brock to show up and treated him like an ordinary member of their roster.
Fast forward to the present, and nothing has changed. RAW promotes SmackDown shows and vice-versa despite both shows being supposedly at odds with one another. SmackDown is constantly being treated as the B-Show despite having a superior roster and infinitely better writing than RAW.
Finally, WWE programming, in general, has become so oversaturated that there’s no real incentive for fans to watch both shows. Why should anyone care about missing either show with the prevalence of social media, various websites, and the WWE Network itself all playing a role in promoting and, in some cases, spoiling both shows?
10. How They’re Treating The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
This past WrestleMania marked the death knell for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. What was originally meant to be another opportunity for a rising star to gain some momentum has now become a joke that nobody cares about.
Of the four winners of the match, only Baron Corbin has received anything resembling a sustained push, and one could argue that this push was more due to his size and look than winning the Battle Royal. This year, Mojo Rawley, one of the least-interesting and most underwhelming wrestlers on SmackDown, won the match. Was there any major follow-up? No. In fact, it was Jinder Mahal, the man that Rawley eliminated from the match, that got the major push.
If the plan was for WWE to push Jinder Mahal all along, why not book HIM to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? At least that would’ve given the match some legitimacy and would’ve given Mahal some much-needed momentum.
Instead, the whole thing turned into a public relations farce, as the booking was done solely to include Mojo’s non-wrestling celebrity athlete friend in the match, proving that non-regular wrestlers are more important than the main roster talent.
9. Bayley’s Main Roster Run
What a train wreck this has been.
Somehow, WWE’s bookers have managed to not only screw up Bayley’s main roster run, but they’ve also created several side casualties as well. Her Women’s title win took place at Fastlane instead of at WrestleMania, devaluing her win, Charlotte’s loss, the importance of WrestleMania, and the prestige of the championship all at once.
Then, she lost the title to Alexa Bliss, a wrestler who, while improving, is still vastly inferior to Bayley in terms grappling skill. Then, they went a step further by making Bayley cut the same promos every week, turning her character into a sort of broken record that whines all the time. After this, there was that dreadful ‘This is your life’ segment that bombed so spectacularly that WWE itself is washing its hands of that.
The final nail in the coffin was Alexa Bliss basically squashing Bayley at Extreme Rules 2017 in under five minutes. Bayley got virtually no offense in and didn’t even get a chance to counter Bliss’s claims in that awful talking segment.
8. RAW Always Opens With The Same Thing
RAW lacks originality. That’s been true for years now. It appears that WWE’s writers, bookers, and producers are all so comfortable with their position in the ‘sports entertainment’ industry that they don’t feel the need to do anything unique or different, leading to a pattern of repetition.
Due to this, EVERY RAW opens with a promo. Whether it’s the person in charge telling the fans what they’ll see later (which is usually announced ahead of time for ticket buyers anyway), to two wrestlers talking and telling jokes for up to twenty minutes, the first segment of RAW is usually something one can skip if they have that option.
This is NOT the kind of attitude fans should have about WWE’s shows, but it’s a common mentality nonetheless. On the rare occasion RAW does open with a match and not a promo, it’s either something special’s going on that night, or the writers got so confused, they forgot where to put the promo on the show’s schedule.
7. Roman Reigns As A Babyface
The arrogance on the part of WWE’s bookers over Roman Reigns’s presentation is staggering. This man shouldn’t have ever been forced into the position of top babyface meant to replace John Cena, especially considering how polarizing he had been during his peak. But no, WWE loves familiarity, so they created a new John Cena in Roman Reigns and booked him to be that next top guy.
They must’ve forgotten that familiarity breeds contempt, and boy have fans shown their contempt for Reigns.
Reigns has been booed more than any babyface in two decades. When he defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania, fans chanted insults at him worse than when John Cena appeared at ECW One Night Stand 2006. Yet, WWE’s booking him as a good guy despite everything about him being meant to be the contrary.
Like Charlotte, Reigns is a natural heel. His look, facial expressions (including both his serious guy scowl and mocking, cocky grin) belong to a guy that thinks and knows he’s better than everyone else, not a cringy superhero. Yet, WWE insists on booking him in this same way, audience criticism be damned. As a result, fans are still turning away in droves, especially those casual ones who see how this guy acts and gets treated, and think ‘what are they doing in this company?’
6. 50/50 Booking
This is the cardinal sin of WWE right now: apart from a handful of individuals, the majority of the wrestlers are victims of the dreaded 50/50 booking philosophy. How this works is, Wrestler A and Wrestler B are in a feud. ‘A’ wins the first match, then ‘B’ wins the return match. This keeps going on until every possible match ending is used up and fans have lost complete interest in the rivalry.
The other way it goes has to do with PPVs. More often than not, when there’s a PPV match scheduled, the wrestler that loses on the go-home show before that PPV will win on PPV. But it’s ok because the wrestler that lost on PPV will, in all likelihood, get a rematch the following night on TV, rendering the other wrestler’s victory on PPV completely moot.
A famous wrestling critic once likened this booking to being on a treadmill; you think you’re moving and you’re putting in so much effort, but you’re not actually getting anywhere. This is the perfect analogy for WWE’s booking; the wrestlers work so hard, but the rivalries and stories are done so badly that no one truly wins in the end.
5. The RAW Tag Team Title Scene
Even though RAW lost the ever-popular New Day to SmackDown, the RAW tag team division is still diverse and interesting. Within this division, fans have different teams to cheer for depending on what they’re looking for.
Those fans wanting to see an oddball pairing succeed together can watch Cesaro and Sheamus continue to succeed. Their initial pairing looked bad, but now, they look great together. For fans longing for tag teams of yesteryear, they can watch the Hardys, who are walking a line between their old WWE gimmicks and their wacky TNA gimmicks. It’s hard to predict when or if it’ll happen, but it’s likely Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero will be seen in WWE.
For NXT fans wanting a piece of that brand on RAW, you can see the Revival, one of the best teams in all of WWE right now. For those fans wanting more talking than action and wacky promos, Enzo & Cass is the team for them. Finally, for those looking for a classic ‘big guy, small guy’ pairing, Gallows & Anderson work well as that team.
4. Booking Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin’s booking thus far has been one of the best things on SmackDown. Over the past year, Corbin has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of in-ring presence, movements, skills, and promos.
While he still lags behind others on the roster in each of those categories (compared to A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and the New Day, for example), Corbin’s still improving with each passing week.
Rumors suggest that Corbin will win the MITB briefcase and will become WWE Champion at some point this year. This has the potential to be very interesting, as SmackDown would further prove its reputation as the ‘land of opportunity.’
Corbin already has an excellent finisher and a legitimately intimidating presence, both of which are major assets for him, especially since the size of WWE’s average wrestler is shrinking instead of growing.
3. Braun Strowman’s Push
Braun Strowman has become one of the most unexpected heroes of Monday Night RAW. Despite his monstrous size, Strowman has shown incredible athleticism and agility, as seen with him doing the Shawn Michaels kip-up on multiple occasions. His finisher, a British Bulldog-style Running Powerslam, has become a believable and dangerous move that has enough credibility to end a match.
But most importantly, Strowman, as a character, has managed to entertain the audience on a regular basis through his often funny one-liners (I’m Not Finished With You!) and his unrelenting power.
In essence, Braun Strowman has become a bearded Brock Lesnar, and the audience loves him for it.
If WWE keeps booking Braun this way, they might have a new top star in him. Strowman’s white hot right now, so WWE needs to keep capitalizing on this and make him into a bigger star as much as possible.
2. The Mae Young Classic
WWE’s past attempts at re-legitimizing the women’s division have been mixed at best. On the NXT brand, the women have been treated as genuine stars worthy of main-eventing their programs. On the main roster, however, it’s been much worse with more cheesy storylines and jumbled booking taking place.
The next big women-centric creative decision will be the Mae Young Classic, a women-only tournament reminiscent of last year’s cruiserweight classic. This tournament is being presented as a legitimate contest with great prestige and is open to women’s wrestlers from around the world.
This is WWE’s next big chance to prove that they’ve moved beyond the garbage women’s storylines of yesteryear (at least for the most part). Given how they’ve changed their tune regarding women in WWE, this has the chance to be both a critical and a commercial success for the WWE Network.
1. Samoa Joe Vs. Brock Lesnar
It’s rare for WWE to put together something that can actually be called a Dream Match. Everyone wanted to see Cena vs. Undertaker, but that was nixed in favor of something that wasn’t as well-received by the audience. Now, WWE appears to have tried to mitigate the negative fan reaction to that creative decision by booking what might be one of the biggest clashes in wrestling history.
Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar are two incredibly similar wrestlers. Both have experience in legitimate martial arts and use stiff strikes. They’re both submission experts with a lot of credibility in their holds. Both of them are power wrestlers that can throw around smaller opponents with ease.
And most importantly, both guys have reputations for badassery. This will make their upcoming clash at Great Balls of Fire that much better.
Instead of giving Lesnar someone easy for his first title defense, WWE has booked him against someone that could actually beat him. This’ll make that upcoming PPV much more interesting and will hopefully lead to a memorable match between them.