Being a WWE fan these days isn’t easy. That’s not to say that it’s all bad, because it isn’t, but we’re not the only ones feeling this way: Raw ratings have dropped fairly consistently since at least September. Yes, sometimes the numbers have rebounded, but this tends to last only for a week or two and is also often associated with a big return or event. As soon as that passes, viewership sinks back to its new normal.
Many fans largely feel that WWE isn’t trying anymore. It has its millions of fans all around the world and it doesn’t have any serious competition (TNA is out, ROH isn’t on the same scale by far, and even with a TV deal, NJPW isn’t trying for the same kinds of viewers), so why bother? The writers seem content churning out the same tired content on a regular basis, stretching out feuds for months and stifling the careers of mid-carders who should be on the main event.
It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re missing John Cena or Seth Rollins, or even Roman Reigns. As much as NXT is a goldmine for talent, the stars that migrate over to the main roster haven’t really made a dent. There are Superstars with tons of promise like The New Day and Dean Ambrose who have their moments sometimes and make Raw and SmackDown somewhat more bearable. Overall though, morale is low for the fans. That probably has a lot to do with these 10 moments that heavily dragged down 2015.
10. The Rusev Drama
In very rare instances (like Rusev and Bray Wyatt), former NXT stars become major fixtures on the main roster. Once a barefoot barbarian who broke wood and went by the name of Alexander Rusev, the brute cut his first name and had some nationality crises (seriously, is he Russian or is he Bulgarian?) as he climbed the career ladder. However, by his side that whole time was Lana, his beautiful blonde manager. The cracks in their on-screen relationship began forming slowly over time, and soon enough Lana was Fandangoing (remember that?) and dumping Rusev for Dolph Ziggler. The Bulgarian retaliated and began dating Summer Rae.
Off-screen, Rusev and Lana were and still are very much in love. Rusev popped the question and Lana (supposedly) leaked pictures to TMZ. Lana was out on injury at the time, so the love triangle storyline was already only being supported by Rusev, Summer, and Ziggler. Out of the blue, after the TMZ article went viral, WWE writers immediately scrapped the storyline and threw Lana and Rusev back together. For a few weeks, Rusev shouldered some losses, probably as a form of punishment, but now he’s in a multinational stable with Sheamus and Alberto del Rio, which seems like punishment in and of itself.
9. The Undertaker’s Pointless Match at WrestleMania 31
WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans last year actually wasn’t half bad. Overshadowing all of the other interesting matches of that night was The Undertaker‘s loss to Brock Lesnar, curtailing The Deadman’s streak at 21-1. If you saw it live, you’ll never forget it. Even if you happened to miss that WrestleMania, you’ll still probably never forget it. People gaped. People cried. People left. It was one of the last pure moments that WWE has to offer.
So what happened during this year’s WrestleMania? Did we leave Taker’s legacy be and start using his match time for something and someone else? Nah. Instead, he had a rather pointless, thrown-together, haphazard battle with Bray Wyatt. Even more confusingly, The Undertaker won. Once again, Wyatt lost unnecessarily, Taker faded into the shadows, and fans were left with absolutely no closure, a trend that WWE has repeated again and again.
8. John Cena’s Absence
Since his debut in 2002, John Cena has been a practically permanent part of the WWE roster. Yes, he’s taken a few months off here and there (and never really any more than six) for injuries, but as the face of WWE and a hero to millions of young kids the world over, the dude’s got a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility entails him being on TV each and every single week. Well, except SmackDown. Maybe Cena doesn’t know SmackDown exists, because he’s never on.
Anyway, it was easy to get tired of Cena being shoved down your throat, and a lot of fans were fed up. The Master of Thuganomics made a planned exit after dropping his United States Championship to a returning Alberto del Rio at this October’s Hell in a Cell. Now the year is pretty much over and Cena is just returning. With Rollins gone too, the main event picture is pathetically thin. Although, let’s be real, no one’s really overeager to finally see the WWE World Heavyweight Championship confrontation between Cena and Reigns which is all but inevitable.
7. NXT Talent Goes Absolutely Nowhere
If you’ve ever watched NXT, especially in the last two years, then undoubtedly, you’re probably hooked. If you haven’t ever watched NXT, do yourself a favor and stop reading now, go turn on the WWE Network, and do it. Really. Although it’s hard to remember considering that the level of talent and showmanship regularly outdoes WWE programming like Raw and SmackDown, NXT is a developmental territory. The main goal for each and every man and woman on that roster is to get signed to WWE. Right?…Right?
Well, yes, but what do any of them have to show for it? Political power backstage seems to put a very low glass ceiling in front of these guys from their debut. The Ascension were just used as burial fodder, Neville hasn’t had a real storyline in nearly a year, Sasha Banks deserves so much better (more on her and the other Divas later), Charlotte is stuck in an endless feud with Paige, and Tyler Breeze already seems listless. Even bigger stars like Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens were only ever allowed to succeed to a point. Not a single star from NXT has been treated like a WWE Superstar or Diva. Why bother ever leaving?
6. The Re-re-re-return of Fan Faves
With a lot of main event talent injured and a huge mid-card swarming with unused or misused Superstars (we can’t tell which is worse), somebody has to fill in the gaps, right? Why not rely on the same old stars of the Attitude Era, the same men who heralded wrestling’s biggest era of popularity and prosperity? It doesn’t matter that 90% of those Superstars are retired or out of the business. It doesn’t matter that guys like The Undertaker look old and move like they’re even older. Him and names like Sting, Brock Lesnar, and Kane will get people watching.
However, this is part of the reason for the overall ratings slump that WWE is suffering. They announce that Sting will be on Raw or Brock Lesnar is fighting at Battleground and yeah, viewership surges. However, the event happens, Sting and Lesnar are gone after, and fans are left remembering that Raw is super boring and then they go watch football or do something else besides listening to Roman Reigns say “suffering succotash” for three hours.
5. The Burials of Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and More
Let’s return back to that huge mid-card swarming with unused or misused talent for a minute. This is WWE’s biggest portion of the roster by far, only because the main event scene is such an exclusive club that only two people can ever really get in for months at a time, and one of them has to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In the middle are guys like Kevin Owens, Barrett, Neville, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family, Rusev, the Miz, Ryback, etc. etc. The list goes on. It’s a hell of a lot of people.
Do you remember when Dolph Ziggler brought his team home at Survivor Series 2014 and temporarily defeated the powers-that-be that are The Authority? Do you remember how awesome that felt? Yeah, it only happened because Roman Reigns was out on injury, and by the next Raw Ziggler was “fired” and his momentum killed. How about how epic it was to first hear Kevin Owens’ music on Raw? As a former NXT Champion, he’s gone nowhere fast. Sadly it seems like if you’re not WWE’s top guy(s), there’s no room for you to be a fan favorite.
4. Daniel Bryan’s Bad Prognosis
Neck injuries, unless you’re Stone Cold Steve Austin, are likely career-enders. Just look at what happened to Edge. His damage was so extreme that he had to retire hastily in his 30s. It was heartbreaking when Daniel Bryan told us in May 2014 that he needed neck surgery. Fans had pushed for Bryan so hard for so long with such a loud voice that even WWE writers had had no choice but to push the guy. Even worse, at the time of his surgery, he had just won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He had to let it go to heal and get better.
Then he did, and he came back to action at the 2015 Royal Rumble, in which he didn’t win (and fans were incensed, but you probably already remember that). WWE did throw him a bone at this year’s WrestleMania 31, letting him win the Intercontinental Championship. Sure, it was no WWE World Heavyweight title, but it was good enough. Then, the unthinkable happened. Bryan’s neck wasn’t quite right, and he had to leave again, and relinquish another title. Although he let fans know that his career might be over, he seems to be good to go again. WWE has yet to clear him, leaving Bryan in limbo. Hopefully he’s released from his contract so he can wrestle a few great matches in NJPW.
3. Seth Rollins’ Injury
Speaking of WrestleMania 31, even though it was a lackluster event overall, you couldn’t help but have that pins and needles feeling watching Brock Lesnar defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Roman Reigns. Sure, Reigns was being tossed around like a ragdoll, but this was also when WWE was pushing him really hard down everyone’s throats ala Cena, and you couldn’t help but have a feeling in the pit of your gut that he would come away victorious.
That’s what made Seth Rollins’ surprise capture of the title such a wondrous moment when wondrous moments don’t exist in WWE anymore. Even though he’s booked to lose like all the time, and cleanly at that, Rollins has been a fun heel champion, cackling on our TVs every Monday. Literally, the guy wrestled since The Shield debuted in late 2012 until his leg bent like Gumby at a house show. That’s three years straight. However, Rollins leaves at a horrible time. Not only did he have to vacate the title during his first reign, but now the main event picture lacks anyone worth watching.
2. The Divas Revolution
Nikki Bella didn’t start the Divas Revolution. Charlotte didn’t start the Divas Revolution. It all began at the first NXT TakeOver in February 2014 when Paige wrestled Emma. That started the Divas’ Revolution. Yes, women like Charlotte, Paige, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks are now the flag-bearers, but even they must cringe when they hear the term Divas’ Revolution because of all it’s become. It went from an interesting concept to a meaningless tagline. Just what is the revolution? What are they revolting against? What do each of the teams want? Why can’t they unify together?
Oh yeah…we don’t know because WWE never bothered addressing such pertinent and crucial questions. Instead, Team B.A.D., Team PCB (let’s never speak of their original name), and Team Bella feuded until Sasha had to go back on NXT and Team B.A.D. stepped back, Team PCB splintered, and Team Bella lost their leader Nikki Bella. WWE doesn’t even talk about the Divas’ Revolution now because it failed so miserably. Instead, more Divas than ever are scrambling for five minutes of screen time on Raw.
1. Roman Reigns’ Rollercoaster Push
Even The Rock couldn’t prevent the backlash that Philadelphia doled out on Roman Reigns when he won this year’s Royal Rumble. He seemed primed for greatness because WWE had selected him as the guy, and that was that. However, though he had many opportunities to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the writers hesitated. Perhaps they realized that with one hard push, Reigns could force fans to finally turn off Raw for good and stop watching a product that grew staler by the week.
However, his earning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was going to happen eventually. It was delayed somewhat at Survivor Series when Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank to yank the gold away from Reigns, but on a random episode of Raw in December, Reigns got what he deserved. The kicker? WWE was in Philadelphia. That’s right. The same crowd that nearly 12 months ago hated Reigns’ guts had either been brainwashed into liking him, appreciated this rare moment of the title changing hands at a non-PPV event, or simply didn’t care enough to show disapproval. It goes to show that if WWE wants someone to be the guy, they will be the guy come hell or high water no matter how good they are (or aren’t) for the company long-term.