There was once a time when Vince McMahon and WWE could do no wrong. Actually, perhaps I should rephrase that a little. There was a time when Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation could do no wrong. During the WWF years, Vince McMahon produced some of the most captivating hours of professional wrestling programming ever seen. We saw guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, and The Rock grow into megastars before our very eyes. The company has not had the same success since changing its name to WWE, and the product has been going downhill in the eyes of many for over a decade now.
To be fair to WWE, it has made some major progress over the past two or three years. McMahon has been able to put his ego and opinions aside to give the fans what they want – or at least something close to it. Putting the Universal Championship on Finn Bálor was a fantastic decision, and Kevin Owens was a great substitute after Bálor got injured. So, WWE isn’t doing everything wrong. But there are still a great deal of issues which the company needs to tackle if it ever wants to recreate the success it experienced in the mid-80s and late 90s. In this article, we’re going to be looking at 15 of them.
15 Over Production
Considering the production is the first thing you notice about any television show, it seems right to kick things off with this. Not so long ago, WWE was not like anything else on television. It had its own way of doing things and immediately caught your attention when you were channel surfing. SmackDown appeared electric and Raw was, well, raw.
Somewhere along the line that changed and WWE became just another show. The production is flashy but uninteresting, full of movement but no heart. This is generally attributed to Kevin Dunn, WWE’s Executive Vice President of Television Production. It is said that Dunn is ashamed to be working in the wrestling business and desperately wants to make a name for himself as a producer of mainstream television. He wants to score an Emmy for his work on Monday Night Raw and thinks the best way to do that is by copying the production of other Emmy-winning shows, rather than sticking to the production style which made WWE television so unique two decades ago.
If this is true, and Dunn does value winning an Emmy more than producing a quality wrestling show, then perhaps it would be best for all concerned if he stepped down from his duties with WWE.
14 Lack Of Wrestling
A side effect of having a guy who is ashamed to be involved in a wrestling show heading production is a distinct lack of wrestling. Thankfully, this has been changing in recent years, but for a while there WWE was really starting to feel like a cheap reality television show.
There were dance offs, song contests, and cameos from celebrities who had clearly never watched a wrestling match in their life. This would have been okay if it was what the fans wanted to see, but (surprise surprise) the fans booed the hell out of it. They wanted to see WWE, not X-Factor.
While WWE has done a decent job of disposing of such segments, there is still the occasional celebrity appearance or convoluted storyline which makes you embarrassed to be a wrestling fan.
WWE’s creative has been a major issue for a while now. Back when business was going great, the company employed less than five writers, now that number hovers above 20 with some reports claiming WWE has no less than 30 writers for each show. It seems Vince McMahon has never heard the old saying “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
It should be noted that most of these writers are not even wrestling fans. They are taken from Hollywood after failing to make it as screenwriters. This doesn’t bother Vince, however, as he believes former MTV script writers are exactly what he needs to finally get his product into the mainstream.
It does not help matters that the writers are often forced to rewrite the show just hours before it is due to go on air, which results in inconsistencies, haphazard booking, and needless backstage segments.
12 Lack Of Roster Depth
This has been an issue in WWE for a couple of years but has been blatantly obvious since the brand split. Before dividing the rosters between Raw and SmackDown, it seemed like WWE had a massive collection of superstars to choose from every week. However, now that the supply for each show has been halved, we can see how thin the roster really is.
WWE has taken a couple of steps in order to lessen the strain put on talents since the brand split, including bringing back older superstars to help beef up the rosters. The company has also called up a number of talents from NXT. These are two good moves, but they do have downsides. Older stars can only do so much. They are prone to injury and just can’t go in the ring like young guys, so they aren’t a long-term solution to the lack of roster depth. Raiding NXT works for the main rosters, but it leaves NXT without any top stars.
The lack of depth on the roster will likely sort itself out over the next year or so, as WWE has toned down the releases this year in favor of finding something for everybody to do. Several superstars on the WWE roster today owe their job to the brand split.
11 Too Many Hours
This ties in with the previous entry. WWE’s roster woes are heightened by the fact the company has hours of television time to fill every week. Between Raw, SmackDown, and NXT, WWE has six hours of television in the first three days of the week. Then there are Superstars, Main Event, and whatever other shows Vince McMahon conceives of in order to satisfy sponsors.
This is simply too much for one company to produce. It is exhausting for the superstars and results in encounters which could be dream matches if saved for the right time being booked for the second hour of Raw.
Not only is this hectic schedule hard on the superstars, it is unfair to the fans. How is anybody supposed to keep up with all of that TV in a week? The sheer volume of content produced by WWE every week likely serves to turn off potential fans. Those of us who are hooked will do our best to cram WWE into our day, but somebody with a passing interest is most likely going to think “Why bother?” and give their time to a 45-minute drama instead.
10 PG Rating
One of the biggest criticisms of WWE over the past couple of years has been its strict adherence to its PG rating. While this isn’t the sole cause of WWE’s problems, it is something that needs to be sorted out before things get worse.
The WWE’s most profitable era, the Attitude Era, saw countless memorable moments, made possible by the company’s PG-13 rating. With its current rating, WWE is seriously limited and cannot produce the same kind of programming which made so many fans fall in love with it.
Now, you don’t need sex and violence to produce a good wrestling show. In fact, a good wrestling show can have a PG rating and be no different than a PG-13 show. But, as mentioned before, WWE does not allow much time for wrestling on weekly television. Instead, it is trying to produce the same kind of show we saw during the Attitude Era but while sticking to a PG rating.
9 Over-Reliance On Old Talent
Since CM Punk’s record breaking title reign a couple of years ago, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, and Triple H have all held the WWE World Championship. On top of that, guys like Kane, Sting, The Undertaker, and The Big Show have all been involved in major storylines. It is clear that WWE has an over-reliance on veterans and older talent.
This is not an issue WWE had to deal with in the past, as most of the company’s older talent had migrated to WCW. With a lack of established stars, WWE was forced to create new stars such as The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. But with dozens of older stars on today’s roster, it’s easier to use them than to put the time and effort into creating a new star.
Obviously, this is not a sustainable business model. In five years, none of WWE’s older stars are going to be around and the company is going to be struggling to sell tickets – not that The Big Show ever sold tickets anyway.
8 John Cena, Part-Timer
John Cena has been the company’s biggest name for over a decade, and it can be argued that he is the last real star created by Vince McMahon. Even though fans soured on Cena back in 2007, WWE dug its nails in deeper and continued to run with him. Now, however, the company has no choice but to look elsewhere for a top star.
This is because John Cena is becoming more and more caught up in his duties as a major Hollywood star. Thanks to movie roles, talk show appearances and hosting gigs, Cena has gradually become a part-time star and no longer has the time to be at every WWE show, winning every title.
Had WWE prepared for Cena’s absence, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But because Vince McMahon is incredibly shortsighted, there is nobody who can hold a candle to Cena and attract the young fans.
7 Lack Of Stars
Let’s consider this and the previous two entries part of a trio of reasons why WWE is going downhill. An over-reliance on old stars and a part-time John Cena are made all the worse by the fact WWE has failed to create any new stars in years and years and years.
Vince McMahon likes to blame the talent themselves, claiming they don’t want it enough and fail to connect with the crowd. But anybody who has watched a Cesaro match recently can tell you that is absolutely not true. What it comes down to is WWE’s reluctance to get behind anybody who does not fit the mould of the typical WWE superstar.
As I mentioned earlier, the company has done a good job of embracing Kevin Owens and Finn Bálor, but it may be too little, too late. If all veterans and John Cena were to leave the company tomorrow, WWE would likely struggle to make it to the next WrestleMania.
Thankfully this isn’t as big an issue now as it was this time last year. In 2015, WWE had something of an injury crisis, with John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and more all having to take time off to heal. However, the company isn’t without any injuries today, as Finn Bálor was recently forced to forfeit the WWE Universal Championship just one day after winning it in order to get shoulder surgery.
Much of this can be pinned on WWE’s hectic schedule. Performers are wrestling five nights a week and are forced to get by on very little sleep, making mishaps and injuries commonplace.
Vince McMahon has not accepted responsibility for these injuries, instead blaming unsafe workers and pure chance. Perhaps he would be more sympathetic if his performers all tore their quads.
5 New Talent Isn’t New
As great an idea as NXT is and as entertaining as it is to watch, it isn’t exactly a fantastic investment in the future of WWE. While the stars are new to the company, they are not new to the wrestling business and are far from brash young upstarts.
Because WWE was so reluctant to sign some of NXT’s current stars for so long, the company now has a developmental system full of guys in their mid and late 30s who probably don’t have a whole lot of time left inside the squared-circle.
Fínn Balor, a guy WWE seems to have long-term plans for, is already 35; AJ Styles, who is in his first reign as WWE Champion is 39; and Bobby Roode, who hasn’t even made it out of NXT yet, is turning 40 in a couple of months. As we saw with Balor’s injury at SummerSlam, an ageing body just does not hold up as well as that of a younger man, so the next generation of WWE superstars might be as fragile as the next generation of iPhone.
Concussions are commonplace in professional wrestling. There’s just no way you can go out and perform to the level expected of a professional wrestler and not wind up with a concussion at some point. In the past decade, however, concussions have become a major issue for WWE.
Ever since the death of Chris Benoit, the company has been accused of mistreating wrestlers. This past year, a lawsuit was brought against Vince McMahon, claiming WWE was responsible for countless concussions to former superstars, which went on to cause various different brain-related problems.
It’s widely believed that this lawsuit, along with the company’s shady history with concussions, is what led to WWE forcing Daniel Bryan to retire. Although Bryan was cleared by countless doctors after his last injury, WWE understandably does not want to risk any bad press by allowing him to get back into their ring.
3 Power Struggle
Vince McMahon was never going to go down easy, so it should come as no surprise that there is a bit of a power struggle going on behind the scenes at WWE.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have been preparing to take over the company for a while now, and the good work Hunter has done with NXT has led to many fans demanding Vince step down right away and allow his son-in-law to start running the company. According to some sources, this has only angered Vince, who now sees it as one versus all. The one being him and the all being the WWE Universe, the monster he created.
It has also been said that Shane McMahon’s return earlier this year has caused some tension backstage. Although Shane is only working as a performer right now, he has made no secret about his desire to regain some sort of creative control, much to the chagrin of Triple H and Stephanie.
2 Roman Reigns
A little earlier, we discussed WWE’s inability to create new stars, but it should be noted that it isn’t for a total lack of trying. Since the 2014 Royal Rumble, WWE has been doing everything in its power to get Roman Reigns over as a top guy.
Although he is nothing special in the ring and less than stellar on the mic, Reigns has the look Vince McMahon likes and so has been very carefully presented since his debut on the main roster. He has won the majority of his matches with ease and has held the WWE Championship on three separate occasions. Unfortunately, Reigns just hasn’t caught on with the most vocal fans.
Many believe Reigns is not ready for the main event spotlight, considering the fact he had never wrestled a day in his life before being signed with WWE. Others feel he just doesn’t deserve it. The feeling is that WWE could turn Roman into a success if they turned him heel and allowed him to build up some heat on his own, but for whatever reason, Vince McMahon just won’t allow that to happen.
This is the culmination of the previous 14 issues. WWE ratings have been steadily declining for years, with this past Monday’s Raw being the lowest rated in two decades.
This is the result of uninteresting storylines, virtually no wrestling, and dull, 20-minute opening promos by various members of the McMahon family. The biggest problem is Vince McMahon’s refusal to accept responsibility. He blames everybody else. It’s creative’s fault. It’s Seth Rollins’ fault. It’s the fans’ fault for not knowing what they want.
On his most delusional days, Vince insists that ratings don’t matter because people are watching in different ways. It’s this attitude which is going to result in the demise of WWE. Until Vince recognizes that there is a problem and actively tries to fix it like he did during the Monday Night Wars, the ratings are going to keep sinking until there is nobody left to care.