It’s been quite a while since my last editorial. My apologies. I just haven’t had anything new to write on. However, recent events have sparked my attention.
WWE has just released Austin Aries. The rumored reasoning stems from Aries being stuck in the cruiserweight division and creative not having anything else for him. This is yet another example of WWE allowing an established star to slip through the cracks and fall off the roster. WWE’s misuse and under-utilization of talent is astounding. Their creative writers have been lazy for quite some time and seem to promote mediocrity. It is interesting to read the comments when WWE hires a new top talent. Each new talent is built up to be a savior for WWE and their falling ratings. Solid 2s and 3s have become the norm for the flagship show. Comedy skits and part-time talent flood the top title storylines and WWE focuses on their outside projects, Hollywood, and crooked charities.
I figured I’d take a look at the current RAW roster and pick out a few performers who still spark my interest. As usual, my focus will be on RAW because that is the only show I consistently watch. One WWE program, a week, seems to be all I can get through so I continue to watch the company’s flagship program. Be advised that this list is in no particular order.
- The Miz– The Intercontinental Champion oozes with charisma. He’s been a longtime WWE fan (dating as far back to his MTV reality show days and further). The Miz does an excellent job of drawing the fans in. Despite cheesy lines (“when my hand goes up your mouths go shut”), it is easy to believe in his character. The Miz sells his talk and ringwork very well. Add in the realism of his marriage to Maryse and the fans are treated to a legend in the making.
- Big Cass– After finally ridding himself of his annoying tag partner, Big Cass has finally stepped out on his own. The guy has the size and is working on honing his ring and mic skills. Though his singles run is only beginning, I look forward to his evolution. Big Cass’s heel turn makes sense and his current feud, with Enzo, follows common logic (something lost in WWE’s current product). Cass will need to get a few solid wins under his belt in order for his character to be taken seriously but I am reminded of a young Edge when I see him in the ring. Both are agile and Cass has a lot of potential.
- Braun Strowman– The man is a monster. Not only does he have the build but he sounds like one. Strowman is in a tough spot because of his feud with Reigns. Though it doesn’t feel like a main event feud, WWE is marketing it as such. He does not ask to be fed more but, instead, annihilates his opponents. Strowman could use a few big wins to cement himself as a legit threat. He does not need to lose to Reigns or Lesnar. In the same breath, he should not back down from altercations with either of these men (or anyone for that matter).
- Curtis Axel– The son of Curt Henning should be given more. Axel doesn’t need goofy gimmicks or feuds where he jobs. He’s a young wrestler who could carry on his family legacy. To say that WWE is misusing him is an understatement.
- Heath Slater– Speaking of misuse, Slater is textbook example of being misused. Like The Miz, he oozes charisma. His comedic vignettes allow the audience to suspend their disbelief and buy into what he is saying. He has the desire to make it to the top. Pairing him with Rhyno has offered an entertaining yet equally successful tag-team. Slater worked well during his legends storyline and has a memorable catchphrase of “I’ve got kids”.
- Finn Balor– Balor was over before he stepped foot into a WWE ring. It seems as though WWE doesn’t know what to do with him, though. His mini-feud (with Samson) never blossomed into much of anything. Hopefully he does not go the same route as Aries.
- Jack Gallagher– He has the mic skills and he has the ring skills. He had excellent segments on the RAW programs leading into Wrestlemania. It seems only fitting that he did not have a major moment during the biggest PPV of the year (because WWE). Still, I’m hopeful that WWE finds something (other than their NXT/205 minor leagues) for Gallagher.
- Samoa Joe– I saw him perform during a live TNA event back in 2006. Joe has not let up and neither have the fans. While he’s stuck in a feud with the part-time champ, Joe has the ability to continue to climb to the top. It is typical for VKM and WWE to push established names down (because you’re not big unless WWE made you big) and this may be where Joe goes. However, the fans have a way of proving otherwise (see: Daniel Bryan, CM Punk). Joe could be the big time heavyweight that also has the agility necessary for a future WWE champion.
- Seth Rollins- I’ll round out the list with an established superstar. Rollins continues to improve on the mic and in the ring. He’s put on fantastic matches dating back to his S.H.I.E.L.D days and into his singles run. However, to be a good professional wrestler, one must also be equipped with believable promo talents. Seth Rollins believes what he is saying and that makes the fans believe in him. Rollins is also graced with the WWE office backing him. He has returned from career-ending injuries and looks better than ever. Fans are witnessing a legend in the making and I do not think Rollins has come anywhere close to peaking.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: WWE has the best roster they’ve ever had. In fact, the roster is far too vast. The split brands have forced WWE to sacrifice TV time for individual feuds and rely on multi-tag matches and short segments. Additionally, WWE recycles their storylines and insults the intelligence of their audience. They expect the fans to forget events from the not so distant past. In order for things to work, WWE must pair down their roster and invest true time in a small crop of talent. Allow fans to see feuds develop organically and follow common logic. The suspension of disbelief will occur if done right. Not every superstar needs a nickname (or 4). Allow the performers to have their own voice and input in the storylines. If the performers believe it, they will sell it much better than if they don’t.
Ratings are dropping and WWE can only rely on the past and their excuses for so long. NBC Universal and advertisers are taking notice and WWE will have a difficult time selling their product to new investors. The “audience of a few” mindset must change and WWE must embrace their longtime fans as opposed to sacrificing their dignity for the masses. If GFW becomes the true alternative, WWE will be in a lot of trouble. It is no secret that top names are looking for ways out and WWE has dropped the ball on numerous opportunities. WWE can improve if they try. It’s time the audience forces them.