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Is WWE redeemable?


FMKK
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We've known there have been problems with booking, organisation and overall management with WWE for years now, but as we've entered into the New Boom Period the company seemed to anticipate the Fox deal would bring about, it seems like everything that's awful and stupid and dysfunctional about WWE has been heightened. 

Let's just look at some of the things that have happened since start of that week:

Raw: False advertising of Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins, beginning of Rusev cuck angle

NXT: Took a beating from AEW in the ratings, no longer seen as the cool alternative product.

Smackdown: False advertising Steve Austin, Sting and Undertaker, no pushes for anyone who will be on that show going forward

Hell in a Cell: Barely a card until the afternoon of the show, all-time bad main event that killed their top babyface, SHORTY GABLE

Raw: Nothing happened

NXT: Decline in popularity continues

Smackdown: Non-finish in big advertised match due to spooky clown, draft order accidentally given away in company's own press release

Raw: Terrible draft continues, all-time bad Seth Rollins segment in Firefly Funhouse which killed him off even further

Backstage on FS1: Big trade promised, turns out to be Alexa Bliss and Nicki Cross (drafted separately, wasting a pick) being sent to Smackdown in return for nothing.

In the meantime, ratings declined faster than expected for Raw and Smackdown, potentially killing off the draft concept as a television draw. Eric Bischoff was also fired after a few months on the job, in which he seemed to have accomplished absolutely nothing. Add in more embarrassing Seth Rollins twitter stuff, and it's hard to see the last few weeks as anything other than a complete mess for WWE. Supposedly we're getting an announcement for NXT Japan in the coming days, which I honestly hope isn't a success. WWE spreading their territory into every market in order to do maximum damage really is the worst of their monopolising instinct. But it seems like the bloom is off the rose with NXT as a brand and the Bushiroad acquisition of Stardom may lock them out from key talent signings. Besides, with New Japan in a relatively strong state, it'll be harder for them to break into the market and exert control in the same way they have with NXT UK.

All this being said, WWE is in the most financially healthy position in their history due to bonanza TV deals and the Saudi blood money shows. So really, unless ratings take a nosedive to the point where USA and Fox aren't happy, it would be hard to convince anyone in the company that things aren't going well. But the reality of the situation is that they cannot create a star t save themselves, they've burned off so much of their audience just in the last few years that it seems like they're getting down to the lifers, the average age of the audience is high and it doesn't seem like they're effectively able to create new fans. They've hoarded more talent than they could ever possibly feature in order to damage competition but there are fewer over acts than any time in company history. A few years ago, the in-ring stuff was the saving grace against the bad booking but for the last couple of years I'm struggling to think of many truly great main roster matches. It also feels like the television is completely inaccessible to any new fan because there is such a huge time commitment, the scripted and stilted verbiage is really alienating and there is no effort made to storylines to make sense.

It really feels like they're in a hole right now that I can't even imagine being turned around. I'm just trying to work out whether we're at WCW 1999 or 2000 levels yet. They've pulled all the stunts in terms of reboots and returns to bring back the audience but it largely hasn't stuck. It'll take a much longer period to have a true turnaround in the presentation but the fact that they've burned the fans so many times and can't see through any push or storyline to a satisfying conclusion means they probably won't even have the trust of their audience for a long time even if things do get much better.

This has been a huge rant, but honestly, there should be major concern for what happens to this company and wrestling in general if this TV rights bubble bursts because the trajectory for WWE for the last many years has been really bad.

 

Tl;dr: Is there any way WWE can be turned around?

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Short answer : no.

Maybe. Once Vince dies. Then again, it would take a complete refont of the entire company culture, which is highly unlikely. Stephy is gonna be there forever no matter what in some role. Her long-time influence in creative that she instilled when she was put in charge in the early 00's coupled with the monopoly was a disater for pro-wrestling as a whole, because it contributed to the perception of what pro-wrestling should be (aka writerzzzzz). Which gave us TNA aka WWE-lite, the only failed alternative during those 17 years. The myth of HHH "great booker" has been debunked a long time ago as NXT was a sandbox company with toy indie stars being shuffled around to the pleasure of the smart-marks-yet-WWE-fanboys of Full Sail. The futur seems to be Shawn Michaels-like dramaturgy. Sorry, I don't love that. So, maybe Vince dies and either nothing much changes or something drastically changes. Then again, maybe Vince dies and the company crumbles. CMLL is not exactly crumbling, but it appears the death of Paco Alonso was a bit more than just the big boss dying and on to the top gen like nothing happened.

Financially, thanks to Blood Money Mania and the FOX heist job, they almost reached the "too big to fail" state. Creatively, they are broken. When the last resort of hope for the big FOX show is Brucie, you kow you're fucked more than a hooker in a gang-bang. Hell, when even Brazzers make fun of your booking, you know you have reach a pathetic state. Creatively, they are the AWA in 89, they are WCW in 99. They are WWE in 2019.

They should open an office in beautiful progressive Djeddah and make whoever that guy who will win the multi-man match at the next Saudi show but you never ever see on TV otherwise the world champ, because that's where their bread is buttered.

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No. It's telling that something as small as AEW remembering not to count Moxley's unsanctioned match in his W-L record stands out so much. 

Their programming is just devoid of any entertainment now. It's all filler. They just try to provide content now and try to get out of providing resolution to anything now. 

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I feel like WWE is basically trapped. They can't possibly put together a creatively fulfilling product while filling seven plus hours of programming a week. And they can't cut back on their quantity without tanking their business model. 

I don't think it improves when Vince departs. It becomes a corporate monolith whose top priority is to churn out content regardless of quality.

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I disagree. I think the HHH as a savior thing is just working the marks. His programs consistently go over poorly and he always does counter-productive things like beating Roman for the title. Also the recent 6-7 months of NXT shows that if he is the chief booker there that he isn't as good as people think he is. 

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I mean, if the big TV contracts went away and they weren't so stable (and to be clear, we are many years from that being plausible), there's the chance that they buckle down, focus on what matters and take some risks that pay off. 

But otherwise, their business structure has become somewhat divorced from convincing a larger chunk of fans to pay money for wrestling. Which means everything about basic wrestling book has gone off the table, and it's not coming back soon.

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1 hour ago, Mad Dog said:

Their programming is just devoid of any entertainment now. It's all filler. They just try to provide content now and try to get out of providing resolution to anything now. 

I haven't been able to articulate my problem with WWE to myself, but this is it.  You nailed it.  

It's a shame.  They have an insane roster of talent right now.  It shouldn't be so hard to make a good wrestling show.  The problem is, they stopped trying to put on a good wrestling show a long time ago.  

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I think its way more possible, even with the Fox deal, even with the Saudi blood money, for the WWE to sink in the not-so-distant future. Obviously, we'd likely see some sweeping changes before that with what I would assume would be a hiking of the Network price, a bunch of talent releases, less touring, etc. 

But I don't buy that the WWE is "unsinkable." There's really no easy comparison to pro-wrestling, but there are ways the brand and the WWE's various products can be compard to content factories (like Disney or Marvel, who actually did go bankrupt in 96') or major sports teams/leagues. You've got TV, live events, merchandise, video games, and more - and its not just in the US, there are international markets too. And, for some of these things, like the MLB or Disney, even when they haven't had a hit for awhile and it seems like nobody cares, there's a never-ending stream of kids growing up with parents who take them to those movies and baseball games and will do so forever and ever because these are, at least in the US, our American pastimes. In Disney's case, you also have timeless characters that can rebooted, repackaged, remarketing, and resold forever. These companies and leagues are too big to fail because they generate revenue in so many ways that aren't really all that linked all the time. (For example, the Cavs here in Cleveland are going to really struggle to sell tickets, merch, etc., this year because we are going to suck, but the NBA will do just fine and the Cavs alone are still worth $1.3 Billion according to Forbes.)

But for the WWE, I do think the links are significant and a domino effect could happen. Right now, attendance is not great and TV ratings are not great, but losing 25-30% more of the audience in 2-3 years doesn't even sound far-fetched (it doesn't even sound far-fetched to imagine it happening in 2-3 months). That would have a direct impact on merch sales, including the video games and other licensed products. It would also, most likely, have an impact on brokering their next TV rights deal. Meanwhile, the subjective quality of the content is making it harder and harder for them to reach and keep new viewers while the bank of stars that bring in current and casual viewers is getting smaller - something Disney or Marvel don't have to worry about as much because their properties are almost literally ageless. 

I guess it is possible that the Saudi money and the TV deals will be (or currently are?) enough to pay for all the losses in every other area of the business. But that isn't sustainable, right? Its certainly not smart to "take an L" on the revenue streams you actually control and bank on these outside sponsors/partners. I mean, if Saudi Arabia could woo the NBA or MLB to have them host an All-Star game there or convince Disney to build a Disneyland resort there, given the option of what they want to spend their billions on, the WWE would be left in the cold, right? Also, like what happened with WCW, all it takes a shake-up at the top of Fox for a powerful exec to come in and say, "No, I don't want to pay for pro-wrestling to come in 3rd on Friday nights when I think we can win 18-49 and total viewers with a singing competition."

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4 hours ago, Al said:

I feel like WWE is basically trapped. They can't possibly put together a creatively fulfilling product while filling seven plus hours of programming a week. And they can't cut back on their quantity without tanking their business model. 

I don't think it improves when Vince departs. It becomes a corporate monolith whose top priority is to churn out content regardless of quality.

That's why it's a "Maybe."

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What the most scary is because they feel safe as heel because of their TV and Blood Money contracts, there's absolutely zero urge to change anything and try to improve. Which means they can coast for the next five years. Of course, when this money is gone, and eventually at least the Saudis will get tired and buy some other shit, and they will have alienated their audience to the point of no return and created no star and raised an entire generation of miserable workers who wants to leave but are stuck with their contracts, then good luck...

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1 hour ago, Mad Dog said:

I actually think their finances are scary as hell. Sure, they are making a shit load of money but if you took TV out of the equation they would be losing their asses. Having such a singular source of revenue is usually never a good thing. 

And it's even scarier when you add the fact that they've done such an incredibly shitty job at making that source of revenue compelling to fans so the can continue watching. And when they do try something it's almost always a horrible idea that fails.

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What a difference a few years makes...

NXT was once seen as the hip alternative, and it was! Now it's the same old shit. It doesn't help that today's NXT roster pales in comparison to past rosters from the Network era, which means the current NXT "stars" will be mishandled even worse when they're eventually shuffled over to Raw and Smackdown. Balor jumping back to NXT already feels like a non-event, and his title reigns there sucked anyway. 

Raw and Smackdown are more boring than ever. 

WWE's longstanding problems can be summed up in two words: Shorty Gable.

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I wouldn't say they're too brutal - but I think anyone who thought that NXT was going to "go mainstream" and appeal to anyone beyond indie wrestling fans had intense "in the bubble" tunnel vision.

While Tony Khan obviously injected a ton of cash into the AEW engine, its important to remember that the Bucks spent years and years pulling in a loyal fan base that was going to be fully on board whenever they made their big move. Compare that to NXT and there's no shocker here. You can't buy longterm grassroots support, which is exactly what the WWE tried to do. They thought if they bought all the big names in the indies and put them in their own league, they would create their own alternative mega-indy, but for various reasons we've talked about in other threads, they failed in the execution - especially over the past 18 months, which has been arguably the most important time for the brand. And, as this thread's mere existence is proof of, it doesn't help that the main shows are a total mess and can't be used to prop up what is basically a spin-off.

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14 minutes ago, Tim Evans said:

On this board? Absolutely not.

To the rest of the world? Im not sure. Maybe if they cut the tv in half and only aired an hour or two.  It's just too much these days.

I think they could get away with 4 hours across 2 or 3 shows. At the minimum they have to get an hour cut off of Raw and chop an hour off of NXT.

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Nothing will change as long as Vince has final say, and no one has the balls to call out any bad ideas.  He's so encased in a cocoon of yes men despite his ideas being demonstratively out of touch,  their TV is so over produced/over scripted it is going to take a complete overhaul to change things. 

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It really shouldn't be a surprise that the NXT ratings aren't topping cable because the WWE already has 5 hours of RAW/Smackdown, and the audience for hours 6/7 (NXT) would be kinda limited. There's a graveyard full of non-Raw/Smackdown shows that they've launched in the last 20 years that would suggest that WWE 3rd shows just consistently never become as hot as the top shows.

They really should move RAW back to 2 hours but that might be admitting weakness. There's probably no path to making live Wednesday night NXT a viable ratings idea. They could move NXT to put NXT Hour 1 vs AEW Hour 2, but I don't think an unopposed hour adds much in the long run. It'll be like how Russo thought Nitro going from 3 to 2 hours would save them when it didn't.

If they're locked into 3 hours, maybe 2 hours of RAW and 1 hour of NXT from different locations in a 3 hour span. The creatures of habit thing would say there's no way they could make it Raw 8-10 eastern/7-9 central with NXT in the 3rd hour while in Eastern/Central/Mountain time but RAW 9-11 eastern/8-10 central with NXT in the first hour while in Pacific time (so that RAW starts at 6pm local time in California instead of 5pm). Raw's problem is that it's just a chore to watch and the crowds never really add much because of the length of the show.

Also, to be blunt about it. some people just need a trial separation from the WWE. It's probably better for you to watch something else instead of shows that you hate. There's more accessible pro wrestling being televised than probably any time in awhile. Watch something else and maybe check back in on the WWE after some time and see if it's any fresher now that you haven't watched it for 5+ hours a week for long stretches of time. Watch something because it's fun and entertains you, and if it doesn't, watch something else. There's more than enough options, especially if you live in a fancy space castle with hundreds of cable channels and/or a Roku.

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