Kayfabe Thoughts: Running on Empty

(I’ve written a few columns this year for some other online sources and now I’m making those available here, so you might have already read this or it’s subject might be dated. If you’ve already read it: THANKS! If you haven’t: here you go!)

Well, it’s been a while.

More specifically, it’s been since before Wrestlemania.

I won’t go into specifics, but it’s been a bit of a month. Infection. Surgery. Recovery. Not my favorite 6 weeks personally.

And still, I feel like my time post-Wrestlemania has been better than WWE’s.

Wrestlemania weekend started out strong. Takeover NO was one of the best cards WWE has put together in years and the talent delivered, setting the bar high and making for a tough act to follow. To the pleasant surprise of most fans, the early part of the card (minus the pre-show battle royals) featured several excellent matches. From the Miz/Rollins/Balor classic at the outset of the event all the way through the Rousey/Angle/HHH/Stephanie match, it seemed that the main roster was ready to meet that challenge.

However, after a few so-so matches mixed in among an underwhelming payoff to the Undertaker/Cena build, Daniel Bryan’s triumphant return to WM, and the weirdly constructed Styles/Nakamura match, it was clear that there were cracks throughout the foundation.

Then the house fell in on itself: Lesnar beat Reigns and the fans who were already actively antagonistic showered Lesnar and Reigns with boos all the way to Gorilla.

Creatively, WWE seems to be caught in a free fall ever since.

The tone-deaf money grab that was The Greatest Royal Rumble was hugely disappointing for many fans. The event was highlighted by yet another curiously booked Lesnar/Reigns match and culminating in an apology for mistakenly showing the “Best of Both Worlds” promo during the event and exposing the crowd to images of scantily-clad women, a big no-no in Saudi Arabia. Not a good way to punctuate what was intended to be an opportunity to promote the progressive agenda espoused by the current regime through good, clean fun (for anyone who isn’t a woman).

Oh, and Brock Lesnar, still the Universal Champion, hasn’t been seen since.

WWE proceeded to throw gas on the fire by having one of the worst PPVs ever just 9 days later. Aside from another really good match between Seth Rollins and The Miz, the remaining matches were predictably, if not curiously, booked. Also, I thought back to Seth Rollins’ promo on Raw, when he talked about the grind of the touring schedule, because it seemed like everyone was just missing a gear in regard to ringwork. Hopefully the extended time between Backlash and Money in the Bank will let the overtaxed talent heal up mentally and physically from the toll paid over the last month.

Perhaps most troublingly are the continued issues WWE creative has introducing or re-introducing talent to the WWE Universe. While I can’t fault fans for not immediately getting back on board with Bobby Lashley (yawn) or Big Cass (he didn’t do a single crunch while he was out?), my biggest concern still rests with how promoted talent are handled.

NXT stars brought to the main roster have been met with a TON of indifference, aside from the now-double-I IIconics. In fact, the most high-profile additions, Andrade “Cien” Almas and SaNity, have yet to be seen outside of a few “coming soon” vignettes. Regardless, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that anyone promoted from NXT is going to have their character augmented and usually it’s changed in such a way that fans lose interest quickly.

Oddly, the only character who didn’t undergo a change thus far are No Way Jose and that is a gimmick that was already dead in the water. I don’t care that everyone at house shows loves the conga line, it’s Adam Rose and the Rosebuds 2.0. He’ll probably be feuding with a person in a “jalapeno on a stick” suit soon given the success of “Bury the Drug Free Bear” and creative’s penchant for cultural misappropriation.

Overall, it hasn’t been the hot start to the new wrestling year that I’m sure WWE anticipated. Though the company itself might be coming off its greatest revenue year in history, time is already beginning to run short with the WWE Universe’s patience. If reports from some in attendance are to be believed, fans may have already been headed for the exits before the end of the Samoa Joe/Roman Reigns main event.

For a company that believes that anything that gets a reaction is good for business, that kind of action from fans is decidedly NOT good business.

Thanks for reading!

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