Professional wrestling does not need to be saved. This is evident in the aisles filled with WWE action figures and the dollars drawn by promotions both small and large across the United States. However, Pro-Wrestling does have its fair share of problems. WWE television is not pulling nearly the ratings it once did and its pop culture relevance is starting to fall. The days of Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock are done. This is not to say that there is a lack of talent in pro-wrestling, the WWE maintains a roster of some the most talented wrestlers in the world. If it’s not a lack of interest or talent, what is pro wrestling missing that it once had?
I don’t believe that there is necessarily one key to improving the state of the WWE, but there are a few points that seem to be logical moves to enhance the future of the promotion and in turn the entire industry.
My first suggestion is unification of the major titles. By this I mean unifying the WWE title with the World Heavy Weight and the ECW Title, the World Tag Titles with the WWE Tag Titles and the Divas Title with the Women’s Title. I would assume the reasoning behind this split was to provide separate main-eventers for each brand, but it has become clear over the years that the brands are almost meaningless in their current state. Instead, this split essentially creates the impression that there are no “real” champions. Sure, Triple H may be a top competitor and may hold the WWE Title but where does that leave Edge with the World Heavyweight Title? If the WWE/World Champion is supposed to be the best in the world, even a worked industry can’t have two #1s.
Next, keep the brand split. What the WWE has the opportunity to do is capture updated versions of its two biggest eras. Raw should be a tribute to the Attitude Era. A show where even the faces aren’t the shiny superheroes of the past and that is (now this is important) constantly focused on violence, sex and comedy. This show would deserve the parental warning it would surely garner. Smackdown! should become a tribute to the Hogan Era. Feed the public’s desire for working man superheroes fighting over the top villains. Bright colors, masks and face paint should streak across the screen every Friday night. ECW and the upcoming Superstars would serve another role. Here you could watch some of your favorite superstars from both brands take on new and exciting talent. This is also a great opportunity to once again give televised try outs to prospective talent. Let the fans have a say in who their future superstars should be.
What I’ve said is all fine in theory, but I am compelled to explain a bit more of the story-telling functionality of this proposed arrangement. First ECW/Superstars serves, to connect the WWE to the rest of the wrestling world. That’s right, connection is a good thing. The WWE is the top promotion in the world. They have no competition so acknowledging the bigger world of independent wrestling not only allows newly signed talent to bring their characters and past with them, but enhances the perception that the WWE is the only company with valid World Titles and that the wrestlers who make it in the WWE truly are the greatest wrestlers that the world has to offer.
On Raw and Smackdown, the absence of a show specific World belt would allow the shows to put the US and IC titles in the spotlight. Other plotlines could deal with battles for Undisputed title shots, creating not only opportunities for main event quality matches without belts, but also a sort of championship class; a larger group of popular competitors who could all be viable World champions. This type of system would also provide the sorely missing Tag Team circuit. With competition focused on who is worthy of a shot at the champions, you could have multiple tag matches per night, all of which would be relevant in the “rankings”. In addition, a wrestler’s “home” show should be determined by the direction of the character at the time. Heel/Face turns could be perfect opportunities to change not only a characters storyline, but the environment in which they would compete. When the World champions would interact with the talent on the show, you could adjust their personas to where they were. That should be taken care of by whatever storyline they are involved with anyway.
There is nothing that I have outlined here that is out of the WWE’s grasp, most of these changes would only take weeks to implement after the writing staff outlined the directions of the top competitors. This plan also ignores the politics that Pro-Wrestling is notorious for, but it does not necessarily conflict with it either. I only hope the best for the future of this art form.
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