Monday, May 26, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Formula

Not even Bray Wyatt's way with words can mask the awful creative direction of WWE
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Once upon a time, three hours wasn't a lot of time to fill. RAW would zip by most weeks because wrestlers like Sheamus, Alberto del Rio, Antonio Cesaro, Randy Orton, The Shield, and especially Daniel Bryan would have their working boots on, go for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes a pop, and limit the time that WWE Creative would have to produce scripted content for Vince McMahon to angrily yell at for needing another rewrite for not being nebulous or samey enough for his liking. The calendar year 2013 was one for the ages, a masterclass in televised wrestling that started with a bonkers TLC match between CM Punk and Ryback (my, how things have changed) and ended with Bryan and Luke Harper putting an exclamation point on the frame.

But the company has gotten away from that formula. Creative and McMahon are in control of more and more of the segments on the show. The worst parts of 1999-2001 have come back in the form of long-winded promo segments of varying providence without much forward momentum on story or character development. I mean, I love hearing Bray Wyatt talk, but what has he exactly said over the last few weeks that progressed from what he was preaching before WrestleMania? I give him all the credit in the world for making his speeches seem different, but he and John Cena are being done dirty by the storytelling. Bryan's arc with his real life injury playing into his reign as Champion has elicited some wavering output from himself in response to expert-level trolling from Stephanie McMahon, but each step to the angle has seemed like it was written hastily on a cocktail napkin at the bar right before the writers were set to show up at the arena.

And the wrestling that backed it up was not there. It hasn't been there since before WrestleMania. Obviously, Bryan's injury hampers things, but throwing Cesaro in there against Rob van Dam is a waste of a resource. Not giving matches like Sin Cara/Bo Dallas, Emma/Alicia Fox, or even Drew McIntyre/El Torito more than a couple of minutes is anathema. Stacking the deck against Sheamus and Alberto del Rio by putting them against each other yet again is not acting in the best interests of the flow of the show. Granted, folks like myself and Dylan Hales might appreciate the fact that Sheamus is working at ace-levels right now, or that he and del Rio never wrestle the same match twice for better or worse, but it doesn't help the atmosphere of malaise on the overall narrative.

What WWE has done in the span of two months has taken a tried-and-true formula and thrown it in the trash for whatever reason. Granted, Bryan can't wrestle every week like he was over the last year because he's the Champion and needs his body to be protected so injuries like his current neck maladies don't happen every other month. But when the roster is as big as WWE's and full of quality wrestlers from the upper echelons down to the curtain jerkers (fuck it, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins can both fill out an 8-minute low-card match admirably), it has no reason to have Wyatt cut the same fucking promo every week, or even worse, to have Paul Heyman do the same goddamn shtick he does, no matter how entertaining it is, at the bereft of Cesaro's development as a character.

Three hours is not a lot of time to fill when wrestling is both plentiful and good. Hell, three hours is not a lot of time to fill if the creative braintrust of the company cranks out stories that have rising action, climax, and falling action to go from one pay-per-view to the next and over the course of an entire year. However, three hours is a goddamn eternity when everything is in a holding pattern. RAW tonight should have just been Cena and The Miz talking about Heroes for Hire or WWE running non-stop bumpers honoring the troops on Memorial Day. Frankly, that kind of jingoistic pap might have been a bit more satisfying than the mail-in job given tonight. Sadly, tonight's show wasn't too far off from others in the past.

The formula worked in 2013, and no reasons exist as to why it can't in 2014. Especially if Creative isn't so creative, the roster is built to be a wrestling show.