Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Your Own Private WWE Offseason

You didn't have to watch this guy racism his way through Smackdown main events, y'know
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WWE is a company that produces live event content nearly every day of the year. This is not a company with an official offseason. Unlike most wrestling organizations, and certainly unlike most sports and scripted entertainment, WWE has no off-time. Performers, writers, producers, and crew have no real time to recharge the creative and physical batteries. But that doesn't mean you, the viewer, have to watch all of it. It doesn't mean that you, the viewer, can't make your own WWE offseason. You can stop watching anytime, of course, but few wrestling fans actually do.

You: RAW and Smackdown are both bad right now. This, amongst every other thing on the planet right now, is making me sad.

Me, a hero: Avoid WWE in the spring.

WWE programming has been godawful since the RAW after WrestleMania. RAW, Smackdown, and especially the pay-per-view events have been some of the lousiest wrestling television of the decade. NXT might be okay, but they more or less operate on a different planet, schedule-wise.

Payback. Backlash. Extreme Rules. Money in the Bank. Great Balls of Fire. Battleground. Did one good thing happen at any of these shows? Were any of the RAW/Smackdown episodes that led to them memorable? No. They bleed together. They're built to be forgettable.

You might have liked a match here or there. You might have liked an angle or part of a story. But was it worth it? To slog through all of that?

What would you have lost if you'd tuned out after WrestleMania, and only tuned back in now? You'd see that Bayley is still in the one allowed women's match on RAW. You'd see that Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman are in the WWE Universal Champion picture, and maybe you're delighted to see that Samoa Joe is in there too. The tag title scene looks pretty much the same as it did on the RAW after WrestleMania. Everyone else has made lateral moves. You wouldn't have had to sit through Kurt Angle's "scandal" story, only to find its tepid conclusion.

On Smackdown, you wouldn't have had to have seen anything Randy Orton did. You wouldn't have had to watch Lana try to wrestle. Most importantly, you wouldn't have watched the first women's Money in the Bank match (a painful reminder: it was won by a guy).

Think of how happy you'd be.

It's been a silly, frustrating, disappointing four months. And maybe it's more painful this year because it seems longer. WWE has usually landed on something by this time (CM Punk, The Nexus). But WWE's weakest quarter is the spring. It's often when they shift things around (superstar shakeup!), retool what isn't working (new gimmicks, like JBL and Jinder Mahal), try new things (ECW One Night Stand), try to wring out an investment (the nWo, now with Booker T!) and let performers get away with more than usual (Corporate Mankind). Sometimes this period is exciting to watch, but more often than not it's about WWE a) throwing anything against the wall to see what sticks, or b) letting people with bad ideas have their say. I'm not sure what it is, but it led to a PPV being called Great Balls of Fire.

Here's something you know: you can go back and catch up on the good stuff. The New Day and The Usos had a great tag match at Battleground. You have a Network subscription, and can go back and watch just that match. But then you can turn it off and not watch any more of that show. You will know what to do. You will know what makes you happy.

This column publishing in July means you can't go back an unwatch the last four months. But here's what you can do: book the spring of 2018 off from watching WWE. I'm giving you eight months warning. Watch WrestleMania 34. Watch the RAW after WrestleMania 34. And then, stop, and schedule to come back a few weeks before SummerSlam (around this time next year). It'll be your personal WWE offseason. There's almost nothing better for your enjoyment of pro wrestling than to not watch it sometimes.

Then again, maybe I just can't handle WWE without Chris Jericho.