Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Can WWE Give Us A Full Slate of Matches Without Repeats While Staying Fresh?

More of this, please (but next time for the title)
Photo Credit: WWE.com
On one hand, I groaned when I saw that Wade Barrett and Sheamus were having another match this week. We just saw them last week! Jesus Christ, why doesn't WWE have an original thought in their heads when it comes to booking? Okay, maybe I didn't react that badly, because hey, both guys are good in the ring and good with each other. It's not hard to have a different match two weeks in a row with the same guy, and there actually was a reason why they would have rebooked it from last week. That Iraqi Minister of Information Tensai, he's such a ne'er-do-well.

Still, WWE has always had this nasty habit of booking the same damn match on consecutive shows like nothing was going on. The most notable recent example was when Ryback and Tensai hoss-fought all around Smackdown, ending with the former Skip Sheffield giving him his finishing maneuver. They repeat it on RAW because hey, why not, and then either Ryback botched or Tensai sandbagged or wrestling gremlins interfered and botched the move all up. Who knows? That being said, the match shouldn't have been happening in the first place because we just saw it, and because Ryback won it cleanly.

Then, I got to thinking. The best part about three-hour RAWs have been the sheer amount of wrestling that has been happening. Aren't there bound to be some repeats? I mean, the WWE roster is big, but it's not that big, and there are some matchups you don't want happening for a reason. It can seem like damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don't, but I feel like there has to be a way to have it both ways, to have fresh matchups without "giving something away too early." Then again, any story can be made into a must-see match no matter how many times it's happened before (then again, there are such things as first-time epic encounters, but again, every situation is different).

Obviously, the answer to the dilemma is to vary up the booking a bit and to throw some things to the wall to see what sticks. They're already doing the first thing, which is building a credible tag team division with feuds more varied than just "Champion vs. Challenger." Here are some other ideas:

Bring back the "hierarchical" matches - The beauty of WWF Superstars back in the day was that their main events were fresh matchups. Sure, it was predictable as to who might win in a match between Rad Radford and Shawn Michaels, but hey, it was still appreciated that they gave us something different. That seems to be lost nowadays, given that either the main event guys are tangled up with each other or they're doing stupid things like "confrontations" or "contract signings." It used to be that main event guys were main event guys because they could be counted on to win a match all the time except at the PPV, where it went up into the air who might win. Now, you're main event because you're in the main event, and the only dalliances out of it seem to be for guys who are on the cusp.

That's what made the matches between Sheamus and Damien Sandow so refreshing when they happened. They were fresh matches, and even though no one thought Sandow had a chance to win, the matches were still really entertaining. Why can't they deign CM Punk to wrestle Kofi Kingston every once in awhile, or have Antonio Cesaro try to get some revenge against John Cena for making fun of his nipples? No one's going to remember the loss, but they will remember how good (or bad) the match was and that it was fresh.

Weekly US/IC Title defenses - This is another broken-record criticism, but the reason why people don't care about the Intercontinental or United States Championships is that people don't care about who's holding either belt. That's what happens when there are barely any defenses and the Champions lose in every non-title situation they get themselves into.

A good way to build up Champions is to have them wrestle in competitive title matches against people on the roster from their peers to the Trent Barrettas of the world. The Cesaro/Justin Gabriel match last night was a great example of something like that, but the title wasn't on the line. What good is a title if it's never defended?

Women's wrestling! - The women wrestlers have been getting longer matches and actual stories lately, which is good, but the problem is that they've been confined to one segment of the show for the most part. Again, they have talented women who are either stashed in developmental or who are just not being used. Wouldn't Natalya Neidhart and Tamina Snuka feuding take some of the pressure off the bookers to scramble for matches with the men? Expanding the reach of women's wrestling on the show will open up new avenues for storytelling and even appeal to new demographics.

Of course, these aren't the only things they could do, but I think it's a start. WWE right now doesn't need to be discouraged from keeping their formula of "lots of matches, yo," but they also have to caution themselves from driving matches into the ground. They can do a dynamic show most weeks if they really tried. I realize it might be nigh impossible to give 6 hours of fresh programming for 52 weeks a year, but a lot of their problems with repetition have been systemic. If they were able to limit themselves to one week out of every PPV cycle be a clunker, they'd be in good position.