Recently I’ve been binge watching episodes of RAW from 2002. While watching these episodes I can not help but think why the program is not as enjoyable as it used to be. Therefore, while watching ten episodes from 2002 I found ten simple ways WWE can improve the overall experience for fans while staying PG. Here is my list:
There was a two men broadcast team per show. The two commentators weren’t afraid to let you know their opinions. King sided more with the heels, and Jim Ross with the faces. On Smackdown, Cole would side with the faces while Tazz would side with the heels. The greatest thing about the commentators is that they would do exactly what they were there to do. They would call the action while providing humour, and entertainment. There was storytelling throughout the commentary, and nobody did this better than Jim Ross. Bringing back the two man commentary team could be the answer for this.
2: Purposes for Matches/General Manager (GM)
Every match had a purpose. Even a match such as William Regal vs. Shawn Stasiak. Either it was a segment backstage that led to a match, a match put together by the GM, or a match revolving around a title. Now wrestlers face off with no meaning. Look at Stardust and the Ascension v. Neville and (insert face team here) on Smackdown every week. A General Manager is definitely in need for Raw and Smackdown. Flashback to what Eric Bischoff did in 2003. He brought in the Raw Roulette weekly where the superstars would spin the wheel to find out what type of match they’d compete in. This invention made even the lower-card matches interesting to watch. This all could change if Shane McMahon defeats The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32.
I do enjoy seeing guys like The Undertaker, Triple H, The Rock, and Chris Jericho make a return. After all, there are no superstars comparable to them in the history of WWE. They created monumental memories that will live on for a lifetime. The only problem I have with part-timers is when they are involved with the title picture. The fans, and every superstar that competes year-round deserves a fighting world champion that will be involved in the programming every week. Another factor about part-timers that I disagree with is when guys like Brock Lesnar return and squash the top heel in the company. The WWE built up Sheamus for months in the fall as the top heel in WWE, Lesnar came back and squashed him at a house show. I believe having a part-timer squash your top heel is not only disrespectful to the rest of the active roster, but it makes them look weak. Lesnar could have still gone over, but it could have been a competitive match at least.
4: Fan Experience
The overall fan experience has changed greatly. I miss when they would play the opening theme song before the program, and then would set the fireworks off while surfacing the live camera around the crowd. Not only was it great to watch on television, but it was even better live. This gave the fans an opportunity to show off all of their signs. Ever wonder why there are barely any signs at WWE events anymore? Most of the reason has to do with WWE taking the signs during the events. The other reason I believe has to do with the lack of fan involvement. At a live event, before going on-air, the ring announcer would announce, ‘WWE fans! We are going live in just a matter of minutes! Take out your sign, get out of your seat, and make some noise!’ Then the camera would roll and pyro would go off. It’s amazing as it sounds. We need that experience back. Remember this?!
5: Consistency Throughout the Show
We used to see guys like Austin, Taker, and Triple H that were in the world title picture show up at least 3 times throughout one two hour episode of Raw. Their on-air time took up a good chunk of the show while showcasing the other talent in between. Now you’ll see a majority of the wrestlers for ten minutes in the three hour period on Raw if we’re lucky. Sometimes the top superstars don’t even make an appearance. I would like to see more consistency with the on-air talent.
6: Match variety
There was a time when Raw and Smackdown would have different style matches with different types of superstars. In a two hour period we’d see Hardcore, Cruiserweight, Tag-Team, European and Intercontinental title matches, and divas matches. Nowadays, it’s pretty much the same matches weekly. If anything, shouldn’t WWE be adding match types to Raw rather than subtracting them, especially with Raw being three hours now?
My biggest complaint are the pointless tag matches. I understand that they want to showcase all of their talent, but having two 6 man tag matches and two regular tag matches per Raw is a bit much. Especially when you repeat the same tag match on Smackdown. If they really want to make sure they showcase all of their talent , why not do it with a brand split? We need more variety in matches to keep the product fresh. The Cruiserweight Championship would be a great addition to the current roster.
7: Brand Split/Competition
Remember when everyone was interested in not one, but TWO WWE televised shows? Well those days are long gone. When WWE had Raw and Smackdown split into two separate brands, WWE was arguably the most entertaining as it’s ever been. The two brands brought out the best in each other. There was a reason to watch both shows. To see guys like Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kane, and Stone Cold you had to watch Raw. On the other hand, to see guys like Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker you had to watch Smackdown. With all the talent on the current roster I believe the brand split is the best option to display all of the talents. The two brands were completely different. If you’d like to see the divas fight you’d watch Raw, or if you’d like to see the divas strip down to their bikinis you could tune into Smackdown. Can’t forget the high-flying Cruiserweight division on Smackdown either. #BringBackTheBrandSplit
With social media and the internet, it’s difficult for WWE to keep major surprises. However, the program needs to be more unpredictable. That doesn’t mean that we need someone like Shane O’Mac coming back every week (although that would be awesome). It means we need more unpredictability regarding the outcomes. For instance, when the hardcore title had the 24/7 rule, anyone could win the title at anytime and we couldn’t predict it. Almost everything is predictable nowadays from anything Reigns related to the divas division.
It’s great the WWE brought up a group of physical, talented female wrestlers from NXT. However, aside from an exciting match once in a while, the divas division has been one of the least entertaining parts of the show. We know that Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch are going for the title and that’s the bottom line. I could have told you this when they debuted on the main roster. Divas Revolution = Burial of the rest of the divison except Lynch, Charlotte, and Banks. They should involve some of their talented veteran divas such as Natalya, Alicia Fox, and Naomi. Although most act like this is a revolution, it’s not the first time WWE had great female competitors. Remember Trish, Lita, Ivory, Jacqueline, Molly Holly, and Jazz? There were a ton. Sometimes the divas would go up against the males. For example, Jazz v. Bubba Ray Dudley for the Hardcore Title on 4/29/02. WWE found time to involve all of the divas in the Women’s Championship picture as well. I believe the WWE should go back to involving all divas as serious competitors for the title.
9: The Meaning of The World Title/#1 Contender Matches
Like most I’m looking forward to the Shane McMahon v. Undertaker match at Wrestlemania more than the title match. I could careless about the WHC match. If Reigns wins, it’s disappointing and if Triple H wins the title stays on a part-timer. I feel like the title lost its symbolic meaning. It doesn’t feel like the grand prize or the highlight of the card anymore. Back in the day, possessing the world title made you the best in the business. Now it seems like no one wants to be the best. You rarely hear superstars talking about their desire for the belt. I’d like to see more #1 contender matches on Raw and I’d like to see incredible talent such as Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler chase after the most covenant prize.
On RAW 4/22/02 Triple H appeared the night after Undertaker cost him his title to Hogan at Backlash. Triple H struck down Taker and beat him to a pulp. The carnage was extremely brutal to the point that officers had to arrest Triple H. Fast forward to 2016, Triple H cost Roman Reigns from retaining his belt at the Royal Rumble. The next night on Raw Reigns did nothing about it. This era is lacking which I think might be the most important piece to a wrestling show, aggressiveness.
10: Aggression/Theme Music
We need that aggressiveness. I’m not saying that we need to go back to chair shots, blood, and thumbtacks. The WWE can stay PG. But this is wrestling, and the competitors are fighting to be the best (well they should be at least). There should be aggression in everything they do. From the strikes, to the taunts, to speaking on the mic, and even the theme music. The PPV themes have changed dramatically, sorry but ‘My House’ by Flo Rida does not pump me up to see a fight. Don’t get me wrong, Sami Zayn is an incredible wrestler, but his theme song is as Enzo Amore and Big Cass say ‘SAWFT’! I say bring aggression back to WWE.
It’s like they say, “it’s the simple things that matter most”. Let me know what you guys think!
by Mathew Phillips