It’s that time of year, when the pencil pushers in Corporate begin taking stock of how the year’s gone, and assessing everyone’s performance. Who exceeded expectations? Who disappointed? Who gets a raise, and who gets the pink slip?
So, while we don’t work in Stamford, nor do we have any stroke, why not take a moment to reflect on the year that was in WWE, as scripted by the creative team.
For me, there are a number of high points in the year:
1-The return of Rob Van Dam
2-The re-birth of tag team wrestling (and the return of a revitalized Golddust)
3-Daniel Bryan becoming the hottest commodity in WWE
4-The emergence of newer/younger talent (Cesaro, Shield, Wyatts)
And then some lows:
1-Daniel Bryan not being allowed to have a worthwhile world title reign, despite how over he is with the crowd.
2-Stalled pushes or a lack of faith in other emerging talent (Cesaro, Bryan etc)
3-Pushing Curtis Axel and keeping him as IC champ for far too long
4-The October PPV slate.
6-The Authority angle (this one had so much promise, and now it seems to have completely confused itself).
This is really just an off-the-cuff, off the top of my head list. I am sure I can, and will, do a top 10/bottom 10 list for the year. But if I am using this as a means of getting WWE Creative’s performance review underway, things don’t look too good for them. No wonder there are reports that people in that department are nervous and are flip-flopping on the programs heading into TLC. They have a good reason to be nervous, as the writing has been all over the map. It’s becoming painfully obvious that whomever is calling a lot of the shots, or at least winning a lot of the arguments in the writer’s room, either has no background in wrestling, or is trying to completely change how wrestling is written, fans be damned. But, what do you expect when you make a push to hire soap opera writers.
As much as roster depth has been an issue for WWE, one which has only been exacerbated by injuries to top talent, the writing has been the biggest burden. If I am Vince McMahon and I am taking a hard look at the business and how it performed in 2013, and how to fix this for 2014, I take a long hard look at the creative team, and I make changes. In short, I make sure there are more wrestling minds involved, rather than outsiders. Sure, keep some outside, non-wrestling influence around to keep things fresh and potentially help engage new viewers if you must. But unless Vince is deaf or blind, surely he’s noticed that the loudest fan reactions of the year have largely been for Daniel Bryan-who is about as pure a wrestling talent as WWE could have. Honorable mentions go to RVD and Dolph Ziggler (the Meadowlands popped huge for his WHC cash-in post-‘Mania). What do these gentlemen all have in common? Hard workers, good performers, who don’t need soap writers to make them better.
With a stronger and more confident creative team, I actually believe that the issue of roster depth could be minimized. There is enough talent within WWE that, if utilized appropriately, it would be a whole new experience for fans. As much as fans might blow up if they got to see Matt Morgan back in WWE, or experience a Sting/Undertaker dream match in New Orleans, those are quick fix type moves (less so Morgan). Fix the writing, with people who understand how to make the best use of the talent on-hand, and it would be a total breath of fresh air.
The obvious one to me would be Paul Heyman, because there is no greater current example of someone doing so much with so little in terms of talent in ECW. Yes, I recognize that ECW churned out a slew of upper echelon talents, but they had a tremendous amount of turnover as WCW and WWE routinely poached the rising talent. And all Heyman did was constantly elevated new names to the top, and in a fashion that captivated audiences. When you have names like Sandman, Roadkill, Stevie Richards and the bWo keeping fans coming back for more, you are doing something right (unfortunately, Heyman’s wrestling mind trumped his business one).
Will such an actual evaluation take place? I don’t know. I am somewhat afraid that it won’t at this point, because of how long things have been going on for. Rumors of Creative being nervous that heads might roll is a glimmer of hope that changes may be made (not that I am rooting for anyone to be fired). But I am getting the sense that McMahon actually likes the current direction of the product, and that there is still a “we’re smarter than you” mentality at work-why else would we see Daniel Bryan, as over as any superstar can be, demoted from main event to a tag team with CM Punk-himself also demoted but worthy of main event status, and instead we are force fed Big Show versus Orton?
In the words of the late Owen Hart…enough is enough, it’s time for a change!