WWE Creative in the Modern Era
by, 11-13-2012 at 03:09 PM (4554 Views)
The online internet forums and blogs concerning wrestling are frequently laden with complaints about improper booking, poor storyline development and wild speculation about the direction of WWE. Rather than rehash these well-trodden ideas, I have a different perspective: WWE knows exactly what they are doing, and consistently generate a product that has fans talking, albeit in a variety of ways.
Last night’s episode of Raw saw an incredibly avant garde segment where CM Punk successfully drew heat by mocking a real-life tragedy that befell Jerry Lawler. While many were outraged and found this to be distasteful, I believe it was a well-calculated effort to not only provoke a genuinely negative crowd reaction, but to engender discomfort among the internet community. In this respect, it was a total success. The forums exploded with proclamations of Punk being lazy, garnering “cheap heat” and crossing the line. Jerry Jarrett took to Twitter to say that he turned off the program when Punk started performing CPR on Paul Heyman, citing that as an example of why Linda McMahon lost her Senate bid. When you step back and examine it though, it was simply shocking, interesting television that made the audience uncomfortable. Is that not why you are constantly tuning in? I found this segment to be fantastically executed, as it was intriguing and elicited a strong reaction of uneasiness from me.
The goal of the creative team is to create a buzz fifty-two weeks a year, whether on television, Twitter or the internet. The more compelling storylines are held in reserve for WrestleMania, because it carries with it a tradition and a hype that must be delivered upon. My friend and I have already purchased tickets for next year’s WrestleMania in New Jersey, and we are expecting to be entertained and to care greatly about the outcomes of each and every match. With several months to accomplish this, I have no doubts that the creative team, in conjunction with speculation and opinions from the online community, will deliver.
This company recognizes that the opinions and thoughts of its fans have enhanced its product. There is a reason these wrestling news and rumors websites exist and garner a great deal of traffic. I believe most fans do not simply tune in each Monday night to see what is going to happen, and then forget about the product until the following Monday. Rather, they are checking these websites to try to gain an insight into the backstage politics, anticipating where storylines will lead, and trying to predict outcomes in advance. This allows us to have that “see, I told you so” moment when our predictions come true. However, more often than not the creative team manages to shake things up just a little, but enough to keep us watching. An excellent example of this is the CM Punk-Ryback match at Hell In A Cell. Going into the pay-per-view, there was a general consensus that Punk would retain, simply because Ryback as champion was not feasible. There was speculation that Heyman, HHH, or even Brock Lesnar would somehow interfere in the match and cost Ryback his victory, as this was the only way to protect Ryback’s momentum and Punk’s title reign. While we correctly predicted the outcome, we were thrown a curveball by the creative team by reintroducing Brad Maddox as the culprit. Nobody could have anticipated that, and it made for interesting television. Going forward, they got two weeks of mileage out of the Maddox angle, and were able to successfully build another pay-per-view main event.
Although there were complaints about the execution of the Survivor Series buildup – namely, with Vince McMahon changing the card whimsically and live on Raw in the United Kingdom – the outrage it garnered has only served to strengthen the product. Many have lost faith in the creative team and McMahon himself for not planning things out in advance and sticking to a rigid, pre-set idea. The weakness in that approach is predictability. The product becomes stale if it is predictable weeks or months in advance. Personally, I would rather McMahon change the script on the fly and recover later because it keeps me guessing and gives no expectations of the product, save that it be entertaining. It’s the “what will he think of next?” approach, and it keeps things fresh.
Moving forward, the questions of CM Punk’s title reign and the Rock’s potential victory at the Royal Rumble are being heavily debated. Most agree that the Rock will prevail in January, but we must consider that the opposite might occur, and we must acknowledge that there is likely no set plan right now for that outcome. Thus, it is our job to enjoy the build and contribute to the product by offering our speculations and predictions. WWE does not have to acquiesce to the demands of the online community; our loyalty lies with the product regardless, and we love to have an excuse to complain that WWE programming is not what we wish it were. It is this dynamic that keeps the company in business, immensely profitable, and perpetually entertaining. My hat goes off to the writers and McMahon, and I greatly look forward to the coming months leading up to WrestleMania 29.