The John Report: Twenty Ideas for WWE to Consider
(God, I miss that woman.)
The premise of this column is simple. I think there are things in World Wrestling Entertainment that need to be altered a bit. I don’t claim to know everything. I don’t claim to be smarter than Vince McMahon. All I am is a fan of this business for over twenty years with the experience of writing about it for the last decade. These are just suggestions, ideas or critiques on my part because I’m hoping that WWE can recapture the magic that was there ten years ago when they went from nearly going under to succeeding at levels they had never reached before. Staying the course isn’t going to work. Change is needed, so as a fan of this business I’m going to do my part to offer up some ideas.
How about a few ground rules? None of the twenty things will involve bringing back a retired star like Steve Austin or The Rock because that’s not going to happen. None of them will be something like suggesting they steal Samoa Joe or AJ Styles from TNA because as far as I know both have contracts with them that they wouldn’t be able to get out of. What I’m looking at here are realistic things that WWE can do. Some of these things could be considered major happenings, but most of them are just tweaks to current things they already do.
Before I get going, last week I mentioned the 2.6 Raw rating being the lowest in 11 years, which it was, but I forgot to mention that due to the hurricane that hit the Houston area as well as other parts of the US it meant that a lot of homes had no power. That probably contributed to the rating. This week’s rating was back up to a 3.1, which is better, but still far from where I think it should be. Thanks to the readers who emailed me about the hurricane causing a lot of people to be without power.
These are not in any order. Why twenty things? Because I had more than ten and thirty’s too much, so I decided on twenty. Real creative, huh? Some will be long, some will be short. Enjoy.
Do not end the brand extension anytime soon.
I often get emails (or at least when I wrote more often) from people saying they think the brand extension for a number of reasons that I’m sure the average fan is aware of. I strongly disagree with this assessment. Right now the company has a roster of about 80 people or so and if you cut the brand extension out then that would mean you’d be cutting probably 20 or 30 people, most of whom would be younger talent who wouldn’t find time on a show dominated by veterans. I’m even in favor of having the third show, which I’ll touch on a bit later.
Turn Batista heel sooner rather than later.
I have to admit I’ve been surprised at how good Batista has become as a worker. The guy obviously works his ass off and knows how to tell a story in the ring. The thing is I think he’s gone as far as he can as a babyface. There’s a built in storyline in place with John Cena on the shelf right now and the storyline idea that Batista’s the one that injured his neck with his vicious powerbomb. When Cena comes back by the end of the year, he can go straight after Batista, who can say something like he’s sorry for what he did. And then the moment he gets the chance, he goes right after Cena again saying that the only thing he’s sorry for is that he didn’t end his career. Have Batista turn into the monster, put the belt on him if you want and then build the Batista vs. Cena match at WrestleMania 25 as the biggest grudge match. I thought they rushed having their first match at Summerslam, but in hindsight due to the Cena injury it has turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise because of the built in storyline they have now.
Less Pay Per View events.
Right now there are 14 PPVs on the WWE calendar for this year. Coming in October is No Mercy on October 5th and then Cyber Sunday on October 26th. Asking people to shell out $40 for each of these shows is a lot because more often than not most PPVs feature rematches from the month before. Nothing seems fresh anymore because of all the PPV events they run. They should go back to 12 events, but in looking at the 2009 calendar they’re sticking with the 14 events. It’s a shame because One Night Stand is lame with all the gimmick matches while Cyber Sunday’s fan interaction idea has lost its appeal. One a month is good. The current setup is too much even if they make money off of most PPVs. It’s hurting the quality of the shows, which is something to be concerned about.
Make the secondary title mean something.
I’m fine with how the WWE and World Title are portrayed right now. They mostly do a good job in making them seem like the most important commodity in wrestling. However, ever since the brand extension in 2002 they’ve done a horrible job in terms of making titles like the Intercontinental or United States titles seem important. Neither belt was defended at WrestleMania this year, yet both champions at the time (Chris Jericho and MVP) were in the Money in the Bank title match. How are you supposed to make the fans care about these secondary titles when WWE as a company doesn’t seem to care much about them? The solution is simple. Have the champions defend these titles on TV more and maybe even stick the match in the main event slot one week. More importantly, have the champions defend the titles on PPV. Having titles that aren’t treated as something special do nothing for the person holding the belt or the value of the belt itself.
Bring back the sitdown interviews.
Do you remember some of the sitdown interviews back in the day with people like Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Triple H or even the goofy Kane ones where they would spent 3-5 minutes talking to these guys in a setting where they’re not in front of a crowd cutting promos? I do and I thought they were very smart. The reason they work is because it looks different than every other interview we see in wrestling these days. I think sitdown interviews happening once a month would be a great idea. I think CM Punk’s somebody who would be great in that setting because they can ask him why he doesn’t do drugs or drink and why he chose that straight edge lifestyle. How about giving Jeff Hardy the chance to explain how he’s a changed man now? They could also give time to the likes of Shelton Benjamin and MVP, both of whom need to get their characters over even more. Is it so much to ask that they devote three minutes to these guys that are the future of the company instead of another squash match featuring the Great Khali? We get it, the dude’s big. Let me hear the actual wrestlers talk like normal people talk rather than wrestler speak.
Change the name of the ECW show.
The idea behind calling the show ECW in the first place was because they felt there was some drawing power behind the name. However, when you have a PG rated show called EXTREME Championship Wrestling it kind of goes against what you’re telling the kids, no? Furthermore, the significance of ECW was that it featured hardcore matches with chairs, tables, nails and everything else being pretty much legal all the time. In the WWE version of ECW it’s a show that features two people that the kids really like in Hornswoggle and Matt Hardy. Speaking of Hardy, when the announcers try to tell us that he spent his life growing up to be ECW Champion they’re wrong. He grew up dreaming of being a WORLD CHAMPION. Not the ECW belt in 2008. He’s not a world champion yet. He may be one day, but he’s not now. Glad that I cleared that all up for those of you that thought the ECW belt meant something. It does not.
So what could you call it? I don’t care. Call it Tuesday Night Titans like the old show on USA about twenty years ago. Call it Heat, Velocity, Jakked, Excess or any of those other names you used to have. Just don’t call it ECW. The reason they called it ECW in the first place is because one of the highest selling DVDs in company history was the Rise and Fall of ECW one, so they figured if the name did so well on DVD we might as well name a show after it. In theory that idea was fine I guess, but now? It’s stupid. There’s nothing extreme about the show and nothing on there that reminds me of what ECW was. You’ve made all the money you could off the ECW name. Time to move away from it.
Do not eliminate the third weekly show.
I like that there’s a third show. They need it. It’s been a beneficial show for talent like CM Punk, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston and others to develop by giving them time to have longer matches to show their stuff. Like I said above, they wouldn’t have as much of an opportunity on Raw or Smackdown with all the star power on those shows. They only seem to get one match per PPV too, so it’s not like it’s really disrupting anything else. Also regarding the third show, I think it’s important to keep it at just one hour. There’s no need for another hour. It’s fine as it is…well everything but the name at least.
More references to history.
Every time I see the build for this HHH vs. Jeff Hardy match at No Mercy I keep waiting for the announcers to mention that Hardy beat HHH clean in a one on one match at Armageddon last year. It was less than a year ago, so it should be relevant today. Why not mention that Triple H is eager to face Hardy to prove to himself that his lost last year to him was not going to happen again? It’s another easy thing they could do in order to help a feud. Instead they ignore it because they assume people forget anything that happened, which is probably why they replay the same things over and over on every damn show. Apparently WWE is so protective of HHH these days that they refuse to acknowledge that he ever loses. They even sent out memos to companies that produce toys and video games telling them to not show the HHH character in a defenseless position. That’s weak, but not surprising. Regarding the history thing, last thing I wanted to say is don’t treat your fans like idiots. We deserve better.
Bring back a stable.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a fan of stables in wrestling. The Four Horsemen. New World Order. The Hart Foundation. DX. The Corporation. Evolution. Even the ones of lesser stature like the Nation of Domination and the Brood were good more than they were bad. I think they’re heading in the direction of a new a stable with the Orton/Dibiase/Rhodes/Manu group where they have second (or third) generation wrestlers working together because wrestling is in their blood. It’s the perfect makings of a stable because Orton’s the main event guy, Rhodes & Dibiase are the tag team with each guy having the talent to make it at the IC level should they choose to do that and Manu’s got the role as the power guy. Before I get emails about it, no, I don’t think La Familia on Smackdown was that good. It was Edge and a bunch of cronies. Not a real stable. The pieces are in place for a good stable with the second generation group, so hopefully they make it happen.
Elevate MVP to the main event level.
He’s right there sniffing the spot, but he’s not there yet. The good thing about being on Smackdown is that their top three babyfaces are veterans with over ten years of experience each with the Undertaker, Triple H and Jeff Hardy manning those spots. That helps the newer guys like MVP, who will benefit from working with them. Fans will look at him differently by being in big time feuds with these guys even if he isn’t putting them over. He was a part of that five man scramble match that was considered a main event, but what I really want is a one on one title match to headline a PPV for this guy. I’m not sure if it will happen this year or before WrestleMania, but hopefully it will next year at some point. He certainly deserves it.
Let the announcers be heels again.
Jesse Ventura. Bobby Heenan. Jerry Lawler. The three best color commentators in WWE history. Why? Because their work as heel announcers were fantastic. The Jerry Lawler that’s announcing on Raw right now is boring, bland and old. He also sounds exactly the same as Tazz and Matt Striker do because none of them are allowed to have personalities during broadcasts anymore. They’re all the same now. I don’t get it. I loved the way guys like Ventura and Heenan cheered for the heels like Rude, Perfect, Piper and all the rest because it made me as a viewer hate the wrestler even more because the announcer was a fan of that guy. Lawler was terrific as the heel announcer when Vince McMahon was the top heel. He helped get that character over huge by kissing his ass every single week. The play by play guy is fine as the generic babyface announcer. We don’t need two guys like that. Why the change in recent years? It’s stupid.
Give names to tag teams.
What separates Cryme Tyme from pretty much all the other teams currently in WWE? Their name makes them sound like a team. Compare that to Rhodes & Dibiase, Hawkins & Ryder, Miz & Morrison, Jesse & Festus and well you get my point. I don’t understand how a creative team that’s filled with a dozen or so writers can’t come up with names for these teams. Every one of them sounds like a couple of singles wrestlers that are teaming up because they have nothing else to do. I hate to keep mentioning the good old days, but there was a time in this company when every team had a name like the Hart Foundation, Demolition, the Rockers, the Legion of Doom, Strike Force, the Killer Bees and so on. Now it appears as though Vince McMahon thinks naming teams is a bad thing. Of course like I touched on with the IC and US titles earlier, I think the tag titles are poorly handled because there’s no depth on either show in terms of having actual teams. Belts don’t mean that much when there are only two or three teams that can conceivably win them. Restore some credibility to the division by focusing on actual teams that act like teams.
More evil guys like Kozlov and Umaga, less like Snitsky and Knox.
I’m not sure what the consensus feeling is among internet fans with regards to Vladimir Kozlov, but I for one love the guy. I think the way he carries himself is exactly the way a heel should. Not only does he walk like he’s a badass, but when they talk about his history as a wrestler it gives him the credibility of being a badass. That’s what I mean when I say things like how important it is to inform us of the wrestler’s background because otherwise everybody is the same and that’s never good. Umaga has gotten over because of his look, but also because he carries himself like a monster. There’s no background in his case and the “living in the jungles” type of act is very ’80s, yet he’s able to pull it off. He works a good style, he has the big moves and the crowds react to him. The Cena/Umaga title feud was one of my most recent favorites even though I never thought Umaga was going to win. Then there are the likes of Snitsky and Mike Knox, who are basically the same guys with nasty facial hair to go along with looks on their faces that make it seem like they’re upset they didn’t find the toilet, so they had to shit their pants. I’m still amazed that Snitsky has been employed all these years. Congrats to him for his longevity, I guess.
Hire more female wrestlers and less bikini models…unless they can wrestle.
Let me get this straight. When WWE hires women to their company they want them to wrestle. That’s fine although to me you’re wasting a lot of the women by not pairing them up with males as valets that can generate heat for the wrestler. Anyway, if they do want to hire women to wrestle that’s their prerogative and they seem to make it known to the women that they would have to wrestle. With that in mind, do you realize that almost all of the women they hire have little or no formal wrestling training. Does that make sense to you? It would be like a restaurant hiring somebody to be a chef even though they’ve never really cooked before. Obviously in some cases it has worked out alright, but when you watch a lot of these girls you realize they’re models being told to wrestle rather than people that were born to wrestle. I’m a big fan of girls like Maria, Maryse and Layla mostly because they have tremendous physiques (as my boy Borat would say), but none of them impress me in the ring. Compared to Beth Phoenix, Mickie James and Natalya, all of whom have years of wrestling training, they look like they’re in a different league.
The idea that you can take any 120 pound woman with a nice ass and turn her into a wrestler is wrong. Some of them should not be in the ring for the richest wrestling company in the world. I’m not saying you should fire them. I’m saying give them characters. What’s Layla’s character? She felt she’s too good for Jamie Noble. In other words, she’s a snob. Maria was better as a backstage interviewer that was stupid than being a generic model that wrestles once in a while now. There are dozens of those already and none of them stand out to me. How many of the women have characters that are different than the rest of them? I’d say Beth and Jillian do. Other than that? They’re all the same. All the heel girls walk the same, talk the same and wrestle the same. All the face girls are even more generic. Did anybody really notice that Torrie Wilson has been gone for a year? No, because all you’ve got now, aside from a few of them, are a bunch of Torrie Wilson’s. Having one or two generic hot chicks is fine, but having 10 or 12 of them? Boring…even if they are hot. It’s a shame because I really think there is some talent in that group. Hopefully Gail Kim does decide to come back to WWE because at least we know she can wrestle.
No more Undertaker cam please.
Anybody see that on Smackdown last week when he choked Chavo backstage and somehow we were supposed to believe that the Undertaker was holding the camera while he choked the man with his right hand. Where was the camera? In his mouth? That was one of the worst scenes I’ve ever seen in wrestling and I’m somebody that remembers when Heidenreich raped Michael Cole or when Mae Young gave birth to a prosthetic hand. I admire the Undertaker for all he’s done in the business, but please don’t tarnish the legacy by doing cheesy angles. They’re not good for anybody.
Bring back managers.
This one confuses me because my thinking has always been that managers add to the act of a wrestler or team, yet it seems like the people in WWE creative feel that they take away from characters. When somebody like James Mitchell became a free agent after being let go by TNA I thought WWE would snatch that guy up. The man knows how to talk. He’d be perfect for Kane or any other sort of darker character. The Paul Bearer character was a great addition to both Undertaker and Kane when he was with them. Guys like Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart and Jim Cornette also really helped the people they were managing. Now the manager role is non-existent especially when it comes to females. Remember Melina’s ring entrance with MNM? God, that’s still the greatest entrance in wrestling history.
More feuds like Michaels vs. Jericho, less feuds like Kane vs. Mysterio.
You know why Michaels vs. Jericho is clearly the best feud in WWE this year? Because it comes off as real more than anything else on a show that is almost entirely hokey. It started out with Jericho being jealous of Michaels’ success basically, so he cowardly attacked him and then the accidental punching of Michaels’ wife made it very personal. They have another PPV match this month that’s still very fresh because it’s a good feud. People want to see them not only because the match quality will be high, but because they are portraying two characters that seem like they legitimately hate eachother. That’s what wrestling is supposed to be, right? (I’ll probably write more about this feud next week, so I’ll stop gushing over it for now.)
Back to the hokey part, how bad has Kane vs. Mysterio been? Out of nowhere they mention that Kane beat up Mysterio because fans cheered for Mysterio. That’s worse than the Japanese shampoo commercial feud involving Edge and Booker T. back in the day a bit. The other thing is couldn’t they at least film the beating somehow? When we watch WWE shows we see all kinds of crazy camera angles or views that normally we, the viewing public, would never see, yet when Kane supposedly beat up Mysterio there wasn’t a camera in sight. And you expect people to care about something like that? Horrible feud even though Mysterio’s always going to be one of my favorites.
Sign Christian Cage when his contract is up in November.
The word has come out that Christian’s contract in TNA is up in November and there’s a possibility that he could return to WWE. If I’m WWE I’d go after this guy hard because not only is he somebody that is talented in all areas (in ring, promos and acting), but you always know he’s going to give it his all when he’s out there. He won’t let you down if you give him the chance to prove himself in a substantial feud. The other good thing is that WWE today is different from when he left a few years ago because they’re pushing more smaller wrestlers, which he is, so it gives me hope that if he does re-sign with WWE he might reach that world title level one day. Plus, there’s a golden opportunity for him on Smackdown to reunite with Edge again because it would be very fresh seeing as how they’ve been apart for basically seven years. Bust out the kazoos! While they’re at it, signing the “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson couldn’t hurt either.
Induct Steve Austin into the Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 25 in Houston.
I think this one is already going to happen although in this business you never really know. The setting would be perfect because he’s a Texas native that’s been the biggest star in the business on a show where they’re celebrating 25 years of WrestleMania. It’s also been six years since his last match at WrestleMania 19 against the Rock, so enough time has passed for them to induct him. I really enjoyed last year’s Hall of Fame seeing Rock back to induct his father and grandfather as well as the Flair induction, but if Austin goes in this year that would be my favorite HOF moment ever since he’s my favorite wrestler ever along with Shawn Michaels. As for one more match? I don’t think it will happen. There’s no point in risking your health for one more match. Show up at Mania, give some funny heel like Santino the stunner and drink your beer. It’s the same effect. We don’t need to see another Austin match because the last one was good. No need to tarnish the legacy.
Want to create the next big feud: How about Hardy vs. Hardy?
When Jeff Hardy got drafted to Smackdown I immediately liked the idea because I thought it would lead to a feud with his brother Matt, which would be about as fresh as any feud in the company could be. Then Matt went to ECW and I let out a big groan. Opportunity wasted, I thought. I know that both guys are very popular with the fans and they are especially big with the kids. With that in mind, neither guy is going to have the out of this world, dream feud unless they go up against eachother with one of them (probably Matt) working as the villain. The brother vs. brother angle has money written all over it. We’re talking about two guys that have been in the company for over a decade and have never had a real feud against the other. I know they’ve had a few matches here and there, but a feud? That would be really fresh.
They could start it at the Royal Rumble or maybe even Survivor Series if they’re doing the teams with guys from different shows on it. Maybe there’s some miscommunication that happens leading to an argument. Then it can escalate form there. In the Rumble you could have them work together to eliminate some people, then Matt can toss Jeff out and claim that it’s every man for himself. Think that would get people talking? I do. All this leads to a match at WrestleMania where they’re still both babyfaces fighting to see who the better man is. Jeff wins some 15 minute thriller by countering the Twist of Fate into a rollup. Crowd loves it. Post match, when Jeff wants a handshake Matt beats the hell out of him and injures a body part so badly (let’s say ankle) that Jeff’s out for a couple months. You use that time to build Matt up only for Jeff to return at a time when Matt’s in a big match (say a World title or number one contender type thing) and cost him. You could then go another two or three PPVs with gimmick matches between these two. Remember Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart? If you saw it you do because it was one of the better feuds in company history. The brother vs. brother story is very easy to tell and there’s no better time to do it than now when the company really needs a spark heading into the new year.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as I possibly can. I’d love to read some of your ideas to help WWE because obviously there could have been lots of other things that could have been discussed. Thanks for reading.
Smell ya later,
John C. – email@example.com
MSN: firstname.lastname@example.org – Do not email me here! Will not be read!
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Next Week: Why Michaels vs. Jericho is so good plus I’ll probably post some of the better emails in response to this column. Names only though, I won’t post email addresses.