(Note: This was a bit too long to post to Facebook or just leave in the ether. I’m proud of this and I wanted to share it somewhere.)
Six suggested steps for getting fans to tune in (and stay tuned in) to the WWE:
1. Get back to basics.
In many ways, the current WWE is like any WWE video game. It all happens in a vacuum during the show, except for leading up to the next PPV. They’ve got a arguably one of the best rosters in wrestling history but they can’t get the audience to care. If the audience cared, the ratings would definitely be higher. They’ve really gotten away from doing a *wrestling show*. While I agree there’s some room for theatrics, it should all lead back to the ring. It’s not rocket science. Two wrestlers in the ring: Have they wrestled before? What were their issues in the past?
While I’m talking about getting back to basics, bring back the time limit for matches. If they can’t build new stars (or keep current stars popular) due to how they trade wins back and forth, then it’s pretty simple: Have the match end in a time limit draw. If used sparingly, it can elevate both wrestlers (or teams) because they took each other to the limit and no one claimed victory.
2. There’s a place for character driven ‘soap opera’ stories, if done well.
While ECW was pretty well known for their in ring action, one of the biggest storylines was more than just two guys fighting it out. Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven was a great bit of storytelling that eventually included at one time or another nearly every wrestler in ECW. Even if they weren’t directly involved in the feud, they were affected on some level by what was going on in the main event.
3. Allow some shades of grey.
The reason the Attitude Era worked so well was not because it was TV-14 and they could pander more easily. It worked because it seems like the booking has returned back to the era of Heel and Face locker rooms. Just because two wrestlers are Faces, doesn’t mean they need to get along. Same thing with the Heel wrestlers.
4. Build characters around the wrestlers and not the other way around.
The reason the New Day works is because they’re invested in the gimmick. That comes from how they’re allowed a lot of free reign in what they do in the ring. Mick Foley was a madman in the ring. He could be incredibly funny or dark and sinister, depending on what was going on around him. But the reason Foley could do that was because he got to speak from the heart and react. Not just act.
5. PLAN AHEAD
I’ve been watching a lot of the Attitude Era Monday Night Raw episodes on the WWE Network recently and one thing I noticed that they were incredibly good at was telling the fans why they should keep tuning in. On Raw these days, I only ever see matches for Smackdown being promoted. It’s not that difficult to say “Next week, on Monday Night Raw..”
6. Remember why fans tune in.
What it all really boils down to is that wrestling is unique in the world of entertainment. If the writers want to write for Game of Thrones or Agents of SHIELD, then let them go do that. Fans tune in to see things settled in the ring, not 20 minute monologues that kill the momentum of the show before it even begins. A lot of the best matches on WCW Nitro were the cruiserweight matches. They usually went on first, just to hype the crowd up and get them excited about what else they might see that night. There wasn’t always a big storyline or anything in the cruiserweight matches, but the fans still got emotionally invested. When you have world class talent, the wrestling match is its own story. If the opening match was something special, fans will stick around to see what else WWE has up their sleeves.
Getting the audience back isn’t hard. WWE just makes it look that way.
Nick is a lifelong wrestling fan and wrote every line of this himself. Including the byline.