Why Edginess Alone Won’t Save WWE
This article will focus solely on WWE’s main roster shows Raw and Smack Down as NXT is considered a developmental promotion by WWE
Gone are the days where WWE is your go to, one stop shop for professional wrestling. While there have been numerous small independent promotions (ROH, PWG, Luncha Underground) and a few mainstream competitors (TNA, NJPW) since Vince McMahon bought WCW all the way back in 2001, they haven’t ever really made a dent in WWE’s pockets or their fan base. Fast Forward to 2019 and not only do we finally have some major competition rearing its head for the first time in nearly 20 years in the form of AEW, but thanks to the advancements made in web development almost every indie promotion has a video subscription service complete with access to a video archive. So what has WWE done to entice their audience to stay loyal with AEW and its other competitors willing to push the envelope in terms of violence, use of coarse language, and storyline content? They’ve done about as much as any WWE fan expected of them; the bare minimum. When asked to return to a grittier and edgier product by their fans, the WWE has decided to go back to a pseudo-attitude era, which I know sounds amazing in theory, but has been a huge mess in practice. While WWE has been willing to show a little bit of blood on TV as opposed to just changing to a black and white filter when someone is accidently cut open; and since Paul Heyman started heading creative on Raw we’ve seen 2 love triangles and a man who has repeatedly failed to consummate his marriage because he can’t win a championship (yes I’m aware just how weird that is even for wrestling). There have definitely been flashes of brilliance from WWE in response to some real competition; but there have been many, many more flashes of stagnancy. While every other promotion out there seems to be willing to adapt and learn to be what the wrestling fans of today want; the WWE doesn’t. So what is still keeping people away from WWE if they too are willing to include some edgier content? Well the answer is simply the writing, or rather scripting that the WWE still employs. Simply putting “edgy” content in front of the audience isn’t enough anymore; the audience wants to be invested in what’s going on and WWE’s scripting just doesn’t allow for that. Be it by including poor jokes in promos like when Lana said on the November Raw that she had a restraining order that prevented another wrestler from coming within 90 days of her (yeah you read that right, I promise it’s not a typo on my part), or by structuring the sentences in their scripts in such a way that it’s not believable or comes across oddly (much like I intentionally did there rather than find a specific example); WWE fans are finding it harder and harder to become and/or stay invested in the product. This is where AEW and other independent promotions are thriving; the product is believable. Performers are sent out with microphones, a list of bullet points that they’re supposed to touch on and are told to just go out and be themselves; they create their own promos and this not only allows them to really pour themselves/their character into the promo but it allows them to choose their wording so that they are relate to the audience. The matches they produce aren’t bogged down by the 50/50 booking system that WWE is in love with, so when a win or loss happens in a feud outside WWE the audience is genuinely invested in not only that match’s outcome but they aren’t reasonably able to predict how the next match(es) will end like they can with WWE. For these reasons edginess alone won’t be enough; for WWE to return to being professional wrestling’s best and most popular option the WWE needs to go back to completely unscripted promos for all talent so that the wrestlers can do the one thing that keeps fans in the building, connect with them.