Watching RAW this past Monday was no different than having to sit through any show on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel and, to be honest, the latter is probably the better option nine times out of ten. I am so uninspired to write about any WWE show at this point and it’s really sad. To see where it’s come since back at the turn of the century is almost sickening: the shows have turned into some half-hearted massacre of a wrestling program that looks like it’s being created by some form of super-robots; an evil, greedy creation ripe and fresh out of the mind of Vince McMahon that he’s manifested from his perverted imagination and is being executed in a top secret lab somewhere with a blank, unassuming surface on the outside of the building and a variety of WWE emblems and logos all over the inside, which serves as ego stroking material for Vince’s eyes. Inside you’d find some hacks programming shows into computers and waiting for whatever the super-robot machine gives back, and then the machine keeps going—because that’s exactly what WWE is today, an engine with gears tuned just enough to keep running and keep the profits coming—but the machine is breaking and not being repaired. At this point, it’s hard to believe that actual humans, with brains, are writing these shows!
I stopped watching wrestling in 2002, after being a fan for my whole life, because I couldn’t handle how silly and ridiculous it was becoming and I could no longer allow my intelligence to be insulted time after time. Now, I’ve watched WWE again for two years, and I’m right back where I was in 2002 except this time those feelings are even more intense and magnified by a million! I feel like I’ve been here so many times before and, again, my intelligence is being ravaged over and over again. The product as a whole is so redundant and predictable that I feel like I’m watching an episode of Jeopardy to which I know the answers to every single question; It’s boring, it’s shallow and it’s pathetic. Athletes are taking unreal risks for absolutely nothing, there is no “payoff” anymore.
SmackDown LIVE is far and away the better show of the two but, regardless, neither one is very good. I honestly can’t understand how people love watching these shows and it boggles my mind in some way I can’t completely comprehend unless they are below the age of 13, at which point it merely becomes debatable. I feel bad for this generation because they will never see a heel turn like the one Hollywood Hogan pulled off at WCW in 1996; they will never see such amazing factions as The Fabulous Freebirds, The Four Horsemen, NWO or DeGeneration X; they will never understand or experience a match that has been built correctly over a compelling feud and weeks of heat, such as Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, or Hollywood Hogan vs. Goldberg. These were all matches that every fan was clamoring for like a fiendish crackhead on the corner of Arnold and High waiting for the dealer to arrive and administer his fix (Not that I know that exact feeling, but you get the point!)
I mean, let’s get real: with the advent of the UFC becoming a real player in sport and entertainment over the last eleven or twelve years and legitimizing themselves as a household name, the WWE has undeniably suffered. UFC has effectively taken the pro wrestling model that WWE had utilized through the 80’s and 90’s—to make matchups and calculatedly give the fans that inch so that they would starve for the mile, but never giving enough away to expose that big match that looms on the horizon or the characters involved—and they’ve taken this model to another level and literally have come as close to perfecting it as possible. We all see the specials on the television that UFC produces to attract more viewers to their product, like UFC Countdown, UFC Embedded, The Ultimate Fighter, and other more direct programs such as Evolution of Punk. These shows effectively garner more attention and hype towards fights simply because of their reality-based approach and, again, ninety-nine times out of one-hundred, this would be the first or second time the opponents will lock horns and not the one-hundredth time (the current WWE model).
Truthfully, the only way UFC should be hurting the WWE in any way is in the pay-per-view market, which is understandable. Back in the late nineties, there wasn’t a UFC pay-per-view every few weeks where people had the option to buy “the real thing” instead of a fake wrestling show, and the pay-per-views also weren’t sixty-five dollars a pop. It was a different time, and WWE doesn’t build or really hype their pay-per-views anymore so naturally the large majority of “fight fans” will gladly shell out the sixty-five big ones for real fights, but wouldn’t think twice about ever spending that kind of money on the current WWE product. The sad thing is that WWE has the resources to draw an audience to pay-per-view purchases but they no longer have the desire, skill or ability.
Consider this: Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock in a steel-cage rematch to headline WrestleMania; if they couldn’t build this match to blockbuster status it would be clear proof that they’ve completely lost their grip on what the fans desire, which is monumental matches that can actually live up to their billing. If a match like this was built properly everybody and their cousin, and their cousin’s cousin would pay any price deemed appropriate to see such a collision of goliath proportions, but WWE doesn’t have any interest in booking things to look like a shoot or to appear real and, for this, a dream match of such high regard would inevitably turn out being underwhelming, at best, given the current state of the product. And that fact is beyond shameful, a dark insight into just how low the WWE is willing to sink before they would be forced to swallow their pride and become introspective, because there literally isn’t a bigger match that could be made in wrestling at this point.
There are three things that UFC does which have catapulted them to the forefront of sport and entertainment. Firstly, every fight made is obviously based off reality but, more importantly, the fights being made are ones that the large majority of the fans want to see, not some small niche audience. Secondly, every card is crafted precisely and in a way that systematically builds excitement with each fight being a little bigger than the previous battle and, in turn, you’re always left wanting to see more. Giving fan’s the insight into the trash talking between two fighters, their backgrounds, their training, their respective goals and their personal lives naturally creates interest and anticipation based off emotional connects and disconnects. It’s a simple formula that used to be practiced and executed in wrestling but has gotten lost somewhere along the way as if it were a child that roamed away from the group at the zoo, but nobody noticed or kept track. All of these fighters being featured in promotional shows and countdown shows are always towards the top of the card, by design of a proper buildup and hype-train. If you don’t believe me, just look at the card for UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden and pay close attention to the buildup and the media-circus that will surely surround the event over the next month, as it will be the most covered event in UFC’s history! WWE slaps their shows together like Jackson Pollock with a couple of blank canvases and a few buckets of paint, and that formula doesn’t work in professional wrestling!
The third point is maybe the most important: Two men will never square-off against each other more than three times inside the Octagon. There have been quite a few “rubber matches” promoted by UFC over the years, but they wouldn’t expose fighters or try to suck any more out of a matchup by booking it a fourth time. I can’t say it wouldn’t ever be done, but they haven’t so far and it’s a model that’s been proven successful. It’s like a small borderline enacted for business purposes that has paid off to the tune of four-billion dollars, which is the amount that UFC was recently sold for. And these are only three points among many that attribute to how exactly Zuffa was able to purchase UFC, in 2002, for two-million dollars and sell it for four-billion dollars fifteen years later. WWE follows none of these principles which is why their ratings are plummeting and there is a steady, gradual disinterest towards wrestling forming throughout society in general, and WWE are the ones to blame.
WWE has created a scenario where they no longer try to accumulate new fans, talents are taking unnecessary risks causing injuries at a furious rate, and the company is content with the same old song and dance being carried out repetitiously on a weekly basis. This is a bad scenario for everybody. The budding flower that was the WWE has become a withering plant over the past fifteen years and, in contrast, UFC has gone from a small seed in the mind of society to a massive, ever-growing forest that is covering the entirety of the earth. They say “money talks” and I say, “if ‘money talks’, then the past fifteen years and the astounding growth of UFC from a two-million-dollar company to a four-billion-dollar company is a sermon of being successful in the fight game that the WWE needs to hear!”
As always, follow me on Twitter: @GonzoShark1 and please share your thoughts in the comments section below! Until next time, The Gonzo Shark checks out…