Ever increasingly since the end of the “Attitude Era”, older fans have took to the internet to tweet, blog and post about their rapidly growing disdain with the current WWE Product on offer. With complaints such as poor announcing, lack of blood and rushed storylines or title reigns; it seems that there is always something for Internet fans (widely regarded as the Internet Wrestling Community or IWC) to have a go at WWE for. However, the question remains unanswered: Is the current WWE Product truly poor? Or is it a case of distorted nostalgia clouding people’s views of WWE programming?
With regards to the current announcing, it is often Michael Cole that is subject to the criticisms of fans. Regularly, he is labelled “annoying” and that people “hate him. What many fail to realise is that Cole is supposed to be a heel announcer/commentator; it is his job to get you to hate him. Now, without doubt Michael Cole is not the greatest announcer in the history of pro-wrestling, but he was a relative newcomer to the business when joining World Wrestling Entertainment and has since done all he could to knowledge himself on wrestling and by being on both of WWE’s main shows, keeps himself knowledgeable on the current programming also. For any long time fans (or those who watch Classic WWE on YouTube) it is clear that Cole’s current announcing style is a throwback to the Legendary Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan was famous for his quick remarks, biases for or against superstars (see Royal Rumble 1992 for Heenan’s bias for Ric Flair throughout the entire matchup) and arguing with his announcing partner (SummerSlam 1991 with Jim Ross is a great example). This is something that Cole, after doing his research, has used as a core for his own announcing style then adapted to suit his own abilities.
However, there is one man on the current announce team, who is often free from criticism, and is guilty for not keeping informed with his own company’s product, is Jerry Lawler. On Pay-Per-View Sundays, it is clear that Jerry Lawler does not watch Friday Night SmackDown with his lack of interest and knowledge in the SmackDown superstars. This has been something ever-apparent since the introduction of the Brand-Split and now, without Jim Ross to carry him on live shows, the flaws in his ability can really be noticed. Sure, a quick solution that would appease a lot of fans would be the permanent re-introduction of “Good Ole JR”, Jim Ross to the announce booth, but that would be counter-productive. As magnificent as Jim Ross is in the booth, his on-going battle with Bell’s Palsy cannot be ignored. In addition to this, the ever improving pair of Josh Mathews and Booker T are showcasing each and every Friday Night ( as well as Booker on Pay-Per-Views) that they are coming into their own when it concerns announcing for WWE. Personally, I would have the three man team of Cole, Booker and Mathews announcing Raw on top of SmackDown which they already do. From Cole’s dislike of Daniel Bryan to the hilarity of Booker T, the three man team is producing a great announcing product each and every week.
Short title reigns and repeated pay-per-view matches in World Wrestling Entertainment is something that is also heavily criticised, but many fans are clouded in their condemnation of this. During the beloved Attitude Era, short title reigns were something that was also quite common. There are two major examples of this taking place. The first, being during the first half of 2000 when The Rock and Triple main evented every pay-per-view and traded the title back and forth every pay-per-view besides the WrestleMania. This is no different to this summer when Christian and Randy Orton traded the title back and forth or when John Cena would feud with superstars like Edge or Triple H over multiple pay-per-views with the title at stake, yet it is met with wide disdain. This is, most likely, due to the lack of their childhood heroes in the Rock and Steve Austin being present in the WWE anymore. These fans miss their idols in Austin and Rock and no superstar will ever be able to fill the void because of the unrealistic expectations held by these fans.
Another prominent example of quick title reigns is the entire year of 2002. During this year, there were a total of 8 different WWE Undisputed Champions having title reigns and 3 different World Heavyweight Championship reigns (this title was only introduced in the September of 2002). Of these title reigns, most only lasted a little over a month before the championship changed hands. This style of championship booking is far worse than that present in today’s WWE product. Yes, titles can change quickly due to storyline transitions, but 2002 was overkill booking that had so many different individuals having needless reigns (see The Rock and Hulk Hogan) that it is hypocritical to be supportive of this yet criticise current WWE Championship reign booking. Yes, I am aware that titles do change hands quickly, but this is to progress feuds which 2002 did not do. Also, current booking has individuals holding the title multiple times and not different individuals holding it for a month before exiting the title scene for the year.
The lack of blood in today’s World Wrestling Entertainment is also a gripe of the IWC. They claim that blood would somehow make the product better and that the more extreme matches were better booked during the days of ECW and the Attitude Era. Firstly, it is important that a common misconception on the product that Extreme Championship Wrestling offered is pointed out. Whilst ECW was renowned for the extreme matches that included flaming tables and the use of various foreign objects, the product it offered was not limited to this. ECW during the 1990’s was “forced” to offer younger talent the chance to showcase their talents due to the then WWF and WCW signing up most of the big marquee names in the business. By doing this, ECW allowed a majority of their younger talent (including Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio) to get noticed in a time where only the big names mattered for WCW and WWF. Without this style of booking, many of the stars we grew to know and love (especially the recently returning Chris Jericho) would never have been known to World Wide Audiences. Whilst ECW did have more than its fair share of brutal matches, these matches usually only took place to call an end to bitter feuds (see Raven and Tommy Dreamer) and were not always a regular staple on their weekly television product.
It is widely accepted that WWE used ECW as inspiration for its Extreme Rules, Hardcore and other gimmick matches that are present in today’s product, but is blood really acceptable to sell the risky nature of these matches? I am of the mind frame that two wrestlers can perfectly sell an extreme match and the dangers involved without one or both men having to bleed to display this. The ladder match of Christian vs Alberto Del Rio from Extreme Rules and the Edge vs Kane Last Man Standing match of January are two excellent encounters that exhibit the lack of “need” for blood in a risky match.
The epitome of Internet hate with regards to WWE is, without a doubt, John Cena. As a man more often than not featured in and around the WWE Championship scene, many fans have become bored and frustrated with Cena week after week. As the poster boy for World Wrestling Entertainment, it is by default that he should be competing for the top accolade the company has to offer. When companies strike up advertising or marketing deals with WWE, they want the fan favourite to be doing the crossover commercials and that man is Cena and, as such (even if purely for financial reasons) he has to be the best in the business; champion. This is just the same as the late 90’s when the Rock was the Corporate poster for the then WWF; the Rock was doing ads, appearing in music videos and even scoring TV/Film deals as the poster boy. Due to this, “The People’s Champion” was heavily involved in the title scene during his competitive days (even undeservedly so, storyline wise, during his short 2002 return). Whilst the lack of change in the title scenes is often attributed to Cena, and Orton, having “backstage pull, it can properly be attributed to the WWE mid-card not being ready to “step-up” to the upper echelons of competition. Stars like Jack Swagger and Kofi Kingston were afforded the chance to compete with the guys higher up on the card, but both displayed “main event nerves” and didn’t display the great matches they were known for during their opportunities. Now, the competitors who deem themselves ready to step-up have vocally made this known and have forced themselves higher up the card and even just on to TV. CM Punk had to hold-out on contract negotiations to prove himself to WWE officials. Zack Ryder had to start his hit internet show to show that he was ready and guys like Dolph Ziggler; Wade Barrett; Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan continued to put on match of the night performances and produce continuously excellent mic skills. Now that these guys have proven their abilities, the youth movement is in full swing for World Wrestling and the fans really don’t have any ground for complaint. They demanded change and, they got change.
From this, it is clear to see that there are very few reasons to complain about the current WWE product on offer, yet fans continuously opt to moan about what is on offer. They need to accept that the Attitude Era is over, the days of Goldberg, Steve Austin and The Rock competing on weekly TV shows is over. The current product offers excellent entertainment to wrestling fans if they would only give it the chance. If they were truly annoyed at what was on offer, they would change the channel; stop ordering pay-per-views and not be buying merchandise. As the infamous saying goes, “Haters Gonna Hate.”
That’s it for this edition of The Taj Show, remember to join the discussion and leave your thoughts and comments below. Want me to write a particular comment? Send in your suggestions and I’ll cover the most popular choices.