August 20, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devilís Advocate:
Itís 2007, not 1987

I hear a lot of people, both reporters and Internet wrestling fans, complain about many aspects of how WWE presently runs their business. Many of them like point back to techniques that WWE/F used in the past which they enjoyed. Some fans profess that they would return to watching WWE today if these methods were used again today. And while I feel they have valid arguments (some of which I agree with), I am going to do what I do best, which is play devilís advocate and point out why WWE canít use some of the practices that worked in the past, today.

ďWWE needs to use long-term booking instead of booking show by show.Ē

This is perhaps the main argument that I hear from people. WWE books each of their shows leading into a pay-per-view event, and then starts the process over again once that pay-per-view is over. People would like to see storylines built up over months and play out over several events. While I personally agree that using long-term booking helps make watching WWE more enjoyable, that doesnít mean you still canít enjoy the show the way WWE books it now.

Back in the day, the WWE/F would pretty much create a loosely based card for the next yearís Wrestlemania, and then work backwards. They worked back then because they didnít have to create 5 hours a week of original programming that features pay-per-view caliber action. In present day, WWE has to worry about injuries, crowd reaction, discipline issues, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that a long-term storyline can easily be spoiled by the Internet while planning out long-term stories.

It should be pointed out though, that WWE does have some storylines that stretch out over a few months, but most people either choose to ignore them or perhaps they donít feel as if the storylines are strong enough to be used to offset their arguments. And it just seems that whenever WWE tries to do a long-term story arc, unforeseen circumstances stop it (i.e. Kennedyís Money in the Bank Wrestlemania Title Shot, Who Killed Mr. McMahon, Triple Hís injury, etc). The whole issue with long-term booking leads into my next point, which isÖ.

ďWWE doesnít buildup to their pay-per-view matches right.Ē

Many people feel as if WWE doesnít do a very good job of announcing their pay-per-view matches. This argument is three-fold. First, sometimes WWE announces a pay-per-view match with no back story for it happening, but then creates one. Some would rather see the reason for the creation of the match before it is announced instead of just throwing guys together. On the other hand, sometimes the E lets things fester too long and they donít announce the match until a week before the pay-per-view event, thus eliminating the storyline advancements that could only take place once a match is announced. And then, thereís a third argument that combines the first two, which is that WWE will just throw together matches at the last minute with no back story just to get guys on the pay-per-view card.

I think that these arguments are taken out of context. The first, throwing guys together and then creating a story, has been done successfully for years (such as when a random number one contender is named, and the friction comes from that). I believe the problem that people have with this goes back to the long-term booking issue. Throwing guys together and only having around four weeks to create issues seems like not enough time for a good storyline to develop. And again, while I am a fan of long-term booking, it doesnít mean the show canít be enjoyable any other way.

On the flip side, when WWE waits too long to announce a match, most people are just annoyed that WWE is insulting their intelligence because the match could be seen from so far away (like Triple H vs. King Booker at Summerslam this year). By the time the match is announced, a lot of fans are apathetic towards it. I wonít even call this hypocritical because sometimes they want a match announced, and sometimes they donít, because it is much more than that. But itís also a fine line that WWE tries to walk, and in their defense, when people are going to find fault no matter which way they go, itís hard to make everyone happy.

As for the final argument of this topic, which is the hatred of matches that are created the week before a pay-per-view just to get names on the card, there does exist a reason for it, though most fans would probably not accept it (and in truth, even I donít like it). WWE likes to sell their pay-per-views based on the main event matches so they spend most of their time and efforts building these matches and end up just throwing the rest of the card together with what is at their disposal, knowing full well that most people are going to be buying it for the main and title matches. WWE already has problems with giving too much away that they could be saving for big money matches and if they stacked every card with big storylines, they would be diluting their product. Would you rather see a great storyline used for a lower card filler match at a random pay-per-view or would you rather see that great storyline saved for a Wrestlemania match down the line between two outstanding talents? Plus, if you have to have a storyline for every match, the E runs out of ideas and you end up with people feuding over Japanese shampoo commercials like Edge and Booker T at Wrestlemania X8.

ďWWE has problems with continuity in their storylines.Ē

The final argument is one that is hard to defend. When something is dropped midstream or just forgotten and never mentioned again, once more fans feel their intelligence is being insulted, in addition to some saying it is just plain stupid or going as far as stating it looks unprofessional. This can occur because of problems that pop up within long-term booking plans (i.e. Cryme Tyme winning a tag team title shot at New Yearís Revolution 2007 but being nullified later in the evening when the tag title match was altered on the fly due to Triple Hís injury) OR because of on-the-fly booking (such as something not getting over as they had hoped).

Years back, WWE/F would tape multiple episodes of Superstars in one shot, which would mean tons of pre-planning and drawing out the plans in order to visualize everything and make sure it would all make sense. If that wasnít enough, usually the day after multiple Superstars episodes were taped, multiple episodes of Challenge would be filmed, and most times, they would fall back on issues filmed for Superstars. Yes, there was post-production involved, but I can not imagine the amount of work that went into making sure everything was going to make sense when the episodes aired weeks later by having to map everything out beforehand.

All I can say about continuity issues is, itís the nature of the beast and I guess I would rather the WWE tried something and find out if it isnít working than not trying at all. My suggestion would be not to lose too much sleep over it.

To conclude, I can see why people make the arguments discussed above. But, if changes really do need to be made, going backwards isnít the way to go about it. The business has evolved. Things that worked years ago would not fly nowadays for multiple reasons. Besides being feasibly impossible on many levels, the fact that business is really not that bad, would leave WWE to continue the way they are doing things. While some aspects are problematic (the house show circuit really needs an overhaul), ratings are very solid (even with a slight decrease that would cause panic in the wrestling community, Raw is still among the highest rated shows on cable television). And even if changes were needed, going ďback to the futureĒ didnít work for Bill Watts and WWE isnít about to make the same mistake.

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