By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
Last Tuesday I watched in amazement as Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy did something entirely unique. They had a match, complete with a ring, in the middle of their North Carolina wilderness. It was like nothing I had seen before. On Raw this week, we saw WWE attempt to do their own wilderness brawl with The New Day visiting The Wyatt Family at The Wyatt Compound. This segment illustrated WWE’s key storytelling problem: They don’t tell stories.
The Final Deletion, whether you liked it or hated it, told a story. It was about two brothers going to war. It had a clear beginning, middle, and end. It had clear moments where tension increased. It had a climax and denouement. The Final Deletion was an excellent exercise in using professional wrestling, the storytelling medium, in a new way. The Wyatt Compound segment did none of this.
The New Day showed up to wherever The Wyatt Family was, walked in, and started fighting. This was it. There was no reason for this to occur. The fight went on until it ended. This is literally the only way I can describe this segment. At one point, everyone decided not to fight and stopped. Now, WWE has decided these six will fight again, but this time in a wrestling arena at WWE Battleground.
It seems like WWE’s creative force watched The Final Deletion and decided the best parts were the darkness and the presence of trees and water. WWE missed what actually made The Final Deletion a compelling piece from beginning to end. It wasn’t silly voices, poor lighting, and fire. It was the story of the two brothers escalating their conflict to this point.
This is a common mistake for WWE to make. They don’t look at wrestling as a true storytelling medium, even though they repeat “we’re telling stories” ad nauseam. They don’t attempt to tell the best story possible in every moment. They throw segments and moments out there hoping one will actually stick. These moments occasionally become legendary, both for their quality and rarity. The rest eventually fade away. WWE could make every moment on television mean so much more.
I don’t know if WWE wants this Wyatt Family and New Day brawl to truly be their answer to The Final Deletion. I’m not sure it was originally planned to be. I don’t believe they need an answer to The Final Deletion. What I’m sure of is that this Wyatt Compound segment was a mess with no beginning, middle, end, or clear motivation for anyone involved.
WWE ignores basic elements of story all the time. It’s frustrating as someone who watches wrestling for both the athleticism and the storytelling. When both combine, amazing moments happen. The New Day visiting The Wyatt Compound was a contrived idea with maybe a fourth of the forethought needed to make it great.
Can someone please make up a chart of the WWE fictional organizational structure and send it over to me? WWE now has CEO Vince McMahon, COO Triple H, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, and Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon in their positions. They’re also planning to bring in two General Managers. This is absurd.
I know WWE’s fictional corporate structure has never made sense, but I don’t think Vince McMahon realizes what a turn off all of these authority figures are. It’s been said many times that Vince McMahon writes shows for himself. This is apparent in these weird authority figure segments. Vince’s life, in the last 15 years, has become about corporate structure. He went from a wrestling promoted to a CEO. Somehow, in his mind, he thinks the rest of the world did the same. He thinks the audience wants to see this corporate weirdness on display.
I also question the logic of having a heel authority structure on one brand (Raw) and a babyface structure on the other (Smackdown). Doesn’t this make viewers like one over the other? Doesn’t this send a negative message about an entire brand?
WWE lost its way with authority figure storylines in 1999 and has had issues producing compelling ones ever since. Why try again?
Seth Rollins can apparently edit video. Why wasn’t all of this time given to a mini-documentary about The Shield to get me excited for Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Ambrose at Battleground? It’s like WWE is trying to sabotage their own stories. Roman Reigns is suspended, but they have plenty of footage of him. Ambrose and Rollins are available for anything. WWE is overcomplicating one of the easiest stories they could tell in an odd way.
They’re trying to make it all about Roman’s suspension. This is negative in every way. It doesn’t create sympathy for Roman Reigns, who violated WWE’s Wellness Policy. It doesn’t make people hate Seth Rollins, because everything Rollins is saying can be seen as true. It leaves WWE Champion Dean Ambrose as a weird afterthought attempting to defend the drug use of his best friend. Why make it so complicated?
Much like I wrote about the Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton video on UFC 200, WWE has a perfect story about converging careers to tell here. It could be done with an extended documentary (60 minutes or more) on the WWE Network. It could be done in 10 minutes on Raw. It could be done as a full hour on Raw. WWE has these options available to them and they ignore them.
Sure, force-fit a story branding the man you want to build the company around as a drug user, instead of merely telling the simple better story.
– AJ Styles and John Cena continue to produce compelling television together. I love the addition of Enzo and Cass to this mix. Cena needed friends. Enzo and Cass needed rivals and some activities to occupy their time. Everyone is getting something out of this. It also makes sure Cena and Styles don’t have to instantly top their last match and they get to tell a little more story prior to their eventual rematch (probably at SummerSlam). This is a story WWE is telling quite well.
– It would have been awesome to open Raw up with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Brock would only have to do his simple bounce as Heyman said “Brock plans to defeat Randy Orton at SummerSlam” then mentioned that his client expected to be the #1 draft pick. Easy. This seems like a missed opportunity.
– One thing I did appreciate from Shane McMahon and the main event segment: Shane’s promises to make Smackdown look and feel different. He mentioned many of the items I’ve talked about for years. If the show will truly involve different production techniques, a new set, and much more, WWE would be making a wise choice. I’m the guy who says Smackdown should run the buildings NXT has their national house shows in. They usually seat 1,000-4,000 people and tend to look unique. Make the show feel exclusive and it will become exclusive.
– Sasha Banks vs. Dana Brooke made an excellent case for squash matches to build up talent. Both of these women are set to be big players in the future. Both of these women need establishing wins. Sasha wouldn’t need wins this desperately if WWE had bothered to put her on TV in the last two months and tell a story about her journey. This was an odd match.
– Darren Young won a Battle Royal by doing nothing. Bob Backlund is more annoying on TV than The Miz. Who am I supposed to like here? The Miz is still amazing at what he does, so I’ll go with him.
– Cesaro has been a nice prop in the Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feud.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.