By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
It used to be, the weeks after WrestleMania would be a reset button for the company. Old storylines were wrapped up, new storylines started, and we began the slow build to the following year’s WrestleMania. The past few years have even included a “Superstar Shakeup”, which is just a fancy phrase for wrestlers moving from Raw to Smackdown, or vice-versa. Often, this would result in fresh matches, new opportunities, and a wealth of storyline possibilities.
Well, after the dust has settled on another year’s worth of ‘changes,’ it’s safe to assume one thing: It’s not the superstars that need a “shakeup.”
Something needs to change for WWE. We live in a world that features Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe as champions, yet WWE feels more stagnant than it has been in years. That is through no fault of the wrestlers, either. They’re doing their jobs. They put on great matches, give the best promos they can, given their parameters, and they work their asses off day-in, and day-out.
They deserve so much better. Going back to what I said last week, it doesn’t matter how talented the wrestlers are if the script sucks. And the scripts, since even before WrestleMania, have sucked.
More and more wrestlers are growing frustrated with the way things are done in WWE. The Revival, Luke Harper, Sasha Banks, Hideo Itami, Tye Dillinger, and Dolph Ziggler reportedly asked for their releases from WWE (the releases of Itami and Dillinger’s were granted). Dean Ambrose has opted not to re-sign with the company. WWE can dismiss these departures as much as they want, but as soon as AEW proves itself as a viable alternative, it won’t be long before more wrestlers follow suit.
People have said that Vince McMahon likes competition, that it inspires him. We can only hope this is true because the product lately has been uninspiring at best. At worst, it’s been a chore to sit through. Monday nights used to be cause for celebration. Raw is War was destination television. Now, it’s like homework.
I don’t know what needs to change. I don’t know who’s to blame, other than the owner of the company. The decisions he’s making are not good ones. And it seems like everybody knows that except him.
Vince needs a wakeup (shakeup?) call. It’s not going to come from Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon or anybody else behind the scenes. It’s got to come from viewers. We have to tell Vince that things need to change and that message is being sent through the television ratings.
I’ve re-watched certain matches from NXT Takeover a few different times (the Tag Team Match, Velveteen Dream vs. Matt Riddle, and Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole) since their first airing. I haven’t revisited WrestleMania 35 once. For me, that’s a huge deal. I’ve always been a WWE apologist, but I’m tired of apologizing for a company that remains ambivalent.
In the end, Vince McMahon doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need you either. Like CM Punk once prophetically stated, the WWE is going to make money in spite of itself. If that’s the only thing Vince McMahon cares about, he can rest comfortably. He’ll still be making money long after he’s gone. If that’s Vince’s priority, consider him a success.
But years and years ago, Vince himself said that he was in the business of putting smiles on people’s faces. Don’t get me wrong, I’m smiling for the likes of Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and others. But it seems like their success has come from themselves and from us, not from any sort stamp of approval from McMahon. At times it feels like he and his “people” are actively rooting against the very people they’re promoting. I hate that I even have to type that. I hate that WWE, for many people, has become such a toxic environment. I’m more excited about AEW in theory and what it could mean to the people trying to make a living in the pro wrestling business than I am for my own personal entertainment.
WWE isn’t supposed to suck the life out of its talent or its fans. It didn’t always do that. WWE gave us some incredible storytelling throughout the years. They gave us reasons to believe in the characters in the ring and in ourselves.
WWE gave us memories, moments, and matches that we will never forget. They told stories that reverberated in our hearts because we could relate to them in our own lives. WWE was less interested in Wall Street and more interested in the kid in the front row, screaming for his favorite superhero. It was live-action theatre. It was a soap opera. It was a 52-week long movie. At its best, I’d put a WWE show against Game of Thrones any day. That’s because WWE was something that played on every single one of my emotions. It featured heroes and villains and, in the end, the good guy won and we all went home happy.
At least, that’s how it used to be.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Jake Barnett discussing WWE Superstar Shakeup and all the news of the week.