By Nick Perkins, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
Ten years. That’s how long it took for this part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be properly told.
One epic finale.
Marvel took some of comic’s ‘B-Team Players’ (Iron Man, Thor, The Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) and turned them into multi-billion dollar powerhouses. Obviously, much of the success from this franchise comes from the performers. Nobody could have pulled off Tony Stark better than Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans embodied everything that Captain American represents. Each cast member brought something new and unique to the roles they played, and they helped create characters that will be remembered forever.
The biggest success of this franchise, however, comes from the writers and directors of each film. Not only did they have to craft a singular, entertaining film of their own, they also had to tie it into the overall narrative. They did so almost flawlessly. In just short of three hours, Avengers: Endgame took viewers on an emotional roller coaster that will go down as one of cinema’s greatest achievements.
When I left the theater after that first time (and second, and third) I couldn’t stop thinking. But I wasn’t thinking about Iron Man’s journey, Captain America’s ending, or anything else regarding the rest of The Avengers.
I was thinking about professional wrestling.
For many of us, the reason we started liking professional wrestling in the first place was because it featured real-life superheroes. Men like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were the physical embodiments of everything we loved in our comic books.
For a long time, professional wrestling provided fans with the same type of excitement that a good comic book, or even a good movie, could deliver. Vince McMahon, specifically, has said that he and his company “make movies.”
It’s unfortunate, then, that lately fans have been scratching their heads and saying, “What the f— am I watching?”
We ask it when The War Raiders become the Viking Experience. We ask it when Shane McMahon is involved in two separate storylines with top stars. We definitely ask it anytime Baron Corbin “graces” our screens. Make no mistake, this is not ‘The Goon or Mantaur or Fake Razor Ramon and Diesel’ bad.
But it’s close.
Anytime you invest three or more hours of your life into something, only to come away disappointed and angry on a consistent basis, there’s a huge issue.
As previously noted, it has nothing to do with the talent inside of the ring, either. It’s the stories. Or lack thereof. Fans are not asking for ‘Avengers-Level’ storytelling, either. We just want to watch good guys overcome bad guys and walk away with a smile on our faces. Isn’t that what WWE is in the business of doing? Yet it seems like every step forward (Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, NXT) results in two steps backwards (The Viking Warriors or whatever, Shinsuke Nakamura, almost every NXT call up). There are very few heroes to root for and even fewer stories to invest in.
AEW hasn’t even shot a single episode of television and they’re already telling better stories than WWE has been. Cody and Dustin Rhodes crafted a compelling story within a ten-minute YouTube video. Do you know how/why they were able to do that? Because they were passionate about their characters and about their story. When they crafted their story, they weren’t just trying to make money, they were, presumably, trying to get people invested in their story.
It’s the investment that matters most. The reason Avengers: Endgame was so successful was because millions of people were invested in their ten-year-long story, and they were willing to pay to see its conclusion. Isn’t that how professional wrestling should be? The world of professional wrestling, especially WWE, has a wealth of characters at their disposal. If Vince McMahon is unable to use those characters to tell satisfying stories, then Vince McMahon needs to be given an “Executive Producer” role and he needs to turn the actual writing over to those who can do it.
Let McMahon be a (vital) name in the end credits. Make Triple H the ‘Kevin Feige’ of WWE, overseeing the overall direction but letting the writers and directors (the wrestlers/backstage agents) craft their own films. Give audiences compelling beginnings, tense middles, and satisfying endings. That’s all fans want. We want to believe in these real-life superheroes again, and if we can’t find those heroes in WWE, we will finally start looking elsewhere.
For far too long, WWE has monopolized the professional wrestling industry and it has rested on its laurels, satisfied with churning out a mediocre product. But with AEW coming soon, as well as companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and more putting out a more interesting product, it won’t be long before audiences start investing their time and money elsewhere.
WWE needs to shift directions because they no longer have a choice. They’re running out of time.
We’re in the Endgame now.
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Jason Powell and Jake Barnett co-host the Dot Net Weekly and Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast combo show and discuss Raw Underground and other WWE concepts, The Rock's group buying the XFL, the Marty Jannetty story, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV, and more...