WWE programming has definitely not been as good as it could be in recent months and is missing a fail-proof gimmick that works if done right.
There is a reason that WWE is suffering from record low ratings on both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live and that is because of non-compelling storylines that make it hard to tune in every single night.
Every single wrestling fan, at least the ones that really care about the product, are still tuning into the PPVs and attending live shows when possible, that is not the problem. The problem is an over-abundance of programming that is a lot to digest, especially when the storylines can get repetitive and quite frankly, boring.
You have to give credit to WWE though attempting to make changes. Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship is a welcome sign and for once the creative team capitalized on someone when they were red-hot in Becky Lynch.
Those positives are not enough to save the ratings though and the creative team is really failing to develop intriguing characters. Bray Wyatt’s new look and Firefly Fun House is a promising sign, but aside from that, it has been hard for WWE to create compelling characters in an age where kayfabe practically doesn’t exist.
There is one gimmick, though, that has been tried and tested throughout the wrestling industry and has always been compelling to the audience, when booked properly. And for those of you that have watched wrestling for a long time, you might roll your eyes at this gimmick.
The gimmick is the anti-authority, for the people, anti-hero. The guy that does not do things that a traditional “good guy” would do, but does them in such a way that makes them popular.
Some of you might roll your eyes because WWE is constantly attempting to do this. Right now, Roman Reigns is being booked as the “anti-authority” superstar, which has been okay, but really isn’t who Reigns is.
When done properly with the right person, this gimmick not only is effective but is must-watch TV, especially when they toe the line between reality and scripted programming.
Just look at CM Punk during the Summer of Punk. He exemplified this character and did it in a way that captivated the audience. With the emergence of wrestling dirt sheets and the behind the scenes becoming much more in the public light, Punk was able to toe that line and create something fresh out of a gimmick that has been done.
That is what made Stone Cold who he is, what made Degeneration X so popular and even what made Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title run up to WrestleMania 30 so compelling. Bryan’s was more a plucky underdog story but it worked. It received one of the largest pops ever, after all.
There are so many ways that WWE can do this as well. Finn Balor can easily do a Punkesque role of delivering promos that blur the lines of reality, calling out the people behind the curtain and how they do not believe in him.
Balor can assemble a Nexus-like group of guys to run rampant with his Bullet Club buddies. Heck, WWE can even go completely transparent and show a “creative meeting” that Balor shows up to, attacks Vince and declares he won’t listen to this creative team anymore.
Every wrestling fan will know in their hearts that it is all a work but it will get the discussion going. Suddenly, people will want to tune into Monday Night Raw to see Balor continue to break the fourth wall.
Balor is not even the only person that can do this effectively as well. WWE can go as far as to bring John Cena back as an anti-hero of sorts, proclaiming he is now too big of a movie star to listen to what Vince has to say and that he calls his own shots now.
Heck, they can even do something creative where it looks like Cena holds someone down for a three-count, making it look like a botched finish that Cena is just taking into his own hands. Anything to blur that sense of fiction.
Because let’s face it, Kayfabe is pretty much dead. Now, the most successful promos and moments (see John Cena’s promo with Roman Reigns from 2017) are ones that open up the curtain actually feel real.
That all starts with having an anti-authority figure that goes against the grain and “decides” they do not want to be told what to do anymore. Tell me that wouldn’t make compelling, and fresh, storytelling?