WWE’s product in the empty arena era just isn’t for me.
These past few weeks I’ve been trying to put my finger on an issue, a quirk of the production or disconnect in the method of delivery. Analysing the different pieces/gears of the McMahon machine that have kept the sports entertainment wheels endlessly spinning during this pandemic.
At the end of the day though, stripping all of the outside critiques of: viewer numbers, who gets pushed, star ratings, production quirks, etc. What you have left is one question: do I enjoy watching the show? And the answer is no, I don’t.
With no crowd in attendance and the product laid bare in front of me, I’ve come to the realisation that this style of wrestling simply isn’t my thing. It’s not really any more complex than that. Wrestling is entertainment and entertainment is full of subjective variety, not everything is for everyone. Have you seen the amount of categories on PornHub Netflix National Geographic?
When giving RAW or Smackers my time I tune out, I did this last week and within a short amount of time I had that skip button resting under my fingertips. I wasn’t gripped, I wasn’t invested, for me the show was just ‘there’.
I was even able to judge the production had evidently been ironed out since I last watched during WrestleMania season, a massive improvement on everything from pacing to promos. Becky Lynch’s heartfelt announcement was a fantastic example of this, Asuka’s legit reaction was the most adorable thing ever and grounded the entire segment in reality.
Sure it felt real because it was, but we’ve watched WWE before, you’ve got to give the go ahead for that happen in the first place. Reality being allowed to seep through the TV cracks in this way is a major step, like with Drew McIntyre’s presentation being another aspect benefiting from this more grounded approach.
Ultimately that didn’t change anything though, because even with those steps forward I still found myself not caring about the show. Seemingly I’m perfectly fine to sit back watching Twitter/YouTube clips on a whim rather than setting aside time to soak it all in.
My stance on things like this is to at least watch the show, if you didn’t enjoy it that’s cool, at least you gave it the time of day. For example, I remember reading our own Mr Tito’s attempts at watching New Japan Pro Wrestling during their boom to popularity. He gave them a go and they weren’t for him. NJPW is my number one wrestling promotion of choice, but the man didn’t knock it before he tried it.
I find myself in a similar situation with these empty arena shows, with a Twitter feed of fellow fans finding enjoyment in the product whilst I’m sat there getting little from it. The circumstances are totally understandable, they’re doing the best they can, but the enjoyment just isn’t there for me. The style just isn’t clicking.
Hell, I’m even envious of those getting angry at booking decisions or experiencing match outcome disappointment. To even have the energy to care that much right now with all that’s going on, my am I jealous of your circumstances.
I entered last Sunday’s PPV absolutely knackered having crashed twice in the day already after spending all my energy busting my ass, the concept of having the space to care that much about pro wrestling is not even on the radar for me right now. If you’re one of those people going mental on Twitter about a booking decision, realise just how lucky you are.
Maybe that’s part of it too, life leaving me fatigued with little room for time to be wasted. Even with improvements, RAW still has a massive aura of skipability for me. The sense of filler is strong and that’s something I currently have no energy for.
I can even look at segments from the show and see that there really is some great stuff, because what’s being presented isn’t crap. There’s something to it and you’ll find some genuinely quality in there, it’s just not for me. Like if you played me a highly rated country singer, sure I could see they’re talented, but I’m never going home with plans to listen to the album. I don’t enjoy that style of music.
Empty arena WWE is that for me. I like music, just, you know, not like that.
The Awkward Kinks
One of the things that’s crept in during this ‘The Wheels Are Still Spinning But The Hamsters Are Tired’ era has been video game bug esque production issues. Something assumedly popping up thanks the result of a rushed production performed by a smaller skeleton crew.
You don’t dedicate time and people to iron out that code, the game’s going to have some bugs *cough* WWE 2k20 *cough*. Obviously the circumstances are totally understandable, but do understand I’ll still be sat on my arse laugh at the resulting glitches.
Given awkward habits and the fact they’re live every week, WWE is known for production botches popping their heads in semi-regularly. Now it’s just at a tad more regular basis. This week alone we had awkwardly echoing backstage segments, a brawl with an almost unwatchable camera change pace and the queen of them all: closing out RAW with a Charly Caruso out of nowhere.
So like always WWE can be a bit crap, but there’s a sense of charm to these production quirks in there – especially in regards to that Orton/Edge/Caruso segment. It’s awkward as hell, but also got a legitimate laugh out of me and I love it.
I am totally aware it’s crap though, I’ve just been etting a laugh out of the flaws rather than fully being turned off by them. Something I’m not sure I’d be able to do if I took wrestling as an entity that must be super serious at all times. You’re talking to a man who genuinely had Invisible Man vs Invisible Stan on his list of ‘Most Enjoyed Matches’ last year AKA it’s fair to say I’m more than able to enjoy the silly/fun side of wrestling.
So you’re damn right I can call these production quirks crap whilst simultaneously happily laughing at the charm of them.
Although they’re not exactly something that helps convince me to properly tune in to the shows, if anything convincing my to stick with my current method of spending a few minutes with a cut down YouTube clip of a segment or two. I enjoy seeing these quirks pop up on my Twitter timeline, but if I were watching a show with a strong sense of filler and that’s when I saw them… I’m not sure I’d be exactly as enamoured.
I can at least understand the backlash to the production errors, the reinforcement of a lower quality, even if I’m sat here more or less laughing at them from a distance.
There is one more thing that’s plagued WWE for a while, something that has now been brought closer to the forefront with no crowd: the scripted promos. Arguably they’re the number one reason segments can feel like we’re watching an empty arena rehearsal, folk walking out and repeating lines that aren’t really very good in segments not particularly necessary. If anything adding to that feeling of filler, as the silence rings round the act and that fast forward button calls for me to just jump past it all.
Note, not all these promos are bad, but a fair few them aren’t exactly adapted for an empty arena ambience. Often just coming off a tad awkward to me. It’s not one aspect being ‘the bad thing’, all the different gears brought together just don’t quite fit.
The Pay Per Views
The massive asterisk here has been the Pay Per Views. I’ve genuinely enjoyed myself with the two offerings so far in WrestleMania and Money In The Bank, especially the latter which absolutely flew by with its far shorter running length.
I laughed along at the ridiculousness of the WWE Headquarters based main event, dug the hell out of Drew McIntyre as champion and it was all over within a 2hr 24mins blink of an eye. Two and a half hours of silly fun that didn’t outstay its welcome and left me wanting more. The perfect way to leave me after a show!
The confliction in my head is in how I also enjoyed the WWE Performance Centre in ring action that built up the bulk of the show, something at a direct contrast with my enjoyment towards WWE’s TV product. The clear direction and flow of a PPV made those matches infinitely more watchable for me, a show with stakes on the line and building hype throughout.
I got exactly what I wanted last Sunday, plus I never predicted the laugh I’d have in hearing the explanation as to why Alesiter Black & Rey Mysterio didn’t die. Pfff and people said it was stupid to build a headquarters with a hidden secondary secret roof.
I flat out enjoyed the Pay Per View, but I don’t really have any desire to watch more. And I’m cool with that. I’ve found my viewing niche, just turns out the TV product isn’t in it.
I’m happy to tune in once a month and see what the graps is all about (to help not go into an LOPR Aftershock completely blind), but I leave this column contempt with the fact that empty arena WWE just isn’t for me.
Yet I am tuning in to AEW Dynamite each and every week, I wonder why that is?
Till next week, stay safe everyone.
And wash your bloody hands.
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