The more things change, the more things stay the same with the WWE.
I haven’t watched the WWE since Money In The Bank earlier this year. After the PPV capped a few months of creative hell I decided to give the company that has been my go to for entertainment for years a rest. At the time the nonsensical and deflating ending to a great show just reinforced to me that everything I had come to dislike about the WWE’s sense of roster positioning and creative vision was never going to change and I could no longer stand investing my time and energy into it.
See I actually love WWE’s current generation of wrestlers, they are some of the most creative, engaging and athletic wrestlers I have seen. From the top guys: Reigns, Rollins, Bryan, Styles who can pull off a classic match, promo or program with seeming ease, to the exciting up and coming midcard of Ali, Almas, Gable, to the veteran hands of Ziggler, Kofi, McIntyre, even down to bloody Baron Corbin and all his zaniness, I believe when they are left to their own devices the product thrives. This isn’t just speculation either, the times that they have been left to their own devices such as the 2016 post brand split Smackdown, Raw’s post Summer Slam 2018 stretch or NXT anytime in the past few years have been incredibly engaging.
But it is because I love these guys that I just can’t watch WWE anymore.
For a number of years the most talented roster of wrestlers the WWE has had since the late 90s has been fighting tooth and nail against the very company that controls their fortunes. At MITB seeing seven of them bust their arse for eighteen minutes to put on a great match only for Brock Lesnar to swagger in and pick up the win and briefcase was just too much of a metaphor for absolutely everything that makes me sad about the state of the company.
Which brings me to this week where I decided that given the momentous nature of it all I would check out all the wrestling I could. I’ve had a lot going on in my life with a young girl, buying my first house and a new job but this week I put aside a chunk of time to catch what I could from RAW, NXT, Smackdown, AEW and I even managed to sneak a New Japan Road To show in.
For the most part it was pretty good on the WWE front but then right at the end Kofi Kingston went up against Brock Lesnar and it lasted all of 10 seconds.
This is a wrestler who has been having a relatively strong run as champion after one of the most momentous Wrestlemania victories ever and he barely got ten seconds in the ring before he was beaten.
Then only a hair’s breath later out comes Cain Velasquez, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, and he is all over Brock Lesnar like a rash, beating him down and walking him off like no one has since Goldberg.
And right there once again, capping off the week completely unavoidably is the thing I hate most about WWE. No matter how good the full time wrestlers are, no matter how popular they get in spite of everything the WWE does to sabotage them, Brock Lesnar will always be shown to be better than them. For a long time I thought there was hope things would change but Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, supposedly the two top guys for this entire generations had to get beaten from pillar to post for months by Brock before they could fluke an underdog victory over him. Kofi Kingston, as loyal of a trooper as you could get and by all accounts a decent champion got ten seconds.
Yet in comes an injury prone former MMA fighter and this guy is allowed to wipe the floor with the entity that has held down so many of the wrestlers I care about.
They WWE can say all they want on commentary, Michael Cole can spout hyperbole until he is hoarse about how good the wrestlers are but actions speak louder than words. What this act clearly demonstrates is that the real top guys aren’t, and never will be, the current generation, the top guys are these part time has beens, trading on waning star power.
What this says to the crowd is that this current generation of wrestlers isn’t worth investing in. How can the current generation be expected to become the stars the company wants them to be if they are constantly put in their place like this?
Perhaps the most infuriating thing for me is that I cannot fathom how no one in the WWE can see how short sighted this is. When Brock Lesnar isn’t on TV because he is Brock Lesnar and when Cain Velasquez succumbs to his already dodgy back (yes, he had a bad back even before coming to a sport where hurling your back at the ground repeatedly is unavoidable) why would anyone who is attracted to the show by those two want to tune in to watch the second tier talent?
And who are the people that want to see this match anyway? It isn’t MMA fans, we’ve seen the MMA fight, it was pretty damn decisive and in 2019 I could list twenty MMA fighters off the top of my head who could easily man handle Brock Lesnar in an Octagon. But why does that even matter anyway? This isn’t MMA. If you wanted MMA this week you should be watching Robert Whittaker v Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Title. They are two fighters at the peak of their careers whose contrasting styles pose interesting questions for one another. We already know the answer to Cain Velazquez and Brock Lesnar, we saw it nine years ago and seeing them do things in a WWE ring isn’t going to change it.
This match can’t possibly be for pro wrestling fans either. You can show me clips of Cain pulling off a half decent hurricanrana at TripleMania all you want but there is no getting around that a match against Brock will be his second ever pro wrestling match. I know as well as anyone that there are all different genres of pro wrestling and I’m not going to say Japanese Strong Style is better than the WWE Main Event Style but I will tell you that a man going into his second match ever is not going to truly excel at any of them.
So for all the good the WWE did this week (and there was a lot of it), the ending of this brand new SmackDown was yet another reminder that the Brock Lesnar shaped glass ceiling is still well and truly in place. Why should I support one of the other wrestlers if I know that it is all going to end when lol Brock wins? Why should I invest my emotional energy and viewing time in following someone who is only going to get pushed aside when the next flashy has been needs a pay day? There are other products on offer that treat their best wrestlers like they actually are the stars of the show and keep the focus squarely on them.
So WWE, five months on you’ve got a new coat of paint but because I love your wrestlers I will have to once again stop watching.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I hope you get better but I no longer think you will.
That wraps things up for me this week LOP, what did you think of Brock Lesnar winning the WWE Title on Smackdown? Are you feeling as disenchanted as me? Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on Twitter @Sir_Samuel.
I know I’ve been gone a little while but I have been working on my end of decade series The Stories That Defined A Decade which should start dropping early next month if all goes to plan. In the meantime why not check out some more wrestling writing on the LOP Columns Forum, recently one of our up and comers Pennycook Mills dropped a fantastic piece: Why Seth Rollins Must Lose the Universal Championship to Rey Mysterio. You could even give writing a go yourself while you’re down there.