Vince McMahon is back on television for a week and suddenly standards seem to be slipping. WWE have made massive strides away from immature ‘mature’ content that focuses on sex and toilet humour. Quite frankly it’s a shame to see the quality of WWE’s television suddenly take a nose-dive back into an era that fans have been wanting to distance themselves from.
The Attitude Era provided us with some truly spectacular material that will go down as some of WWE’s finest work. But for every face of Foley that fell from the top of the cell, there was an equally cringe-inducing bra and panties match. Of course this sort of gimmicky nonsense didn’t really stop until around the start of the decade, the zeitgeist on Generation Z humour such as farts, penises and mental disabilities was still heavily supported by WWE writers, which unfortunately for fans over the mental age of 15, still seems to seep its way back into episodes of Raw and Smackdown Live.
When I sit down to watch Raw here in 2019, I don’t expect to see a segment where Alexa Bliss is caught mid-dressing in her locker room by a seedy backstage hand. Nor do I expect to see a storyline featuring Mandy Rose and Jimmy Uso, where the former is trying to seduce an Uce into doing the dirty on Naomi. Should we continue to see such storylines as Jimmy Uso’s battle with temptation, then I hope it leads to some half-decent matches, because right now it’s doing nothing more than belittling Mandy Rose’s character and proving that the writers have absolutely nothing for The Usos and Naomi to do.
I don’t want this to seem like I’m attacking or suspecting the aforementioned superstars for being behind these creative choices, my blame lies solely with Vince McMahon and his influence on the writing team.
Vince, as well as his favourite underling Kevin Dunn, have forever been a thorn in the side of progress away from this sort of content. Granted, TV-14 made a huge difference in business back in the 1990s — it was a move with the times. Somehow, it seems Vince is stuck in a time-loop, believing that even today he’ll be making more money by incorporating the latest South Park jokes into his wrestling show. I would like to think that the majority of wrestling fans that aren’t heavily deprived of their morals wouldn’t want to see their favourite female wrestlers be degraded to that point – nor would they want to see Otis Dozovic evolve into a creepy hillbilly stalker. Somehow, now that Vince is back on television, I see that becoming the case from here on out.
WWE have made some fairly questionable decisions last year, namely hosting events in Saudi Arabia. Should they continue down a seedy road then I see them angering a whole new demographic on the homefront.
I’d consider most fans to be more intelligent these days, who don’t require this sort of humour to entertain themselves. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe I need a few pudding matches and pillow fights to go along with my ‘juniors division’ on Smackdown Live. But WWE need to start addressing their key demographics – children, families and the growing subculture of ‘smart’ fans, who look for logical booking and excellent wrestling. This sort of forced innuendo appeals to a very small fraction of people — they’re certainly not children and definitely not the sort of people that would be willing to stop funding WWE in favour of a more progressive, mature promotion.
Right now, I can’t think of anything less appealing than seeing such a decline in the women’s division, courtesy of the writers. With WrestleMania season well underway, they need to start getting serious and come up with some more rewarding material for all superstars before we find ourselves knee-deep in geographical stereotypes and battle royals to determine the next Playboy cover star.
WWE have the creative talent to put together some really intriguing and entertaining storylines that feature some of the best wrestlers in the world. There really is no excuse for them only being able to think of characters and narratives that revolve around relationship issues and promiscuity.
In an era which (for better or worse) includes the ongoing series Total Diva’, a show that essentially disregards kayfabe, it’s hard for WWE to ignore that their on-screen characters are in fact human and tend to find themselves in relationships with one another. Hence why Corey Graves needs to remind us every week that Renee Young is married to Dean Ambrose. WWE writers need to start thinking of better ways of incorporating this into the weekly action.
If you look back on how certain couples have been used in recent years – Bryan/Brie, Miz/Maryse and Cena/Nikki – it seems so much more natural for them to only be involved with one another when they’re either managed by their partner or if they are involved a mixed tag feud. They come together as a wrestling team rather than an item. As cringey and predictable as it was seeing Cena get down on one knee at Wrestlemania, that was at least a classy gesture by WWE, not forcing Nikki Bella or Cena into the archetype of being mere boyfriend and girlfriend. They still maintained that aura of being two individual wrestlers who were competing alongside one another to settle a score.
Rusev and Lana is another example of how WWE have exploited a non-kayfabe relationship for their own sordid use. Looking back on how he and Lana first started, they were referred to as business associates, much like how Zelina Vega and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas are today. In 2015 that suddenly wasn’t good enough for the writers, who pushed for adultery and abuse to be key themes in the Rusev/Ziggler feud. Lana went from being a fairly decent heel valet to being another example of Vince’s sex sells mindset. Unfortunately, their relationship status suffered even more after that debacle of a feud when Rusev and Aiden English recently split. Lana was once again used as a salacious symbol to try and put over how intensely personal the two former stablemates’ rivalry had become. It made no sense and was an absolute mockery of everyone involved.
This seriously needs to change. Vince, Dunne and any others still clinging onto a bygone era have to start changing their mindset. For a company that strives to be considered one of the most progressive brands of mainstream entertainment, they have a very hypocritical view on what is considered good use of female talent.