I want to preface this by saying: I’ve never written any kind of television show, especially one that literally never ends. I don’t know how to book a wrestling show, write interesting dialogue, or craft compelling storylines.
But I do have a good idea of what I personally like, and what I think works well, and I’ve compiled a (rather long) list of changes I’d love to see implemented on WWE’s flagship shows (Raw and SmackDown Live), plus a few thoughts on the NXT product.
WWE currently averages at least 8 hours of television each week, split between 5 different shows (Raw, SmackDown Live, 205 Live, NXT UK, and NXT). Out of those 8 hours, I usually enjoy about 5, and would never say that five hours of good-to-great television a week isn’t impressive.
That being said, WWE’s most-watched show, Monday Night Raw, is often a huge part of the 3 hours or so that I don’t enjoy. Starting the week off with a stinker also leads to a lot of fans stepping away from wrestling for the week, meaning shows that are often good (SmackDown Live for example) are skipped completely.
The lackluster Raws, along with a stale format that’s legitimately decades old, has led to a decline in ratings and fans begging for change.
At this point, I think a change is not only necessary but needs to be quite drastic. Everything from the way the products looks and feels, to the way the roster is handled, to the TV lineup itself needs to be completely revamped.
A substantial change in the way WWE does things would draw up enough press to lead a lot of old (and new) eyes shifting back to their product. And if it’s good, who knows, they may stick around for a while.
Now I truly believe that WWE’s biggest problem is that they simply have too much content to produce, which leads to talent (and their creative team) becoming worn out and over-exposed. But it’s a business, and all of that content is their biggest revenue stream, so I’m going to try to make it work in that format.
The following is a list of 20 things I would change about today’s WWE product, including its weekly television format, the way they do pay-per-views, and even the way they manage their roster.
1. Create a Darker, Grittier-Looking Television Product
One thing that jumps out at me when watching today’s product is just how… shiny everything looks. When you go back and watch older episodes of Raw, before WWE went HD in 2008, things were much darker and grittier, which just works well with wrestling.
Sure, this is a personal taste thing, but I just don’t think wrestling is supposed to be so bright and polished. I mean, wrestling is a pretty metal business, people are fighting each other. But today’s Raw and SmackDown Live look way more pop than metal, which just doesn’t work.
For a while, I believed that this was simply the price of moving to HD. But then NXT came along, and even UFC, and showed me that you can do dark and gritty and still have it look great in HD.
With NXT’s production, there’s little-to-no lighting on the crowd, and they lean heavily the color black, but you can still tell that there’s a big budget behind the product. Simply put, it has a cool factor and underground feel to it but doesn’t look like it’s being filmed in someone’s dimly lit basement with a cheap camera.
In fact, because they often fall on back-to-back nights, WWE frequently uses the exact same stage layout for their NXT TakeOver events and their main roster pay-per-views. So in the same building, using the same equipment, NXT can successfully achieve their signature look without doing anything besides turning the lights down and changing the color of the ring mat.
WWE needs to adopt NXT’s approach to production and make their shows feel raw again (no pun intended).
2. Quit with the Camera Shakes and Cuts
This one is pretty self-explanatory…
LMAOOOO LOOK AT THE CAMERA MAN, Kevin Dunn needs to be stopped pic.twitter.com/zWAKGI6Iss— WrestlinGifs (@WrestlinGifs) March 19, 2019
WWE has a bit of a problem with their camera work, and it can sometimes ruin some pretty awesome moments. The need to shake the camera violently and cut to a different camera shot right before the impact of every single move is absolutely unnecessary.
WWE’s roster is talented enough to present matches that look crisp and hard-hitting without giving viewers at home motion sickness.
3. More Small Presentation Changes
- Bring back opening video packages for Raw and SmackDown Live
- Bring back pyro for PPVs (or all shows, whatever the budget allows)
- Create custom sets for all stadium shows (Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, etc.)
4. Completely Revamp the Way Promos Are Done
As I stated earlier, WWE’s television show as been formatted exactly the same for decades. The average episode of Raw has gone like this for as long as I can remember:
- A 15-minute promo that sets up the first match or the main event
- The match itself (either in the next segment or at the end of the show)
I think it’s time to retire that formula for good, and in fact, reduce the amount of in-ring promos across the board.
That’s not to say WWE should cut talking completely; they have an abundance of talented people that can handle their own on the microphone. Some people may need more scripting than others, but there’s a solid group of talkers that can sell matches and feuds by captivating audiences with their words.
The problem is, the 15-minute in-ring promo and the backstage interview have both grown stale, and the format often hurts the talent more than it helps them.
My idea? Reduce the amount of traditional in-ring and backstage promos and replace the majority of them with highly produced video packages, the likes of which can already be found on WWE’s YouTube channel and on the WWE Network.
They already create this style of content, and quite well I might add, they just need to show more of it on television.
In my opinion, only a handful of segments should ever go longer than a few minutes, which works perfectly with this format. Also, aesthetically speaking, they fit in well with the desired grittier vibe of the show and feel fresh and exciting.
WWE is trying to tell compelling stories, and people’s words will always be a huge part of that storytelling process. Combining these video packages with stuff like Bray Wyat’s Firefly Fun House will help freshen things up and give a declining television product a much-needed jolt.
5. Get More Creative with Bumpers
Lately, WWE’s done a much better job of hyping the post-commercial break segment in an attempt to keep viewers from changing the channel.
Their main strategy is showing the person in the next match or segment making their entrance prior to the commercial break.
This works, but can be a bit repetitive after a while, and also leaves some poor soul awkwardly standing in the ring for several minutes. Using this every now and then is fine, but there are other ways to utilize bumpers that can hype the next segment and keep viewers interested enough to endure the commercial break.
- The “up next” match graphic
- The backstage walk
- A highlight package for a Superstar in the next segment (See the Cesaro video below)
You’ll probably need more video producers to make this video package-heavy product happen due to sheer demand, but you’ll also need fewer writers, so things would balance themselves out.
6. Mix up The Match Lengths
WWE’s in-ring product has arguably never been better.
The amount of must-see matches from the last few years has been astonishingly high, and from a pure wrestling standpoint, WWE’s roster is as good as it’s ever been.
If there’s one thing about WWE’s in-ring product that I’d like to see change, it’s more variety in the length of matches, especially on television.
Sure, a show full of 1-minute squash matches is going to be boring.
But if every show has:
- One or two short, squash matches
- One or two five-minute sprints (NXT does this style of the match well)
- And then one or two 10-minute, competitive matches
I think you’ll have more stars, and weekly television shows that flow better.
Squash matches are necessary for building up talent as dominant forces. 5-minute sprints are a great way to have a couple of shorter, entertaining matches on each show. And again, not many things on the show should ever go longer than 5-8 minutes, but you have a PPV-quality match on every show nowadays to satisfy a certain demographic of fans.
7. Speed Things Up
Both SmackDown Live and NXT flow from segment-to-segment rather quickly, giving the shows an exciting and must-see feel. Raw, on the other hand, has a lot more time to fill, and as a result, the show can often drag.
Segments need to follow one another rapidly, with little time for the viewer to breathe between them. When done corrrectly, this strategy helps a show go by a bit quicker and also gets more people on TV, which is always a good thing.
8. Lean Heavily on the Entire Card
Speaking of getting more people on TV…
It’s a pretty obvious statement, but WWE is at its best when all of their divisions are thriving. When the tag division, the mid-card scene, the women’s division, and the main event scene are all hot, the show is much more enjoyable and every segment becomes can’t miss.
WWE needs to have multiple segments from every single division on each show every week. They have the talent to do this, it just takes a concerted effort from the people crafting the show to do so at this point.
Right now WWE doesn’t have a Steve Austin or The Rock bringing people in the doors and in front of their TVs each week. It’s a team effort, and WWE’s product is only going to be as strong as its weakest links.
9. Leave the Arena More
If there’s one thing WWE should bring back from the Attitude Era, it’s segments that take place outside of the arena.
WWE has some interesting characters that would do well in this kind of environment. And if you think about it, some of the most memorable WWE segments of all time didn’t happen inside of a ring, or even inside of an arena.
I mean fans still talk about DX’s tank invasion and Stone Cold attacking Booker T in the grocery store.
10. Plan Ahead and Advertise Heavily
It’s pretty well known that WWE makes last-minute changes to their scripts far too often. This may be easier said than done, but if they can get two or three segments fleshed out around five days before the next show, they’ll have some things they can plug on social media (and TV) to draw up interest.
Simply put, by Wednesday, I should have two or three big segments to make me excited about the following Monday’s Raw.
11. Bring Back Special Episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live
Remember those Raw Roulette specials WWE used to do? The “spin the wheel” gimmick often made an episode of Raw feel like a pay-per-view and created a show, at least for one week, that you couldn’t miss.
WWE should bring back Raw Roulette, Old-School Raw, and other themed episodes of their weekly TV shows more often to generate buzz and interest, potentially bringing back some older, more casual fans in the process.
12. End Each Show With a Bang
Again, this is easier said than done, but when a show ends with a hot segment, it’s really fun to be a fan.
Social media is buzzing and fans can’t wait to see what happens next. In fact, a hot ending can often turn an average episode of Raw into a great one.
WWE’s weekly TV shows often end in rather anti-climactic fashion, with the winner of the main event celebrating a meaningless victory in the ring as the copyright logo appears in the bottom left corner of the screen.
However, when WWE gets it right, and the show goes off the air with a bit of momentum, there’s nothing quite like it.
13. Get Rid of Most Gimmick Pay-Per-Views
Right now, WWE leans too heavily on gimmicks to sell pay-per-views. For instance, WWE can use the fact that Hell in a Cell is coming up in two weeks to set up a Hell in a Cell match, instead of creating an interesting blood feud that ends inside the structure after months of intrigue.
Eliminating these crutches would force WWE to create captivating storylines to sell their Network subscriptions and pay-per-views, instead of just saying “hey, TLC is next week, check it out!”
My ideal 12-month PPV schedule would something like this:
- Royal Rumble (January)
- Fastlane (February)
- WrestleMania (April)
- Backlash (May)
- King of the Ring (June)*
- Battleground (July)
- SummerSlam (August)
- No Way Out (September)
- Money in the Bank (October)
- Evolution (October)
- Survivor Series (November)
- Vengeance (December)
*Note: The “King of the Ring” concept is awesome, and a great way to set up SummerSlam challengers and fill TV time for a few weeks, but the name needs work. There would no doubt be a women’s tournament, too, making the KOTR branding dated. Someone come up with a name that works and tweet it to us, @TheRumbleRamble.
The shows alternate “A show, B show,” meaning a major event and smaller event. A typical “A show” format would look something like this:
- 10 main card matches, 2 pre-show matches
- 6:00-11:00 PM EST.
- A four-hour main card, a one-hour pre-show
And the “B show” format:
- 8 main card matches, two pre-show matches
- 7:00-11:00 PM EST,
- A three-hour main card, a one-hour pre-show
That would help eliminate some of these 6 and 7-hour pay-per-view events, which often hurt the latter half of the card. I’m all for getting as many people on TV as reasonably possible, but sometimes too much is too much.
14. Don’t Touch the NXT TakeOver Format
The NXT TakeOver format should stay the same. A lot of people love these shows (myself included), so there’s no need to change anything about them.
NXT TakeOver Weekends:
- Royal Rumble (January)
- WrestleMania (April)
- KOTR (June)
- Survivor Series (November)
15. Bring Back General Managers
WWE got rid of General Managers on Raw and SmackDown Live and they really need to bring them back. Some things I’d like to see in current-day GMs:
- No heels (please, we’ve seen enough of this)
- No active wrestlers
- Model all GMs after Paige, Drake Maverick, and NXT William Regal
16. Enforce the Brand Split
WWE’s gotten a little weird with the brand split lately and people are showing up all over the place. This kind of ruins Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, advertised as the only two nights where brands should engage with one another.
I’d put a stop to this and leave those two nights, along with the WrestleMania battle royals, as the only interaction between Raw and SmackDown Live each year.
17. Replace the Superstar Shake-up with a Trade Season
Once General Managers are back, WWE should replace the Superstar Shake-up with a sports-like trade season. Roster moves are exciting and necessary to create new feuds and matchups, but the current format is confusing and leaves a lot to be desired.
As far as the trade season is concerned, I’d have it start the night after WrestleMania and end the week of Survivor Series. This gives WWE a near 8-month window to make any roster moves needed but locks them in place for WrestleMania season.
Also, can you imagine Raw or SmackDown making a last-minute trade the week of Survivor Series to tip the scales in favor of their brand? That storyline writes itself!
18. Utilize Mini-Feuds to Keep Feuds Fresh
Mini-feuds are essential to creating captivating weekly television without spoiling your big pay-per-view matches on free TV.
A great example of this was in 2002 when The Undertaker was feuding with Jeff Hardy for a few weeks on Raw while also feuding with Brock Lesnar on SmackDown Live (and eventually pay-per-view). This feud gave ‘Taker something exciting to do on TV each week, kept him and Lesnar away from one another, and gave a young Jeff Hardy a well-deserved spotlight.
Everybody won, and we got an all-time classic ladder match between Hardy and ‘Taker on Raw, which made that particular episode must-see. More mini-feuds could be beneficial for people like Chad Gable and Ember Moon, two extremely talented people who have struggled to find their place on TV.
19. Bring Back Factions
From The Nation of Domination to Undisputed Era, some of the biggest and best acts in WWE’s history have been factions. Simply put, factions rule, and WWE should bring them back to prominence.
Factions, for the most part, have always worked out well and are a fun and creative way to get more people on TV on a routine basis. Faction warfare also helps make the weekly TV product more interesting, which is the overall goal here.
20. Just for Fun: An Ideal TV Lineup
Finally, here’s what WWE’s weekly TV lineup would look like if I were calling the shots. Again, one of WWE’s biggest issues is that they simply have too much content, but money is money and that’s not going away anytime soon.
I tried to make the best out of the situation by utilizing all of that air time to create (hopefully) an exciting lineup. The lineup looks something like this:
- WWE Raw (Monday on the USA Network)
- In-Studio Show (Tuesday on Fox Sports 1)
- NXT and NXT UK (Wednesday on the WWE Network)
- All Women’s Show (Thursday on the WWE Network)*
- SmackDown Live (Friday on Fox)
*Note: I’d replace 205 Live with an all women’s show. You can tape matches before and after Raw and SmackDown Live, utilizing talent from each brand.