Times have changed somewhat in the WWE. For me, wrestling has meant different things. Back in the early 90s when I was just a kid, it was about larger than life heroes. It was about Hulk Hogan pulling his shirt apart and planting his opponents with the leg drop of doom. It was about the pride of Manchester the British Bulldog and the sinister Undertaker, accompanied a big old hearse and Paul Bearer.
I took a rather long sabbatical from wrestling only to return to it once more in the year 2000, just after WrestleMania 16. Gone were the bold and bright tights and the outlandish gimmicks and in its place an edgier grittier product. You had The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H and guys like Chris Jericho. The audiences had also changed. Shows were more violent and the valets wore skimpier clothing. My eyes near FELL OUT the first time I saw Trish Stratus at Backlash, where she was kitted in white lingerie as she tried to get in the head of Bubba Ray Dudley. Since then, things have changed again. The shows became more family friendly. There’s less blood. Less foul language, more kiddy merchandise and the larger than life superheroes have returned somewhat with their “NEVER GIVE UP” attitudes and their accompanying t-shirts. The roles of women have changed too. Gone are the days when the women of the WWE were simply there to window dress. Sure, the girls are still beautiful but they are athletes now with a “I can do just what a man can do” attitude. An example of this is the first ever ladies Hell in a Cell Match this Sunday on the WWE Network. As for the men, there is plenty of talent there also. You could argue that the male competitors of the WWE are more athletic and technically minded than ever. For sure, they aren’t afraid to take a bump or too. But the ratings are also dropping. Is this simply because the content is now PG-13? Personally I think the problems are even more deep rooted than that.
Now I am not going to lie here and say that I didn’t enjoy the Attitude Era. It was great. It was okay to say F U to your boss in the WWE or flip him the bird. Wrestlers seemed willing to go to the extreme in matches with a variety of weapons and spots that satiated even the most blood thirsty; and the red blooded males (the Trumps of this world) got their bra and panties matches too. Yes, many were happy seeing beautiful women and men beating each other senseless with weapons. But you see, those aren’t the only differences in how shows were formulated.
Look at this week’s Hell in a Cell card for example.
As it stands the card is:
WWE Universal Championship Hell in a Cell Match:
-Kevin Owens (c) vs. Seth Rollins
WWE Raw Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match:
-Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte
WWE United States Championship Hell in a Cell Match:
-Roman Reigns (c) vs. Rusev (with Lana)
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match:
-The New Day (c’s) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
-TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick
-Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass
Let’s break it down. So for starters, you’ve got a tag team match with Enzo and Big Cass versus Gallows and Anderson. This match was thrown together two weeks ago. Investment level – zero.
The Cruiserweight title match? Four weeks or really short segments with two guys that have shown very little charisma and a lacklustre opening match at Night of Champions. So we’ve essentially got a repeat of the last Raw PPV.
Next, will be have New Day versus Sheamus and Cesaro. Well Sheamus and Cesaro have been at each other’s throats for a long time and now they are thrown together as partners. Their feud was meant to lead to bigger things but instead, maybe nothing more than a novelty tag team run while Gallows and Anderson get duped.
Roman Reigns and Rusev next, in a Hell in a Cell Match. This is supposed to be one of the three main events. Firstly, it’s for the United States Title. Secondly, it’s so one sided it’s unbelievable and thirdly – it’s a pretty crap feud all round for a main event. No interest here.
The Women’s Match is interesting. No doubt are thes girls talented athletes. But I’ve seen these two feud for so long now that I’m bored. Let’s hope this Hell in a Cell Match ends it. Does WWE even know who to turn to next? I don’t think they do.
And finally, Kevin Owens versus Seth Rollins. Personally I think more people care about Chris Jericho and Seth Rollins. This feud has been going on for 6 weeks and it already gets a Hell in a Cell Match. No. just no.
Basically, what I’m saying is that this show is not well formulated and leaves little to be desired.
Now take a look at Fully Loaded from 2000. This was the July PPV. It also had a Triple main event.
It started off with the Hardy Boyz and Lita versus Test, Albert and Trish Stratus. And while it was an opening match, it had some substance. Both teams were in the hunt for tag team gold and after both teams failed to win it at King of the Ring, they ended up feuding with each other.
Tazz then fought Al Snow. Tazz had been running in during matches and attacking people and this was his first proper match back. A filler but with purpose. To see a bad ass Tazz.
Next up was Eddie Guerrero and Perry Saturn for the European Title. Eddie and Saturn joined the WWE together as part of the Radicalz but his relationship with Chyna caused some friction. This happened over months and led to this feud.
Edge and Christian defeated the APA in a match that followed weeks of E&C constantly finding excuses not to defend their titles against the APA who had yet to challenge them. Great comedic build up.
Then came a cage match between Rikishi and Val Venis for the intercontinental title. It started at King of the Ring where Val lost to Rikishi in the semi finals only to beat him down after the match. Next night on Raw, through cheating,Val won the title off Rikishi. Things blew up between these two and led to a cage match.
Then came main event 1 – Kurt Angle vs The Undertaker. Kurt Angle had just won the King of the Ring and the next night on Raw he got involved in a tag team match between his buddies Edge and Christian and the Undertaker and Kane, helping them to retain by attacking the Undertaker. Taker was mad and wanted revenge challenging Angle.
The second main event was Triple H and Chris Jericho in a last man standing Match. At King of the Ring, Jericho kissed Triple H’s storyline wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, resulting in McMahon, costing him the King of the Ring tournament quarter-final match against Kurt Angle. On the June 26 episode of Raw is War, Jericho’s match with Triple H’s faction D-Generation X member X-Pac was interrupted when Triple H and DX attacked Jericho. Later that night, Jericho interfered in a Triple Threat match pitting Triple H against The Rock and Kurt Angle. Jericho attacked Triple H, costing him the match and another shot at the WWE title. These two had been at each other’s throats since before Backlash and was a great end to their feud.
And then the main event which pitted The Rock against Chris Benoit over the WWF Championship. At King of the Ring, Rock won the title from Triple H in a six-man tag team match, when Rock and his partners The Undertaker and Kane defeated McMahon-Helmsley Faction (Triple H, Vince and Shane McMahon). On the July 3 episode of Raw is War, the WWF Commissioner Mick Foley announced that Rock would defend the title against Shane McMahon later that night. Rock defended the title against McMahon in the main event, which was interrupted by Benoit, who attacked Rock during the match. The next week on Raw is War, Rock and Benoit competed in a standard wrestling match. Although Benoit seemingly won the match after McMahon’s interference, but the referee Earl Hebner disqualified Benoit, due to McMahon’s interference. On the July 13 episode of SmackDown, Foley forced Benoit to wrestle Eddie Guerrero and Chyna in a Handicap match. Benoit lost by disqualification again and attacked Hebner, causing Rock to offer Benoit a WWF Championship title shot at Fully Loaded.
So while the time frames aren’t that excessively different, what is clear is that the writing back then seemed to flow better. Storylines seemed connected. There were less abrupt endings. There were less random attacks for no reasons. Guys had agendas and personal feuds that went on for months and everyone seemed to connect. The WWF was its only little universe. These days, storylines seem forced and unnatural. Why are all these Hell in a Cell matches needing to take place? Is that really necessary?
It’s a shame because the roster is there but the writing sadly is not.