One of the major gripes that people have about the modern WWE product is its presentation. Whether the argument is made about their PG rating or its overall visual presentation, some fans feel that WWE’s presentation has changed for the worse. Whilst I don’t think that’s necessarily true, I do feel that there are several things that WWE can do to improve the presentation of their product. So, with this in mind, here are five things that the WWE can do improve the overall presentation of their product. Whether it’s with its commentary or how they shoot the show, these changes could help make the WWE product better.
1 Less rigidity/structure in backstage segments
To start with the thing that irritates me more than the rest of my points, I can’t stand certain WWE tropes in regards to the layout of backstage segments. Certain things such as watching a TV monitor sideways and randomly having personal conversations in front of a camera makes the presentation of wrestling like phony and silly. One thing I will give Vince Russo credit for is the ‘fly on the wall’ format used in TNA during the early 2010s.
Even though the segments were usually poor, it at least made sense as a group like Aces and Eights would not be telling a camera man how they are going to attack AJ Styles or Christopher Daniels. I also enjoy New Japan's use of press conferences to further storylines. It helps the performers loosen up and can also help advance storylines in a less forced manner. Michael Elgin going up to Tetsuya Naito and saying that he was going to kick his teeth in after Naito’s match at Wrestle Kingdom was the perfect way to set up their feud for the following month's New Beginning in Osaka show.
With this in mind, the changes I would make in regards to this are to not have guy’s watching the TV sideways. If you have to have a segment where they are watching the TV, then they should watch the television front-on like a normal member of society. I would not have people talk about their match with someone else in front of a camera. I would use a more fly on the wall approach like TNA in the early 2010’s.
If we are going to have segments where the General Manager is talking to someone backstage, they would at the very least be behind a desk and not in front if a poster of the latest movie that they have to plug. Lastly, I would implement Renee Young into the show more. She is fantastic at making a backstage segment feel natural as she always has a charm about her that makes the performers loosen up; she is great at making segments feel relaxed as she is a very easy going lady.
By implementing her more into a Mean Gene Okerlund type of position, I feel that she can be a fantastic avenue for people to further their storylines. Although there are a slew of minor changes that could also be made, I feel that those are the main ways that WWE could improve their backstage segments.
2 Better camera work
I think WWE should be looking at more legitimate sports in regards to how they utilise their camerawork. I feel that WWE tend to focus on shaky cam and quick cut’s too much, and it ends up feeling more like a cheap found footage film than an actual competitive sport. It can also be an eyesore to certain viewers then you see 20 camera cut’s in a 30-second span.
I look at a sport like NFL or Cricket and see how they use their camera work. They use zooms appropriately to highlight and focus on a player; they use creative camera angles to give fans a different perspective of the action, and they don’t need to over use Camera cuts, and when they do utilise them, it actually adds to the product.
My main point about the WWE camera work is that it should have a more sports like presentation, as opposed to a found footage horror film. WWE should be looking to use the camera angles to emphasis their talent. Instead of trying to create a fast-paced environment, they should let their action breathe and focus on showcasing the performers. They should utilise an eagle eye camera to give a different perspective, with the famous image of Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania 10 showing an effective way to create an iconic visual. These changes can help the WWE’s presentation feel more authentic, and mimicking an actual sports presentation could help legitimize it the eyes of a casual fan.
3 Cut down on use of buzzwords and catchphrases
A problem that I feel isolates a more casual fanbase is the WWE’s overuse of buzzwords and catchphrases. A big complaint I have about Corey Graves is that he is someone that over-relies on using nicknames and catchphrases. For example, he will call Neville ‘King of the Cruiserweights’ ten times in one segment. Not only is it incredibly jarring, is also makes the WWE feel gimmicky and cheap. This isn't entirely Corey's fault, as he's surely taking guidance from Vince or someone else in the back.
If you go back to mid to late 90’s WWE, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were masters of making the nicknames feel organic. JR would only use ‘Stone cold’ to add to the shock and excitement of the segment. Japanese commentators will only call Kazuchika Okada ‘The Rainmaker’ during the climatic moments, and their sense of excitement and urgency makes the phrase mean more. Furthermore, a big reason the UFC decided to let go of Mike Goldberg was because he felt too much like a corporate shill, and people like Joe Rogan or Mauro Ranallo are more effective at making commentary feel less corporate and more personable.
So, for WWE to achieve this, I would limit the use of nicknames drastically. I would tell the commentators to call the action and tell the story about what they are doing in the ring. I feel that WWE focus about having the catchphrases so they can make video packages for Network Specials and Pay-Per-Views feel more dramatic, to which I say they could edit that stuff in later.
Something like Rusev vs Chad Gable could have been more effective if Tom Phillips had told the story of Chad Gable trying to shoot the single leg on Rusev in ground him instead of plugging their sponsor Sonic. Michael Cole showed us that he can be that type commentator, as he told a great story in the UK special of Pete Dunne trying to ruin Tyler Bate's shoulder and henceforth neutralising his ability to perform his signature Tyler Driver ’97. I also feel that Roman Reigns could help improve his popularity if they were not trying to shove the ‘Big Dog’ moniker down our throats. These changes could really help the WWE feel less corporate and help the casual viewer better identify with the product.
4 Less emphasis on the crowds
One of my major pet peeves about modern wrestling is the role of the modern crowd. I feel that since CM Punk proclaimed himself as the ‘voice of the voiceless’ and WWE started to acknowledge the post-Wrestlemania crowd, fans have gained a sense of entitlement, and often they have taken away from the viewing experience more than they have added to it. This could be seen with the post-SummerSlam crowd where they decided to focus on a beach ball rather than watch a match between Jason Jordan and Finn Balor.
My major issue with this is that fans complain after just five weeks that the Jason Jordan experiment isn’t working, yet when he is trying to get over, the crowd aren’t focused on him. Whilst the argument can be made that ‘the fans pay the ticket, if we don’t like what’s going on we will crap on it’. My personal response is, ‘Then why will you pay hundreds of dollars for tickets just to crap on the guys then complain that they’re not getting over.'
Now, I don’t think that the WWE should completely ignore the fans, as alienation is not a fiscally smart move, but I feel that they should stop giving a spotlight to fans when they are crapping on segments and certain wrestlers.
WWE should be trying to present the stars, not the guy who travelled 45 kilometres from Hammond, Indiana to see the RAW taping. If we de-emphasised the Fanbase, maybe they will lose the sense of entitlement and realised that they need to work with the WWE in a more constructive manner in order to further develop the personalities of each wrestler.
By cutting crowd reaction shots, I feel that WWE can help translate what they are trying to with certain wrestlers, as a casual viewer won’t just boo Bayley because everyone else is booing her.
5 Increased use of sitdown interviews
One of my favourite things about wrestling, and to a degree MMA, is when people do candid sit-down interviews with an interviewer. I think Michael Cole’s WWE exclusive interviews that used to air on YouTube were one of the best things WWE ever put on their YouTube channel.
Furthermore, two of the more effective promos this year were with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman being interviewed in this format by Michael Cole, with the infamous promo of Brock staring directly into the camera whilst Paul Heyman talked about Goldberg and the promo where Samoa Joe tried to burst in on Brock both elevating the intensity of each feud. I feel that this format can help elevate various personalities and loosens the shackles of certain personalities.
If Kevin Owens had used this format to explain why AJ Styles represents a bleak future for America, or if Alexa Bliss had used this to explain her hatred for Sasha Banks, then I feel that those respective feuds could have had an injection of realism and reality.
A major reason the recent Cena/Reigns worked shoot promo worked was because people believed that Cena was shooting from the hip. This format enables honesty from the performers, and in a climate where the fans gravitate towards the ‘shoot’ aspect of wrestling, I feel that this is exactly what they want.
What changes do you wish WWE would make? Let us know in the comments below!
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