While we remember when announcers like JBL and Jerry Lawler were on the top of their game, that time isn’t now.
Either through their own volition or via the lines that are fed to them from the back, the commentary just isn’t working.
During the matches, little mention is made about what’s actually happening. Maybe, with some luck, you’ll hear 1 of the 3 commentators call a clothesline and a pair of signature moves.
The result is: your eyes are seeing one thing, and your ears are hearing another, which is dissociative, like taking a bite out of a burger and tasting fruit salad.
Jim Ross-esque play-by-play isn’t dead, but I’ve sent for a priest.
Imagine football, baseball, MMA (or any sport you really enjoy), with no play-by-play whatsoever, only product plugs and the announcers going back and forth with the kind of conversation you’d expect at the water cooler.
Add to this remarks like JBL saying he’s “bored already” during Jericho’s opening Highlight Reel. While I more than support heel commentators (I loved heel Lawler, Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan), there’s a way to go about it.
You can speak ill of the babyfaces, while making them seem important. You can say Jericho is spouting lies, being disrespectful to The Authority… saying the segment is boring in an annoying arm-chair-quarterback voice does nothing for the product.
It’s like even the guy getting paid to call the action doesn’t want to be there, and he’s saying it in a I-don’t-want-to-eat-my-veggies voice.
The commentary quality is in the toilet, even though it seems to be in the hands of people who have, in the past, shown their ability to do it right. Is the truck to blame?
Cutting to commercials mid-match or mid-promo sends one message: the commercial is more important than the product.
While one cut would be excusable (it could even play into an impromptu angle, for instance), the fact that the cuts are recurring show that, eh, WWE has no problem with it.
Matches often continue through TV adverts. Rusev defeated Sin Cara during a break and, last night, Jericho hit a potentially match-ending Codebreaker on Seth Rollins a second before the break.
Again, imagine any sport where, screw it, they cut to ads mid-match. Was it a touchdown? I couldn’t tell. Was the other fighter knocked out? I needed a few more seconds.
You end up not seeing important moments play out live, because the powers-that-be decided it was time to pay the bills with some ads.
If you don’t care enough to structure your product around the inevitability of TV ad breaks, you’re asking for trouble.
Add me to the list of people who have lost count of how many times a certain match is repeated. First on Raw, then rematch on Main Event, again on Smackdown.
Ryder jobbing to Rusev ad infinitum is only an example of the recurring booking given to a lot of the talent.
Especially with so much competition on TV and the Internet, repetition is not a writer’s best friend.
If I’ve seen an angle once and it isn’t great, hey, at least it was somewhat fresh. If I see it twice, I start to get cranky. Thrice and above, I started wondering why the hell I’m watching.
A sure-fire way to convince your crowd to tune out is to repeat the living sh** out of what you’re doing. Oh, you have 5 hours of TV every week plus more through the Internet? Even better. Repetition and saturation have had a working agreement for years.
A jaded wrestling fan has come to expect a few below-average segments on the show he’s watching. At this point, they’re a given. Poor writing, green talent, non-existing chemistry, there’s always going to be something.
But there are safety valves. Agents, writers and even promoters know when something doesn’t work, sooner or later. Good sense and experience give you a nose for detecting these things.
If not, when the crowds are systematically unenthusiastic about a certain storyline, the plug is eventually pulled.
Unfortunately, carrying on a bad storyline doesn’t just mean people won’t be interested in that specific program.
If it’s atrocious and keeps coming up on your TV set, you’ll feel pushed and pushed until you go watch something else. Something that you can be emotionally invested in without constant disappointments.
After several weeks of under-delivering, the Bella vs. Bella program is still getting a lot of TV time.
The Bellas, especially Brie, are still too far off from where they should be quality-wise, given their tenure and the investment put into their feud.
While this program could be shortened, the effort seems to be on making it last.
And when you force feed the viewer angles featuring talent that just can’t deliver, you have to take them off TV ASAP, before the audience’s frustration and embarrassment make them non-viewers.
The jaded fan also knows that, with the bad, comes the good. You take the bad stuff, knowing (or at least hoping) the same show will also deliver those talented wrestlers that don’t know how to miss.
But it’s up to the bookers to put aforementioned talented people on TV, working matches and promos. In the right stories.
More often than not, recent weeks have been about misses. Not hits.
Jericho feuds with Wyatt, runs into Orton. But both are lukewarm affairs. Get him to cross paths with Triple H and Stephanie, sparks fly. Even though WWE isn’t booking Jericho vs. The Authority, it’s clear that’s the momentum builder and what elicits the crowd’s emotion.
But no attempts are made to “cash in” on these sparks, which WWE stumbled onto, while running other storylines.
More. Cesaro was super hot and got a huge platform at Wrestlemania. He’s back into midcard “obscurity”, working mostly as a mechanic in the middle of the card. In a matter of months, WWE stumbled onto his organic rise, but didn’t give it adequate and sustained follow-up.
The list goes on.
Organic heat is the only kind of heat that really counts. But WWE isn’t cashing in on the crowd-pleasing rising stars.
It’s like they’re showing us the mouth-watering filet mignon and that switching it for week-old bread. Right in front of us.
There. Screwed up.
By cashing in on the bad, rejecting the good, plugging apps as cross-bodies and arm-drags are delivered in the match we’ve seen for the last 4 weeks, WWE is doing what in 1997 would have dug them a grave big enough for Titan Towers.
Back then, competition was unforgiving of such mistakes.
To be fair, I don’t consider last night’s Raw atrocious. I thought it was bad, but not insanely bad. It had a few good moments.
It’s the history, it’s the track record. WWE has been delivering sub-par writing for too long, as things reach a point where patience wears too thin and the wrong angles at wrong time detonate the ticking time-bomb that is pro wrestling frustration.
Your thoughts are always appreciated below, my heel friend.