With WWE just about coming out on the other side of their horrific injury run, there’s a lot been said about how they’ve managed to get in the state they were in. Some have speculated that it’s due to training. Others, the ongoing need to impress to earn a (better) spot… but what about the schedule itself? Is there a need for house shows to continue in their current format?
Every weekend, WWE runs several live events as a warm-up to that week’s television tapings. Without fail, those cards are either re-runs of pay-per-view matches, with the only notable events being either a reshuffling of the lower card, or the instances where NXT talents are given a run on WWE live events – guys like Baron Corbin, Enzo Amore/Colin Cassady and Mojo Rawley all joining the main roster guys for a weekend, as the WWE agents looked to evaluate potential call-ups. With NXT touring more and more frequently, such “try outs” will likely become more scarce, but there is a way to freshen up the house show loop without resorting to replaying or practising matches for future shows.
Now we’ve got to remember that WWE is a televised company, and that at least 99% of what happens on house shows will be for nought. So, instead of delivering a product that only the most casual of fans know is meaningless, why not take advantage of that fact and make the shows more entertaining, more random, and ultimately more memorable than (say) Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose part 2,194.
For a company like WWE, it’s an awkward balancing act. Not every town has a venue fit to hold a television taping (or indeed, is glamorous enough for WWE to want to tape there without lying about it). However, WWE seeks to give everyone the television show experience… without giving away too much what is going on. With these repetitive shows come the risk of injuries and burned out crowds, so why not try something different to freshen things up?
This past weekend, New Japan wrapped up their FantasticaMania series of shows with cards that contained singles matches when they were used to set up important angles or title changes, and the rest of the cards comprised seemingly random tag matches. Six mans, eight mans, ten man tags – it gave wrestlers ring time, but also allowed guys to go easy whilst still getting a payday for the night. Now, seeing how WWE has gradually taught us that virtually nothing on their live shows matter. Title changes are infrequent, and are usually reversed on the next television show, and since there’s five hours of new main roster content on TV every week (not counting Main Event or Superstars), chances are that the storyline-based matches will have been played out by the time Vince’s travelling show visits your small town. So, what harm is there in borrowing a page out of Japan’s book, and focusing on multi-man matches, and how would this be practical on a WWE show?
Well, look at a typical Raw or SmackDown going into a pay per view, you tend to see storylines mixed together anyway – so instead of seeing reruns of Owens vs Ambrose, Del Rio vs Kalisto, we could have eight man tag team matches – Ambrose, Kalisto and the Usos vs Owens, Del Rio, Rusev and Sheamus. Give that match time, and you get eight guys working with their current storyline partner and against potential future storyline opponents, and with the added bonus of being able to keep injured or sore performers in the spotlight without aggravating things too much.
When the time comes to adding in new guys from NXT, insert them in these tag matches before their debut, so they get ring time and maybe tip the proverbial hat towards future opponents. You could still headline shows with the WWE title matches to keep things special, but if you’re going to do anything meaningful on live events, it can’t hurt to change the format once in a while. Casual fans aren’t suddenly going to stop buying tickets en masse if John Cena goes from defending a title against someone he’s already beaten multiple times on TV, to being a part of tag team match including some guys he’s not usually up against?
If only to stop the live shows from becoming bland and passe, it’s got to be worth a shot!