There are few things wrestling fans agree on in 2017. Many love wrestlers like the Young Bucks while others deride their style and skill calling them ripoffs. Some people place WWE programming above all else and some consider New Japan Pro Wrestling the standard-bearer for the modern age. In an era where “Let’s Go That Guy, That Guy Sucks” chants are heard in arenas everywhere there is one thing we all agree on: the writing in WWE is terrible right now. We just don’t get it. The jokes are flat. The promos lack real emotion. The angles make no sense. Here are 5 reasons why WWE writing is terrible in 2017.
In no particular order:
- With all credit for this one given to Mark Whitman who probably gave someone else credit in a humble manner: these writers have never been in a real fight, but are trying to write how 2 people would get in a real fight. Many of these writers didn’t grow up on wrestling. They’re just trying to climb the writing ladder until they are writing jokes for Stephen Colbert or get lucky with a movie script. Which leads me to…
- They are not writing for a live crowd. One of my favorite movies is “Comedian” starring Jerry Seinfeld. It’s about the journey he takes to create new material for the first time in over a decade and for the first time since Seinfeld came to an end. It is a sometimes painful look at the hard work of writing, developing, and telling jokes. To see Jerry Seinfeld bomb and times and have jokes fall flat is a crazy sight, but you also get to see his craft. You see the way he shapes a bit over time until it’s over with the audience. WWE writers don’t have this luxury or experience. They don’t write with a knack for anticipating how the audience will react because most of them have never performed in front of a live audience. Also, they are writing new material every single week. It’s doesn’t get to be tested out on audiences. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. This is the nature of WWE’s business and programming now so it is not entirely the writer’s fault. However, that Alexa Bliss segment on Monday Night Raw on May 29, 2017 was terrible. It was terrible from my live seat and it came across even worse on TV. It was a bad concept, a bad script, and got a bad reaction. However, I don’t lay any of this on Alexa Bliss because…
- Writer’s aren’t giving the wrestlers options. What if, for the Alexa segment, they had the foresight to think about how the crowd would react(see #2). Instead of having a wrestler simply memorize their lines they could do 1 of 2 things: First, they could give the performer freedom to ad lib as necessary or they could go ahead and write the promo as a “choose your own adventure.” Hey, Alexa, if the crowd does this then you could do this. If you get out there and the crowd is not reacting the way we thought then you could try this or that. Of course, it would help if they didn’t even come up with dumb segments like this one which this leads us to another issue.
- and 5. Writer’s are writing too much for wrestlers who haven’t spoken in front of live crowds enough. Listeners of our podcast know that I am a pastor. I have been in full-time ministry for 20 years. For the past 20 years I have spoken to a live audience at least once a week for 15 minutes or more. At my first church, the senior pastor preached from a manuscript and rarely deviated from that. I thought that was what that congregation wanted so I started doing the same. It has taken me a long time to find my own style and now when I get up to preach I have my skeleton outline with my main points, quotes, and stories. I prepare enough to explain the Biblical passage we are studying that week while leaving room for improvisation based on audience reaction and where the Spirit leads. The improvisation could be a story that comes to mind related to the message or a part of my research that didn’t make it into the final document. It’s a beautiful and scary experience every time. At the typical indy wrestling show you will hear 1 or 2 and at the most 3 live promos. Most of the time, the same guys will get the live mic at every show for that promotion. There are a ton of good wrestlers out there who aren’t getting any live promo time. I have had wrestlers freeze when I inform them that we will be taping promos/interviews before the show. No amount of doing promos in the mirror, doing pre-taped promos, or coaching can prepare someone for a live promo in front of a crowd. There are skills involved that, sadly, most young wrestlers don’t even take into account. So, with WWE, you have writers trying to get their stuff in a promo that is going to be delivered by someone who has spent 20 years honing their technical skills but not their speaking skills. We have writers writing 1000 words when 100 is enough. They are writing a manuscript when a 3 point outline is all that is needed. We have wrestlers not confident enough in themselves or their skills to improvise and make the promo their own. As we have all seen, this is a recipe for disaster. I would love, LOVE, to hear Roman Reigns cut a promo at an indy show in a local gym just to hear what he would say and see how he would react and respond. What fans, wrestlers, and writers need to realize is that often times what works at the local show won’t work on a Monday Raw.
We are at this really strange place in wrestling history right now: fans want to believe it’s still real while letting everyone else know that they know it’s not real. We have entertainment writers with no wrestling experience writing for wrestling like they would a sitcom with a studio audience. Why? Because the writer’s attitude is: they know it’s “fake” so we don’t have to write anything that feels real. Here are the solutions:
- Quit hiring writers without wrestling experience to write wrestling promos. Can these same writers help with other aspects of the show? Absolutely. They just don’t need to be telling someone like Roman Reigns what to say.
- Spread the promo wealth around and find your next Mean Gene/1980’s Tony Schiavone. Of course, there will always be 2-3 main folks we need to hear from every week.(Remember that episode of TNA a while back where MVP was in 7 of the 9 segments? That’s an example of what not to do and I didn’t think MVP was terrible that night.) You need to get more wrestlers live mic time in front of a live crowd. Whether that’s on TV or house shows you’ve got to give more and more folks an opportunity to sink or swim. It’s not complicated. Find that personality to put in the ring beside the wrestler to make them appear larger than life, to ask that jumping off point question, and react like you want the fans to react. (On a side note, I am available for this position.)
- Indy promotions need to give wrestlers room to grow. Are we willing to let a guy completely bomb a promo on our show because we believe in opportunity? Are we willing to take a chance to see who’s got “it” in front of a live crowd? Not only that, but do we have the courage to actually work with them in helping get better? To give constructive criticism? To invest in the next generation? To see “our” shows as part of a bigger picture that’s about more than us? Who knows? Maybe wrestling’s best days could be ahead.
What did I miss? What did I leave out? What am I wrong about? Leave a comment and let’s keep this discussion going.
3 Count Pro Wrestling returned to Liberty, SC for their Ultimate Betrayal show. Here’s the full report:
Ace Armstrong called Josh Oglesby to the ring to address why he turned on Jay Batista at the last show. After berating the fans for not supporting him enough while he was injured he renounced his American citizenship and christened himself The Scottish Prince. He then called JC Harper and Scott Stallion out. They pledged their loyalty to him and to Scotland by kissing the “royal shoe” and formed the Highland Embassy. Scott Stallion was given the name the Scottish Stallion while JC Harper was named the Duke of St. Andrews. Ace Armstrong refused to kiss the “royal shoe” and was attacked and injured following a chair shot to his arm. Commissioner Eric Boughman announced that a handicap match had been made for later in the show featuring Gunner, Jay Batista, and Ace Armstrong vs. Josh Oglesby and The Scottish Stallion. The Duke JC Harper would be banned from the match.
1. Cruzer Lewis and Brute Force #2 fought to double countout with Brute Force #2 leaving the arena after shoving a referee.
2. Dirty and Nick Kismet defeated the Sons of Steel via pinfall following a flying body press by Dirty. Both teams played to the crowd effectively and this was a great old school style match that went 17 minutes. It is amazing how hyped a crowd can get simply by chanting “yes” or “no.” Following the loss Brice Anthony and Boomer Payne teased some tension, but hugged it out in the end.
Commissioner Eric Boughman returned to inform Brute Force #2 that he wouldn’t get paid for a match that didn’t have a finish and ordered him to face Scotty Mathews.
3. Scotty Mathews pinned Brute Force #2 following a back seat stunner aka “the back seat of my jeep.” During the match Cruzer Lewis interfered to attack Scotty Matthew who he had faced at the 2 previous 3 Count Shows. Great finish as Scotty caught Brute Force #2 who was going for the Undertaker walk the ropes spot.
Near the end of the intermission, Josh Oglesby and The Scottish Stallion attacked Gunner at his table.
As the 6 man match was set to begin, JC Harper was banned from ringside by Commissioner Boughman and Jay Batista was informed that both Gunner and Ace Armstrong were still receiving medical treatment. He would have to start the match alone. Just a minute or 2 into the match Gunner made his way to the ring to even things up.
4. Jay Batista and Gunner defeated Josh Oglesby and The Scottish Stallion when Gunner pinned Stallion with the spear. There were lots of USA chants during this match. Batista and Gunner showcased their power moves while The Highland Embassy played the heels perfectly.
5. Eric Bradford pinned Ken Magnum with a roll up to retain the 3 Count Heavyweight Title. Magnum had the match won following a double arm DDT, but someone’s music hit to halt the count. While Magnum called for the person to show their face Bradford snuck up from behind and made the pin.
Following the match Magnum cut a promo proclaiming he would not rest until he was the 3 Count Champion and he would find out who cost him the match. The next show was announced for September in Anderson, SC.
Here are some other thoughts. You never know what you are going to get from an indy wrestling crowd, but the crowd of approximately 140 made their voices heard at this show. With a crowd of this size, 2 or 3 vocal fans can “lead” the cheers and have a huge impact on the energy of the crowd. From start to finish, both the crowd and the wrestlers did their part to create and entertaining night. It is always awesome to take in a wrestling show with my kids and my 9 year old son, Drake, attending with me. He wanted a Gunner shirt just like mine in particular because it has “Phil 4:13” on it and we were able to talk to Gunner about his faith. That has an impact on adults and kids! When a 9 year old kid is yelling at the referee that the bad guys are cheating you know that they are hooked. I can’t thank Jim Constance, Tim Smith, and Dennis Williams enough for their hospitality and availability. If you’re looking for a great local show in upstate SC that is family friendly and where your kids can meet all of the wrestlers then 3 Count Pro Wrestling is for you.
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What makes a great night of Indy Wrestling? Last Saturday night I got to take in my third show put on by 3 Count Pro Wrestling and it had all the elements. Any promotion’s number 1 goal is to put on a good enough show that you will pay to come back.
I had purchased a front row ticket that included a picture with “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff. Any listener of The Double Dropkick Show knows that he has always been one of my favorites and I greatly admire his work and ministry today. I had contacted him for an interview with our show and when he returned my call I was at the hospital. My daughter was in a jet ski accident August 31 and we were there for her surgery to repair a broken left femur. I cried and got goosebumps as Nikita prayed with me over the phone and I tried my best to thank him for that on Saturday night. So, one thing a great Indy show needs is a name with a meet and greet. Other performers who regularly appear for 3 Count and take pictures and sign autographs are Lodi, Scotty Matthews, BJ Hancock and Brett Wolverton. What kid(and adult) doesn’t want to have their picture made with some of their favorite wrestlers? The recent Ring of Honor show I attended in Atlanta included pictures and Autographs with AJ Styles which was awesome as well.
The second thing a great Indy show needs is hard work. Listen, I am perfectly fine if there are no 5 star classics on the card. I understand that these guys are learning their craft and sometimes mistakes are made. If the roster busts their tails and gives me 100% then I will cheer and boo them on cue. There was a good mix of high risk moves and mat wrestling. Awesome to see young guys like Tracer X and Dirty flip and bump all over the place while Jay Batista showed the power moves. Lots of style diversity which makes it all the more compelling. BJ Hancock and Brett Wolverton are a great heel/manager combination. The 3 count roster gave their best effort. Can’t ask for much more than that.
A third thing that would definitely bring me back is a compelling angle. One match featured Josh Oglesby and Jay Batista vs. Scotty Stallion. Scotty Stallion had injured Josh Oglesby 15 months prior and as revenge he was placed in this handicap match. Oglesby and Batista spent the match beating up Stallion until Josh decided to take matters into his own hands. He exited the ring and grabbed two chairs. Batista seemed bewildered as Oglesby put Stallions head in a chair on the mat and headed to the second rope to do the same thing to Stallion that had been done to him 15 months ago. The ref pleaded for them to stop and Batista held Stallion down. Oglesby comes down…and hit Batista with the Chair! I popped for this unexpected heel turn! Stallion and Oglesby then joined forces to beat down Batista until Ace Armstrong and Nikita Koloff made the save. The main event included 3 ref bumps and interference from Stallion and Oglesby. This angle hooked me enough and I will be attending their next show in June.
A fourth thing I appreciate about a good Indy show is community involvement. Every 3 count show I have been to has benefitted a different group whether it was the Special Olympics or Christmas gifts for kids.
The final thing that makes a great Indy show is when you can enjoy it with old friends and new friends. Wrestling is not meant to be enjoyed alone. You’ve got to be with some friends that you can boo, cheer, and start chants with. Thanks to Mike Worsham and his kids for letting me join their crew for this show.
So support good local Indy Wrestling in your community. Thanks to Jim, Tim, and Dennis for making me feel welcome at this great show.
Here’s the complete card:
Ace Armstrong won a battle royal to win a spot in the #1 contender’s match in the main event.
Brice Anthony defeated Tracer X and Dirty in a 3 way match.
Scotty Mathews defeated Cruzer Lewis.
Josh Oglesby and Jay Batista fought Scotty Stallion to a no contest.
BJ Hancock with Brett Wolverton defeated Lodi.
Ken Magnum defeated Ace Armstrong to become the #1 contender to the 3 Count Championship. This match included 3 refs, multiple ref bumps, and interference from Josh Oglesby and Scotty Stallion. A hot finish to a great night of wrestling.