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.