Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

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Big Red Machine
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Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by Big Red Machine » May 13th, '19, 11:30

This was originally intended to be a follow-up piece to my “Superstar Shake-up: Stock Up or Stock Down?” article reflecting the final changes now that the Superstar Shake-up seems to finally be over, but then the Wildcard Rule made a lot of it feel obsolete, so I decided to change tracks and focus on something that bugged me during the Superstar Shake-up (and I’m certain will bug me many times in the future now that the Wildcard Rule is in place) and the interesting path it sent my train of thought chugging down.

Over the many weeks of this year’s Superstar Shake-up, one of the stupid, substance-less lines that the commentary team has been throwing out is the ridiculous claim that someone moving from Smackdown to Raw or vice-versa is somehow in “unfamiliar territory.” As I said in one of my reviews, this is a completely ridiculous notion. The only things that differentiate a Raw match from a Smackdown match is what night of the week it happens on, who Corey Graves is doing commentary with, and what color the ropes are.
Dumb as the comment was, it got me thinking. In what situation could that comment actually be substantive? Would it be possible to come up with a situation in which a wrestler going from one brand to the other might actually be at a disadvantage due to the change of scenery?
Sure, there are some scenarios where things might change for certain talent, such as if a heel favored by a heel authority figure were drafted to a show with a babyface authority figure who was not going to manipulate things in his/her favor anymore, or someone who had always been part of a stable being drafted away from the group and having to go at it alone for the first time, but the comment in question was made about the Usos, who have been a team their entire careers, were drafted over to Raw together and are continuing to be a team there. In what world would even an elite team like them truly be at a disadvantage simply by moving from one show to the other?
In order for the disadvantage to come directly from switching from one show to the other, there would have to be something different in the nature of the shows themselves. The easiest way to create this differentiation would be to change the rules, but despite what you might thing, it’s actually not that easy to come up with a way to change the rules of a wrestling match in a way that it is substantial enough to cause one side a disadvantage (without getting rid of universally identifiable concepts in pro wrestling like needing a three-count to win via pinfall). Extending or getting rid of count-outs on one show was the first thing that came to my mind, but after that I said “well then why not just get rid of the DQs, too?” and then things suddenly felt like an ECW rehash. Also, while getting rid of count-outs would disadvantage someone going from the no count-outs show to the show with count-outs, it would not disadvantage someone going the other way, as they would just have one less thing to worry about.
I started to branch out farther and farther to find things that I could change in a way that would feel new and fresh while still remaining something that could be a WWE product, and I eventually came up with the following:
Smackdown is run by Shane McMahon. The same heel Shane McMahon that we have now, but while he’s not involved in a feud with some wrestler or another. Based on the promo he cut explaining his heel turn, I can see the current heel Shane having a very laissez-faire attitude towards his wrestlers. He just wants to make money off of them and probably doesn’t care how badly they hurt each other, but also probably doesn’t want to be bothered wasting his time dealing with their problems. Thus I imagine a Smackdown that is basically a combination of the “we let the wrestlers make the decisions” FIP of 2007 and the desperate for ratings TNA of the mid-2010s. We’d have wrestlers coming out and talking trash and making their own matches on the fly when they get annoyed at each other, lots of backstage brawling, referees given a lot more latitude to let things go if they feel it is warranted, and a show that would be relatively quick to resort to gimmick matches. Think the Attitude Era, but with longer matches and less adult humor. If this show winds up with a TV-14 rating, it will have earned it through violence alone.
I realize that probably doesn’t sound very profound, and that’s because it’s not supposed to. What it is supposed to do is move the goalposts a bit so that’s easier to make Raw feel different without straying outside of the Overton Window of what would still feel like a WWE product (because I’m already going to be pushing the envelope with Raw as is).

Seeing everything going on over on Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon decides that she is going to make her wrestling show something her brother Shane could never make his show because it’s something he has no semblance of. That’s right… Steph is going to make Raw respectable. It might be people fighting for money, but dammit we’re going to do this in a professional manner and make it classy.
Brawling backstage will NOT be tolerated. Gimmick matches will be few and far between (and even rarer on Raw itself because they’ll almost all wind up on PPV instead). If you tag your partner in and you’re not out of the ring by the time the referee reaches five, you’re getting disqualified. And maybe we’ll even make some sort of official “Three Save Rule” while we’re at it. If you’re not the legal wrestler, you’re supposed to be standing on the apron holding the tag rope, not running into the ring whenever you want. If you have a brawling style and you wind up on Raw, you had better learn to throw forearms and European uppercuts because after a few warnings, you bet your ass the referee will disqualify you for using a closed fist. And yeah, I’m going to go there. We’re going to bring back something WWE hasn’t had in DECADES: Time limits on the matches. We’re occasionally going to have us some draws, but not those messy, controversial double-DQs or whatever. Our draws will be nice and clean and orderly. We’re not quite shooting for the “all real-sports” feel of early EVOLVE, but we want to be somewhere between that New Japan from a few years ago. We want room for angles to be able to happen, but not too frequently, so that we can make the ones we do feel truly special.

Now imagine the Usos getting drafted from Smackdown to Raw in this world, and they spend more than give seconds in the ring hitting a double-team… and the referee calls for the bell and disqualifies them, and they have no lost to the most undercard team on the roster in their debut because they’re not used to having to follow all of these rules to the letter. Or a guy like Drew McIntyre, who can brawl with the best of them and has thrived with Smackdown’s looser rule-set, but now has to remember that he can’t whip someone into the steps or throw them through the announcers’ table because here on Raw, that’s going to be a DQ. How long will it take him to adjust? How about a guy like the recently-departed Dean Ambrose, who is in a similar mold to Drew, but also combines some anger issues. Will he be able to adjust at all? It’s not like this would make him a heel or anything either. To paraphrase the man himself in his first interview in EVOLVE, he likes competition and fair play just fine… but it’s all these rules that he doesn’t do well with.
Or how about someone going the other way? A highly-skilled in-ring competitor like Chad Gable would be completely at home on Raw, where the focus on keeping the action in the ring plays to his strengths, but if he gets drafted over to Smackdown, he is suddenly being dropped into a situation where instead of a pre-match backstage assault resulting in his opponent being suspended and the match being rescheduled when he has had time to heal, he is now expected to wrestle on the injury (if he is able to) and revenge is left entirely in his own hands. Will he be able to adjust? In a world like this, I can easily see a Chad Gable genuinely preferring to be on one show and a Kevin Owens preferring to be on the other, because that is how each one likes his wrestling. And when Survivor Series comes around, their loyalty to the brand and desire to fight to prove it their respective brand’s superiority will feel more real. Any anger they express at being drafted will feel genuine because there are real consequences for them. When Michael Cole tells us the Usos are in “unfamiliar territory,” he’ll actually be telling the truth because the shows will actually be different.
Obviously this is nothing more than a pipe-dream, as I can’t see Vince ever allowing something so radical as the kind of the show the Raw I’m proposing is, but I think this would actually have some big benefits for the company, and not just for the purposes of creating interesting storylines and more genuine-seeming emotions towards the two brands from the wrestlers as I have outlined above.
The biggest of these additional benefits would be making Raw and Smackdown actually feel different. Even though the rosters are different, Raw and SD often feel the same because you’ve got the same creative team behind both, and often building up to the same PPV gimmicks (the current TV building to MITB is an excellent example). This makes WWE programming feel very tedious to watch even when it is decent, never mind when it’s boring. Forcing the shows to operate under such different rules would result in the shows having to feel different simply because they are not allowed to be the same, even if they are still being written by the same exact people.
The other benefit I think this would have is that expanding the scope of what you will see on WWE TV should expand the universe of potential viewers whose interest you can catch. There are some wrestling fans who won’t watch WWE because they find it to be too cartoony and not “sports-based” enough for their tastes. Others find it to be too “watered down” and want their Attitude Era back. Neither of those groups are being catered to by WWE at the moment, but this plan would give them something to be interested in. Yes, these new fans will likely only be watching one of the two shows, but that’s certainly better than them not watching either show, isn’t it? And I don’t think this plan will have too much of a cost in terms of losing current viewers, as Smackdown will still be similar enough that they should be able to watch that with no problem, and if WWE’s branding/marketing/brainwashing campaign works as well as WWE seems to think it does and the WWE name is all it takes to get these people to tune in, then should stick with the new, more sports-based Raw anyway.

So that is my pitch as to how can make Raw and Smackdown feel different and why they would greatly benefit from doing so. And even if I’m wrong about this having a positive effect on viewership, at least we’ll be helping our announcers out a bit by allowing them to tell the truth during the Superstar Shake-up and not sound like blithering idiots, and I think we can all agree that that is something worth working towards.


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Re: Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by cero2k » May 13th, '19, 14:05

it just sounds like you want to impose your personal preference to rules onto RAW. I don't disagree with the overall idea that giving each show have differences to them be a good way to make them feel like their own thing and not just different colored WWE shows. I think the idea has been brought up before with having the different shows have the different divisions, or have power guys on RAW against the speed/technical guys on Smackdown.

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Re: Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by Big Red Machine » May 13th, '19, 14:53

cero2k wrote:
May 13th, '19, 14:05
it just sounds like you want to impose your personal preference to rules onto RAW.

That's kind of how it ends up (I'd be fine not having time limit draws, but I think it helps the differentiation) but the end-goal was to create a world where the shows were different enough that someone moving from one show to the other would actually be in a place where they might have trouble adjusting, and I couldn't come up with any other way to create a contrast that felt stark enough. There really aren't that many axes to move the actual rules or the universe along, and doubly so if you need two universes that make sense connected to each other (so you can't have a "regular" world for one show and a CHIKARA/LU type of thing on the other). Even changes like style are more due to the people on the show than the rules. As enough Superstar Shake-ups go by, your show full of Luchadors/World of Sport Guys/whatever will have fewer and fewer people wrestling that vastly different style for the new arrivals to adjust to.

cero2k wrote:
May 13th, '19, 14:05
I don't disagree with the overall idea that giving each show have differences to them be a good way to make them feel like their own thing and not just different colored WWE shows. I think the idea has been brought up before with having the different shows have the different divisions, or have power guys on RAW against the speed/technical guys on Smackdown.
The problem with the power/speed split is that you can't really move people around.
Divisions would be the best way to do it, but I think that is just as unlikely as the scenario I propose here, plus a few extra problems in terms of the size of the divisions to fit the shows (you can always call up/sign more women to have enough for full divisions on a two-hour show, but even a three-hour show isn't enough time for all of the men they'd want to feature, and they'd never split it up so that you have male singles on one show and male tag teams and both women's divisions on the other. You'd have to let a bunch of men out of their contracts, or even if you just bench them until their contracts run out, you'd have a lot of trouble signing new people because their would be even less TV time to fight for, and they also don't want to release a bunch of people who would go to AEW/ROH/TNA/MLW.
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Re: Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by Bob-O » May 13th, '19, 18:23

Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Extending or getting rid of count-outs on one show was the first thing that came to my mind, but after that I said “well then why not just get rid of the DQs, too?” and then things suddenly felt like an ECW rehash.
I think you'd almost have to go that drastic to draw the line though. The changes you've suggested sound really good, but I think the line is too subtle for a casual fan to pick up on. Beyond going full TNA and changing how many sides are on the ring, I say go full ECW rehash, just don't take it to the limits that ECW did. Don't make it "hardcore" per-say, but maybe Sleezy Shane introduces it as "on MY show we aren't doing cop-out victories. I promise, there will be a WINNER and a LOSER of every single match. Nobody is going to "win" by disqualification, and nobody is going to "lose" by countout. Whoever's hand get's raised will be raised for a reason, because that's what you want."
Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Also, while getting rid of count-outs would disadvantage someone going from the no count-outs show to the show with count-outs, it would not disadvantage someone going the other way, as they would just have one less thing to worry about.
Maybe so, but it's still a different format. The match itself is different, so it shouldn't be about specific advantages/disadvantages, it'd be more about being a disadvantage because it's a noticeably different environment.
Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Seeing everything going on over on Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon decides that she is going to make her wrestling show something her brother Shane could never make his show because it’s something he has no semblance of. That’s right… Steph is going to make Raw respectable. It might be people fighting for money, but dammit we’re going to do this in a professional manner and make it classy.
Brawling backstage will NOT be tolerated. Gimmick matches will be few and far between (and even rarer on Raw itself because they’ll almost all wind up on PPV instead). If you tag your partner in and you’re not out of the ring by the time the referee reaches five, you’re getting disqualified. And maybe we’ll even make some sort of official “Three Save Rule” while we’re at it. If you’re not the legal wrestler, you’re supposed to be standing on the apron holding the tag rope, not running into the ring whenever you want. If you have a brawling style and you wind up on Raw, you had better learn to throw forearms and European uppercuts because after a few warnings, you bet your ass the referee will disqualify you for using a closed fist. And yeah, I’m going to go there. We’re going to bring back something WWE hasn’t had in DECADES: Time limits on the matches. We’re occasionally going to have us some draws, but not those messy, controversial double-DQs or whatever. Our draws will be nice and clean and orderly. We’re not quite shooting for the “all real-sports” feel of early EVOLVE, but we want to be somewhere between that New Japan from a few years ago. We want room for angles to be able to happen, but not too frequently, so that we can make the ones we do feel truly special.
I think this could actually work if you didn't take the fun out of it. Time Limit Draws are SUCH a heat magnet when you're trying to build a big match, but if you're going to hide behind the rules to avoid burying people, I think even the people who appreciate the structure will abandon the concept.
Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Yes, these new fans will likely only be watching one of the two shows, but that’s certainly better than them not watching either show, isn’t it?

I think it's realistic to say that most fans of one show would be tuning in to the other, even if they like the other one better. I HAAAATED the NWA and all their Top Rope rules, I was definitely a WWF kid, but I watched it anyway because I liked WRESTLING, and any idea that would bring the masses back to this mindset is a good one.
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Re: Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by Big Red Machine » May 13th, '19, 18:34

Bob-O wrote:
May 13th, '19, 18:23
Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Extending or getting rid of count-outs on one show was the first thing that came to my mind, but after that I said “well then why not just get rid of the DQs, too?” and then things suddenly felt like an ECW rehash.
I think you'd almost have to go that drastic to draw the line though. The changes you've suggested sound really good, but I think the line is too subtle for a casual fan to pick up on. Beyond going full TNA and changing how many sides are on the ring, I say go full ECW rehash, just don't take it to the limits that ECW did. Don't make it "hardcore" per-say, but maybe Sleezy Shane introduces it as "on MY show we aren't doing cop-out victories. I promise, there will be a WINNER and a LOSER of every single match. Nobody is going to "win" by disqualification, and nobody is going to "lose" by countout. Whoever's hand get's raised will be raised for a reason, because that's what you want."
I'd be open to getting rid of count-outs so long is there is some sort of mechanism where the referee can basically DQ someone if they're clearly trying to run away from the match. Getting rd of DQs is a bridge too far for me, simply because it takes away so many booking possibilities. Gimmick matches aren't special if every match is a gimmick match, and it's hard to cheat if there aren't any rules to break.
Bob-O wrote:
May 13th, '19, 18:23
Big Red Machine wrote:
May 13th, '19, 11:30
Seeing everything going on over on Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon decides that she is going to make her wrestling show something her brother Shane could never make his show because it’s something he has no semblance of. That’s right… Steph is going to make Raw respectable. It might be people fighting for money, but dammit we’re going to do this in a professional manner and make it classy.
Brawling backstage will NOT be tolerated. Gimmick matches will be few and far between (and even rarer on Raw itself because they’ll almost all wind up on PPV instead). If you tag your partner in and you’re not out of the ring by the time the referee reaches five, you’re getting disqualified. And maybe we’ll even make some sort of official “Three Save Rule” while we’re at it. If you’re not the legal wrestler, you’re supposed to be standing on the apron holding the tag rope, not running into the ring whenever you want. If you have a brawling style and you wind up on Raw, you had better learn to throw forearms and European uppercuts because after a few warnings, you bet your ass the referee will disqualify you for using a closed fist. And yeah, I’m going to go there. We’re going to bring back something WWE hasn’t had in DECADES: Time limits on the matches. We’re occasionally going to have us some draws, but not those messy, controversial double-DQs or whatever. Our draws will be nice and clean and orderly. We’re not quite shooting for the “all real-sports” feel of early EVOLVE, but we want to be somewhere between that New Japan from a few years ago. We want room for angles to be able to happen, but not too frequently, so that we can make the ones we do feel truly special.
I think this could actually work if you didn't take the fun out of it. Time Limit Draws are SUCH a heat magnet when you're trying to build a big match, but if you're going to hide behind the rules to avoid burying people, I think even the people who appreciate the structure will abandon the concept.
Draws are a heat-magnet if they're used poorly. I'm not advocating doing one a week. I'm advocating keeping it in your back pocket for a situation where you need it once every few months or so, while taking advantage of their existence to both add drama as the time limit approaches (even if there is a finish) and to create more of a "real-sports" feel.
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Re: Differentiation: A Pitch to Improve WWE... Or At Least Make it A Lot More Interesting

Post by KILLdozer » May 13th, '19, 18:44

The song remains the same.
When they come, they'll come at what you love.

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