even though I don’t care for the moniker given Daniel Bryan, they sure did get creative and entertaining with it last night
I talked about this topic on episode 49 of our podcast. It’s a lengthy one, and if you listen to it this article will cover much of the same ground. My predictions for Raw 1000 almost all came true, and most of them dealt with this issue. WWE is changing right before our eyes. They began to lay the groundwork with the shift to PG, and the enhancements to social outlets over the last 12 months. The shift has been very gradual, but also unmistakeable. Watch an episode of Raw from even 2008, and you’ll marvel at how much they’ve altered both presentation and focus.
On the podcast, Rich mentioned that Raw 1000 was littered with moments even WWE usually tries to hide from its timeline. DX all of a sudden has all most of its members back. Mae Young’s hand baby returned, all grown up and back from the boarding school soap opera kids are sent to when they need to rapidly age. Sean Mooney was apparently on honeymoon this entire time. Stories left unfinished and forgotten—some as old as 20-odd years—are being sewn up.
Even savvy reporters mostly failed to mention the new bumper that began the show, concluding with a new moniker. WWE has always placed a reminder of their overall goal right here. They were once ‘what the world is watching’, filled with ‘attitude’, loaded with ‘entertainment’, and reminding you that ‘the power is back’ (never quite got that last one). As of Raw 1000, WWE’s intro states this: ‘Then. Now. Forever.” It’s the most aggressive and confident statement they’ve ever put in that spot.
If ‘Then’ is the first word you see, WWE’s gradual recovery from contextual amnesia begins to make sense. I remember when we were all very impressed when they told a story between CM Punk and Randy Orton early last year that harkened back to a plot point from 2008. Details like this have increased in number, scope, and attention to detail ever since. John Cena vs The Rock was a year-long story that called back two very long careers, the fallout of which we’re still feeling as Cena tries to recover from such a loss.
‘Now’ is, of course, the product as is. WWE is in constant—if very slow—flux, but right now I believe they’re incredibly confident about the quality of their product. Lengthy title reigns, lengthy stories, planning ahead; all telltale signs of a stable wrestling environment. In 2012, We’ve had two blockbuster PPVs in Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules, and they’ve promised at least one more in Summerslam. Now, they’ve promised that next year’s Royal Rumble will be massive. Name any other year where the wheels have spun as smooth. I don’t think you can.
But what about ‘Forever’? I’m taking that to mean two things. First, it’s a promise of managed expectations that pro wrestling (and all serialized narratives to an extent) will always be there for you, in some capacity. It’s a good thing to remind people of: WWE has been on the air for a long time, far longer than the lifespan of the majority of its viewers. It’s easy to imagine WWE as having been around forever.
But the other thing I’m taking it to mean is something different. How does WWE guarantee that it’s going to be around ‘forever’? They know they need to find a new audience. Read The AV Club’s review of Raw 1000 and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. People who ‘used to like wrestling’ is not a sustainable source of new cashflow, and nostalgia will only take a company so far. Neither is the current adolescent fan, no doubt sick of the status quo, eager to use WWE as a reason to bitch on the internet. ‘Forever’ is a mission statement, and a challenge to themselves. They need to adapt, grow, and find a new generation ofwrestling sports entertainment fans. I struck wrestling off that sentence for the same reason WWE has been striking wrestling off Raw: people who aren’t wrestling fans don’t like wrestling, but maybe they like exaggerated characters, over-the-top storytelling, and boatloads of barely-rehearsed drama with barely-qualified television personalities. If that sounds like reality television, then you’ve also put together that WWE is inching closer to becoming like it. It makes sense, since reality TV is essentially the only competition WWE has.
John Siracusa, in his Mountain Lion review, said this about Apple moving away from pleasing the hardcore fanboy and instead targeting all users, everywhere:
The fact is, we are not the center of the market, and haven’t been for a long time. Three decades ago, the personal computer industry was built on the backs of technology enthusiasts. Every product, every ad was created to please us. No longer. Technology must now work for everyone, not just “computing enthusiasts.”
WWE wants to become a show that everyone can watch, even if that means it’s no longer the show for wrestling fans.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
K. Sawyer Paul puts into words words everything I have been thinking. Fantastic read.
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