WWE’s Decade of Disappointment

We’ve seen a lot of “best WWE moments of the decade” list recently and with good reason: We’re into a new decade now (shut up, I don’t care that there was no year zero) and everyone has to get out that sweet, sweet retrospective content. There have been a lot of good moments over the last ten years, but one thing that really struck me while reading/watching most of these lists is how for almost every “great moment”, there’s been a huge disappointment that followed.

For example:

·       The debut of the Nexus was a huge moment that had people talking back in the summer of 2010. It was a shocking angle that seemed like it was going to deliver something that was seriously lacking in the stale WWE product. Then the group lost to “Team WWE” at SummerSlam. The Nexus soldiered on, eventually beating Cena and having him “join them” but the momentum and interest was long gone. By the time we reached “Juan Cena,” no one cared anymore and the Nexus was far from a threat. The group then split into the “New Nexus” and “The Corre” and everything about the Corre was awful. Let’s move on.

·       From the ashes of the “New Nexus” came CM Punk’s pipebomb promo and “The Summer of Punk.” This was amazing for a short time and it brought a lot of fans back to the product, but then Kevin Nash attacked him, and Triple H texted himself (or something), and we ended up with John Laurinatis versus John Cena somehow…?

·       Brock Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012 and everyone was excited. After a bit of rocky start, he ended the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, squashed John Cena to become WWE champion, and it looked like the company had a new “final boss.” Lesnar has had some good moments since then (such as his feud with Goldberg) but I’m not even sure if he still works for the company. Has anyone seen him? Isn’t he WWE Champion?

·       Speaking of Lesnar becoming WWE Champion, remember Kofi Kingston? Kofi winning the title at WrestleMania was a great moment and a truly emotional one. He had a decent run, but then SmackDown moved to Fox and…. I don’t want to talk about it. He’s back as a tag team champion with the New Day and it’s like his title reign never happened.

·       The Kofi moment was made even better because he was facing Daniel Bryan, who years earlier had a similar emotional moment at WrestleMania. Defeating Triple H, Batista, and Randy Orton on the same night to win the WWE Title was fun to watch… but then he faced Kane in a forgettable match at Extreme Rules and it looked like everything was about to go terrible for his reign. He was nearly forgotten in favour of the Evolution/Shield feud and we’ll never know how bad it was going to get because he had to have neck surgery (Hey look, something that’s not the result of bad booking!) and he eventually had to retire. He amazingly returned to the ring years later (tagging with Shane McMahon but I’ll take it) and then things actually managed to get good again for him. The “New Daniel Bryan” was awesome. Bryan is an example of a guy who somehow manages to make things great despite the writing being awful.

·       The Shied is another example of something that started hot and actually worked. The group (and the individual members) had a lot of ups and downs, but WWE managed to turn all three of them into main eventers, which was the goal. 

·       Finally, speaking of main eventers, we have Ronda Rousey versus Becky Lynch. This feud was HOT and rightfully should have main evented WrestleMania. Of course, the addition of Charlotte to the match (and the fact that Askua was sacrificed along the way) made it all more convoluted than it ever should have been and I feel like it watered everything down. Lynch vs Rousey should have main evented on its own.

As you can see, there certainly were a lot of big moments in WWE over the last ten years. This post doesn’t even touch on NXT (and that brand became huge recently) and there are many other moments that haven’t been mentioned (such as everything with Bray Wyatt – which as been uneven, but still interesting). I’m not saying WWE doesn’t do anything right, but I’m saying they could be doing a lot better.

Unfortunately, the overall theme with many of the great WWE moments of the decade was how company ruined the storyline in the aftermath of the moment. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t see a big WWE moment anymore without thinking “I wonder how they’re going to screw this up?” WWE writing doesn’t give anyone any confidence, and that hurts the overall product. It’s hard to get invested in a storyline when you always have doom in the back of your mind. 

There are more talented wrestlers and entertainers in WWE now than there have been at nearly any time in history. People like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, and many others should have been catapulted into superstardom with the angles listed above (and more), but instead WWE creative failed almost all of them. Because they’re all very talented, they’re still around (even Punk sort of) but none of them are as big as they should be.

The last decade showed that WWE cares more about “moments” than it does storylines. It doesn’t put effort into making compelling feuds or interesting angles or building stars. It cares about one-off occasions but doesn’t care about follow up. What that means is that you can do what many people do and tune out for long periods of time. I haven’t watched WWE other than a few clips on YouTube since WrestleMania. Why not? Because there’s no need. Yes, there are a lot of good matches but they’re surrounded by frustration of seeing nearly every big moment squandered. If I want to just watch moments, I’ll look at five-minute highlights on YouTube and not sit through three hours of Raw.

The 2010s showed how strong WWE truly is. No one, not AEW nor anyone else, can compete with Vince McMahon’s creation. Whenever it wants it can throw together a great match, manufacture a big moment, or bring back a former star to pop a crowd. Unfortunately, the 2010s also showed how WWE could be so much better. There have been countless lost opportunities. The past decade was so disappointing because it could have been incredible. The pieces were all there but no one bothered to put them together.

The “Pipebomb” still rings true. Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. Wrestlers are all just spokes on the wheel. The brass rings are imaginary. WWE doesn’t push you unless WWE wants to push you, and WWE isn’t interested in pushing too many people. It wants to make “WWE moments” and not grow individual superstars, because WWE moments can never leave. And as long as the WWE brand continues to expand and the company continues to make money, everything is “fine” from their viewpoint. Welcome to 2020. 

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