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Successes and failures of lockdown era WWE


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Its been about a year since WWE TV went behind the closed doors of the Performance Centre/Thunderdome/Capitol Wrestling Centre.  Wrestling without a live audience undoubtedly provides many challengers but also opportunities to wrestlers, producer, and writers.  Who do you think has done well in the past year, and who has flopped?  And can these successes and failure be (at least in part) attributed to the lack on fans, or would it have happened anyway?

Some of my thoughts.

Successes

  • Roman Reigns:  The heel turn we've been waiting years for finally happened, and it has been better than most would have expected.  Reigns feels leagues above anyone else in the company with his outstanding character work and matches.  I think had we had fans he would have probably done nearly well - a real test would be whether he could elicit those universal boos, and not some sort of mixed response (probably flipped from those who cheered/booed him as a face).  Too many cheers could have dented him a bit.
  • "Main event" Jey Uso: Had my favourite match of the covid era (Clash Of Champions with Reigns).  Been brought up to near headliner level by Reigns, but also by his own intense character and in-ring work.  I'd put his success down to the opportunity afforded by Jimmy being injured for a year (and Jey grasping it with both hands), and think he would have done as well with a crowd.
  • Bobby Lashley:  An incredible turn-around for the 44 year who went from semi-joke feud with Rusev pre-covid, to WWE champ.  I think factors for his success include the addition of MVP and lack of alternative headliners to push, but I also think that fans would have shit on or not reacted strongly enough to Lashley in his early Hurt Business run that it may have placed an upper mid-card limit on him.

Failures

  • Alexa Bliss:  WWE has tried to push the boundaries of the smoke and mirrors they can get away with with no fans in the arena, and no one has been more involved with this than poor Bliss, whose nonsensical situations we have to put up with on TV week after week.  Once a legit women's champion, now a joke act (even if WWE doesn't see it that way).  Victim of behind closed doors for sure.
  • Otis:  Red hot emotion and response from fans at the Elimination Chamber PPV just before the pandemic started, the Mandy Rose payoff felt flat in an empty PC at WM36.  Otis wasn't as fun to get behind without the live audience cheering him on, but he was pushed beyond his means anyway, culminating in that dreadful Money In The Bank win as WWE got stuck into their cinema style matches.  Continued losing steam and now some sort of semi heel in a lower mid-card role.
  • Braun Strowman:  Covid WWE initially worked in his favour as he was shoe-horned into a title win at a WM36 card he didn't have a match on a few days beforehand.  But like Bliss and Otis, got caught up in the cinema style nonsense over the summer in that interminable feud with Bray Wyatt.  Got stuck for a bit in the (IMO) dire Raw Underground, a concept that I doubt would have happened with fans in the arena.  Now made to look a thick muppet most weeks on TV.
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I would ddd Bayley to the successes. Her 2020 has been incredible. She and Sasha held RAW together during the Performance Center era. 

Bray Wyatt has been the biggest failure. That gimmick got really dull quickly without a big arena. He even ruined Orton's 2020. 

Asuka went from one of the most entertaining acts to a another body on the roster post the  Kabuki vs Banks/Bayley feud

Also, the production creativity of WWE has been exposed in the past year. WWE ended up following AEW on such things as the hard camera positioning, using extras as fans when in the PC

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The Alexa thing is a tough one. I get that it's not for everyone but you can make the argument that she's been placed in what WWE consider to be an extremely significant role and at least she's not just lost in the pack trading wins etc. I think regardless of how much hate some of the gimmick itself is getting, I'd say it shows WWE's faith in her to carry off something like that, and there aren't many on the roster that could've adapted quite so well. In the long term I don't think it'll hurt her.

Braun was screwed before lockdown.

Bray's gimmick was never going to be able to sustain that initial excitement I don't think. His booking had already been questionable hadn't it?

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With what she’s been given, Alexa has done great. She’s put her all into it and is a great performer. Nothing is saving this shit though. If anything, she just feels wasted drowning in this endless, noncey wrestlecrap.

I also still worry about them essentially creating a character to specifically bait the Twitter weirdos. Especially coming off the Sonya Deville thing. The amount of creepy shit she must get, I can’t even comprehend her still having online accounts.

Edited by Supremo
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As far as a failure goes, I don't think it gets much bigger than the company's response to Speaking Out. 

Several performers had allegations of the gravest nature made against them and a number of them managed to ride it out, without the allegations in question receiving a great deal of scrutiny. 

If fans had been in attendance, would WWE have been able to ride out the storm in the way that they did? It's doubtful. If you missed the social media posts and only watched the TV product you likely wouldn't have even been aware of it. If fans had been there, at least some of the performers who had allegations made against them would have experienced a backlash the company simply could not have ignored. 

It likely would have resulted in sackings to get the situation over and done with, rather than robust investigations and policy changes - nonetheless, I can't imagine things would have played out the way that they did. 

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Bayley & Sasha were the big success stories to me, especially during the first few weeks when the product was virtually unwatchable, their comedy act kept the show ticking along.

 

I don't know if the word is 'success' but Drew McIntyre really stepped up and did the company proud as a champion during a difficult time.

 

Otis & Mandy are big failures, they were stupidly over just before lockdown and both of their careers have drastically stalled since, admittly Mandy was unlucky with the stalker ruining her and Sonya's big storyline but it really felt like she was breaking through as a major poster girl for the company.

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I think this sums it up reasonably well. The Hurt Business have definitely been the success story of lockdown WWE for me - it wasn't that long ago that I genuinely considered Lashley, MVP & Benjamin amongst my least favourite wrestlers. Now they are a weekly highlight.

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Agree with the comments on Bliss, on one hand you could say it hasn't been great, but I do think she has done as great as anyone could do with that character.

In a weird way though without fans in the arena they could take her off TV for a few months, have her return as the old Bliss and I doubt anyone would bat an eyelid so don't think this will hurt her career in any way. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
10 minutes ago, The King of Old School said:

Might be unpopular but the Performance Centre era of Covid WWE was much better than the Thunderdome era.

At least there was an atmosphere from real people at that time. The shows from the Thunderdome have been beyond boring.

Apart from the wrestlers reacting to piped in fake noise, and the stupid this is awesome chants etc, I would never pick a PC show over a Thunderdome one.

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The best thing in the last year has been Roman. I’m starting to tire of it a little now, but he’s been absolutely incredible. I feel bad for the guy that he had to have that 5 year run with such a shit character when this guy was hiding behind it. In a way, I’m glad there’s been no fans as they’d have ruined this and we would be back to the old Roman.

The worst thing has been their complete destruction of their roster. With the exception of maybe 3 or 4 people, everyone is a complete geek and I can’t imagine how they could have fewer stars if they actively tried to destroy the company. So much great talent squandered.

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13 hours ago, The King of Old School said:

Might be unpopular but the Performance Centre era of Covid WWE was much better than the Thunderdome era.

At least there was an atmosphere from real people at that time. The shows from the Thunderdome have been beyond boring.

If you're definition of real people is trainees being told to chant 'This is awesome' and 'You still got it'....

 

I always remember Shotzi just acting totally crazy whilst in the crowd and thinking she has the sense to use it to get herself over. yes they are their to be crowd and not star of the show but subtle things would help your own careers.

 

I think the Thunderdome was a step in the right direction and made it feel more like an authentic WWE show but my interest has seriously lagged now.

 

When crowds are back (which I'm assuming will be post Mania?) it might worth WWE Taping like a 12 week tournament (3 shows a day or something) to have in the can in case we have to go towards no crowds again in the winter and they got something decent to put out.

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39 minutes ago, theringmaster said:

If you're definition of real people is trainees being told to chant 'This is awesome' and 'You still got it'....

 

I always remember Shotzi just acting totally crazy whilst in the crowd and thinking she has the sense to use it to get herself over. yes they are their to be crowd and not star of the show but subtle things would help your own careers.

 

I think the Thunderdome was a step in the right direction and made it feel more like an authentic WWE show but my interest has seriously lagged now.

 

When crowds are back (which I'm assuming will be post Mania?) it might worth WWE Taping like a 12 week tournament (3 shows a day or something) to have in the can in case we have to go towards no crowds again in the winter and they got something decent to put out.

More real than the piped in noise from the Thunderdome I would say.

It's another reason why NXT is much more watchable than Raw, that bit of atmosphere does volumes.

I can't see fans being back in July, I reckon they will move the Thunderdome to another location for residency between Mania and Summerslam, which I think will be the next even with fans in.

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