WRESTLING: How the WWE's weekly TV schedule should be scheduled, and how the New Era should be structured.
We're now witnessing the start of the WWE's supposed "New Era." One that promises to be more progressive than previous eras, with more emphasis on the superstars of the future rather than the past, more action, better treatment of female wrestlers, eventual integration of LGBTQ+ characters as regular people and not shallow comedy gags, and less bullshit finishes so that it feels more unpredictable.
Some of their promises have been kept so far. Match quality has improved beyond the slow and often sloppy 5 to rarely 7 moves a night filler matches of the Power and PG eras after the Ruthless Aggression era, more present and future stars like Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Sasha Banks, The Club and The New Day have had plenty of screen time, their promos and segments steal the show with great humor and they feel nice and off the cuff and partially ad-lib like a House Show, some of them push the envelope beyond the brief forgettable immature joke comparing opposing men to vaginas or gay people just to make immature 11 year olds and trailer park uncles laugh, the term "Diva" and the subtly accidentally sexist undertones thereof have been all but done away with in favor of women's wrestling and women's wrestlers, the Woman's Championship has replaced the gaudy, dishonorable and sexist Diva's title, and John Cena's been out of the WWE title picture for more than two months! Plus The Authority has been pretty much broken up in favor of the Shane vs Stephanie angle, and the revival of GMs and Commissioners. (Though I'm not holding my breath on The Authority not reuniting in some McMahon family swerve should Shane turn heel.)
But with the past few episodes of Smackdown Live being just a bit on the boring side and still proving to be the lesser show, other shows not named NXT or Raw still being boring bland undercard-degrading filler shows focusing more on recapping the major happenings of Raw and Smackdown than showcasing their own matches or getting anybody over, dumb unfunny comedy angles and skits with The Golden Truth or Rusev and Lana lasting way too long with too much hype from the upper brass, John Cena still being a major babyface despite only half to a quarter of the crowd cheering for him, fan complaints over John Cena, Roman Reigns and Eva Marie to name a few falling on deaf ears or sometimes responded to with a "You know the WWE Universe! They're vocal! Love him/her or hate him/her you gotta respect (fill in the blank)" by commentators, (which is really a slap in the face if you ask me,) the terms "WWE Universe" and "Superstar" still being a thing despite how the WWE Universe was a failed and long since dead and forgotten social network launched and later cancelled when MySpace was dying, and recent news of both rosters getting their own separate belts, it still isn't quite the "New' era just yet and still has plenty of old era tropes and annoyances that need to be altered or completely done away with. Not to mention, just not nearly enough must-see shows beyond Raw, NXT and Smackdown.
So here's how I believe the WWE's TV schedule and booking structure should be formatted, in order to strengthen up the New Era and break up the monotony.
SUNDAY: Bring back Sunday Night Heat.
Bring a set of orange ropes and a separate ring shirt to tuck away for this one. Make Sunday Night Heat the only real "jobber show" on the schedule. Pre-taped before Smackdown so it can air the following Sunday, have it be an hour long, showcasing a few vignettes of recent Raw and Smackdown happenings, not whole segments and matches but the vignettes that will play on Raw and Smackdown, and at least 3 matches within that hour, with low to mid carders of both Raw and Smackdown duking it out. Maybe with one of those matches being either a squash match to get big guys over, (for example Braum Strowman, Baron Corbin, etc,) or a once a month NXT showcase to get NXT over with the more main roster WWE oriented members of the crowd, and sell NXT and the WWE Network to regular TV viewers and Hulu members.
SUNDAY (Still): For Pay Per View nights, hold special live Sunday Night Heat (PPV here) Kickoff specials.
Similar to the Wrestlemania Kickoff Show, have this air live on USA, the other networks that air The WWE worldwide and the WWE Network, with Hulu and WWE Network replays of course. WITHOUT calling Pay Per View buyers idiots for not having the Network. Money is money. Don't disrespect legitimate money.
MONDAY: Keep Monday Night Raw going of course.
Keep it live, keep doing things to make it feel fresh and exciting, fill it with more matches and less talk, make the talking segments entertaining at least, (in fact making them more off the cuff like Enzo Amore and Sasha Banks' program with Chris Jericho and Charlotte for example,) and try your best to write segments at the beginning and end of every episode really shocking and buzzworthy without insulting the intelligence of the audience or making no sense just for the sake of shocking people. Write the major angles as if you were still facing WCW in the Monday Night Wars even if you have no competition, just PG-13 if you must stay PG. And for the love of god, book more of the people the entire audience and major portions of the internet actually cheer and likes as babyfaces, and book all the people the majority of the crowd and internet boos and hates as heels. Do so in a sensible fashion. It ain't rocket science. Realistically, I understand that the internet can be fickle, inconsistent and hard to please at times, but when it comes to the no brainers like how the fans consistently hate Roman Reigns or how nobody cares about Braum Strowman just yet, you gotta cater to that. Don't deny or disrespect it.
TUESDAY: Keep Smackdown on, but do more to live up to the promises.
KEEP SMACKDOWN AS A LIVE SHOW. It's been so much better to watch Smackdown with a live unedited audience and unedited live matches than it is to listen to watch edited matches and finishes that had to be refilmed a few times (sometimes with minor gear change mishaps) and to hear piped in cheers that sound like they told a classroom what to chant, recorded it and altered it to sound like 15,000 people. Live TV is costly, but live wrestling is so much more fun to watch aired the first time, than pretaped shows you've read the spoilers to being aired the first time. Because you don't know who wins yet. But for some reason, the past few episodes of Smackdown Live feel like how Raw used to during The Reality Era/Network Era. That has to stop! Because that was an era of not being nearly as bad as the PG Era, but still being too disappointing with too many opportunities smashed in favor of whatever Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn wanted. The Reality Era/The Network Era was basically the "CM Punk was right but we're still gonna pretend to be on top of everything in entertainment" era. Don't go back there! Instead, try to be as cutting edge and attention grabbing as Raw, just focusing more on pure wrestling rather than backstage and ringside drama. Similar to NXT, but with a bigger set and travelling on tour. And just like Raw, keep to the golden rule. If the majority of the audience hates a character, make him/her the heel! If the majority of the audience likes a character, make him/her a face! It isn't brain surgery.
BOTH MONDAY AND TUESDAY (Optional): Book double shot live Raw and Smackdown/Heat/Main Event tapings in advance in the same arenas.
The Raw and Smackdown Titan Trons may be different again, but there are pieces that are still quite similar. Ra's set is on a stage with a ramp, and it has a giant arch made of screens hung ahead of a few screen walls, screen columns, that ticket tape screen with the entrance curtain, and a big projection screen for main videos. The stage also has short strip screens on either side. Smackdown Live's set, has no stage, just an isle. But it does have those two strip screens at the floor, and most of Raw's set pieces just without the columns and with a Banner screen on top. And it's screen walls seem to be different. Like they're made more out of strobes than light bulbs. And it appears the left hand side screen wall is just pushed a bit forward. If memory serves me right, The WWE has stated in various magazine and online articles that they can set up the Titan Tron however they want like Legos, so why not book Raw and Smackdown double shot week openers and just rearrange the pieces after the cameras stop rolling? As soon as people start filing out after Raw is done, take down the arch and column screens, hook and hang up Smackdown's banner screen, maybe push one of the screen walls forward if possible, and set up the ropes and Titan Tron graphics and ring apron for Tuesday's tapings. It may not be that simple as I am not a stage technician. I've read before, that some Titan Trons take days or even weeks to set up. But the Raw, Smackdown and minor Titan Trons are much lower maintenance than Wrestlemania, so as long as they can make sure everything is nice and secure and functional, it might not be so bad. They've done plenty of shows before with several colors of ropes, several ring skirts and set pieces before.
WEDNESDAY: Keep NXT there, don't change a thing about the product.
Not much else much I can say about NXT. It's nice and lower budget when compared to the rest of The WWE, the action is anywhere between great and amazing, it's become a far more proactive developmental entity than OVW, FCW or lord knows DSW and anything prior to OVW, NXT is just phenomenal. Sometimes even surpassing Raw and Smackdown! Maybe the one thing they can add is a TV slot for it on an after hours block after it airs during primetime hours originally on The WWE Network.
WEDNESDAY (Still): Keep all the NXT Takeover specials live!
Again, not much else to explain. Except maybe hold all the Takeovers on Wednesdays like any pretaped NXT taping except for Wrestlemania, Summer Slam, Money In The Bank, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble weekends. On those weekends you can hold it on Saturdays. Any other month, Wednesday. And make it an actual Network exclusive rather than replaying it on Hulu without admitting it's on Hulu.
THURSDAY: Move the CWC and any other special tournaments here.
Fill Thursday's slot with whatever WRESTLING SHOWS you want as a WWE Network exclusive. In fact, make it different every season. Maybe, during the Spring and Summer you can have a "Classic" like another Cruiserweight Classic, maybe a Tag Team Classic, a Women's Wrestling Classic would be good, and if you don't wanna get too many indie and international competitors from other promotions to come over, make the "Classics" another way for undercard NXT competitors to get over via tournaments. The House Show and undercard job squads of NXT can have 5 star matches in a tourney with some of the best the independent and international circuit has to offer, getting their moves and characters over similar to that of TNA Gutcheck but for a trophy and a stronger spot in NXT rather than a Tough Enough IV type "Will we keep him? You decide!" deal. (Not that Gutcheck was a bad concept at all, but WWE's faced enough accusations of stealing from TNA and vise versa on TNA's end too.) And when Summer is over, you could probably film more seasons of Breaking ground, (The WWE's best reality show since Tough Enough seasons 1-3,) and air full matches from the WWE Performance Center on the show as these people test out their skills similar to the last season of Tough Enough. But not shite. And with a few documentary style camera shots and angles to blend in with the rest of that show. Or once Fall's done, all Winter long you can bring back WWE Confidential with Mean Gene Okerlund as the host as long as he's healthy, and run 30 minute Confidential episodes on the real lives of dozens of wrestlers and air the previous week's episode right after. Then replay that season whenever you want on the Network like reruns of Legends House and WCW PPVs. And at least once a month, you could run WWE Live events on a Thursday like that Beast In The East special as an actually Network exclusive PPV, but with the set and small arenas of House Shows. Kinda like an NXT-main roster WWE crossover Takeover.
FRIDAY: Restructure WWE Superstars top to bottom.
Currently, WWE Superstars is a jobber show like that of Velocity or Metal & Jacked back in the day, but with just one or two matches and mostly recaps. Nobody wants or likes that! Instead, (although admittedly this too would be old era shit,) restructure it as pre-taped televised House Shows. Similar to how it was when it was WWF Superstars in the 80's through late 90s! In fact, turn all the House Shows that aren't Network Exclusive WWE Live events into Superstars tapings. Just put up whatever super low budget indie style House Show sets and rings you want, send like three camera people to film the shows, maybe three photographers as well just to further save money, tape all the matches promos and segments, and compile them into random match random segment televised reels for an hour every Friday. Compile them in order like for instance, first match up is the first match from the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania taping, second match up is the second match from the Bangkok Thailand taping, third match is the third bout from the Calgary Alberta Canada taping, etc. Like a variety show where the only variety you see are matches, promos, interviews, in ring segments and "come see WWE Live!" tour montages. This can get your undercard over, educate the viewers at home about how each crowd and culture reacts, and even show the ad-lib fun the wrestlers have at these events, which drives up House Show ticket sales. Let no match become a dark match ever again.
SATURDAY: Restructure WWE Main Event back into becoming WWE Saturday Night's Main Event.
Pre-tape these after Smackdown, as an hour long to maybe 40 minute padded out with commercials long Raw vs Smackdown Supershow, showcasing primarily the undercard talent, and very very slightly progress your main event storylines on both Raw and Smackdown. Not nearly as much as Raw and Smackdown except for the biggest most buzzworthy feuds like for example Brock vs anybody you got him feuding with, but just progress them enough that you want to watch the following Raw and Smackdown even more. Orient Saturday Night's Main Event as more of the "entertainment" type Sports Entertainment program, but don't make it stupid or insulting to the audience's intelligence, and don't stray away from good match quality and the middle of the company's namesake, WRESTLING. Make it seem like it's actually building stars. As old era of a concept as it would be, make Saturday Night's Main Event closer to the show it was in the 80's, not like it is now as just plain Main Event. But don't pre-tape any for any Saturdays where a major NXT Takeover will take place.
The WWE needs to do all of this t really build the ratings, make fans happy, keep talent happy, and really make every show they produce as indelibly impactful and as must-see as Raw, Smackdown, CWC and the current incarnation of NXT are.
In addition, here's what they need to do to make the whole New Era even better.
All of this can make the New Era feel like a truly new and progressive era, rather than a slight upgrade to the Reality/Network Era that isn't as disappointing or boring on Mondays like it has been as I wrote this blog.
So what do you think? If you have anything to add, if you agree, if you disagree, feel free to leave a comment below. And if you like these ideas, share it around and maybe even send it to the top brass of WWE.