One positive development that has occurred since Raw moved to its three-hour time slot is the increase of matches. Acts like Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd and Sin Cara have been given an opportunity to show what they are capable of, and upcoming stars like Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow and Dolph Ziggler are given the time to build momentum.
The only issue with these matches is the lack of intensity felt by the crowd. Kofi Kingston against Dolph Ziggler a few weeks ago was one of the best television matches in recent times, yet the eventual victor hardly received a bigger reaction than the winner of the squash match that followed.
In fact, quiet crowds seem to be a bit of an issue in general. Both Atlanta and Charlotte have been criticized over the last few days, but there were even remarks that the famously boisterous Chicago crowd was not at its loudest when Raw was there a few weeks ago.
Why this situation has occurred will be a discussion that many want to contribute to.
Certainly there will be suggestions that the WWE’s failure to book certain figures in the right way or to utilize certain storylines have had a drastic effect. Others may put more blame on the crowd themselves, as the fans have come to expect a great twist every week and fail to react to the more basic pleasures of watching the wrestlers perform.
Another group will certainly point to the wrestlers, who do not appear to be making the connection with the crowd that others from another generation seemed to make.
It is a conundrum with very few answers but plenty of theories.
One potential reason that could be undermining everything is the way that the WWE has turned its back on its sporting credentials. Focus is almost exclusively put on the motive behind why an individual wrestler wants to beat his opponent. The connection between a wrestler winning a match —or showing themselves to be the better man over a feud— and progressing towards a title shot has been completely forgotten.
The idea of a win/loss record has been discarded as something worth documenting.
Yet, at some sort of subconscious level, the audience must be keeping track. Ziggler has certainly suffered a dip in support over recent months and that has gone hand in hand with him losing more than he wins.
Ryback’s popularity has arguably seen the reverse of this effect, as his unbeaten streak has seen fans get behind him in a very successful way. They are even chanting “Feed Me More,” even though as a phrase it seems to make little sense.
Perhaps the WWE should spend a few months reestablishing the importance of winning and losing, which will allow the company to show how a wrestler can progress up and down the ladder as their performance alters.
This will make every match important again, as fans and performers alike will see who is close to a title shot and who needs to work a little harder. Big upset wins could see younger stars fly up the ladder, while older stars could gracefully step aside and allow themselves to be a visible stepping stone up the charts, as well as a metaphorical one in the newcomer's career.
Another bonus would be the pressure taken off the general manager positions, as the person in that post will only have to manage these rankings and find appropriate matches to separate two stars vying for the same position.
Of course, the melodrama of wrestling will be able to superimpose itself onto that system, and after a few months the rankings will become far less consequential as new rivalries and feuds come to the boil.
Yet the process of reminding the fans that this is a sport, although admittedly a predetermined one, will go along way to rebuilding the excitement that every match holds the key for someone to make a run at the title.
The main reason people watch other sports should be the same in professional wrestling—to see who wins. WWE fans have stopped caring who wins, and that needs to change.
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