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December 7, 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WWE attempts to right the ship, New Japan tag league update, more

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From Mick Foley:

WWE is at a real crossroads. Allow me to paraphrase Albert Einstein, who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

Wrestling historians can argue about when the Attitude Era in wrestling officially began. But for me, it will always be at a meeting called by Mr. McMahon in the spring of 1997, where he admitted that what had worked for them for so long in the past (I interpreted that to mean one-dimensional characters that tended to be job-related) was no longer working, and that if they were going to survive, the wrestlers themselves were going to have to step up, and help create those dimensions that would establish the emotional bond between the wrestlers and the fans, part of the lifeblood of professional wrestling.

Today’s WWE Superstars (I’m including the women here, since the term Diva had its time, and that time is done) are at a distinct disadvantage in some ways. They can’t flip birds, and use the colorful language. They can’t bleed, even when the situation seems ripe for it. Man, Roman Reign’s life would be so much easier if he could survive vicious assaults, and be left bloodied, but unbowed, the way guys in my era did. But all the blood, the language and the violence paled in comparison to the secret weapon of the attitude era: FREEDOM. The freedom to CREATE. The freedom to TRY. The freedom to FAIL. The idea that going down swinging (I hope I’m not losing you guys in all the non-baseball playing countries) was almost as important as hitting the ball out of the park, as long as you took your best swings. There’s a difference between playing to win, and playing not to lose. One breeds confidence, the other breeds fear. It’s the difference between cutting the type of promos Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne The Rock Johnson gave, and the cookie-cutter approach all too often employed these days by WWE creative. One style allowed for creativity and emotion. The other calls for memorization and recitation.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m picking on WWE. There is a big part of me that loves this company, and always will. Why else would I be up at 4:15 a.m., writing things that are likely to banish me deeper and deeper into the WWE doghouse? One of my favorite wrestlers proposed a storyline that would allow me a four or five week storyline that would allow me to dig in deep and swing for the fences, and in the process, maybe advance a few of the super-talented but underutilized athletes on the roster. I would love to do it, but I doubt it’s going to happen. After all, I might want to do something crazy like go out there without a script, and try to create some real emotion, in other words, the type of thing that saved WWE in the late 90s.

The talent pool has never been deeper. But the creative flow is stagnant, and it’s been sinking for a while.”

It should be pointed out that Foley has somewhat rescinded that article in saying he watched the 11/30 Raw and liked it, although the Pittsburgh audience was dead and I thought the show was, being nice, tedious to get through.

After the record-low rating, WWE tried a lot of new things. They set up a new top heel group, The League of Nations, with champion Sheamus and sidekicks King Barrett, Alberto Del Rio (who seemingly is managed by Zeb Colter when not in the group, but not managed by Colter when in the group) and Rusev (whose situation with Lana is apparently the same as Del Rio’s with Colter–well, except Del Rio and Colter aren’t engaged or married and Colter is much smarter on social media). They also set up The New Day as affiliates of the League of Nations, and as seems to happen when WWE gets an entertaining act, greatly overexposed The New Day on the show.

The top face group, which may be called The Family, is Roman Reigns, clearly positioned as the company’s top star, along with Dean Ambrose and the Usos. It will be interesting what happens when John Cena returns to TV, which is only a few weeks away.

They also brought in Tommy Dreamer as part of the Dudleys vs. Wyatts feud (the Dreamer intro got the biggest reaction of the show), started a Charlotte heel turn and gave Adam Rose a new gimmick.

Not all of that will work, and some of the show was atrocious. The live crowd in Pittsburgh was dead for most of the show. The main event, putting almost every star in the top mix in one match for 25 minutes, died to the live crowd, which was not a good sign at all for the current mix.

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