I can remember sitting at Vince’s dining room table, at the very dawn of the Attitude Era as we laid out the initial groundwork.
“Let’s just blow it up, ” I said to Vince. “If the audience thinks we’re going one way–then let’s take them another.”
The idea was to keep the audience off-balance, take the predictability of the product that they had become accustomed to over the years and smack them across the face with the unexpected. Always keep them guessing. If you do this—and, you do it right—you are creating both a sense of urgency and MUST SEE TV. The audience CAN NOT and WILL NOT miss an episode of Monday Night Raw in fear of missing—SOMETHING.
The WWE has gotten so far away from that concept in 2014, that I honestly don’t even know if they could understand it if it were pitched to them today. Every week—same old, same old. Aside from the turning Of Seth Rollins, which by no means “shook up the wrestling world”, a fan of professional wrestling who has been watching for only a year, would probably be able to tell you the outcome to every match, storyline and angle at a 90% rate. And, with that being the case—-THEN WHY WATCH? If I know the outcome of a baseball game, am I really going to watch it on DVR? The only difference is that the game has already taken place. With the WWE—you pretty well know the finish before the first pitch is even thrown.
Man, as I was being bored to tears this passed Monday, my mind just began to wander as John Cena cut an excellent promo to set up his match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. While Cena was stating that he would do ANYTHING NECESSARY to defeat the beast, Lesnar, I started to think about the possibilities if John was indeed—telling the truth. If anything and everything were fair play in the WWE, and creative wasn’t sitting at their desks in a uniformed line inside a cardboard box—what could the possibilities actually be?
Then my mind went a bit further. Cena has been getting frustrated with the response of the crowd for a VERY long time now. The WWE has kept Cena a babyface, despite the fact of that run being over for years. Why? I have no idea—I don’t work there. Merch sales too valuable to give up? Maybe? But, regardless, they are at a point now where they are actually hurting Cena’s career and not advancing it. It’s starting to get that NWO feel, where Eric Bischoff marched them out every Monday night until they meant absolutely nothing. Let’s say, for argument’s sake–but, also as part of the storyline—that Cena has been making his frustrations known to the WWE brass. For the past year, he has been telling them that NOW is the time to turn him heel—only to be fallen on deaf ears.
In the meantime you’ve got Paul Heyman representing BROCK LES-NAR. At this point, there is really no heat on Heyman–in my opinion—being that he just goes out there every week and cuts the same promo on what a “physical specimen” Brock Lesnar is, and how he’s going to dismember every opponent he faces. When you think about it—do we really need to waste Paul Heyman’s skills on just stating the obvious? Wouldn’t we pretty much get the same effect if Lesnar went out there and did what Heyman says he’s going to do, without saying a word—or, having anyone else speak for him? Just be a killing machine—go out there and destroy people. My point is—maybe–storyline wise, there is a bit of frustration on Heyman’s part as well–feeling that he may be being under utilized.
What if prior to SummerSlam there was a clandestine meeting between Cena and Heyman in the back of a coffee shop somewhere in Brooklyn. What if both filed their company grievances with each other, concerning their mounting frustrations towards their employer the WWE. remember—this is all STORY NOW.
WHAT IF: We went to SummerSlam and Cena/Lesnar were having the Hart/Austin match from years ago, that slowly flipped the other–Bret heel–Austin babyface. You’d have to get Patterson to lay this out, because nobody else alive could deliver to the degree that he would. Any way, as the match progresses—both men are pretty much out on their feet, but one can’t put the other away. False finish, after false finish, they are exhausting each other.
WHAT IF: Seth Rollins comes down with his briefcase. With both men now working on adrenaline alone, Rollins, with his briefcase, appears as if he’s going to cash it in as soon as a new Champion is crowned.
WHAT IF: In an effort to pull out all the stops, with everything he has left, Lesnar goes for that one big finish, accidentally catching the referee, who takes a hellacious bump and is out. The match now continues with no referee. At this point, Cena’s heel tactics kick in. NOW he is determined to win this match just as he had stated a week prior—BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. Unfortunately, he still can’t put the Beast away.
WHAT IF: With both men selling on opposite sides of the ring, Heyman helps pull Lesnar up in his corner. As Lesnar gets to his feet, and turns back towards Cena, Rollins throws Heyman his briefcase, and Heyman clocks Lesnar senseless with it upside the head. Lesnar goes down—Cena covers–ref comes to–Cena over 1-2-3. Long stare down with Cena/Heyman—big embrace–Cena puts Rollins over for being an intricate part of the plan—we are off to the races.
The next day the two cut a promo. Cena cuts a Helluva promo telling the WWE “Universe”, “You wanted to boo me—NOW YOU CAN BOO ME! At SummerSlam—I MADE IT OFFICIAL!” Heyman then brings it home with the promo of his career, stating that he’s more than a carnival baker for the strong man at the circus. What brought him to the dance in the first place was his mind, and the ability to be one step ahead of everybody else—including Vince McMahon himself. Heyman speaks of his complacent days as a company “schill” being over. It is now time for him to remind the fans—of the genius he actually is. He then goes on to belittle his “former” client BROCK-LES-NAR, who then proceeds to hit the ring and tear apart everything in his site, with the exception of Cena and Heyman who barely escaped with their lives.
Honestly, all that came off the top of my head as I was writing it. There really wasn’t that much thought put into it at all—I just went with the flow. My point–what if that were the flow of the WWE creative meeting this week–a week before SummerSlam–where ALL the possibilities were just laid out there with the freedom of ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN in professional wrestling. We write it, there is no right, or wrong, just the freedom to create—opposed to Cena over, Lesnar over, what’s the finish? That’s the beauty of being a writer in the wrestling business. You make one “unscheduled” turn, and now you have a completely different set of circumstances. THAT, ladies and gentlemen is how you keep the product FRESH and EXCITING.
Think about it. What show is going to draw you the larger audience the next day? The traditional finish—or, this one? Then, once you’ve got them there, all you have to do now is step up your game to keep them there.