Underneath the obvious nepotism, Vince McMahon did make subtle changes to Raw and SmackDown this week, as he promised a “shakeup” when he returned to television on Monday.
The first thing he did was bring his children back to TV. Baron Corbin and Paige are fired as Raw and SmackDown GMs, and the McMahon kids are back in charge with their dad. That’s the only thing Vince does when he thinks his show is in trouble. It’s why he returned to television in the first case. He believes his family is so over, that they’ll be needle-movers in the ratings. He keeps his kids in an emergency case backstage, and breaks open the glass and put them in front of the camera at times like this when ratings are suffering and viewership is down.
But put all that aside. We’ll have to deal with more Shane and Stephanie — and probably Vince — on TV for the next few months up until WrestleMania, but I can live with that if they continue to follow through with some of the more subtle changes they introduced into the shows this week.
The most effective change WWE can make is who it pushes and how those wrestlers are pushed. They need to recognize the mistakes they made with Roman Reigns, and even Seth Rollins, who is stagnated and doesn’t come across as cool as he should on television.
It’s hard to get babyfaces over in this era. But WWE does itself no favors.
The babyfaces that do get over naturally have been pushed aside or forced to change. Daniel Bryan is a great example. But there are signs that WWE is evolving when it comes to situations like this. Becky Lynch is front and center. They tried, and tried, and tried again to make her a heel over the summer, but the crowd wouldn’t have it. You could say she’s now being pushed as a tweener, but based on the crowd reaction she’s a babyface. She’s an anti-authority babyface who does whatever she wants. She’s Connor McGregor. She’s 2018’s Steve Austin. She’s the coolest act in WWE.
And WWE stopped going against the grain with Becky. The current version of her character is not what Vince McMahon had planned when they turned Lynch heel around SummerSlam. They wanted her to be a top heel.
On top of that, they gave the women (again, the hottest storyline in WWE) the main-event spot it deserved at TLC on Sunday night. The next night on Raw, the women’s division was featured in the main event and WWE heavily advertised a women’s title match for next Monday.
That’s another subtle change … they’re advertising ahead of time!
As Raw was going off the air on Monday night, we saw graphics for about five segments that were all planned for next week. Bobby Lashley vs. Elias in a street fight, Natalya vs. Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title, and more. Imagine that? Advertising matches a week ahead of time? Thank you!
More obvious changes included the push of Mustafa Ali, who debuted on SmackDown last week in a terrific match against Daniel Bryan and then pinned the WWE Champion on last night’s show in a tag team match. A new fresh face near the top of the card! And one that the crowd is accepting, unlike Jinder Mahal almost two years ago.
Vince can put himself and his kids on TV all he wants. As long as the company keeps modifying its playbook and stops trying to swim upstream against its audience, viewers will come back.