Storytelling in general - and wrestling in particular - is built around tropes. There's only so many ways to tell stories around the battle of two or more people in the wrestling ring. Angles repeat, sometimes purposefully, sometimes not. But the key to good wrestling storytelling is to find new ways to keep things fresh. New Japan doesn't always succeed in this (see the endless matches between War Machine, Killer Elite Squad and the Guerrillas of Destiny), but usually can continue to tweak things in interesting ways (Okada/Omega, Okada/Tanahashi, Kushida/Takahashi, etc.) This allows them to repeat matches without it feeling like the same thing over and over again, generally with no clear conclusion.
|Sometimes WWE storytelling leaves one feeling a lot like AJ here.|
Image credit: WWE.
At Money in the Bank, WWE will give us the fifth battle between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles under their banner. After the two men stole the show at Wrestle Kingdom a few years back, everyone anticipated their Wrestlemania encounter with enthusiasm. A lackluster showing ended with a Nakamura heel turn. But instead of paying off the feud with a heel title win by Nakamura, the company ended the next two matches with a double count out and a no contest. Nakamura picked up the win on Smackdown to pick the Last Man Standing stipulation for Money in the Bank, but at this point the once hotly anticipated feud between the two men feels like something we just want to end.
It seems like repetitive storytelling has become the norm for WWE. Whether it was the endless feud last year between the Usos and the New Day, Jinder Mahal picking up win after win, or the number of times The Miz fought Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins in the last twelve months, it just feels like the writing team build with holding patterns planned. It's especially frustrating for the weekly viewer, but even for a person like me that watches highlights and pay-per-views, it starts to feel tired after the third PPV in a row with the same people in the ring and the same false finishes to extend storylines.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that WWE is likely to change anything anytime soon. With two billion dollar deals for their two shows, the company looks like it will continue on the path that's clearly bringing them success.
That opens up avenues for companies like ROH, that have started to draw record numbers to events headlined by Cody, the Young Bucks and Dalton Castle. Impact has shown ratings increases on Pop as the company starts to solidify a roster after years in flux. Lucha Underground looks to return with more fanfare than in past years. Will all three companies continue to make storytelling decisions far stronger than those of WWE? That's anyone's guess, but I suspect the chances are good in the year ahead.
What do you see as WWE's main weakness in the days and months ahead? Let me know in the comments section!