The most simplistic way to describe professional wrestling comes down to character. You have to get the audience to believe in your characters enough so that they pay to come see them win or lose. It’s a simple concept.
If WWE considers itself entertainment, then it needs to learn what the entertainment business is like right now. It is a character-driven industry just like wrestling, especially on television. “Game of Thrones” might have just as many characters as the WWE has Superstars, but the difference is that we know what the characters in Westeros are after. Every show that gets a pilot spends its time making sure the audience knows basically who a character is, and some form of motivation they have.
The WWE has not been able to really create those new characters at the rate that it needs to. Everyone knows the backstory of The Shield, so apart from those three guys and also Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, any new face has not gotten the character development they need to succeed.
There have been other attempts to show a Superstar’s character, but they mostly fall flat, and guys have to figure out other ways to get over. AJ Styles is just a really great wrestler who was famous in Japan, that’s it. Bray Wyatt has some kind of character, but the audience still has no idea what it exactly is. Baron Corbin is just an angry guy from NXT. Apollo Crews is just an athletic guy from NXT. It hasn’t been working, but there has been a concentrated effort recently on making people care about some Superstars.
With Raw being the three-hour show, it has more time to explain people’s backstories and give them time on the microphone. There are more opportunities for backstage segments.
This is the case for Titus O’Neil and Darren Young. Most feuds in WWE start with a random match, and then an angle is started after they already had a match for no reason. Titus and Young had a match because Titus asked when Young had ever been great.
It was an insult that started it off. Titus has some character development because it is shown that he will do anything to get a win. This week, Young won by cheating as well, without his coach, Bob Backlund, knowing. Now there’s a new dynamic between Darren Young and Backlund and if Young will continue to cut corners against his coach’s wishes.
Gallows and Anderson have been nothing but henchmen for AJ Styles since they arrived in WWE. But in this feud with The New Day, they finally get to show an entertaining side of themselves. They can be ruthless, evidenced by the attack on Big E. They can be taken seriously, evidenced by Gallows’ win over Kofi Kingston. They can be funny as well, evidenced by the promo they cut about “ringpostitis.” It would be nice if Gallows and Anderson won this feud, but at least now it’s apparent that they are not one-trick ponies.
Finn Balor is the most important person that needs these promos and packages. He was loved in NXT because people knew who he was as Prince Devitt. Now, most of the main roster audience doesn’t even watch NXT so he is a complete unknown. They needed to explain who Finn Balor is and why he becomes the Demon. The package on Raw was great to get some backstory and build up Balor’s alter ego. Next week, Rollins will probably downplay it, but he is a master of saying he isn’t scared, but portraying fear with his facial expressions.
Even though there is still more work to do in the character department of Raw, there has been a marked improvement already. And in order to make the brand split work, it needs to continue.