Fans united with Cesaro in his post-draft interview when he lamented the notion that he was so far down in the running order of the draft and complained about how underutilized he has been in what felt like a worked shoot, if not a shoot all together. It was a new and exciting instance of WWE seemingly addressing the barrage of social media frothing that suffixes every single episode of Raw and SmackDown.
Fast forward to a few weeks later, and Daniel Bryan is openly telling Shane McMahon that he feels that Cesaro is being poorly used to an excited pop from the crowd.
Meanwhile, on “Talking Smack,” Daniel Bryan openly mocked the introduction of the Universal Championship, in unison with thousands of other fans who thought the name and the concept royally sucked.
Then you’ve got Dean Ambrose acknowledging Dolph Ziggler’s failed pushes, albeit blaming “self-destruction” rather than WWE creative.
There was also Roman Reigns’ wellness policy violation being worked into a storyline, the list goes on and on.
This is an excellent direction for the WWE to take for the New Era. Not only does it allow the fandom to have a genuine influence on WWE’s creative direction, it can also very swiftly nip in the bud any groundswell of resentment towards the product, and even neutralize it by making unpopular backstage decisions part of a storyline.
For such a long time, the WWE moved mountains to ignore or spin the outrage of its fanbase. Even recently, the company had the impressive gall to suggest that the fans decided that they liked booing people they actually love in order to explain away the constant barrage of hatred directed at Roman Reigns.
Elsewhere, the WWE never really admitted that Daniel Bryan’s late insertion into the main event of WrestleMania 30 wasn’t some genius long-term booking strategy, rather than the frantic last-minute tearing up of the script when the company realized that a main event of Randy Orton vs. Batista was going to absolutely tank. But now the WWE has started to hold itself to account over poor booking decisions, we could be in for a steady drip of worked shoots. When done right, a genius antidote to the age old issue of wrestling fans being wise to the backstage machinations of wrestling.
More often than not, the WWE gets worked shoots right, as CM Punk showed in 2011. It must however, be careful not to become too excessive with the concept.
The completely unstable behavior of WCW during its dying days serve as a stark warning of how badly wrong that playing up to the smarks can go.
No one is likely to forget Jeff Jarrett laying down in front of Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach 2000, as Vince Russo and the commentators openly acknowledged that this moment was off-script, and a culmination of managerial tensions stemming from Hulk Hogan’s excessive creative control and refusal to lose matches to certain people. Real or not, it was bad TV.
Nobody will forget, try as they desperately might, the events of New Blood Rising 2000, in which Goldberg kayfabe went off-script and refused to take a powerbomb from Kevin Nash.
That being said, these genius “ideas” came from the brain of Vince Russo, and his strange notions have only ever been made successful by Vince McMahon.
By keeping well measured, balanced control of worked shoots that turn poorly received decisions into storyline points, WWE may have taken a step towards resurrecting kayfabe for a new era of smarks.