We are now three weeks into WWE’s “Wild Card Rule” era and, to the shock of no one, the soft roster consolidation has done little to redress the company’s creative and viewership woes.
In the macro, this will likely be, at best, a band-aid covering up the bloody gash that is WWE’s weekly storytelling. I’ve written about this at length elsewhere, but putting the scarce amount of stars you have on an increased workload won’t make up for months worth of dumb angles and controversies that have gradually eroded the fanbase.
There is no immediate fix for these problems; for WWE to win back their audience, they must build that trust back up by scripting stronger stories centered around wins and losses, protecting big matches for important shows, and cultivating new stars without overexposing them.
That final point reminds me of a quote WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon offered Express Sport a few months ago (h/t: Fightful): “I would like for there to be just as many women as there are men on the WWE roster and [to have] true equality and parity.”
Obviously, this idea wouldn’t come close to solving all of the company’s issues — if WWE wants “true equality and parity”, then maybe they should work on closing that gender wage gap — but having a deeper roster of women available would positively affect the company in plenty of ways.
Despite the company constantly patting itself on the back for finally promoting their female talent as athletes as opposed to mere eye candy with next to no character development outside of that bubble — and they have made legitimate strides in that area — women’s matches still make up less than a third of pay-per-view cards and the television time dedicated to them on RAW and SmackDown Live is just as scarce.
Take the shows that aired just this week. Monday’s RAW featured just one women’s segment — Alexa Bliss “interviewing” Becky Lynch on her “Moment of Bliss” talk show, which led to a six-woman tag between a reluctant Bliss, Lynch and Nikki Cross facing Lacey Evans and WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions The IIconics.
The writers doubled that quotient the next night on SmackDown, but even then, one of the matches — Carmella vs. Mandy Rose — ultimately existed solely to spotlight WWE’s new 24/7 Championship, a title so worthless that the first champion was crowned via a literal race to the ring.
In contrast, WWE offered the bare minimum when discussing/following up on Lynch — who, remember, participated in the MAIN EVENT of WrestleMania last April — losing her title or Bayley cashing in her Money in the Bank briefcase to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Two champions who are supposed to be on par with the WWE and Universal Champions shouldn’t receive a level of creative brainpower that’s afforded to a title that, in-storyline, only the lowest wrestlers in WWE’s hierarchy want.
With the women’s division ostensibly serving as a scapegoat for the company’s current rut, WWE seems to be slipping back into a troubling comfort zone when it comes to booking the ladies in a less than meaningful manner.
Needless to say, the problem doesn’t lie in WWE putting women in main events. Rather, it’s another testament to WWE’s lack of roster depth and their inability to produce new headline acts, problems that go hand in hand.
It’s especially a problem in the women’s ranks; you can count the number of credible active female wrestlers in both shows with one hand. And that just accounts for the singles divisions; outside of Kairi Sane and Asuka, the company has failed to establish tangible adversaries for the IIconics — who themselves are still framed as the laughingstocks they were prior to winning the titles.
Simply put, WWE doesn’t have enough wrestlers on the main rosters to adequately accentuate each one’s strengths, at least compared to hourly content they pump out on a weekly basis. Evening out the women’s talent pool with the men’s would help with that conundrum.
With access to more women, the WWE creative team could hold off on wasting most of their fresh matchups on free TV while avoiding many of the repetitive pairings that get fans reaching for the remote.
Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see showcase matches that establish the likes of Shayna Baszler or Bianca Belair as reputable championship contenders as opposed to letting Shane McMahon show off his pugilistic “skills” twice a week?
How about introducing some new duos to challenge Peyton Royce and Billie Kay for their titles instead of padding the show with time-filler matches that ultimately lead to nothing? Or even using the influx to workers to establish a clear-cut pecking order, allowing high-ceiling wrestlers like Cross, Ember Moon, Naomi, and Sonya Deville to standout in showcase matches instead of keeping them on the parity booking treadmill.
This wouldn’t just help the women either. Increasing the size of the would allow WWE to spread the men’s wrestlers out more. Ideally, more women on the main roster would mean more meaningful stories for the women, which could to WWE leaning as heavily on the guys who often fall victim to the creative team’s proclivity to waste potential PPV matches on a random Monday or Tuesday to satiate their weekly TV obligations.
Of course, there are some pitfalls to this idea. Calling up more wrestlers could give WWE more reason to ransack the indies to compensate their losses in NXT while also furthering their quest to monopolize the industry. And it ultimately doesn’t matter how many wrestlers are on the roster if they don’t have the creative support necessary for them to succeed.
In general, WWE needs to overhaul much of the way they conduct their business and how they construct these shows. They need to find a way to create compelling weekly television with characters that feel like they’re a big deal. Expanding the women’s roster wouldn’t immediately nor totally remedy this dilemma, but it’s a start.