WWE Putting Promotion Over Content Has Hurt the Company: Traina Thoughts

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1. It's always a little bizarre to write a serious column about the WWE's TV product since things are scripted, but it's also like any other program that can be picked apart for character development and storylines, so here we go.

Currently, the WWE product has major issues—and that's an understatement. The talent is there, but the storylines and creative direction are in a really bad place—one of the worst ever.

From my perspective, it seems one of the biggest issues is that the company is more focused on promotion and brand awareness than the actual television product. The legit, week-in-week-out viewer is being ignored so the company can attempt to lure new viewers.

The WWE is now relying on a UFC guy and a boxer to draw a new audience. Wrestling fans want to see wrestlers, but the WWE is now featuring Cain Velasquez and Tyson Fury in prominent roles on its shows. The big Cain Velasquez debut on SmackDown's FOX premiere two weeks ago didn't help viewership at all.

SmackDown's second episode on FOX was down from 3.9 million viewers to 2.9 million viewers.

The partnership with FOX (for SmackDown) and, to a lesser extent, USA Network (for RAW) has led to the company relentlessly jamming a slew of C- and D-list celebrities down everyone's throats for the past couple weeks in awful skits and results have been flat-out embarrassing, as proven here.

The WWE wanted to make its brand-split draft a really big deal, but it was a bust with fans. Because of the deal with FOX, WWE tried to make its draft like a traditional sports draft and it did not work. It came off hokey, even for professional wrestling.

On Tuesday night, WWE announced a "trade" between Raw and SmackDown. Two wrestlers were moved from one show to the other "for future draft picks down the line." Is this supposed to intrigue fans? Is this supposed to be entertaining to fans? We watch wrestling because it's NOT like every other sport. 

The two wrestlers who have gotten over the most recently have been Becky Lynch and Bray Wyatt. But the WWE has even managed to botch their runs. They wanted to make Lynch's real-life relationship with Seth Rollins a storyline and it turned out to be a dud and they made fans irate with the finish of Wyatt's Hell in a Cell match with Rollins last week.

To add to the madness, it was announced Tuesday that Eric Bischoff was out as Executive Director of SmackDown after just four months on the job. SI.com's Justin Barrasso reports that Vince McMahon made the decision to ax Bischoff on Monday night.

In fairness to the WWE creative team, I think it's near impossible to write good wrestling storylines in 2019, where everyone knows everything because of the Internet and surprises just don't happen. Plus, fans are more interested in "real life" backstage politics and how the sausage is made than actual storylines. 

But we have seen in recent years that certain stars can still capture the crowd's imagination and hook people in, including Lynch, Wyatt, Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston. Hell, fans were even ready to embrace Roman Reigns after he returned, but it didn't seem like WWE knew what to do with him.

Can the company turn things around and make its core fans happy? Even NXT, which WWE fans have embraced in a huge way the past few years, lost the Wednesday ratings battle against upstart AEW the first two weeks they've gone head to head.

I don't know how WWE can fix its problems, but I'd start with focusing less on promotion and "celebrities" and trying to be like "real" sports and get back to catering to the die-hard fan base.

2. One positive for the WWE: It's locked in on FOX each and every Friday night for SmackDown. With Wednesday's Astros-Yankees game getting rained out, the teams will now play Game 5 on Friday night at 7:08 pm. ET. Like all ALCS games, it will air on FS1. Northwestern-Ohio State was slated to air on FS1 on Friday night, but had to be moved to Big Ten Network. FOX was unavailable to pick up the ALCS game or the college football game because of SmackDown.

3. The latest SI Media Podcast came out today and it features an interview with SI.com legal analyst Michael McCann. We discussed the NBA/China/LeBron James situation, fallout from the new information regarding Tyler Skaggs’s death, Antonio Brown's grievance against the Patriots, Purdue banning sports betting, how the XFL can learn from the AAF, fan injuries caused by flying objects and more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

4. Juan Soto doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 25, so it was a dry celebration for him Tuesday night after the Nationals clinched the NL pennant.

5. At least he was honest.

6. Very interesting betting numbers for my fellow degenerates. Pound the dogs and don't be afraid to bet road teams.

7. RANDOM YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE DAY: I'm not completely sure this Wheel of Fortune contestant was kidding when he gave a little background on himself.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.