Niche Please: WWE’s Limited Marketing Hurts (Part 1: The Cruiserweight Division)

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Niche Please: WWE’s Limited Marketing Hurts

Part 1: The Cruiserweight Division

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Over the years WWE has clearly done something right in terms of marketing and brand expansion. They’re often seen as the number one wrestling program (excuse me, sports entertainment) sheerly for their dominance over professional wrestling in the entertainment world. WWE breeds star power, with forces such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dave ‘The Animal’ Batista, and now John ‘U Can’t C Me’ Cena. Are there other, very successful wrestling programs? Of course, but for today we’ll focus on WWE programming. More specifically, how formulaic their shows can be, and how that hinders them; while competitors seem to flourish without said formula.

It seems silly to decree how an entertainment titan such as WWE should run their show. Yet one can’t help but to notice that WWE seems to dig themselves into a hole with supposedly good intentions ,yet at the same time buries all of their talent alive in it. This refers to the Cruiserweight Division. What started as an incredible tournament on the WWE Network has now led to a subpar division with usually mediocre segments on Monday Night Raw.

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Now why might that be? Why would some of the contenders from such a widely well received tournament be stuck in this rut on WWE television? One would assume that their matches and segments would be pure fire, given the level of talent these wrestlers have garnered while on the independent circuit. Yet it seems that whenever such segments air live on the show, they’re met with silence, or the occasional beach ball party. So how does something that was once so incredibly popular which had viewers foaming at the mouth, become the new designated restroom break?

Quite simply, WWE places their performers in these little niches and keeps them there, without any possibility of escape. With the induction of the specialized division and a championship belt, one thought that meant we were going to see the new signees go toe to toe with some of the main event staples of Monday Night Raw. In contrast, what we saw was complete isolation. By being a cruiserweight, that meant that you didn’t interact with anyone outside of the division, save for the short-term stint of Alicia Fox as a manager to Cedric Alexander, then Noam Dar. It’s as though the division has a deadly plague, and having them interact with other superstars would leave to the complete decimation of the show. It’s a very odd tactic to do, to isolate the cruiserweight division from everyone and keep them completely self-involved; especially when that wasn’t always the case.

Sure, one could see this as WWE trying to make things fair and equal: guys going against similar weight classes so as not to provide an unfair advantage. Yet doesn’t WWE thrive on such feuds built upon this? It’s a classic David and Goliath scenario, one that does well for the likes of people like Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn: yet somehow can’t be used for the cruiserweight division. In addition to that, they’re doing this to competitors who have never been relegated to competing against only one type of opponent before stepping into WWE. Take for example: Kalisto and Neville. Even before this division, such competitors were competing amongst everyone else in WWE. Much like their independent circuit friends, there was no weight limit that classified who they could and could not wrestle against. Size was just an element of the story, meant to play up the hero’s hopeful triumph or heartbreaking downfall.  It did not indicate their skill level or capability to defeat a large opponent.

It never stopped people like Rey Mysterio.

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Yet WWE continues to have the cruiserweight division in this niche. Story evolution is at a halt, for they show two, maybe four competitors per week on Monday Night Raw. Of course, there’s 205 live, but for the casual fan that’s not willing to, or doesn’t have, the Network: they’re at a complete loss. Usually it’s just a throwaway match for them to hit the concessions or evacuate their bowels.

If you’re going to have a division isolated by itself with a generous amount of athletes (see also: Women’s Division); then you may as well go all the way with it. Why not add a secondary belt? Something for the other, forgotten members to fight for seeing as how all anything has ever been about is the chase for the purple belt. Wrestlers that were esteemed and revered for their talent now look like complete and utter jokes (sorry, TJP). Almost as though someone doesn’t want them to be seen as a top tier talent that can take away from the big guys.

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After all, if we look at this from a more cynical level: it’s pretty disheartening. Signing the cruiserweight could be seen as a money trap where all the favor goes to Vince McMahon. These wrestlers being signed means that they’re not wrestling for any other promotion; likely drawing their fans to watch WWE instead. That of course, means more viewers, which usually means more money in some capacity, no? It also keeps from the program’s competitors from making their shows as entertaining as possible. Losing some talent can be a big blow to suffer, and it’s a way for McMahon to keep the control and the eyes on his product. Why worry about other promotions when you’re snatching up and signing all the best that there are out there? These performers weren’t cruiserweight outside of WWE, they were just incredible and talented.

Yet now they’re brushed off to the side. They’re signed, they’re not out there performing incredible stunts and drawing attention away from the WWE with their highly publicized and talked about matches. They’re no longer a threat; not only to the company as a whole, but to those that Vince has deemed to be top tier talent as well. Having the cruiserweight in this niche that they cannot escape only hurts them as performers, and makes it all the more likely that the division could fall from sheer lack of morale, hope, and intentional neglect.

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SmackDown: (8/20/15 Highlights)

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Oh yeah, SmackDown! Before you know it we’ll be experiencing four hours of SummerSlam! Prep your snacks everyone!

But before that, we have to endure all the matches scheduled for Summer Slam in around 15 minutes or less on SmackDown.

Highlights

 That weird haze during SmackDown…

Was the entire audience blazing up? What’s with this weird haze on my TV screen? Its like Ryback and Big Show fighting in the mists….

This is Gorillas in the Mist.

Kofi presenting Xavier with a beautiful bouquet.

Really, it’s quite lovely. Did he pick those out himself, or did he have assistance from the florist? Were those particular flowers picked because those are Xavier’s favorite colors? The world may never know, and the flowers aren’t important in the slightest. I just feel like these are the type of questions that would be raised if this was a news crew reviewing a really horrible reality show like Tough Enough.

Stardust clarifies what Barrett means by saying “red and green will turn black and blue”.

That means that Neville and Green Arrow will be all sorts of bruised up. Because they will be punched. Thank goodness Stardust told us that the color change is a result of being hit, otherwise I never would have known.

Team Bella spells out “Bella”.

Wow. They can spell.

Good to know.

Sasha says Brie’s been riding her injured husband’s coattails. 

So, they read my blog….good to know.

Dean, Roman, and Randy all want to torture and hurt their opponents…

Cesaro just wants a shirt that says ‘Lose Owens Lose’!  Hey, as Dean said, different strokes for different folks.

Although, ‘Lose Owens Lose’ would also say LOL….I like it. A subtle way for Cesaro’s chest to laugh at Kevin and all his losses, while being comfortable and fashionable.

Forget everyone getting an RKO!

Tonight, everyone gets a Samoan drop!

My spine already hurts from watching this.

The only match I can remember is the main event to be quite honest with you. Everything else was just a blur of two minute matches and painfully awkward promos. Thank goodness we have SummerSlam coming up.

SmackDown: Cesaro, the Batman of the WWE (8/13/15 Highlights)

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Ah SmackDown, we meet again! We are so close, yet so far away from SummerSlam, I can practically taste the dirty water Brooklyn hot dogs and swell the sweet scent of train station urine. Ah, memories…

But for now, we must focus on SmackDown. What is there possibly left to do in the lead up to the PPV?!

Highlights

Seth Rollins sounded like a Harry Potter villain with the way he said ‘Neville’.

He probably had a marathon of all the films earlier.

Neville saying “and on and on and on and on and on…”

Until Cesaro comes out. So, is that his version of the bat signal? You mock how much Seth talks until Cesaro appears?

Luke Harper was born holding the Devil’s hand.

What does that even mean? Did his mother birth the Devil as well? Was Lucifer himself fully grown, or also an infant? Did the Devil just reach up in there to hold his hand or what…?

Post-match brawl between the Wyatt Family, Dean, and Roman.

Roman leaps like a beautiful ballerina, Dean’s throwing himself all over everyone, the Wyatts make love to a barricade…

Ah, what a time to be alive.

Titus tossing Big E to the side.

Like a pimp letting go his oldest ho, that must be a tough thing to deal with.

Cesaro press-slammed Seth from the ring until…well..

Hell, Seth almost hit the barricade.

Dayuuuuuum.

Talk about taking out the trash.

Cesaro countering the pin into a sharpshooter.

Such a fluid movement, it was wonderful.

He didn’t win, Seth picked up the cheap win, but the counter was great.

Okay…I did what I could for SmackDown this week. They’re just all a bunch of little teasers for SummerSlam, they can only show so much! Makes you wonder what will happen on RAW….

DUN DUN DUN

RAW: The Green Arrow Strikes! ( 8/10/15 Highlights)

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RAW! Tonight we see The Green Arrow himself! Or…is it Stephen Amell? Only time will tell, and what will this showdown bring to the table? Hero versus Villain? Will the Hero take out the Villain early on, or will this battle rage on and nearly destroy the entire universe?

I mean….probably not, you know…that’s…that’s a little  too catastrophic, this isn’t some doomsday plot or anything. But you know, it’ll be something!

Highlights

Seth: He’s [John Cena] not straight outta compton…he’s straight outta action.

You dork.

Really? Really?! I guess I can’t comment on that…I would have said the same thing.

John’s giant, busted face via satellite.

Yabba dabba doo mother fuckers, John just wanted to inform the C-nation that he now has to give up his career due to his nose job from Picasso.

Surgery, Recovery, Rehab is the new motto. Good for you Cena.

Kevin, Randy, Cesaro entering the ring trying to get a title shot.

Poor Seth is the little lamb backed into a corner while everyone fights over him. He’s so damn popular.

Tamina finally wrestled!

Except it lasted about thirty seconds. At least that one shot she got in was great….it did lead to one hell of a brawl.

Kevin Owens going over the top rope.

Well done you mouthy daredevil. You stayed in the match, and flew over the top rope!

Fly Owens Fly.

The entirety of the triple threat match was golden.

Flying swiss superman, a vintage Randy Orton appears, Kevin Owens learns to fly. It was magical.

Luke stealing Byron’s chair for his beloved Bray.

What a sweet, loving family this is.

Roman rushing at Bray with a superman punch.

To keep that scumbag from going after his best friend during the match. Oh pardon me, I meant brother.

These family dynamics are just  so charming.

Miz saying he’ll rebrand Stephen Amell and teach him how to act once Stardust is done with him.

That’s hysterical, Miz is such a pompous jack ass. But he’s also super giving, seeing as he’s willing to share his talent.

I love it.

Big Show’s had it with the ‘please retire’ chants.

“Find someone to retire me.”

Crowd better calm down, looks like Big Show is seconds away from running into the crowd and eating everyone in sight.

Oh wait…that’s Ryback’s job…right?

I don’t know, they’re practically twins at this point.

Hey….they’d make a great remake of Arnold’s movie if they actually did that.

Summer putting Lana in the accolade.

Well hot damn, good for you girl. Actually, the whole punishing Rusev’s ex-girlfriend because he’s petty and psychotic isn’t exactly good.

But executing the submission maneuver is great!

Green Arrow attacking Stardust.

Sorry, I mean Stephen Amell attacking Stardust. Man, I see why Stardust gets so confused. They’re practically one in the same!

All confusion aside, Green–I mean, Stephen really went bonkers on Stardust. Let this be a lesson to everyone, never slap an superhero–I mean actor!

Green Arrow and Neville versus Wade Barrett and Stardust at Summer Slam!

Sweet lord of the rings, my inner nerd is bouncing across the walls. There’s a superhero in our midst! For real!

Plus I do enjoy the fact that it’s the Green Arrow, and Neville’s finisher is the red arrow.

It’s like Green Arrow and Speedy, how precious.

I like how Sheamus and Randy seem to have this childish thing going on where if one of them does anything, the other needs to ruin it for them. Good grief you guys, you’re adults! Act like it it once in awhile! Occasionally at least….settle it over rock paper scissors or something. Or maybe with a fist fight–

Oh…..I see what they’re doing, okay then!

But honestly, get over yourselves, you do this all the time, and this isn’t a classic like Triple H and Shawn Michaels…it’s just there.

RAW: A Truly Rowdy Night (Highlights 8/3/15)

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It’s a rather grim lead up to Monday Night RAW considering another legend has been lost, one Rowdy Roddy Piper. However, RAW must go on, and he will be missed by many a fan and paid tribute to in a wonderful montage at the start of the night.

Aside from the doom and gloom, there is now a shirt available in the WWE store that says ‘U Can’t C Knee’. Everyone needs this shirt right now.

Highlights

Seth wears the ‘U Can’t C Knee’ shirt.

He struts down to the ring just oozing pure arrogance, wafting with swagger (is that a thing?)

He wears the shirt with pride. It’s glorious.The crowd screams, “Thank You Rollins”

I’ll take ten.

First ever WWE World Heavyweight Championship Open Challenge! Oh man!

The challenger is Neville! Oh happy day! Sorry El Torito, maybe next time.

Seth vs. Neville

That entire match was pure gold.

No wait, it was platinum. Pure platinum. Absolutely magical.

Xavier Woods screaming his way into commentary.

What a gift he is to the Universe. Nice to see him throwing a fit about the Prime Time Players being fighting champions.

Paige, Becky, and Charlotte have named themselves the ‘Submission Sorority’.

….

Do I even need to crack a joke about that one?

Charlotte made Nikki Bella tap out.

WOO! Down goes the Champ! Is the Champ here? Not for long!

Hey, you know, they really live up to their definitely not PG-Rated name.

Miz thanks Roddy for paving the way.

He’s right, none of these magnificent talk show-like segments would have happened if there hadn’t been Piper’s Pit.

Well said Miz.

The entirety of Miz TV.

What a gift this is to television. I don’t know where to begin. Owens the Miz super-fan, Cesaro the sassy well dressed fighter…

Miz, the background character in every World Star video…..

Dean and Roman’s homage to Rowdy Roddy Piper.

They’re here to kick ass, and chew bubblegum, alas, they’re all out of bubblegum.

Well said boys.

Oh and Randy’s there too! Dean’s pleased the man’s finally a team player…..somewhat…well considering he’s the Viper, that’s about as much of a team player as they’re going to get.

Luke Harper’s weird shouting.

He’s just screaming ‘Yaaaaaasssssss’, right? Either that or his animal imitations are terrible.

Main Event Frenzy

Roman went into an absolute frenzy. As Byron said, he was a one-man wrecking crew as he took out Sheamus, Bray, and Luke before the match was somewhat normal….for at least a second. There were suicide dives, superman punches, and of course, what everyone loves, a beautiful RKO.

All while tastefully keeping Sheamus and Orton away from each other. like Roman and Bray were kept away from each other to keep from spoiling their Summer Slam matches.

Ah, a wonderful main event! Now we wait for a disappointing episode of SmackDown.

SmackDown: Kevin Owens Likes Seth’s Sloppy Seconds (7/23/15 Highlights)

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I have to start thinking up more introductions for these things. I can only trash SmackDown so many times before it becomes completely redundant. Mind you, it’s already hit that point, but sometimes you just have to keep pushing the limits.

Highlights

Dean making the sign of the cross after not dying when slamming against the announce table.

Really, that was a lucky landing. Completely understandable why he’d do that. I’d also perform a sacrificial offering and light a bunch of candles, but that’s just me.

Stardust’s promo after Neville’s match.

It was deranged, and beautiful, and absolutely wonderful. Not deranged in the sense that he’s a dirty swamp thing, but deranged in a completely different way that reminds you of the Riddler. It’s wonderful.. He is the super villain WWE needs.

Kevin Owens is the king of abandonment, according to Cesaro

He just loves to flee matches left and right.

Cesaro hopes Kevin doesn’t choke on his food…

…the way he choked in his match against John Cena at the PPV.

Good god that was brutal and wonderful. What a beautiful feud.

The main event of Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins

Over all, just a fun match to watch. What’s not to love? Strong Cesaro, agile, cheating Seth Rollins.

Then Kevin Owens coming in at the end to pick up Seth’s sloppy seconds. What a time to be alive.

You know what? SmackDown wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! I don’t know if it’s because this is the week following a PPV or what. It didn’t start with a ten minute montage of previous events, had a damn good main event with good matches in between. Not too shabby WWE, not too shabby at all.

SmackDown: …I can’t even try with this show anymore (7/16/15 Highlights)

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Alas, the final SmackDown before the Battleground PPV. Might WWE pull out all the stops for this? Will they put a last few details into these stories before we watch these people attack each other so savagely?!

Probably not, but something interesting has to happen.

Bray and Roman discussing Bray’s hammer.

Unless he’s Thor, Bray should not have a hammer. It doesn’t feel right. Maybe a sickle, he seems like a sickle type of guy. Very uh…fitting of his demeanor.

You know, because he’s an absolute nut job.

Jimmy Uso said Cesaro was a real life Popeye.

After that standing suplex to Rusev, I’m inclined to agree with him because that was absolutely ridiculous. My spine snapped in half just watching that move.

The traumatized look on Summer Rae’s face…

Right after Cesaro hit Rusev with the neutralizer and pinned him. Oh that was absolutely hysterical.

Stardust’s face as he waited for Neville to enter the ring.

Pair that with the lighting (or lack thereof) and that creepy…smile of his? Dear god I think I’m going to have nightmares for weeks.

Oh, and a need for therapy.

Dean did something weird as usual.

I don’t know if he meant to do it or he tripped…but it worked, and I’m entertained by it! Then you know, he died on the announce table after delivering a massive DDT.

Worth it, if you ask me!

Alas, before I knew it SmackDown was over. Honestly, it didn’t feel like any big thing before a PPV. Doesn’t feel like the stories have come together either. Most of them have lost momentum. Now I just want Cesaro and John Cena to have another match instead, that can be Battleground all on its own!