Raw and Smackdown have had periods of being must-see TV, occasionally becoming skippable, and also had periods of being electric, high action shows. One thing that will ensure that the audience tunes in the next week, and the week after that, are cliff-hangers. WWE has proven throughout their history that open endings have given some great TV and huge intrigue, and that’s something that should be done more often.
Even Small Cliffhangers Can Make A Difference
This isn’t something that could be done every week, but it should be done more often than it currently is. Currently, the usual formula is either a match or a segment, which ends without too much tension, and one wrestler gets the heat over another. There was a difference on this past week’s Smackdown, and it was just a small detail, but it added a lot of intrigue. Following a Universal Championship match between Roman Reigns and Finn Balor, Reigns was leaving the ring after winning. However, a red light briefly flashed over the ring, hinting at ‘The Demon’.
This was so simple and effective, giving the audience a reason to tune in next week. Instead of simply having Reigns soundly defeat Balor and leave, there was something extra which gave multiple different directions and possibilities – an open-ended show which gives the fans something to talk about.
Raw certainly suffers more from this, with the last month or so being filled with combinations of Riddle and Randy Orton facing off with other tag team members in singles matches. These are nice ways to send the crowd home happy, with an RKO to get a pop, but it can feel lazy and repetitive, and doesn’t show much creativity.
Long-Term Storytelling Is Key To Having These Moments
What WWE is potentially lacking in recent times is momentum and hype. Whereas AEW over the last year were consistently giving out surprises, returns, huge main events, with the likes of Kenny Omega winning the World Title, turning heel and running to Impact, the surprise appearance of Kenta, the reunion of the full Elite, the formation of the Pinnacle, championships changes, Blood and Guts, and the list goes on. These are all major angles, moments, and they drive forward narratives and continue long-term stories.
A big reason why WWE probably doesn’t commit to cliffhangers is the lack of long-term storytelling and the week-to-week rewrites of shows. Herein lies the issue though and not mapping out stories gives the product and stories less credibility and will turn viewers away.
Some Of WWE’s Greatest Moments Are Show Endings
Long-term viewers of WWE will look back fondly on big returns, major heel or face turns, shocking moments, the beginnings of new feuds, emotional endings to shows, and legitimate main event matches that end up in championship changes or the culmination of stories. Most of the biggest, memorable moments in WWE history are these cliff-hangers and open-ended shows.
Looking back at Raw and Smackdown, moments such as the Nexus’ shocking debut, CM Punk’s heel turn on Raw 1000, Daniel Bryan overcoming the Wyatt Family’s control, Mankind winning the WWE Championship, Money in the Bank cash-ins, Stone Cold and Mike Tyson meeting in the ring, Batista thumbing down Triple H, have all been huge. The correlation between these moments is that they’re fondly remembered, they set up feuds or ended them, and they all capped off shows and left fans wanting more.
WWE Needs To Save Big Moments For TV Rather Than PPV
In the last couple of years, these sorts of moments have very seldom happened on WWE TV. Things like Retribution’s debut and a mystery attacker taking out Roman Reigns, have all been underwhelming despite promising starts, and they’ll be remembered more for being duds rather than for being great moments.
It seems that WWE has been saving huge returns and moments for pay-per-views. In a time where a lot of money comes from TV deals, with big events being streamed on the WWE Network, you’d think that this wouldn’t be the case. However, moments such as John Cena’s electric comeback, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar’s back-to-back Summerslam returns, The Miz cashing in his Money in the Bank, have all been reserved for pay-per-views. It’s an odd move, as with falling TV ratings over the pandemic, moments like that are needed to bring people back and get the audience talking.
If WWE had waited to bring back Brock Lesnar on the Smackdown following Summerslam, it would’ve given that post-Summerslam show something huge to brag about, and it would most certainly bring people back each week, as the weekly shows would seem more unpredictable, rather than knowing full-well that those big returns will