Updated: Sep 20, 2022
When Vince McMahon resigned from WWE on July 22, the company changed forever. McMahon had been in charge of the wrestling/entertainment company ever since the early 80’s and is the reason why the acronym “WWE” is known publicly today. It is because of Vince McMahon WWE became a global icon.
As great as McMahon’s vision for the company was when he bought it from his father, Vince McMahon Sr. in 1982, over the last several years, with upstart companies such as All Elite Wrestling coming into the fold, McMahon had been criticized by fans who stopped watching WWE, citing the main reason being due to the product being stale.
That is not the case anymore.
Three days after McMahon officially stepped away from all aspects in WWE ahead of allegations of sexual misconduct brought forward by the Wall Street Journal, WWE made it offical: Stephanie McMahon (the daughter of Vince) and Nick Khan would be taking over as co-CEO’s. Paul “Triple H” Levesque (the husband of Stephanie and 14-time WWE World Champion) would be taking the reins as the head of creative on WWE’s in-ring product. When the announcement was made, many in the WWE Universe were excited to see what “The Game” was going to cook up. Levesque was the man in charge during the “Black and Gold Era” of NXT (WWE’s developmental territory) from 2012-2021, and it was often viewed as the best in-ring product WWE produced.
However, there was always a disconnect between Triple H’s vision and Vince’s vision. When NXT superstars would be called up to the main roster (RAW or SmackDown), they would often be misutilized under Vince, or even sometimes become a completely different character the audience could not get behind to cheer or boo, causing them to fall out of line with the former CEO and either be released or stuck in catering.
That is not the case anymore.
Return of released stars
Since Triple H has taken over creative for RAW and SmackDown, there’s been a sense of urgency on the show, and most of that has come from the multiple unexpected returns from former NXT superstars that were released by McMahon last year. Whether it’s been Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky (formerly Io Shirai) returning to join Bayley at SummerSlam, or Karrion Kross returning to his NXT gimmick with his real-life wife Scarlett Bordeaux instead of a character without Bordeaux that featured Kross wearing a helmet, or Dexter Lumus trying to break security, or the return of Hit Row, in his short time as head of creative, Hunter has put an emphasis on “expect the unexpected”, and it’s made the shows must-see viewing.
The returns aren’t expected to stop, with former WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks and Naomi reportedly set to return now that the previously announced Tag Title tournament is underway. The team of Boss & Glow reportedly walked out of the May 15th RAW due to frustration with Vince over the direction of the Women’s Tag Titles.
There’s also numerous signs Bray Wyatt, also known as The Fiend, could be making his way back to the company. One of the most popular acts in recent memory was released by the company in the summer last year due to concerns over his character’s direction. Recent leaks suggest the former boss grew sour on the gimmick many fans loved.
More focus on action
In the three short weeks “HHH” has held down the fort on WWE’s red and blue brands, there’s been noticeably a shift in the amount of in-ring action on the shows. Gone are the countless recaps and same old matches, Hunter is giving the WWE Universe fresh, captivating action, and not all of the action is inside the squared circle. There’s been a ton of fighting on the outside of the ring and in the crowd. Every match seems to have stakes. Whether it’s for a championship opportunity or building a feud between two bitter rivals, fighting for the purpose of fighting no longer exists in WWE.
Emphasis on the mid-card
Over the last half decade, the WWE mid-card has been watered down, specifically the Intercontinental and United States Championship belts. There’s been terrific reigns in that time period (specifically The Miz and Seth Rollins with the IC Title), but those titles used to mean more in the “glory days”. The Intercontinental Championship was seen as the “workhorse” championship; the title that was defended at every show; the title that was a stepping stone to the World Championship; the title that proved a superstar was on the right path to greatness. Hall of Famers including Triple H himself, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat all have held the IC Title, among others. The United States Championship has done the same for superstars on the brand that does not hold the IC Championship since the brand split was created (2002-2011, 2016-present).
On the latest RAW and SmackDown’s, a video package pertaining to both championships have aired, showing the lineage of the titles. With the WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns not on TV every week, those two belts should have been the main focus since the “Head of the Table” unified both World Championships at WrestleMania 38. Now, they’re getting their do-diligence. Current U.S. Champion Bobby Lashley defended the strap successfully against Ciampa (who was paying homage to the late Harley Race) this past Monday on RAW in a great match, and he will defend it again this coming Monday against A.J. Styles in a first-time ever matchup that will be phenomenal (pun-intended). Meanwhile, over on SmackDown, GUNTHER and Shinsuke Nakamura (two superstars who struggled to get over under McMahon’s regime), had a fantastic main event IC Title match this past Friday.
Since Triple H took over WWE creative, there’s been an overwhelming sense of fresh air and optimism in WWE. Listening to both current and former WWE Superstars, it sounds like that sense of urgency and good morale is not going to go away anytime soon. The excitement has carried over to the fans as well.
In his first Premium Live Event in charge, HHH had Brock Lesnar use a tractor and move the ring with the “Tribal Chief” inside of it during their Last Man Standing match at SummerSlam. It was a moment I will never forget as a WWE fan, and I still have not stopped thinking about how fantastic that match was after the dud Reigns and Lesnar produced at WrestleMania, which was supposed to be the “Biggest WrestleMania Match of all time”. After the success of SummerSlam, RAW received its highest rated viewership since before COVID-19 forced WWE to go to a closed environment at the Performance Center with no fans in attendance, and that show did not feature big stars such as Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, who are currently out of action with injuries, and did not feature wrestling matches from Edge, Seth Rollins or Riddle.
Sometimes, you know change is needed, but when you make said change matters. Over the last half decade, WWE has had somewhat of a negative stigma around them as being a stale product. It’s only been a few weeks, but Triple H has already begun to shift the narrative. As a former wrestler and future Hall of Famer, there’s a sense the “Cerebral Assassin” has a better sense of what the modern wrestling fan is starving for.
It’s been a wild year for WWE, both on- and off-screen, and the wildness should only continue for the rest of 2022. It’s safe to say WWE is more interesting right now than it has been in a long time.
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