WWE

WWE TLC: Three areas that need improvement in the WWE

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Has the WWE gone backwards?

In this very column back in April, we eulogised over the WWE’s rude health and the bright future it seemed to be roaring toward.

On the back of a WrestleMania full of delight, it all seemed justifiable.

The WWE had its best roster in years and an apparent clear path for Creative to wind us down, weaving in and out of glorious matches that had the potential to paint a very pretty picture for the company.

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On the back of it, we had John Cena vs Kevin Owens and the rise of the Divas.

There have even been two rematches between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar but somehow the company is still on its knees, desperate to reinvigorate a Universe growing more and more disaffected with the product.

Ratings are dwindling – the New York Post said this week that Raw ratings “have fallen nearly 50 percent from their 2015 high” – and fans are being turned off by predictable storylines and a frustration over its negligible use of some of wrestling’s brightest Superstars in decades.

Here, Sport360’s WWE TLC looks at three things that have gone wrong for the company since that pivotal WrestleMania.

BAD BOOKING
Consistently over the last few months, the WWE has failed to deliver with its booking of pay-per-views, with feuds hurried to a conclusion and Superstars given next to no time to build a story both in and out of the ring.

A look at the tag-team, NXT and Divas divisions shows three factions of the company rich in talent but deprived of headlining PPVs and making runs at the gold.

It has lead to an infuriatingly stagnant production line of exciting wrestlers and the same old Superstars being put over at the top of shows.

DIVA DEVOLUTION
When Stephanie McMahon ushered in the Divas revolution, it wasn’t a gimmick, it wasn’t pandering to equality, it was recognition that  the WWE’s women were as good as they have ever been.

Paige, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch have all shown that they are not just hugely marketable Divas, they are exceptional in the ring and some of the most innovative females in the history of sports entertainment.

However, a combination of stubbornness from the WWE to erase AJ Lee’s record-breaking feats and a lack of opportunity on main shows for the likes of Lynch and Banks has seen the revolution stall so soon after screeching off the mark.

A MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE
With so many Superstars vying for top honours, the Universe would understand some of the best in-ring and mic specialists not having a run at the top if they were made the most of elsewhere.

Unfortunately, that is not the case and week after week we see an array of Superstars left dormant in the locker room.

The company, quite simply, has been far too afraid to break the mould despite having all the tools at its disposal to do just that and allow the middle-card wrestlers a chance to shine and take the attention away from what Triple H’s puppet is up to this week.

It’s all getting a bit too boring and if something is not done soon, people will continue to turn off their TV sets.

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WWE

WWE TLC: How The Undertaker has successfully survived so many Series

Barnaby Read 17/11/2015
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The Undertaker has been a fans' favourite for over two decades.

This Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the first appearance of The Undertaker at the 1990 Survivor Series pay-per-view.

It is a stunning achievement from a character whose appearance has equally scared the life out of fans and delighted them over its long run.

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Not only that, Mark Calaway has managed to remain at the top of the WWE’s card for the large majority, if not all, of those years with chokeslams and tombstone piledrivers sending the best wrestlers in the business to their graves.

Few other WWE stars can boast such longevity, let alone the aura that accompanies ‘Taker every time his eerie music plays and the pyrotechnics shoot from the turnbuckles or lighting bolts crash from the ceiling of the arena.

Here, we look at why The Undertaker has survived for so long.

1. Mythology

He is TV’s most recognisable mythical creature; one we have all seen and believed.

From his powers being kept in an urn to question marks over whether he has a beating heart to the site of his army of druids trudging to the ring or rivals being tied to a Satanic cross, The Undertaker has always represented something greater than us mere mortals.

This has played a pivotal role in a host of feuds and is currently featuring predominantly in his latest altercation with Bray Wyatt.

2. Reinvention

Essentially, there have been two stages to ‘Taker’s evolution – the Deadman and the American Badass.

Both have been used by Creative in order to reinvent its star, neither time taking anything away from the bare basics that has made The Phenom such a popular figure for so long.

From pale-faced mortician, through end of days reaper via Harley Riding rocker and back, not once has ‘Taker failed to delight after the most subtle of changes to his makeup.

3. One for any occasion

Initially, there was no question that ‘Taker was a heel.

He was the ultimate villain, setting about wrecking the lives of your favourite wrestlers whether it be taking Stephanie McMahon hostage, burying Stone Cold Steve Austin alive or hurling Mankind from the top of the Hell in a Cell.

However, such is his popularity The Undertaker has managed to also play the role of babyface to perfection, without ever seeming false or forced – something John Cena has struggled with in recent years.

4. Ability

Whether he’s taking us to the Old School, bleeding from top to bottom or hurtling wrestlers to the canvas with huge chokeslams; ‘Taker’s repertoire knows no bounds.

His manoeuvrability is also remarkable for a man of his size (the wrestling equivalent of Peter Crouch having ‘a good touch for a Big Man’).

Combined, this is the reason he has been able to serve up classics encounters with everyone in the locker room that he has faced such is Calaway’s ability to mix it up in the ring and strike up a chemistry with his opponents.

5. He never gets old

Okay, at 50-years-old Calaway is actually getting old and does sometimes now look a little tired in the face.

But there is no denying that he can still sell spots, and in return tickets, and his legend is one that allows his more and more sporadic appearances to go somewhat unnoticed due to the mystery associated with ‘Taker.

Whether it is the 25th, 2,500th or first time you’ve seen him in action, you will never cease to be excited by the sight of the Phenom.

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WWE

WWE TLC: Rooney pulls off attacking performance of the season

Barnaby Read 10/11/2015
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Star guest: Wayne Rooney.

Wayne Rooney’s season burst into dramatic life on Monday night, but it was not at Old Trafford in a Manchester United shirt or at Wembley captaining England.

Instead, the 30-year-old took centre stage at the WWE’s live instalment of Monday Night Raw at the Manchester Arena.

Watching ringside with former United team-mates Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, Rooney was taking in the show with his six-year-old son Kai when a previous feud with Preston-born WWE King of the Ring Wade Barrett came to a head.

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Taunted by the 6ft 7in frame of the WWE Superstar, Rooney slapped Barrett with all the drama that has painfully been devoid at United’s own Theatre of Dreams this season.

It was the sort of ruthlessness and an attacking intent that has been lacking in his 11 Premier League appearances so far, in which he has managed only two goals.

Rooney looked perfectly at home, showing the kind of composure that has made him a household name around the world.

An almighty slap round the face was a far more PG-13 offering than Rooney would have seen growing up on the mean streets of Merseyside and it was a perfect sell from the England striker that put to bed the latest sporting-WWE fusion feud to grace the company.

It all dates back to February when Barrett called out Rooney on Twitter for diving to win a penalty in an FA Cup match against Preston North End that United won 3-1.

Rooney, never one to back down, responded in kind by calling on the support of WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin.

At that stage Barrett proposed a tag-team match against the pair alongside ex-Preston captain Kevin Davies at WrestleMania as the light-hearted barbs continued.

Months passed with little action but this was a perfect time to engage the WWE crowd and also build on the company’s presence in the UK by making a few headlines.

Rooney provided the star power, Barrett the fall and as a result UK press, social media and wrestling fans the world over are talking about the incident.

And if the goals continue to dry up for Rooney, his spot was so convincing he could have a future in the WWE. His mic work may need a little added charisma but he can certainly sell a story.

ROONEY vs BARRETT IN TWEETS

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