Timing is everything. This old adage couldn’t be truer in any arena, whether it be sports, entertainment, sports entertainment, or everyday life. If one batter swings his bat a fraction of a second early or late, it could change the entire course of the MLB Playoffs. If Dexter had ended earlier than its Eighth Season, we may not have been burdened with that horrible, unspeakable ending. If you didn’t wait so long to make a move on that lady you had a thing for, you may have had a chance. Life is full of situations where timing is of the utmost importance, and chasing that proverbial sweet spot, that perfect timing, and being too early or too late is something that everyone has been guilty of on more than one occasion.
Perhaps none have been guiltier of bad timing than the WWE. On one hand, the WWE is often like the old man that swears he knows the directions to the party, driving listlessly and unwilling to listen to anybody else in the car. We’re all eventually going to reach the desired destination, just a little (and sometimes a lot) later than what would be considered ideal. On the other hand, the WWE is at times like the schmuck that shows up to the club before 10 pm. The lights are still on, the bartenders look at you confused, and everyone that walks in the door after you is automatically cooler than you.
Let’s face it, the WWE rarely times things perfectly. Some would say that right now they are letting hot narratives featuring CM Punk and Daniel Bryan linger without any forward progression, as they’ve done countless times before. And we can’t ignore the times that the WWE has pulled the trigger too soon and made a mess of things. With some important narratives in need of conclusions, as well as an immanent (and beneficial) possible babyface turn on the horizon, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a look at some of the most egregious cases of the WWE’s bad timing in recent memory. Let’s Do This!
Late To The Party
During my tenure as a fan of the WWE, I’ve come to accept a few things about the WWE as absolute constants: WWE referees are the most inept officials in all of sports and entertainment (yes even more inept than cops that aren’t the stars in movies), the heel walkout finish is always in play, fat guys dancing is supposedly entertaining, when in doubt you can always do a firing angle, and most importantly, the WWE will almost always be late to the party.
What exactly do I mean by they are always late to the party? Let’s just say that the WWE hasn’t exactly demonstrated the most timely pop culture awareness. The WWE has never exactly been a trendsetter, and in the last decade they’ve often picked up on trends far too late. For example, the Fandango character seems like a late attempt to capitalize on the immense popularity of Dancing Competition program “Dancing with the Stars”. The problem is that if you really wanted to try capitalizing on that trend, you would have done it at the height of the show’s popularity, which was several years ago. I half expect the Fandango character to borrow heavily from Silver Lining Playbook in 2016 once the WWE figures out that the movie was pretty popular in 2012. I can think of at least a few characters the WWE has trotted out on Raw or Smackdown, that seemed like late attempts at capitalizing on a past its prime trend.
The WWE also tends to hold onto things too long, only realizing that they need to make a change too late. An obvious case from just over a year ago was The Miz. It was obvious to everyone watching WWE TV that Miz (then a heel) needed a change. A great opportunity presented itself with the 12-man Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy match at Wrestlemania in 2012. I dove into this in the AMOC article about The Miz that I wrote during the build up to Wrestlemania 28, but to summarize what my thoughts (and many others) were at the time, The Miz needed to turn babyface. After being initially snubbed for Team Johnny, he should have joined Team Teddy, pitting him against the hated John Laurianitis, thus turning him babyface in a way that had a high probability of getting people behind him. Instead the WWE had him eventually get a spot on Team Johnny, which continued Miz’s tired heel shtick. He eventually turned babyface around Survivor Series, joining Team Foley, but by that time it was too late. No one cared about that elimination match, or that entire PPV to be quite honest. The Miz face turn was a good idea because he did need the change, but like so many times before, the WWE was late to the party.
The only thing worse than the WWE’s seemingly superhuman ability to stagnate even the hottest of angles, is the countless times that the WWE has jumped the gun on something potentially great, leaving us only wondering how great things could have been. Pulling the trigger too soon is worse because it robs the viewers of something that could have been, rather than lingering for far too long on something that was once great. I’d prefer the latter to the former 100 % of the time.
One interesting case in which the WWE was too late and too soon at the same damn time was the Curious Case of Pirate Paul Burchill. The character was undeniably based on Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, and the WWE at the time was almost certainly trying to capitalize on the absurd success of the then three year old film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Unfortunately it was too late to capitalize on the success of that film and the character was eventually nixed in June of 2006, just one month prior to the release of The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which would go on to gross over a billion dollars and is highly regarded as one of the most financially lucrative sequels of all time. So the WWE turned something they seemed to be too late to the party to capitalize on into something that they gave up on too soon (you can’t tell me that the WWE couldn’t have tried to reel in a piece of that 1 billion dollar audience for itself with the character).
Of course the case that everybody remembers most vividly is that of The Summer of Punk. We remember the amazing visual of Punk blowing Vince a kiss and dashing through the Chicago crowd with the WWE Title at Money In The Bank. We remember how promising the idea of CM Punk leaving the WWE with the WWE Title was for the narrative. Unfortunately the unrest and chaos that having someone win your most coveted championship and leave the company with it was short lived, as Punk would return mere weeks later, and go on to feud with Triple H and Kevin Nash. There were a lot of missteps in that storyline, but the one that still leaves me wondering what could have been was how quickly Punk returned. I might be alone, but I really think that the idea of him leaving the company with the belt had legs and that they could have certainly milked it for longer than they did.
The Sweet Spot
For as many complaints that I have about missing the mark as far as timing is concerned, I have to admit that some things in recent memory have been handled picture perfectly. From their introduction to right now, The Shield have been handled nearly perfectly. Each rivalry, each step in their respective and collective careers has felt right on the money (and if not, damn close to it) as far as the timing was concerned. Punk’s 434 day reign as WWE Champion felt like it ended at the right time, and the fact that they didn’t panic over any minor issues that came up along the way was refreshing. Finally, as recently as the Battleground PPV, The Rhodes family’s fight for redemption was perfectly timed. Each week introduced a new element to the story and pushed the narrative forward, leading to a phenomenal match (at least as far as storytelling is concerned) at Battleground. It didn’t matter that there were some logical inconsistencies, I appreciated that it moved at a perfect pace and the stakes were raised each week.
Going forward, there is a trigger that can be pulled. Of course I’m talking about Antonio Cesaro and his Big Swing’s growing popularity. Call me crazy, but I definitely think he should be turned babyface at some point in the future. The storyline is easy enough to pull off, with Swagger and Zeb turning on him because of jealousy and under the guise of the fact that Cesaro is not and never will be a Real American. You can easily squeeze a couple of good matches out of that story and proceed to market the hell out of a babyface Cesaro’s big swing.
The question is, when the shoe finally drops, will they have done it too early, and burn the fans out, leaving Cesaro floundering with nothing to work toward? Or will they pull the trigger too late, leaving the fans unmoved and caring less a la The Miz? Or will they hit that Sweet Spot and create a future star? Only time will tell.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! What are some of your most memorable missed marks in WWE history? What about moments that you thought the timing was just right? When do you think is the right time to turn Antonio Cesaro babyface? And shouldn’t he go by Tony Cesaro as a member of the Real Americans?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas imploring those that haven’t, to go and see Gravity! Truly inspired filmmaking that shouldn’t be missed. Have a great weekend everybody!