To claim that there is one tired storyline trope that WWE has to do away with is to bring a squirt gun to a massive inferno. It doesn’t cover the breadth of the company’s problems, and you probably don’t have enough ammo to even take care of the specific portion you want. And it might come down to personal preference on which trope you would like to see put back in the storage room forever. Matter of taste and all that.
For me, and I know for a lot of others, it’s the “Can They Coexist?!” match, which WWE pulls out far too often when two wrestlers have a big PPV match somewhere in the near future.
A refresher for anyone who needs it: Last night, WWE put out a particularly sewer sludge episode of Monday Night Raw (another titanic statement, I realize) that included two of these wastes of time. Basically, when WWE mistimes its build to a PPV match, or at least that’s how it feels, they’ll compensate by putting two performers in a tag team match against another tag team, with Michael Cole screaming, “Can they coexist?!” at least three times throughout the episode. Cole doesn’t call Raw, but Monday night’s three-man team certainly accomplished this aspect of the match by committee. The first example of this last night was Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair vs. Charlotte and Becky Lynch (who was on Raw, for some reason, as SmackDown women’s champion). Three of those women, minus Charlotte, have a championship match at Oil Money Grab ‘21 in Saudi Arabia next week. Then they put Big E and Drew McIntyre on the same team against the Usos (who were on Raw, for some reason, as SmackDown tag team champs) as E and McIntyre also have a championship match at next Thursday’s Murder Is OK With Us As Long As We Get Paid PPV.
Both of these tag matches were a complete mess, ending in the kind of dogshit non-finish that WWE has specialized in for long enough to, y’know, leave space for an entire other company to form and succeed. Anyone who sat through them was actively dumber by the time they were over. All the combatants ended up fighting with each other.
Because of course they would, because they’re pitted against each other for titles at a PPV in 10 days. Why on Earth would I care if they can keep from throwing hands at each other for five minutes as a tag team that has no bearing on their future? What I’m interested in is them having a match, where they’re adversaries. How do these wrestlers being aligned for any amount of time make their eventual match better? Are they gonna decide to play Mario Kart instead of doing the match? The bigger the adversaries, the more of a blood feud it can be, the better. So why does WWE so routinely veer off that road for the rest stop of putting them on the same side for one night? It’s not like they’re then going to keep these teams together and send them after the tag titles as well. It’s filler, it’s always been filler, and there are just better ways to go about building to a PPV. WWE has already spent weeks building toward Sasha vs. Becky vs. Bianca, and simply aligning two of them for a night is a big pause button, or more likely, a flashing sign that reads, “We ran out of ideas for what we can do!” It makes no goddamn sense.
It’s not like using tag matches to preview singles PPV matches is uncommon. New Japan does this all the time. It’s a good way to get two wrestlers in the ring together for a short time without giving away the main course that will come at the PPV. But because Vince McMahon doesn’t believe in factions, nor has he ever heard of NJPW, nor might he even be aware that there’s a country called Japan, this isn’t really a path WWE can go to. There isn’t anyone who we would believe would tag with any of these women. Unless they wanted to run a husband & wife set-up with Bianca and Montez Ford against Becky and Seth Rollins. Which has its own complications.
Because WWE is loath to book a solid ending to any match on TV, we haven’t seen all the combinations in this triple threat in singles matches, and when we have they have had stupid endings where no one looks good, but in WWE’s mind, no one looks bad either. So the tag match route is closed to them, except they haven’t realized it.
They even had an out for this with Big E and McIntyre, as Big E does have alliances with the New Day. But they didn’t use them, we got another dumbass non-finish, and no one is more excited for the upcoming Blood Money-palooza than they were before the show.
If only that was WWE’s only problem. For the first time, they’re running a King Of The Ring tournament for the women’s division, called “Queen’s Crown.” They’ve had four matches, two on Raw and two on Smackdown. And in total, all four matches have barely crossed 10 minutes. How you can possibly establish new stars or reimagine characters with 90 seconds of ring time is a true mystery, and makes it feel like WWE just threw this together merely to check a box. Perhaps its biggest advantage over AEW is the depth and quality use of its women’s division, and they’ve completely ballsed it up the past week.
WWE’s answers to AEW of late are just very WWE. They’re swelling SmackDown on Friday to two and a half hours, which goes against the packed nature that everyone likes about it now at two. Raw feels like an empty wasteland where wrestlers wander around searching for fuel and water, running from the living and the dead, because it’s three hours. Why double that up? Rumor has it they might expand SmackDown to three hours too, which would put it head to head with AEW’s Rampage every week. They’ve already barfed all over their women’s division, and they’ve taken four of the best wrestlers in the world — Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Bianca Belair — and tossed them into their usual, sterile funhouse that doesn’t even have a wacky mirror. This isn’t exactly how you stunt a rival company’s momentum, even when you’re claiming you don’t care about them, which looks even more dubious when you’re extending one of your shows to directly compete with them.
So while claiming they’re not mad or even aware of AEW, they’ve gone even deeper into the well of what made everyone so bored with their bloated product that they were open to trying something new. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.