WWE announced on Monday that, following the sudden retirement of Vince McMahon from all of his positions within the company, Paul “Triple H” Levesque will be stepping in as the new Head of Creative on top of his new role as WWE‘s Head of Talent Relations. This is, to put it mildly, the dream scenario many WWE fans and critics alike have been praying for. A quick glance at social media shows the unbridled excitement that surrounds the company now that, first the first time in roughly 40 years, its creative direction is being spearheaded by someone not named Vince McMahon.
In fact, if you’re reading this right now there’s a good chance you’ve been swept up in that excitement as well. Perhaps you were following Levesque’s run as he oversaw WWE’s NXT brand (considered by many to be the best weekly pro wrestling product of the 2010s). Or maybe you’re a lapsed wrestling fan looking to jump back in now that someone else is taking the wheel. You won’t have to wait long to see what the Levesque regime looks like — WWE is running Monday Night Raw inside Madison Square Garden tonight — but before we all start popping champagne and ringing in a new age of sports entertainment, it might be wise to look at what “The Game” is taking over. Because if you haven’t been following WWE closely as of late, you might be shocked by the company’s current lack of creative momentum. Let’s take a look around WWE’s main roster and see what we have to work with:
- Roman Reigns has been the undisputed top star in the company since his return from hiatus at SummerSlam 2020. The heel turn that immediately followed was something fans had been begging to see for years and fans felt vindicated by the result — at least for the first year or so. “The Tribal Chief’s” reign began to stall in late 2021, so WWE opted to have him unify the WWE and Universal Championships in the main event of WrestleMania 38. Unfortunately, it was around that same time that Reigns signed a new deal that made his television appearances increasingly sparse. He has only defended his undisputed championship once on TV since WrestleMania and, for the first time since 2014, the promotion had to book three consecutive pay-per-views without at least one world championship match on the card. He’ll finally defend the title this Saturday at SummerSlam.
- Brock Lesnar, the company’s other major part-time draw, has been back on WWE programming somewhat regularly since returning at last year’s SummerSlam. WWE has seemed obsessed with booking matches between “The Beast” and Reigns, pairing the two off at Crown Jewel, WrestleMania and now SummerSlam (a fourth was supposed to happen on New Year’s Day but Reigns got Covid). Lesnar has taken on a more jovial babyface persona since coming back that fans have seemed to love, but his seemingly unending feud with Reigns has been met with a lukewarm response. He was also reportedly furious about McMahon’s departure but was convinced to come back before last week’s SmackDown went off the air.
- The big rumor for WrestleMania 39 next year in Los Angeles is Reigns vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a dream match between two pillars of the Anoa’i family. Whether or not the match happens seems entirely dependent on Johnson’s filming schedule.
- The other big part-time Hollywood star WWE can call upon, John Cena, recently popped up to celebrate 20 years since his WWE debut. But given his rising stardom as one of the DCEU’s lone bright spots, his availability is minimal for the foreseeable future.
- With Reigns holding both titles and rarely wrestling on TV, Monday Night Raw has been left directionless since WrestleMania. Cody Rhodes’ jump from AEW back to WWE seemed to be the Red Brand’s solution, but he’s currently on the shelf with a torn pec.
- The Usos, having aligned with Reigns as The Bloodline, have a similar chokehold over both tag team divisions after unifying the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team Championships in May. SummerSlam will mark the fifth time the pair have defended their titles against The Street Profits on either TV or pay-per-view since becoming SmackDown Tag Team Champions a little over a year ago.
- SummerSlam is this weekend at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium and eight of its matches have already been booked. Five of those eight matches are reruns from either WrestleMania or the Money in the Bank show from earlier this month. It’s no surprise then that reports of WWE officials being less-than-thrilled with the lineup started appearing last week. Levesque could theoretically blow up the card across this week’s Raw and SmackDown, though it seems unlikely.
- Per WrestleTix’s latest update, the show sold a little over 30,000 tickets as of mid-July and WWE is looking to only sell about 36,000 even though the home of the Tennessee Titans has a capacity of over 69,000. That aforementioned Money in the Bank event also dealt with slow ticket sales, causing WWE to move it from Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium to the much smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena venue. But WWE’s next premium live event, Clash at the Castle in Cardiff, Wales on Sept. 3, has already eclipsed 60,000 tickets.
- Two of the biggest stars of the Women’s Division, Sasha Banks and Naomi, are reportedly gone from the company after walking out on an episode of Raw in May. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships the pair were stripped of upon their suspension have seemingly been forgotten.
- Liv Morgan is finally getting a push as the new SmackDown Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey is still working full-time, Bianca Belair has continued to establish herself as a generational talent, Becky Lynch is still doing well in her heel role, Asuka is back from injury, Bayley is close to finally returning from the ACL tear she suffered last year and Charlotte Flair can seemingly be back at any time. The Women’s Division might just be the strongest asset Levesque has to work with out of the gate.
- The latest batch of rising stars on both brands has been a mixed bag. Madcap Moss got to have a program with Happy Corbin but has been left without a definitive personality. Austin Theory has been getting pushed to the moon as Vince McMahon’s next handpicked star but the fans haven’t greeted him with the same enthusiasm. Riddle just had a championship program with Roman Reigns and gets to work with Seth Rollins at SummerSlam but might have to tread water until Randy Orton returns from his back injury. Gunther looks unrecognizable from his days as UK Champion but is being pushed hard as Intercontinental Champion. And finally, the one young star who looks ready-made to leap into the main event scene is Montez Ford, though fans are crossing their fingers that they won’t have to sit through a Street Profits breakup in order for it to happen.
- In the same month when Levesque was rushed to the hospital due to life-threatening heart failure, WWE overhauled NXT’s entire presentation as NXT 2.0. Fans have since soured on the product, and despite it now having a closer resemblance to the main roster, the call-up system has remained as rocky as ever. Stars like Walter, LA Knight, Pete Dunne, Xia Li and Tommaso Ciampa were still met with presentation overhauls once they arrived on the main roster and the end results have varied.
- Levesque can obviously fix that given his history with the brand, but many of the stars he personally helped established on the Black & Gold Brand have since left the company. For example, nine of the 20 NXT Champions are gone and only five of the 12 former NXT North American Champions are still under contract. Many of the behind-the-scenes staff Levesque worked with to elevate NXT have also been let go by the company over the past year, including William Regal and Samoa Joe.
- But despite the lack of enthusiasm in the brand, stars like Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Solo Sikoa, Wendy Choo, Toxic Attraction and Roxanne Perez all look poised to jump to the main roster within the next year.
- Bruce Prichard will reportedly remain on the WWE Creative team and Vince McMahon will be spending the next few weeks helping with the transition, so immediate changes are unlikely.
So that’s about a thousand (mostly) negative words on WWE’s current situation, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Given WWE’s current television contracts with NBCUniversal & FOX along with the decade-long Saudi Arabia deal, the company will still bring in an obscene amount of money no matter what Levesque decides to do with the onscreen product. Plus the premium that TV networks place on live content isn’t going anywhere and Raw & SmackDown still draw solid television ratings, so the outlook for upcoming future television deals look bright as well.
And then there’s Levesque’s own preferences as a booker. The Black & Gold Era of NXT he oversaw placed a higher emphasis on long-term storytelling and in-ring action rather than weeks of repeating rematches with disqualification/count-out finishes and childish backstage skits. He wasn’t known for tearing up scripts hours before a show, nor did he have an ever-growing list of terms that were banned from promos and commentary. You shouldn’t count on Levesque transforming WWE’s product right away, but there are plenty of tiny improvements he could implement as early as tonight.
How do you feel about Levesque running WWE Creative? Is WWE’s entire product about to improve? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments!