WWE Underground: The Potential and Expectations

This past Monday on Raw Vince McMahon unveiled yet another hail mary in attempt to save Raw’s dropping ratings. Things around the Performance Center were said to be hectic as cast and crew alike were scrambling to put together Vince’s new vision. Word leaked out of a Brawl For All style shoot wrestling format and had many laughing, shaking their head, or just baffled. What we got instead was a glimpse of WWE looking to the indies and adapting Bloodsport in to their programming.

What is Bloodsport?

For those who have yet to find the gem that is GCW: Bloodsport, you are in for a treat. Bloodsport is a MMA/Wrestling hybrid in a ring with no ropes. Simply think if Pride were to cross with New Japan. The matches are hard hitting and presented in a more real sense than your typical pro wrestling match while still under the confines of being a work. GCW started Bloodsport headlined by Matt Riddle vs Minoru Suzuki on Wrestlemania weekend in 2018 and has since handed the reigns over to Josh Barnett. It requires less in ring psychology and story telling with the competitors trying to present it closer to an mma style fight. No ropes, no turnbuckles, and most importantly no pinfall. In this version of shoot style catch wrestling you can only win by knockout or submission. In the last two years Bloodsport has masterfully mixed professional wrestlers like Matt Riddle, [Karrion] Kross, Minoru Suzuki, and Walter among others with the likes of MMA Fighters Frank Mir, Dan Severn, and Phil Baroni.

Why It Can Work in WWE

WWE has the largest depth of talent in wrestling history. And more importantly it has a large group of talent that needs to be built as stars. In an age of no fans, a shoot style catch wrestling program can be a new tool to develop wrestlers and show the talent these men and women have outside of the typical WWE formula. More importantly WWE already has a large group of wrestlers with Mixed Martial Arts training who can mix MMA with professional wrestling. Accomplished collegiate wrestlers such as Dolph Ziggler and Shelton Benjamin (who both appeared Monday), Olympian Chad Gable, mixed martial artists Matt Riddle, Bobby Lashley, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shaffir, Jassamyn Duke, and yes Shinsuke Nakamura, and Golden Gloves Kickboxer Baron Corbin. Even outside of those with professional fighting experience one can even envision wrestlers such as Aleister Black, Karrion Kross, Timothy Thatcher, and Oney Lorcan who mixed Muay Thai or Japanese Strong Style into their performance. However for this style to be successful it has to be limited on who can appear. As great one Seth Rollins is bell to bell or charismatic as Bray Wyatt’s Fiend is, it would make no sense to see such wrestler work in this style which is intended to be different than what we see for seven hours a week on WWE programming alone (not to mention those who watch AEW and Impact like myself; I need a life I know).

Why Underground is Destined to Fail.

Vince McMahon. There is your answer. I have watched every hour of WWE television over the last two plus months. NXT is my favorite wrestling program on television and that is largely left under the creative vision of Triple H. For me personally I have liked a lot of what I have seen on both Raw and Smackdown in spite of Raw’s drastically falling ratings. Smackdown ratings have held steady for the most part on Friday nights Fox lineup. The problems with WWE creative have long been documented. A show is written and then hours before airing or filming Vince will tear the script up and re-write everything. A finish is changed the day of. A superstar who was getting a push gets stuck in catering. Simply put, Vince has a short attention span and if it does not make a massive impact in one or two weeks he will lose interest. Vince is someone who passed a math test once when every question can be solved with c=a2+b2 and has since tried to use the same formula on every test he has taken. When this new experiment inevitably fails there will only be one man to blame. From a pro wrestling fan and a WWE fan I really do hope Underground becomes something fun and different on Monday nights. But like with the wild card rule, constant nxt call-ups, or Eric Bischoff among other failings I fully expect this to be something long forgotten in a few months if not a few weeks.

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