Oftentimes in the OTTB group chat we toss out ideas and just kinda shoot the breeze on whether something would make sense or not make and most often why regardless of what we think we know WWE is gonna WWE (or in most cases, Vince ga Vince). Sometimes it’s booking ideas like John Cena vs Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles for the WWE title at Wrestlemania or Asuka challenging Charlotte with Carmella successfully cashing in on the winner and Nia Jax will end up challenging Alexa Bliss (I’m tentatively 1 for 2 thus far). These were both my ideas and while both Ricardo and Javon tried to debate and/or push back they both basically agreed that they could see how WWE gets there. Another recent idea – that WWE needs to implement an offseason – was 100% shot down by both guys. In any event, here we go…
Does WWE need an offseason?
The short answer is yes.
Too many superstars right now are getting lost in WWE. Rusev (who is an otherwordly talent both in-ring and on the mic) can disappear for weeks at a time on Smackdown because there is insufficient time to put him in a meaningful feud or situation. Sometimes a guy is just missing with no real discussion or explanation.
Then, when it seems like WWE has a lot of nuanced stories that it’s trying to pull off at one time, someone gets injured. Now, you don’t have to tell me that injuries are unpredictable and can happen whether you’re 21 or 41 and whether you’ve wrestled three ppvs back to back or haven’t wrestled in three weeks. I get it, but an offseason would at least allow wrestlers an opportunity to rest.
But whether or not an offseason is needed is an easy question, the better question and more robust discussion revolves around…
What is the best approach to a WWE offseason?
When I first mentioned this, I think the guys thought I meant an offseason in the traditional sports world sense – NBA, NFL etc. being the reference points. That wasn’t exactly what I meant (and my idea isn’t wholly original, but nonetheless it makes sense). My thought echoes David Shoemaker’s (The Ringer) idea in that if WWE were to implement an offseason that it be a rotating one.
What does that mean? First, it wouldn’t be a full scale break from wrestling – the show would continue pretty much as it does now. I’m not sure wrestling fans could survive three months without anything WWE. Rather, the approach would be to schedule breaks for wrestlers – not just the forced upon time off of injuries etc. If you base it around Wrestlemania it can work as follows.
Group A – Royal Rumble to post Mania Raw
Group B – off from post Mania Raw to Money in the Bank
Group C – off from post MITB Raw to Post Summerslam Raw
Group D – off from post Summerslam Raw to post October ppv Raw
You can play around with it a little but essentially you have only one group that would miss Wrestlemania and you can rotate which season a wrestler takes off each year. Group C and D would be the two shortest times each year and these can be reserved for bigger stars and these stars can be staggered – Roman Reigns in Group C, Seth Rollins in Group D.
Now, you can say “But Alex you are scheduling guys to miss Wrestlemania”. Ok, so let’s play around with the grouping a bit and end up with something that looks like this:
Group A – off from post Mania Raw to MITB
Group B – off from post MITB Raw to post SummerSlam Raw
Group C – off from post Summerslam Raw to post October ppv Raw
Group D – off from post October ppv Raw to Royal Rumble
In this scenario WWE has its full complement of wrestlers around for the build to Mania. Guys coming off of break can return as surprise entrants in the Rumble or the post Rumble Raw. Either approach can work, I guess it depends on your level of cynicism.
What are the benefits?
In my opinion there are so many.
Superstars Get a Break
Look, we know most talent in WWE can wrestle as much as 300 – 320 days a year. In times past it has led to a tremendous amount of injuries. Remember Wrestlemania 31. Here is the list of champions coming out of the event:
WWE Champion – Seth Rollins
Intercontinental Champion -Daniel Bryan
United States Champion – John Cena
Tag Team Champions – Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
Divas Champion – Nikki Bella
Do you remember how many of these champions wrestled at Wrestlemania 32 the following year? ZERO. Seth Rollins was out with a knee injury. Daniel Bryan was out of wrestling. John Cena had an arm/elbow injury. Tyson Kidd was out of wrestling. Cesaro was out with a shoulder injury. Nikki Bella’s career was in jeopardy over a neck injury.Every champion coming out of one Mania was injured and unable to compete in the following year’s event.
Now, I’m not saying that injuries won’t happen to wrestlers because they have time off. But what’s the risk of sitting wrestlers for a few months each year if it could lead to extended careers or extended primes and potentially reduce the rate of injury? Isn’t at least worth a thought?
Jumping off of the injury point, imagine if WWE had in its back pocket a group of wrestlers currently off TV on break to choose from when a wrestler went down to injury. By having this rotating offseason, WWE would always have superstars available who are not in any pre-existing feud to choose from to fill in the injury gaps.
This might not always work perfectly, but remember when Finn Balor went down at Summerslam 2016? What if a guy like Roman or AJ or whomever else was on break and was available to come in and buoy the title scene at the time. Don’t get me wrong, WWE running with Owens as champion in the interim worked like a charm for the most part, but imagine if there was a break glass in case of emergency list of superstars that WWE could have had access to if needed.
Again, this may not work perfectly, but at least they’d have the option, rather than being caught flat-footed with no backup plan.
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
We have seen it time and again in WWE. A wrestler gets injured or leaves the company or gets suspended or is otherwise off TV for a couple weeks or months. Upon their return they get a tremendous pop (reaction) from the WWE Universe. Want examples, I got plenty…
As a reminder, Seth was a full blown heel when he got injured. But people loved his ring work and the guy in general so much that it didn’t matter that we last saw him heel, we just wanted to cheer Seth for making it back. Just a reminder, this promo from Seth to immediately turn the WWE Universe against him was also pitch perfect. He indeed is Mr. Monday Night.
There are so many options for Jericho, but this was my favorite. This is mostly because of the extended sequence of the lights being off ahead of the reveal followed by the crowd completely losing its collective shit at the realization that it was indeed Jericho returning.
The WWE loves to show this one off as well. We were still in the early stages of Cena’s run and this was in itself a big moment. This was also one of the many times Cena showed off his inhuman ability to heal. His injury was legitimately (if I remember correctly) slated to be twice as long as it turned out to be. This was also a little before the internet became wrestling’s second home and things like this could relatively fly under the radar.
There is nothing fans love to do more than to freak out at a return. Imagine you have a guy like Reigns for example. Let’s say we go to Wrestlemania as planned. Reigns beats Lesnar to capture the Universal championship. Now, we know that that probably won’t elicit the desired result from the WWE Universe that Vince and company wants. So let’s say you have SAnitY or the Undisputed Era come out and rip Roman to shreds and put him on the shelf with a kayfabe injury. We fastforward two to three months and you get the big pop upon his return (hopefully, cus Roman is always a different situation when it comes to fans). Wouldn’t that be worth it for three months without Reigns?
Change of Scenery/Repackaging
So let’s take the same scenario with Reigns being out post Mania. We all know that the WWE Universe has tired on Roman Reigns. So what if, for whatever kayfabe reason they want to give, the WWE decides to move Reigns to Smackdown. Or if they decide to fully commit to a heel turn. Taking Reigns away from the roster for a few months and then having him be a complete heel upon his return could work. This goes for anyone. Time away to reconsider a gimmick, to add nuance to a character, to allow a move from one show to another does provide some benefit.
Think of all the times WWE has simply forgotten about guys or just let them meander around in meaningless feuds just to pass the time. By adopting this route you can take guys off TV and use that rest time for them as an opportunity to test tweaks or wholesale changes to their gimmick before they return to TV. Simple, but effective.
Let’s say we have a wrestler like Big Cass who was struggling on the mic prior to his injury last year. Imagine that you can take him off TV for two to three months and put him through the ringers of practicing and refining his mic skills.
On the flip side, let’s take Braun Strowman, circa summer 2017. That may have been a nice spot to take him off television for a few months and have him refine some of his in-ring work, ahead of a monster push up the card. Maybe he would have been fully ready for WWE to slap the Universal Title on right now, instead of the (albeit incredibly fun) position of him challenging for the Tag Team titles by himself at Mania.
Remember when Kevin Owens popped up on Raw carrying the NXT championship while also making his main roster debut? Let’s say we do the reverse. Let’s say you take a guy like Elias, if this was his time off, you could easily use one or two of his months off of the main roster as an opportunity to have him run roughshod over NXT and pickup the NXT title for a month or so. Or you could take a tag team and put one member on leave while the other stays and see what happens from a singles standpoint.
Take a Break
Ultimately, I think it could be extremely beneficial for WWE to at least consider the thought of an offseason. We know it will never be an NBA or NFL styled approach, but a rotating offseason could open a number of doors and present a number of creative opportunities, or solutions to a freak injury problem and hopefully help to sustain the careers of WWE’s wrestlers and extend their time in the ring and on our TV screens.
Wrestling has evolved since the territorial days and more and more it wants to be seen in the same or similar light to major sports leagues. Maybe it’s time they take that one step further and explore the options behind having an offseason. It’s at least worth a thought.