We were once promised great riches. On the December 17th edition of Monday Night Raw, just a week after the show hit historic lows both creatively and ratings-wise, Vince McMahon announced a brand new era that would finally give the fans what they want.
And since that all-encompassing proclamation where McMahon paraded around his family like the world's most awkward, wrestling-themed holiday card, what changes have we really seen?
Are we really in a "new" era?
For starters, Finn Balor has gotten quite the rub. Fans speculated that Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman was a shoo-in for the Royal Rumble (one of Lesnar's contractually-mandated 2.5 appearances a year). Except, Balor became a last minute replacement for a still injured/not really injured/maybe who knows Braun Strowman.
And Balor's feud with Lesnar spotlighted him in a way he'd not been looked at since perhaps (briefly) winning the Universal Championship back in 2016. He felt tough standing opposite The Beast, he did great promo work as the everyman underdog, and his match with Lesnar, while unspectacular, told a great story where Lesnar had to (believably) squeak out a victory against a man 100 pounds his lesser.
Since then, Balor has moved on to a meaningful mid-card feud against Bobby Lashley, and continues to be highlighted each week much more frequently than pre-reboot.
Braun Strowman, on the other hand, has "gotten these hands" from creative and has become little more than backup, babyface muscle. He's had a few decent matches, but no meaningful feuds or segments have followed Strowman into this "new" era.
As for the other World Championship… AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan have carried on, business as usual. Both men are essentially the same characters and are bickering about the same things as they were two months ago. Sure, DB has a new eco-friendly trophy, and Vince McMahon has inserted himself more directly into this rivalry, but it all feels like nothing. has. Changed. (which isn't necessarily a bad thing - this feud was decent! Good, even.)
The women's division has charged along, unshaped by any sense of "newness" as well. One could argue that Becky Lynch's spotlight on ALL WWE TV is greater than ever - but is this by the book as outlined last November? Or is WWE upper brass actually listening to its audience as promised? I'm guessing they're sticking to the original plan, but decided Becky deserved more screen time for the phenomenal work she's doing as The Man everywhere, at all times (seriously, she's probably tweeted memes about Rousey's pouty face, her five moves of doom, and her awful, awful racoon eye shadow all in the time you've been reading this article).
Ronnie, wish The Man a happy birthday you little weirdo. pic.twitter.com/Tei29bCRRI— The Man (@BeckyLynchWWE) January 30, 2019
One could argue - again , pure speculation - that Becky's segment with Steph was a result of positive audience feedback. But I've also heard they script every RAW these days in true 2000-era WCW Nitro fashion (as in, order a pizza about 3pm the day of a show, throw a bunch of active roster names into a hat, throw said hat out the window, eat previously-ordered pizza, complain about the dirt sheets, ask Kevin Nash what he thinks, make everything up on the spot, finish with a six-man tag). So who knows.
On the blue brand… Asuka is champion now! And only 8 months after it makes logical sense! Because the fans were still clamoring for that Asuka championship run? Don't get me wrong, I like it, but I guarantee you this was the result of a random number generator gone awry.
WWE's tag team division is still whatever the worser version of hot garbage is. They just made a couple of guys who seemingly want out of the company their number one contenders - but hey, at least they're a real tag team and not just another odd couple "whoa, I wonder how this will work out - WHOOPS now they're the best tag team in the entire world" storyline.
So let's check on a few other things…
Baron Corbin? Still on your TV every freakin' week.
Kurt Angle? Still being woefully underused.
Paige? Remember when Shane promised that she wasn't going anywhere, just that her role had changed? Well, she's doing great work in it. Nobody introduces a movie trailer like that Paige, I tell you what. Especially on RAW. The same place she worked before when she was told by her immediate superior that she wasn't going anywhere. Just on a different night and different brand. Etc.
New NXT talent? Still have almost nothing meaningful to do.
TV Ratings? Still subpar.
Now, there was that one week in 2019 where RAW was actually pretty good again. And it does seem like WWE has stopped overusing canned crowd chants while also not muting actual crowd cheers and jeers nearly as much. Also, WWE is now kind enough to tell me what meaningless mid-card match is up next so I can flip over to weekly NBA game (let's be honest Teen Mom II) instead.
So yeah, we've gotten exactly what we were promised. A new era in WWE. Exactly the same as the old one. Because Pro Wrestling never changes and we're all going to die one day anyway so none of this even matters.
At least there's AEW, right?