My question isn't really about whether the WWE product is any good or not (although the answer might be relating to it), so here goes: what's up with crowd reactions during matches lately? By lately I'm focusing on the last year or so.
What I mean is that I see some guys come out and get good reactions...but then no one seems to care about them during the matches; like, people don't pop for anything they do in the ring. At least is doesn't feel like they do. Case in point, all these main eventer guys now. The shield alums, Bray Wyatt, even lower tier guys like Neville (whom fans seem to care about, and love his finisher, but he was getting the shit kicked out of him a couple of weeks ago and I could hear crickets). All these guys get great pops when their entrance music hits, but as soon as matches start, no one gives a shit. Eventually audiences come around once the match has hit almost 15 minutes or so, on Raw I mean.
But where does that initial pop go during the match? Is it an issue with people just not being stimulated by the actual action anymore, and really just liking the concept of the characters? Or is it a generational thing, or an overstimulation thing with so much wrestling programming they're probably consuming on the network, or maybe even other networks if they're smarks and watch njpw or lucha underground?
Just curious if you have any opinion or have noticed it at all in the last couple of years or maybe even decade.
Yup, we (the collective "we" on the blog) have definitely noticed it, and it's a major symptom of the three-hour RAWs that are completely burning out crowds in general. It's just too much wrestling for fans to pay attention to. And WWE isn't helping, because their solution is to deflect blame onto specific cities ("Oh, that's just because it's City X…") while we get week after week of dead crowds.
I think the specific problem with the matches is part of the same problem we got during the Attitude Era, or more accurately during the Russo era: Crowds are trained not to care about anything until it's time for the run-in or DQ or whatever, and so they don't. For example, on RAW there was a Ziggler match where Lana came out near the start, so the crowd knew not to care until she got involved for the finish. The problem is less obvious on PPVs because typically they do more clean finishes there, but RAW has been plagued with epic shit finishes for a while now, to the point where "Kane finish" is going to become as ubiquitous as "distraction finish" it feels like.