When you look at the upcoming WWE schedule, you will see that there is no PPV listed for June. Although some sites listed Backlash for June 14, that show does not appear on the most recent listings.
Whether WWE planned to hold a Backlash event or even intended to head to Saudi Arabia again is academic at this point. The fact that no PPV is listed indicates that WWE’s next big event will be Extreme Rules on July 19 – whether it will be held in San Jose, California, is an entirely different story.
It has been years, if not, at least a decade since WWE had ten weeks between two PPVs. So how will they fill the time? It really is anybody’s guess. There are plenty of options. The most obvious one is to announce a PPV, whether it is called Backlash or something else, during Money in the Bank. With crowds potentially returning to some extent, at least in Florida, the event could be moved to the Performance Center or Full Sail University.
Since we are talking about June, there are probably fans hoping that WWE reintroduces the King of the Ring event. In the spirit of equality, WWE could hold King of the Ring and Queen of the Ring tournaments, respectively, that stretch over several weeks on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown and culminate either on a PPV or on the weekly television shows to try and pop a much-needed rating.
WWE may also introduce another Superstar Shake-Up, or whatever they will call their draft next. Or how about bringing back Million Dollar Mania to get people to watch? All these options can bridge the current PPV gap in June, but what would they accomplish?
Maybe, WWE should go a different route. The break presents an opportunity for WWE to take a step back, breathe, look at its roster, and think: who are these people?
One thing that Jim Cornette’s storyline idea for Jacob Fatu highlighted is that we know very little about the gimmick background of current WWE (and for that matter, AEW) talent. Who knows why Bobby Roode can afford to wear robes and call himself glorious? Why is Aleister Black so dark and tattooed like the Illustrated Man? What is Shawn Spears’ background aside from being a former WWE guy?
To be fair, AEW has done an excellent job in the cases of Britt Baker and MJF in giving them a history. WWE, on the other hand, has gotten into the habit of dropping talent into its shows without explanation or any kind of background story, hoping they will get over on their look and in-ring ability alone. This may work for NXT and an established “smart” fanbase, but it will not establish new viewers – which WWE desperately needs.
Building the backstory to a character not only gets viewers involved with them and allows them to empathize with the wrestlers, but it also automatically leads to storylines – whether the heel exploits a babyface’s weakness or vice versa. But building towards these stories takes time, time that WWE usually does not have anymore.
Of course, you cannot pop a rating with character building. But then again, a high rating does not lead to lasting success. Usually, wrestling storylines and gimmicks need time, often months, to play out. Much like TV shows, these things need to develop slowly and build anticipation until they eventually pay off. While TV shows are limited to certain characters and one big story arch, wrestling can always bring in new talent and change their characters up to stay dynamic.
So, with no (or only limited) crowds and no PPV in sight, WWE needs to bombard us with pre-tapes of its talent, explaining who they are and what their goals are. Take us through Aleister Black’s (kayfabe) childhood home. Let the Viking Raiders explain their fascination with Nordic culture. Let Elias explain how he made a few bucks as a street performer and slept in homeless shelters. Blur the lines of kayfabe and reality. Do whatever you will, but build characters people can believe in and sow the seed so that these characters can bloom and draw viewers in the future.
Since WWE has no gimmick PPV planned in June, it should embrace the break and focus on something it has neglected for too long: character work.