Posted in: Doctor's Orders Doctor's Orders: Stop Complaining About Rock and Start Stepping Up, WWE Locker Room
By The Doc
Feb 22, 2012 - 12:04:27 PM
It is at this time of the year that I recognize that Shawn Michaels is no longer on the roster. Mr. Wrestlemania gave us an unspoken guarantee that we would always go home having seen one classic or borderline classic match at the Granddaddy of Them All. This is also the season of wrestling where I now notice that Edge is no longer a wrestler. Edge, who grew up watching immovable objects meet irresistible forces and boyhood dreams coming true, understood Wrestlemania better than most and, subsequently, always gave you a show stealing effort even if he was unable to steal it.
So, I sit here and I look at the landscape for Wrestlemania both this year and in the coming years and I see that Wrestlemania, as a brand, will continue to thrive through at least Wrestlemania XXX. There are superstars that can step up and replace that guaranteed classic match or that guaranteed passionate effort. My concern is that the source of replication is coming from the in-ring return of The Rock, the 20th Mania match of the Undertaker, the 16th Mania match of Triple H, and the potential one-off return of Stone Cold Steve Austin. As a fan in the immediacy of these situations, I’m beyond thrilled that such stars are willing and able to create more memories. These guys are likely to keep the momentum rolling for Wrestlemania, ensuring that millions of sets of eyes get glued to TVs each April for the next few years. As a fan of pro-wrestling for nearly 30 years by that time, I have some slight concerns that there may not be enough young guys hungry enough to take advantage of it.
The next few Manias have the potential to be three of the most viewed of all-time. I’m going to sit back and enjoy the big time guys do their thing in these spectacle matches like Rock vs. Cena or Taker vs. Triple H or Austin vs. anyone, but eventually that well is going to dry up and we’ll be left with a roster largely full of new guys that need to, by that point, be well enough established to start creating Mania resumes that might one day make their names mentioned as part of a dream match scenario. From the moment that Taker retires, Rock rides off into the sunset, and the Rattlesnake strikes for one last and final time, there will have to be guys that step into those spots and keep the machine turning. Those young stars cannot wait until Wrestlemania 31 to start creating lasting Mania memories. They need to do it now, while there are an extra 700,000 to a million or more people viewing Wrestlemania to see these all-time greats wrap up their storied careers.
I personally don’t like this attitude that I’m reading about that the WWE locker room, as full of young and un-established stars as it has been in a decade or longer, has some sort of resentment and hate toward The Rock. Those in the locker room bitching about The Rock should sit back and learn from him. He has an extra something that is difficult to teach. If they pay attention, the young stars can learn from The Rock how to ELECTRIFY. That attitude is contagious. You hang around people that want to be the best of all-time and you catch onto that mindset. The Rock doesn’t have to come back to the WWE. He doesn’t have to go sit in the locker room with the boys and pretend that he still is one. He isn’t. He has moved on. Just watch the guy. He is trumped at Wrestlemania perhaps only by Mr. Wrestlemania himself in terms of showmanship and classic performances. Instead of complaining about him, why don’t you sit there and take notes?
One of the things that made Edge great is that he had no fear. He and guys like him became wrestlers because of the memories that they made from watching events like Wrestlemania and they didn’t wait for a spot to open to make memories at the Show of Shows. When they were kids or young men, they saw what Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart had done and wanted to be a part of that legacy. It’s that type of motivation that convinces six virtual nobodies to go out and yank the show right out from under the McMahons, Mick Foley, Triple H, and The Rock and to nearly do it again the next year from Rock and Austin. Performers like Rock are then forced to step up and say, “Oh, no, jabronis; not this year; this year BELONGS to the Rock!” Or for Austin to slap those guys on the back and then tell them simply, “Now let me go show you how it’s done, son.”
The bar gets set by the veterans. The bar gets raised by the young and hungry up-and-comers. HBK at Mania X is a perfect example. He was no headliner. He seized the day and made them turn him into a headliner. Where’s the HBK in this current crop of talent? Is there one in any way comparable to him?
Reports keep popping up on the internet about there being a lack of motivation from the young guys to step up and make the WWE push them. I can kind of see that in the performances and the connections that these guys are making with the crowds. None of them are “Mania worthy” yet. Many of them have potential, but none are on that level. So, I hope they sit back and learn over the next two years or so because their time is fast approaching. They’ll be counted upon to be the guys competing for match of the night. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so enamored with Dolph Ziggler’s work. I sincerely hope he becomes one of those guys in the future because he goes out and has four-star matches on television – something nobody else does in this era. If he ever gets those opportunities at Wrestlemania, then the world better look out. There’s something special about him. He’s one of the few guys on the roster that I feel has been paying attention to Edge, HBK, Taker, and the like during his career to this point. His “Show Off” mentality is not an act. He believes it. He strikes me as the type that has studied the all-time great Mania showmen.
What disappoints me is that the WWE’s two top established stars, John Cena and Randy Orton, have been given nothing but opportunity at Wrestlemania but neither have delivered a universally accepted all-time classic. Cena, Orton, and Batista were lucky in that they got to learn from HBK, Taker, Triple H, and Edge directly from in the ring. They got the chance to get into the mind of geniuses. The psyche required to steal the show must be equal parts physical ability and attitude. Batista got it. You knew he did the moment that his match with Taker was over at Mania 23. He transformed himself into an elite worker just by saying, “Hell, I’m going to go out and steal the show tonight.” He never had been before that point; not even close. He was hungry and driven. I’ve honestly never seen that from either Orton or Cena at Wrestlemania. Batista always did the best work of his wrestling calendar in January-April and that’s one of the enduring qualities about him that have made me highly regard him in the historical context.
I’m hoping that Rock rubs off on Cena this year; that perhaps Taker will rub off on him next year. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t feel that Cena has had some great Mania matches. I think his work at Manias 22 and 23, respectively, was commendable and memorable. Yet, I think the crowd in Chicago was the reason that Mania 22 vs. Triple H was what it was and, while I love the Mania 23 match w/ HBK, I feel confident in stating that, had Edge been given the same 28-minutes with HBK that Cena was given, that we would’ve been talking about one of the best 10 matches in Mania history. And the thing is – Cena is the leader of this generation and he’s expected to be the wrestler that will eventually set the tone for the new guys that will have to take over. Orton better get his butt in gear, too, for a whole lot of good matches, none of which steal the show, won’t cut it anymore in a couple of years.
If neither Orton nor Cena can step up, then one guy that I’m hopeful will swoop in and become the new Mania standard bearer is the seeming poised and ready CM Punk. He’s the type that can elevate the performances of everyone else on the card with his match. He has that extra zest that I’m hoping will translate well to the grand stage. He showed flashes of it last year and had a very good match, but it wasn’t universally accepted as such. We may really be needed to lead the way. I love Cena and Orton, but we need Punk to do for them what HBK did for Triple H and Taker or what Rock did for Austin, Triple H, and Foley during the Attitude era – we need him to eventually be so good that, long before the event airs on PPV, his peers are plotting how they’re going to potentially top him.
Others will have to emerge, as well. I think Cody Rhodes has the creativity to become a classic character, but I wonder if he’s got the hunger for the in-ring performance. He’s a favorite of mine, but I would’ve hoped he’d have done more with some of the chances he was given in 2011 in terms of match quality. He had no shortage of top level talent working with him. Is inexperience all that it is or is it something else? I wonder the same about Sheamus. I know he can go. I’ve seen him have good matches, but I wonder if there’s greatness there. He’s another favorite of mine. Is he going to be able to take it to the next level, though? Experience is something of which he’s now got a healthy supply.
We don’t necessarily need another HBK. Michaels is the Michael Jordan of wrestling. There’ll never been another Jordan. Yet, we could use a Lebron James, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade, and Kevin Durant to fill the gap. Can Punk be that guy? Is Ziggler capable of being that guy? Or perhaps someone we’ve not even encountered? Will Orton and Cena step up? This is something I’ll have my eye on over the next two or three Manias. These are questions that need to be answered to ensure the future success of Wrestlemania once the legends step down.