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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Changing of the Guard in the WWE
By The Doc
Feb 11, 2014 - 10:59:44 PM

The Snowman is a genius

There were two moments from last night’s Raw that stood out above the rest, each with the potential to have significant influence on the proceedings for this and future WrestleManias.

The first was John Cena’s backstage promo. In it, he stated what amounted to a reminder to both the audience and the locker room that the group of upstart wrestlers readying themselves for their various levels of “break out” will have to go through this era’s Hulk Hogan to reach the Promised Land. It was not a big thing, Cena’s interview, but it was the kind of little touch that goes a long way towards piquing my interest in his upcoming feud with Bray Wyatt. A grudge match between the two seemed to bring little in the way of intrigue to the table, but adding an underlying psychological tale of “past vs. future” provides the context that could make their match one of the primary reasons to get excited about WrestleMania 30.

Wyatt’s somewhat surprisingly outstanding performance at the Royal Rumble against Daniel Bryan has opened my eyes to what he could be. Before late January, my concern had been that Wyatt was too unique for his own good, but the 4-star payoff to his feud with Bryan showed me a storyteller as adept at using his physical gifts as he is at employing his considerable charisma with the microphone. Subsequently, I realized that I had been concentrating a lot of attention on what Wyatt was not and could not be rather than what he is and could be. It dawned on me how I’ve spent so much time in recent months bringing up non-traditional main-eventers in WWE history as comparisons to the Bryans and CM Punks of the world, all the while neglecting the very non-traditional budding main-eventer that is Bray Wyatt. The only star of the last thirty years with a similar look that was put in the kind of position that Wyatt appears headed for was Mick Foley and it took the Hall of Famer over a decade of body-punishing work to earn a WrestleMania main-event in his (first) final match. Bray may not be heading for the show closer this April, but being in a match with Cena is unquestionably a main-event. That speaks quite highly of the 26 year old with less than a year of relevant main roster experience under his belt and to the rumored reputation that he gained during the first full year of the new WWE Developmental program. A lot of all-time greats spoke out on behalf of his potential, from Triple H to Dusty Rhodes. As fans, we had not yet seen the complete package that led to such glowing remarks until a couple of Sundays ago. Now that we have seen it, how can we not consider it a huge win for non-traditional main-eventers of all shapes and sizes if Bray channels the combination of his skills and favor with management into a huge match at Mania with “The Man” of the last decade?

In previous months, Bray had verbalized that he was raging against the machine. I did not believe it until last night after Cena had concluded his brief chat with Renae Young. With Wyatt and Cena clearly on a collision course once the Elimination Chamber has come and gone, I find myself now extremely curious to see whether or not the angle built to achieve a Mania headlining bout between them centers on the theme of “The Golden Boy’s” promo: one generation’s run as the top stars in the industry coming to an end as a new generation rises to the challenge of taking their place. Times, they are a changing. Will Wyatt be the catalyst that puts Cena on the backburner into more of a featured attraction than the every day, put his nose to the grindstone kind of star that has led to his becoming one of the all-time greats? (No, I’m not hyperbolizing the latter part of that sentence). We saw it a decade ago when Triple H stepped aside to make room for Cena and Batista. It was unique then. Main-eventers had clung with all their might, before WCW went under, to their spot until injury or new opportunity. With no competition for WWE, Trips had one choice to make and it was, indeed, “best for business” – take a slight step back from the alpha position and you can be a beta for the rest of your career-enhancing days. The time is drawing near for Cena to do the same. Superman, Cena may be, but time is a wrestler’s kryptonite. He cannot escape it.

As we approach the nine year anniversary of the WrestleMania (21) that brought WWE into a new era that no longer felt like it was piggybacking off of “Attitude,” a palpable aura of change is once again in the air. If you are obsessed with just the guys that you like and have not zeroed in on the bigger picture, then you might have missed it. The Royal Rumble was stamped by a returning star, indeed, and featured the old guard competing for the WWE Championship. Yet, on the same night, three new stars took center stage and garnered the most significant crowd reactions of the night, all coming across as huge stars in the process. One of them was Bray Wyatt. In the previous six months, Daniel Bryan had not suffered a clean loss. Every defeat was protected as is typically the case with a top guy in whom the company has invested time and energy. Bray defeated him clean in a classic. Two weeks of perspective has made it clear that history will remember the Rumble 2014 for many things, but one of them, I contend, should be the “Rise of Wyatt.” Will the ascension continue at WrestleMania in his presumed match with Cena? After Raw, I’m further invested in finding out.

The other short and (potential) long-term influencing occurrence from Raw involved Wyatt more directly. Specifically, it was when Bray and his “Family” were placed on opposite sides of the ring from one of the other huge stars in-the-making to emerge from the 2014 Rumble, Roman Reigns, and his partners in crime from The Shield. What an incredible, spine-tingling, pure pro wrestling moment that was. The Shield vs. The Wyatts has made Elimination Chamber as must-see as the Chamber match itself. It does not quite have the feel that The Rock’s Nation vs. Triple H’s DX had in 1998, but it’s close. It felt like we were seeing something that we would be talking about ten years from now as one of the defining segments that clued us in on (at least) two of the next great crop of main-event players. Cena and Randy Orton had a confrontation backstage at Summerslam 2004, previewing their respective runs as the #1 and #2 all-around stars of the last ten years. Wyatt vs. Reigns, too, has the makings of something substantial for down the road.

Reigns has a presence about him that I think best defines the mysterious “it” factor. To me, “it” is not about skill, but rather an intangible that you can’t put your finger on that just suggests “that guy is a star.” Roman Reigns has “it.” From the moment he stepped foot into a WWE ring, he has exuded “it,” which is the primary reason why he has been pegged as the “face of the WWE in waiting.” Ambrose is a better talker, Rollins is a far superior wrestler, but they simply do not have that undeniable star quality that does Reigns. Both of the other Shield members could be stars, as well, particularly the gravelly-voiced Ambrose, but Reigns is clearly going to be “the” star. Every great hero needs his dastardly villain, so if Roman does emerge as the next “Man” in WWE, will it be Bray that fills the role of his foil? The WWE will likely continue their search for more traditional main-eventers like Reigns, but Wyatt is in good shape for the time being. Both careers have now jumped to near the top of the list of what to watch not just in the entirety of 2014, but for WrestleMania XXX.

The Shield vs. The Wyatts is going to be a fascinating match next Sunday. Five of the six involved seem like they could go onto big things in the near future. If we’re drawing comparisons, Wyatt has Foley written all over him, in my opinion. He’s so different that I think the fans will eventually turn around and cheer him like crazy. It’ll be evidence of a changing wrestling world if he winds up sticking at the top of the card for years to come, as there’s nobody else like him and there hasn’t been since Foley retired from the active roster 14 years ago. Reigns is a cross between Goldberg, Rock, and Orton – he’s got Goldberg’s power and intensity, Rock’s natural presence, and Orton’s cool demeanor. Luke Harper could likely play a number of characters. As the average WWE performer gets smaller, a guy like Harper looks bigger. The WWE will surely be forced into finding a new crop of big men in the very near future. Could he be the next Kane? Rollins could range anywhere from a Jeff Hardy-like daredevil to another ill-fated high flyer who rarely gets pushed (his ceiling is the hardest to predict). Ambrose, I believe, will find his place in the headliner hierarchy in a manner similar to Jake Roberts in his day. He’s a natural bad guy like Orton, but his plain body type suggests he’ll have to rely more on his verbal gifts – more likely as a knight of the roundtable rather than as the king.

The winds of change are blowing. As much as it has become the norm in the last few weeks to look at Batista winning the Rumble and Orton vs. Cena dominating the WWE Championship scene as signs of the WWE going backward, it will simply be a gap-bridger. Daniel Bryan, the third of the aforementioned stars to emerge from the January PPV with his place in the present and future stamped, is going to help bridge that gap. He will be the HBK/Bret of his generation and likely have a storied run, sharing space at the top with the others. Batista vs. Orton may well stink up the present, but the future is still very bright. The WWE has waited patiently for a number of years for stars that either got over to Bryan’s extent, perfectly fit the mold of what they wanted in a top star like Reigns, or came out of the Foley School of “We don’t care how non-traditional you are – you’re awesome” as did Wyatt. The Road to WrestleMania and “The Granddaddy” itself will be as much about those three as it will be The Streak or the returning stars.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Looking into the crystal ball, what do you see in the future for Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, particularly?


Join us on "The Doc and Super Chrisss Show" at 6PM EST on Wednesday for an in-depth look at Raw this week, look ahead to Raw in two weeks, the launch of the WWE Network and how it'll work, and give an early preview of the Elimination Chamber.

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