Hustle Is Posting Right Now - No New "Megastars"
Sep 29, 2012 - 1:26:49 PM
I've been sitting back for a few days now, looking at a bunch of articles from various sites, all of them about WWE and their search for their next big "megastar". If you haven't seen the articles, it started with news that WWE is looking at how John Cena, who will be turning 36 a few weeks after WrestleMania 29, obviously won't be around forever, so they want to be able to find his "replacement" sooner than later.
That makes sense. Wrestling promotions, big and small, have been doing that since the industry started. When Top Guy is getting up there in age, the company needs to promote a new Top Guy, and sometimes even Top Guys, depending on how big a hole the original Top Guy will make when he leaves.
The question now, though, is a simple one..
Is the next big WWE "megastar" currently employed by WWE?
I'm seeing a bunch of people praising CM Punk for that role. They mention Punk being over, having a legendary WWE Title reign at the moment, being a major merchandise seller, and how he's someone that can be trusted (no need to worry about things like DUIs and Wellness Policy violations, etc). Those are all extremely valid points. However, what these folks aren't taking into account is the fact that Punk is a year-and-a-half younger than Cena is, and with years of wrestling on his body, and no drugs (legal or illegal) to help take his pain away, that year-and-a-half difference might as well be two years in the other direction.
What about Sheamus? He's in the middle of a historic World Title reign of his own, and he has the backing of two very important names in the company's hierarchy.. Vince McMahon and Triple H. That has to count for a lot, doesn't it? I'm sure it does, but Sheamus is getting up there in age, as well. He's older than Punk is, and nearly as old as Cena is. That isn't going to work, either.
Randy Orton? Well, he's younger than the aforementioned names, although not by much (he'll turn 33 a few days before WrestleMania 29), but there's one major problem with him.. I don't think the company trusts him anymore. With his Wellness Policy violations, other fines and suspensions through the years, and how it always seems like he's in some sort of trouble, with the most recent example being him flipping the bird to a fan on live television. I know, I know.. he was chosen to represent the company in the 12 Rounds movie sequel, and that's cool and all, but there's a big difference between that and being trusted to be the WWE or World Champion. I'm not saying he'll never reach that level again, but I do think it could be a while, but the point of this column is to look for the next "megastar". Orton is already at that point, but at nearly 33 years old, he could/should be retiring at around the same general time as John Cena will, so what's the point?
It becomes an interesting journey beyond those names. Look at the some of the rest of the "top" guys on the current roster..
- Rey Mysterio (turns 38 in December)
- Alberto Del Rrrrrio (35, and still hasn't truly connected with live crowds, despite numerous attempts by the company to make it happen)
- Big Show (will be 39 by the time WrestleMania 29 rolls around)
- Brock Lesnar (35, and will probably never be anything remotely close to a full-time worker again)
- The Rock (40, and will probably never be anything remotely close to a full-time worker again)
- KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE (will be 46 a couple weeks after WrestleMania 29)
- Mark Henry (41, and technically doesn't have a guarantee that he'll ever wrestle again, anyway)
- The Undertaker (will be 48 by the time WrestleMania 29 rolls around)
- Triple H (43, and will probably never be anything remotely close to a full-time worker again)
I purposely left a couple names off of that list, though, as you may have noticed. Now, let's look at those names and why they may or may not be candidates for this "next megastar" thing..
- Wade Bar-ruh is 32, so he doesn't really fit the mold of someone who can take the ball and run with it after the current wave of top guys are all retired and gone, and on top of that, his current return probably isn't going as planned. He isn't connecting with live crowds much at all. Not that he was getting "Stone Cold" Steve Austin-like reactions to begin with, but I think the damage that has been done to his character has taken a toll on the WWE Universe, and they just don't have a reason to really view him as anything special right now. That could definitely change, but it isn't looking good right now. After some cool return vignettes, we got.. the same person, just with a beard and a finisher that the crowds don't seem to care about. He still gets disqualified for this, though.
- The Miz is going to be 32 in about a week, but look at how up-and-down his career has been. He had quite the epic rise from the bottom of the card to a WWE Champion, and then he had quite the epic fall from WWE Champion back to the bottom of the card. As I've mentioned in previous columns, his effort almost seems to fluctuate a lot. He'll have multiple-month stretches where he looks hungry and will be improving, and then, out of nowhere, he'll have multiple-month stretches where he looks like he doesn't care and will wrestle like a student in his first few months of training. Then, out of nowhere again, he'll go back to looking hungry again. It's the weirdest thing. Until that is taken care of, I don't think Miz will be a "megastar", period, now or in the future. It almost comes down to trust again. Can the company trust him to keep doing the in-ring things someone at the top of the roster should be doing? He's proven that he can do all of the extracurricular stuff.. the media appearances, constant interviews and jibberyjoo like that.. but he can't stay consistent in the ring to save his life right now.
- Zack Ryder is an interesting choice. He'll be turning 28 about a month after WrestleMania 29, so he certainly has the age thing working for him. Look at his career, though. While he remains over, the company hasn't been able to commit to much of a push at all, and the push they did give him seems like forever ago, and he's back to being an afterthought now. What really intrigues me is his newest YouTube video. If you haven't seen it, Ryder hints at how he might need some changes to his gimmick if he's ever going to be taken seriously and looked at as a "top guy" in the business. No matter what Super Chrisss will lie to you about, that line of thinking is 100% correct. Ryder has proven he can get over with his current character, but he will never.. ever.. ever.. be taken seriously with this "broski" bullshit. It just isn't happening, and I've said so from the beginning, even as he was getting a push and I had to sit through column after column about how he would be a future WWE Champion, how he was the future of wrestling and how.. blah blah blah.. I'm shaking my head just thinking about all of that. He is in dire need of a change, even if it's something relatively small. Something like a heel turn, where he blames the WWE Universe for turning him into a joke, would work. He could adopt an angrier, more aggressive style in the ring. It's worth a shot, but as things stand now, Zack Ryder is certainly not the "next megastar".
- Dolph Ziggler is another popular pick for this from people that I've seen. His name almost always comes up immediately, but for a lot of those people, I think they see Dolph as being younger than he really is. I was having a discussion about Dolph with a friend of mine the other day, and the subject of Dolph's future in the business came up. My buddy said that the sky is the limit for Dolph, because he's "only like 26 or 27". He's actually 32, putting him right smack dab in the middle of the age bracket for a lot of the names already brought up in this column. Yes, we probably haven't seen the biggest and the best part of Dolph's career as of yet, but I still think he's too old to be considered for something along these lines.
- Cody Rhodes is someone that has a lot of similarities with The Miz when it comes to inconsistency and how stale they are. Cody's character is an absolute casserole of stagnant promos and a lack of freshness. It's always a possibility that Cody will get pushed. He seems to receive two or three pushes a year, no matter what his character does and doesn't do. He has yet to be really pushed to the main event, though, despite being "next" for several years now. That has to concern even his biggest fans and supporters. He's only 27, which really works in his favor here, but I'm afraid of what I've seen from his career this far. He hasn't been truly pushed yet, and there's a reason for that. It's difficult to picture him going from what we've seen from his booking to John Cena or Triple H-like "megastar" booking, even over the span of a few years. Come back to me in a year or so, and we'll see if things have changed at all.
- Daniel Bryan.. good ol' Daniel Bryan. The man who might be the true savior of the tag team division. The man who has given us arguably the most amazing year of character development and pushes that we've seen in a long, long time. He's not over the hill, but he'll turn 32 a month-and-a-half after WrestleMania 29, so he isn't exactly wet behind the ears, either. At face value, he's certainly someone that could become a "megastar" if the company gives him a chance to be one. He's capable of doing everything you could ask him to do. If the company needs someone to go out on television or pay-per-view and have a lengthy match with rave reviews, they can count on him to make it happen. If the company needs someone to go out and be diverse with his promos, whether it's something on the comedic side or a serious, intense delivery, they can count on him to make it happen. If the company needs someone to participate in a skit or a backstage segment and deliver entertainment without even saying a word, they can count on him to make it happen. Even with all that said, he can't be viewed as the "megastar" to carry the company on his back when several of the aforementioned have retired, because he'll be close to 40 by then, if not over 40 already.
It's starting to look quite bleak at this point, isn't it?
Sure, I could look at the NXT and FCW rosters to see what they have there, but I don't want to do that, for two reasons. One, we haven't seen any of them on the main roster. The top names on NXT could come to the main roster with insanely stupid gimmicks, get zero crowd reaction, and become dark match jobbers in the span of three months. Two, the choices are really obvious if you are going to look in that direction.. Seth Rollins (he'll turn 27 a month-and-a-half after WrestleMania 29), Dean Ambrose (26), Bray Wyatt (26 a month-and-a-half after WrestleMania 29), and Bo Dallas (23 a month-and-a-half after WrestleMania 29). You'll notice that Kassius Ohno is absent from that list. That's because Ohno turns 33 on Christmas Eve. That's also why I didn't mention Antonio Cesaro earlier. Cesaro turns 32 two days after Christmas, and he hasn't really gotten good crowd reactions, so the jury is still out on him, anyway. If you also want to look at the WWE developmental system, many people will throw the newly-signed PAC into the mix. PAC just turned 26 a month ago, and is perhaps the best high-flier alive today. I personally don't see PAC ever reaching super-duper main event status while working for WWE, but I have a feeling that I'd see a bunch of "What about PAC?" and "Where's PAC?" comments in my feedback if I didn't mention him.
So, what is all of this telling you? Chances are, it isn't telling you anything you weren't already aware of. The fact that all of WWE's top guys are in their mid-30s at the very youngest tells you that either the creative team doesn't know how to truly create new top level stars, or that the younger talent on the roster just aren't doing enough to make the creative team take notice of them. Maybe it's a little bit of both. No matter which option it is, this is very problematic.
It isn't even about the eventual retirements of these top names. It's more about what would happen if these top names suddenly had to deal with major injuries. God forbid, but imagine if John Cena and CM Punk were both injured to the point where they both had to miss several months. Then let's say Sheamus is also dealing with an injury that puts him on the shelf for a while. The writers would scramble like never before. This isn't like the WWF roster from 2000-2002, when it seemed like the company could send out wave after wave of main eventers to the point that main event guys were wrestling for the Tag Team Titles, Intercontinental Title, and even the European Title at almost all times, to go along with the people contending for the WWF Title, WCW Title and World Title. While you never want to see your top talents injured, the company could "afford" to lose some to injuries back then. When one wrestler got injured.. BOOM.. someone else would merely take his place. When another wrestler got injured.. BOOM.. someone else would merely take his place. That just can't happen here as October 2012 rolls around.
How does the company go about finding the next "megastar", though?
1. First and foremost, above all else, they need to listen to the fans. That's obviously who dictates these things, but far too often, it seems WWE forgets that, and they'll push who they want to push, no matter how the fans feel about that person. That isn't going to work. In fact, it's only going to make things worse. If the fans are steadily giving solid reactions, heel or face, to a midcard worker, the company should look into eventually pushing that worker to the upper midcard. If the upper midcard worker is getting solid reactions, heel or face, the company should look into giving that worker a taste of the main event. Maybe not a full-fledged main event run. Just a competitive match on television with the WWE/World Champion, or maybe a tag alliance (even a brief, temporary one) with the champion or against the champion. That's the test to see if the live crowds buy into so-and-so rubbing shoulders with legit main eventers. If the fans buy into it, and the upper midcard worker continues getting those solid reactions, then the company knows that a main event push can work for said person. It's not very difficult. The opposite, of course, is what they're doing now. They like someone, so they push that someone. The crowd doesn't really respond to that someone, but they keep pushing that someone. Main event push for the guy that crowds aren't responding to? Sure, why not?
2. This part is more about the stuff that doesn't take place on the actual WWE programming, but you have to look at what these guys are capable of doing to represent the promotion, as a whole. Look at that person's family life. I'm not saying that you can't push a married man with children to a main event spot. Of course not. However, nobody would deny that it's a lot easier to make "megastars" out of people who are single, or at least don't have children. All of the travel, the wrestling, the media appearances, the interviews on radio stations and in newspapers all across the world, and on and on and on.. the top guys have schedules that are just pure insanity, and having to balance all of that with a wife/girlfriend and kids is the kind of thing that is going to lead to early burn out. Less of a family life, and a willingness to give up parts/most/all of their social life, all in an attempt to help make the company bigger.
3. Intangibles. Intangibles. Intangibles. Being able to wrestle is fine. Being able to cut promos is fine. How are the wrestler's intangibles, though? How do they perform in situations that aren't planned? How do they handle things when they aren't going in their favor? Are they able to take control of the screen, captivating audiences, no matter what is happening? These are the little things that really can't be taught. In-ring skills, of course, are taught. Promo skills are taught, and can be honed with repetition. These intangibles that I've been mentioning, though, are things that you either have or you don't have, and that's what separates the upper echelon talent from those right below them. Look at Randy Orton, John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, etc.. they can be in the ring while someone else is cutting a promo, but they make sure they don't blend into the background. You still notice them, even if it's because of the facial expressions they're making. They can ad-lib in matches and during promos, when the scripted has to become unscripted.
If WWE management can find people that fit these criteria.. people that the crowds care about, in one way or another, throughout their rise from the bottom to the top.. people that are able to dedicate larger portions of their life to the company, and to the wrestling business, as a whole.. people that have those intangibles.. then they can solve their problem and actually find the next "megastars" to help carry the next era.
Unfortunately, I don't think that next "megastar" is on the roster right now. At least not on the main roster. The FCW roster could very well hold multiple "megastars" for the future, but we have no way of knowing that right now. I do have high hopes for Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins, though. Outside of that, though, the next "megastars" are out there somewhere. Hell, they might even be reading this column right now.
WWE, it's your move. The future of your company depends on it.
What do you think, ReaderLand? Do you think the next "megastar" is under employment by WWE right now? If so, who do you think it is? If you want to name someone in developmental, you can, but I want to know who you think really is the future, and why.
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