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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business presents #102: Chapter 1.2 ~ The Use of the Part Time Star
By Samuel 'Plan
Jun 18, 2017 - 9:51:40 AM

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Just Business presents #102: Chapter 1.2 ~ The Use of the Part Time Star

I ended the first part of this chapter by touching on the inherent imbalance in the manner in which WWE deploy their part time talent, suggesting that, were it not for the fact use of part timers so often comes specifically at the expense of contemporary talent, fans might not necessarily be so vehemently opposed to the notion. Sadly, WWE have an increasingly long precedent when it comes to this confused sense of priority and getting it, as far as a large swathe of fans are concerned, absolutely wrong.

There are matches that demonstrate this in action, two of which came in very close proximity as part and parcel of the same storyline, and which are best considered in tandem with one another: Team Cena vs. Team Authority at Survivor Series 2014, with The Authority’s power on the line, and John Cena vs. Seth Rollins, Kane and Big Show in a 3-on-1 Handicap Match on the 19/01/15 edition of Monday Night Raw, wrestled for the jobs of previously fired members of Team Cena. They bear a particularly galling similarity with one another, in that the latter television match watches as a corporately rehashed version of the conclusion to the former pay-per-view main event.

In both instances, the contemporary roster is reduced to the role of utility in favour of the part time Sting and Triple H. WWE, therefore, quite literally have their priorities back to front. Equally, in both instances, the contemporary talent on both sides of the morality divide are, admittedly indirectly, made to look ineffectual by virtue of the more decisive role played by the real driving force of events, Sting.

In the case of the Survivor Series Match, Seth Rollins was denied the opportunity to appear good enough to defeat Dolph Ziggler, necessitating interference from Triple H. Dolph Ziggler was then denied the opportunity to appear good enough to overcome said interference, necessitating the intervention of Sting. This is not just unfortunate; it’s irritating. Many felt Dolph Ziggler had a breakout performance that night. The same might be said for Seth Rollins. Both men were the primary stars of their teams, in a match that limits John Cena to a walk on cameo and that ensures no veteran ever eliminates a rising star; they only ever eliminate one another, or are eliminated by such a rising star. To therefore see such an apparently well-intentioned match denigrated to a state wherein it is decided not by any of the ten men involved, but by two men who work extremely limited dates, is an equal parts frustrating and damaging philosophy on the part of WWE; a philosophy that seemingly exploded at WrestleMania 32.

It became obvious after the fact that the apparent push of Dolph Ziggler was nothing of the sort. Rather, the Show Off’s star making performance was a coincidence stemming from the arrangement of players required to ensure Sting’s debut had maximum impact – rising stars played utility for fading ones.

Making matters worse is the handicap match that followed suit a couple of months later, where WWE manufactured a reprise of the same 3-on-1 scenario, only this time substituted the rising natural star of Ziggler with the corporately-generated John Cena. Dolph Ziggler, instead, was forced to swallow the ignominy of having his job fought for by a man clearly considered by the company to be his superior, as did Ryback and Rowan. None of which would, perhaps, be quite as difficult to swallow if it were not for the fact that even the untouchable status of John Cena was then sidelined in favour of once again allowing Sting to have further dramatic impact; and in an average television match this time to boot.

Together, these matches demonstrate WWE’s inability to master the ergonomics of balancing the use of part time stars with contemporary talent to benefit wrestlers and product alike, instead demonstrating an ineffectual corporate effort to gain favour from a fan base out of love with the promotion’s favoured booking method.

But this isn’t even the most frustrating element of the impact using part time talent has had on WWE’s product since Summerslam 2014. The most frustrating element is that WWE have, on a handful of occasions, demonstrated that striking such a balance is categorically not beyond them. WrestleMania 31 demonstrated that balance across the board, as did matches elsewhere. Indeed, amidst a run of four pay-per-views between Battleground and Hell in a Cell 2015, all of which featured at least one part time talent in the main event, WWE presented a match that I believe represents the best and worst of the use of part timers, and the prime contender for must see when it comes to this first issue of the series: Seth Rollins vs. Sting.

Wrestled for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, this brilliantly executed piece of work evidences how part time “blockbuster” legends can be used as utility for contemporary talent rather than the other way around; there is something fitting, then, in lieu of my preceding points, that it be Sting again involved here. Using traditionalist psychology and frenetic content, the focus and intention is obvious: use Sting to brighten Rollins’ star name. Sting more than puts in his fair share of work to do so, in a match that watches as genuinely well intentioned.

But this match also represents the moral debate surrounding WWE’s reliance on these part time talents too; a conversation that needs to be had, and which goes beyond the questionable roster priorities. Is it appropriate to put men, often beyond middle age, who have been damaging their bodies in pursuit of great matches for years, in positions where they need to wrestle like men half their age, all just to ‘keep up’? While the Summerslam 2015 main event explored in this series’ last instalment ultimately posed no health hazard to the men involved, despite its rageful pursuit of the tones struck by much younger, healthier men elsewhere, the Night of Champions 2015 main event was not so lucky.

Sting, like Undertaker before him, wrestled his heart out, and should be applauded for that. But Sting was not a Kevin Owens or a Sami Zayn, a Bray Wyatt or a Roman Reigns. Quite the opposite; and while Seth Rollins was saddled with the blame for Sting’s unfortunate career-ending injury by fans, Sting himself went on record to state that the second bucklebomb was a case of one too many, compounding a career of hard knocks in a single moment. Agree or disagree, you cannot deny this poses a question WWE need to take responsibility for: many of these aging veterans are feeling compelled to wrestle in the spottier style of the modern day, which is more dangerous than any style that came before it, at an age where their bodies are not what they once were. Is putting them in such a no-win scenario really all that appropriate?

Further, in the event of injuries such as Sting’s occurring, the entire point of utilising part time talent in such positions is rendered inert. Nobody was talking about how much more of a star Seth Rollins looked on the other end of the match for having denied Sting’s challenge, because the injury was the hot topic instead. WWE, therefore, ultimately failed in spite of their best intentions, because they placed an older performer in a position of impossible expectation. I ask again: is doing so really all that appropriate?

WWE look set to continue using part time talent consistently for the coming years, with no indicators occurring still that the habit is due to die out any time soon. It may even be a new normality for the Renaissance Era, with a fresh wave of “blockbuster veterans” waiting in the wings to take the places of men like Undertaker and Brock Lesnar once they’ve left; look to the likes of more recent stars such as John Cena and Randy Orton to make up that fresh wave. If this proves to be the case, there are matches in the recent past that represent the various ins and outs of the issues presented by the method and, chief among those issues, to my mind, is the morality posed by my lattermost pick.

But before I can declare whether or not I wish to select Seth Rollins vs. Sting for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions 2015 as my 102nd Must See WWE Match, I have a number of other issues to look at first.

Next on the list is what I like to call “The Cena Shift” – the changing role played by the poster boy throughout WWE’s first Brand Extension. Until we get to that, though, let me know your thoughts on the issue of part timers, on the matches I’ve mentioned in my column today and any reactions to the thoughts I’ve expressed, in the comments below, or over on social media.

This mini-series is a spin-off of my first book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, spawned from the acclaimed LOP column series of the same name. So for more of the same, click below to pick up your paperback or e-book copy today!

Click here to pick up your copy of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die from Amazon.com

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store today! Simply click here to find a mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP’s own!

Click here to add me on Facebook!

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