The Rock. Brock Lesnar. Triple H. Undertaker. Not counting WrestleMania 30, at least one of those four names have been involved in every WrestleMania main event since 2012. If you add John Cena’s name into that mix, then the last time a WrestleMania main event did not feature any of those names of 20 years ago, with Shawn Michaels defending the WWE Title against Stone Cold Steve Austin. I could technically end the article here, because I believe that stat alone describes my point, but I’ll elaborate.
What I’d like for you to do is check out WWE’s World Cup tournament for Crown Jewel. This tournament is supposed to determine the best in the world even though none of the competitors so far are champions. Right now, the confirmed names for the tournament are Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton and John Cena. And we just had Rey Mysterio pin the US Champ cleanly. Looking at those names, you’d think that this is 2005. But this, once again, displays my point. WWE is far too over-reliant on the past and relying on their name value to carry big events.
As I stated in my review of Super Show-Down, watching Triple H and Undertaker, who have a combined age of over 100 slugging away at each other in Australia was a disturbing sight to watch. It was slow, it was plodding, and they were out there to basically show that they could still somewhat go in the ring as opposed to anything else. This was supposed to be the Last Time Ever, but be advised these two had already had an End of An Era Hell In A Cell match six years ago. Not is the stipulation of the match designed to end rivalries, you called this the End of An Era. You can’t end an era just to bring it back for a one-off match six years later. And now, the balding version of Shawn Michaels is making an in-ring return nearly a decade after he was supposed to retire. No doubt he was shown the money, and he couldn’t turn it down.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to say that WWE cannot bring back names of the past every now and again for the sake of bringing back nostalgia. When Goldust returned in 2013 and had a fantastic match with Randy Orton in 2013, I never wanted him to stop competing. All of the times Jericho has returned over the years still got me excited. Hell, even when The Rock won the WWE Title from CM Punk 5 years ago, it was still like a blast from the past. Periodically, and if in the right context, stars of the past can give value to the company if they are still able to work in the ring. However, it’s an entirely different thing if you plan your future to continuously have these past names take prominence in WWE instead of honing the craft of your current crop of stars.
The main event of WrestleMania 31 was Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. Three years later, we got the same thing. It’s a sign of stagnancy. Whether or not you believe guys like Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura or others are main event material is not the biggest issue. The biggest issue is that WWE is blatantly showing they don’t matter. Think about it. Shinsuke Nakamura is the current United States Champion, and we rarely see him on Smackdown these days. Finn Balor was the first ever Universal Champion, yet for the past month, he’s been involved in a series of matches involving Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox. Bobby Roode was popular when he first got to NXT, but for the past two months, he’s been trading victories with the Ascension and always somewhat, but never turns. Samoa Joe has done literally nothing since coming onto the main roster.
If you want perspective on what the age are of some of these superstars, Finn Balor is 37. Shinsuke Nakamura is 38. Samoa Joe is 39. Of course, they aren’t old and are still very much at their physical peaks. But the point is that time is flying faster than anyone can count, and their talent is being wasted. Now I’ll be honest in saying that I think guys like Nakamura and Roode may have had a bit too much hype put around them. I can concede that maybe Finn doesn’t have the charisma to be trusted with a WrestleMania main event spot. And I do understand that WWE has to make business-savvy decisions. If you don’t draw, you can’t be given prominent places on the card. I get that. But at the same time, everyone had to start somewhere. You have to at least use them. Why give Nakamura the US Title if you’re just gonna have him stay in catering every Tuesday?
I do believe you have potential with each superstar if you use them effectively. But if you’re not going to put in the effort, what will happen when the guys you have now get a bit older and may not be able to work a full-time schedule. Who’s going to be those that carry WWE into the future? The bottom line is that the present is simply the past where the future has not come yet. I don’t think WWE has ever had a more diverse set of talent and usable bodies on both RAW and Smackdown, not to mention NXT. Not everyone is meant to be a main event player, and there’s not enough room for everyone at the top. But would it hurt to at least pretend to care?
What’s your take?