Has WWE Finally Moved On From The Nostalgia Era? (2/2)

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Welcome back. Last time, we looked at the “Nostalgia Era” in WWE from 2012 to 2017. Let’s continue the journey through to the present day. Did you miss the first part? You can find it here: Vol. #1

I was asked if there was a point to this. Is there some kind of revelation that other fans haven’t already picked up on? Well, I’m not making any promises. Much of this will already be common sense to many people, but I feel it’s interesting to analyze and provide a deeper explanation of how WWE goes about its business. No one is saying that it isn’t about making a profit, but in the back of my mind, I repeatedly ask myself: “Is WWE relying too much on what worked before?”

Road To WrestleMania 34

With The Undertaker possibly retired, WWE had a year of pushing new stars, including (but not limited to) Shinsuke Nakamura, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, and much to fans’ contempt, Jinder Mahal became WWE Champion after a meteoric rise. However, by the time SummerSlam rolled around, neither Samoa Joe nor Braun Strowman were ready to take over from Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. The WWE Championship scene floundered, because while Mahal was gradually getting in to his stride, the creative team killed the feud by having the champion make racist jokes about Shinsuke Nakamura.

By now, everyone realized management favored the Universal Championship over the more prestigious WWE Championship. Luckily, management put the WWE title on AJ Styles, who showed his worth by holding it for over a year. Even losing to Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series did not seem empty, because Styles had finally broken through and become the champion fans want to see. Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon, Triple H and John Cena were involved in the main event of Survivor Series, which shows that management believed that many of the full-time stars weren’t drawing enough to be included.


There were a lot of positives to take from this year, especially from the emergence of the women’s revolution. The goal of NXT was to make the next generation of star, and this was happening with the additions of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, and more. This was more prevalent at the Royal Rumble, when WWE had Asuka win the first women’s Rumble match in the main event. Shinsuke Nakamura won the men’s Rumble, so for the first time in history, WWE was seriously getting behind its Japanese talent. Brock Lesnar predictably destroyed Kane and Braun Strowman, and Styles beat both Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn to keep his title.


At WrestleMania 34, Brock Lesnar stamped his dominance by retaining against Roman Reigns, and AJ Styles retained against Shinsuke Nakamura. Charlotte Flair ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. The Undertaker squashed John Cena. One of the longest matches saw Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey going over Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Again, a lot of positives. Outside the inevitability of Brock Lesnar, there were a lot of new stars being made on this road, more so than others.

Ronda Rousey’s introduction looked promising, but I’m sure her part-time status remains questionable to some. It made sense to pair her with some legends, but for their encounter to go over 20 minutes (longer than the WWE/Universal title matches) was a bit much. No one believed Stephanie McMahon stood any chance of standing across the ring from her, but the match was acceptable and did the job. The road to WrestleMania 34 had some questionable moments, but as a whole, it looked like WWE was shying away from nostalgia in favor of building the next generation. The women could finally ditch the Diva name and be referred to equally as WWE Superstars.



Road To WrestleMania 35

The continued thread between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns concluded at SummerSlam. Finally, after many failed attempts, Reigns won the Universal title for the first time. This ended a 504 day reign, which many believed was hurt because Lesnar rarely showed up. For the first time in almost a year and a half, we could see the Universal title every week. Meanwhile, Ronda Rousey won the Raw Women’s title from Alexa Bliss in just four minutes. There were no nostalgia acts at SummerSlam, and with only part-time Rousey going over, it was definitely a step forward. WWE felt content with its current roster, but would its faith last?


There were some special shows in 2018, notably Super Show-Down in Australia, Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, and the first women’s PPV Evolution. After seeing what many felt was The Undertaker retiring at WrestleMania, WWE brought him back for the Super Show-Down. Facing off against Triple H, they worked a No Disqualification match for 27 minutes. Again, this isn’t helping anybody and puts Undertaker’s health at risk, which of course was his call, but it’s pretty crazy that they had this match six months after the troublesome encounter with Reigns. The event suffered because they crammed it between other PPV, so much of the matches were repeats from regular programming.

Evolution was disappointing because WWE did little to make it feel like a big deal. Ronda Rousey was front and center of a PPV which was made to represent the rise of women in WWE, which was happening long before she signed a contract. Rousey retained her title against Nikki Bella in the main event, which I’m sure many didn’t care for. The Bella Twins had been part-time for a while, so the main event wasn’t highlighting the embodiment of the women’s revolution. It was in fact Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in Last Woman Standing, the match which preceded it, which truly represented the rise of female WWE Superstars.

WWE brought back Trish Stratus & Lita for nostalgia, but they went over two who are no longer around in Mickie James & Alicia Fox. Creative could have used two upcoming stars to go over Stratus & Lita, but nostalgia prevailed once more. Shayna Baszler became the new NXT Women’s Champion, and Toni Storm won the Mae Young Classic over Io Shirai. So the event had some pushing of new stars, but I’m sure many won’t remember it because the show was all about Ronda Rousey, Trish Stratus and Lita. Mickie James did her best to get WWE to produce another Evolution show, but was told “women’s wrestling doesn’t draw”, which shows that WWE was not taking the women’s revolution as seriously as she assumed.

To be fair, having an all-women’s PPV isn’t doing anything for gender equality, but it’s understandable that the show tanked because WWE didn’t hype it up like a big deal. Instead, it shifted focus to plugging Crown Jewel, which would bring the company as much money as it did controversy. This show was a complete train wreck for several reasons. After such a promising year, WWE unraveled much of that potential with three special shows. I’m sure many will want to forget about D-Generation X & The Brothers of Destruction stinking it up in the main event. This should have been a wake up call to WWE management.

They coerced Shawn Michaels out of retirement, and he was the only bright spark in an event which he described as being a “glorified house show”. Just to make it worse, Shane McMahon won the World Cup in the final against Dolph Ziggler, after replacing The Miz. He wasn’t even in the tournament! They could’ve made it a triple threat with Ziggler going over the semi-final losers, Seth Rollins & Rey Mysterio. Brock Lesnar crushed Braun Strowman in a few minutes to get the Universal title again. Just in case you forgot, Hulk Hogan hosted this sham of an event.


At Survivor Series, Daniel Bryan faced Brock Lesnar in champion vs. champion after beating AJ Styles a few days before. Ronda Rousey got a win over Charlotte Flair by DQ in a singles match. Aside from that, the rest of the card positively featured a ton of talent. It was around this time that Becky Lynch’s star rose high above the rest.

She was the obvious choice to win the Royal Rumble, and the fans appreciated it. Seth Rollins won the men’s Rumble in the main event, which was his biggest win in a long time. Brock Lesnar went over Finn Balor for the Universal title, and Ronda Rousey retained her title against Sasha Banks. Daniel Bryan defending the WWE Championship against AJ Styles was a definite highlight. It looked like management had reverted to pushing the next generation after its fall the previous year.

At the excessively long WrestleMania 35, the female superstars made history by being the main event for the first time. There was some nostalgia to be had, including the longest match of the card being a No Holds Barred between Triple H & Batista (his last match). Much to everyone’s dismay, Kurt Angle lost to Baron Corbin, when he & the fans were hoping he would face John Cena. The win for Corbin didn’t help in the long run. Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship in a brilliant match.


Seth Rollins beat Brock Lesnar in 2 minutes and thirty seconds in the opening contest for the Universal title. Becky Lynch won both Women’s titles over Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair. Roman Reigns was in the middle of the card, concluding a feud with Drew McIntyre. The IIconics became the first women’s tag team champions. Despite its running time, there were a ton of positives to take from this. Neither Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns were the focus. While Triple H & Batista had the longest match, it didn’t detract from everything else.

It felt like WWE had recognized its failings in 2018 and was ready to move forward in 2019. I was happy to see Becky Lynch up there, and especially seeing Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre get some love. With Brock Lesnar losing so decisively, I was wondering if this was it for him. How could he lose so easily to Rollins if he wasn’t planning on retirement? Goldberg is the only other guy to beat Lesnar like that on a major show. The future looked bright for WWE.

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Road To WrestleMania 36

A little over a month later, Brock Lesnar casually strolled on down at the end of a Money in the Bank match to steal the contract over the guys working the full match. So no, he wasn’t retiring, and that loss to Rollins was a blip.

Back to Super ShowDown, except this time taking place in Saudi Arabia, The Undertaker was almost paralyzed for life because of Goldberg getting concussed. Again, WWE had not learned from previous years, and thought it would be a fantastic idea to draw sales by having two guys with obvious limitations working a main event. You can’t blame Goldberg for this. They should have had him against someone who would carry him, and The Undertaker isn’t the guy at this point.

The rest of the card is questionable. Seth Rollins retained against Baron Corbin in the opener. Randy Orton won a long match against Triple H (major habit of 20-30 minute matches on big shows). Mansoor won a 51-man battle royal which lasted only 18 minutes. Shane McMahon defeated Roman Reigns… yep, that’s a fact. I forgot to mention he went over The Miz at WrestleMania, so he’s going over everyone at this point. Why? God knows. I think fans had accepted a McMahon getting pointless wins back in the Attitude Era, so another wouldn’t hurt.

SummerSlam was much more positive, with Rollins going over Lesnar in the main event, and Kingston continuing his form by not losing to Randy Orton (double count out). Elsewhere, we saw Goldberg squash Ziggler in the second match, which is fair enough. Charlotte Flair beat Trish Stratus by submission, and it wasn’t for a title. It’s mostly remembered for introducing ‘The Fiend’, as Bray Wyatt destroyed Finn Balor in a few minutes. So much potential, and this was the perfect way to introduce Wyatt’s newest creation.

Crown Jewel was an improvement to previous years, but still had question marks. Did we need to see Brock Lesnar squash Cain Velasquez? I’ll leave that to you to answer. Tyson Fury beating Braun Strowman wasn’t terrible to me, just because it was a novelty to see a popular boxer against a wrestler. It didn’t hurt anybody, although they could have done this differently to elevate Strowman after he had clearly become damaged goods. Team Hogan vs. Team Flair was a fun match, and although WWE played on nostalgia to draw people in, they did it to elevate current talent. Bray Wyatt took the title from Seth Rollins, which was welcomed, although their previous Hell in a Cell hurt the build and it was hard to see where WWE would go with the invincible Fiend character.

In the nostalgia era, there is no show which shifted to the next generation more than Survivor Series 2019. At this event, the black & gold brand of NXT was the absolute focus. But why? What was the reason to push it so hard after WWE had kept it underground for so long? Well, it was mostly to do with it losing in the ratings to AEW. WWE wanted to push NXT as an almost equal third brand to Raw & SmackDown to bump ratings, but by doing so, it confused the brand’s identity. I wrote a detailed editorial on this topic last year, which you can find at the following link:

WWE: The Rise & Fall Of NXT – Where Did It Go Wrong?

On this show, we saw NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler going over champions Becky Lynch & Bayley in the main event. In the men’s Survivor Series, NXT’s Keith Lee eliminated Seth Rollins and wasn’t far off beating Roman Reigns too. Reigns showed major respect to Lee afterward. The NXT Championship was defended for the first time, as Adam Cole retained against Pete Dunne. The NXT Women’s team (Ripley, Belair, Storm, Shirai & LeRae) won their Survivor Series match against Raw & SmackDown.

NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong defeated United States Champion AJ Styles, and Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn. NXT’s Lio Rush retained the Cruiserweight title against Akira Tozawa and Kalisto. Aside from that, Brock Lesnar retained against Rey Mysterio, and Bray Wyatt retained against Daniel Bryan. The most annoying part of the event was the undefeated NXT UK Champion WALTER (now Gunther) getting eliminated in a few minutes. It’s all good showing NXT some love, but did they capitalize on it?

At Royal Rumble 2020, they highlighted NXT again. In the women’s Rumble, Belair had a breakout performance, and Shayna Baszler did well to get to the last two before being eliminated by Charlotte Flair. At least a third of the women’s Rumble participants represented NXT, which was contrasted in the men’s. Only Matt Riddle (eliminated by Corbin in seconds) and Keith Lee (big moment with Brock Lesnar) represented the black & gold brand.

This was a fun event, especially with the dominance of Brock Lesnar setting up Drew McIntyre’s well-received victory. And while I have talked down many nostalgia acts, the exemption to this was Edge’s unexpected return. You can’t knock this, given the fact he was forced to retire and was told he would never wrestle again. What we didn’t know at the time is this would be the last flagship show in the United States before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was enjoyable, and even more so after it became clear how much crowds help after experiencing the uneasy silence of WrestleMania 36.

Before we get to that, we have to look at Super ShowDown 2020. Now, WWE had built up ‘The Fiend’ as an unstoppable monster, so the prospect of him facing Goldberg was intriguing. The character had no-sold so much offense that it was believable he could handle an onslaught from Goldberg. This wasn’t the case, and he lost the Universal title in a few minutes. It made little sense given the fact he withstood many stomps and chair shots from Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell. The Tuwaiq Trophy matches were not enjoyed, even with a surprise addition of The Undertaker, in what turned out to be his last in-ring wrestling match.

It’s a confusing time when you’re pushing the next generation one minute, and the next you’re having Goldberg and The Undertaker going over. Still, it wasn’t all bad because WrestleMania 36, despite being allowed to go ahead against controversy, delivered two fun nights of wrestling in a turbulent time. Braun Strowman took the title from Goldberg in two minutes, which was shocking. WWE wanted Bray Wyatt to work with John Cena at WrestleMania, so he wasn’t scheduled to take the title back from Goldberg. Roman Reigns would have squashed Goldberg instead, had he worked the show, so Strowman was merely a body substitute.

After WWE had done so well to build NXT, they had Charlotte Flair beat Rhea Ripley for the NXT Championship. Why? Well, it’s probably because they didn’t know what to do with Flair. I guess it was just to give her something to do, but it left Ripley noticeably dispirited. Drew McIntyre beating Brock Lesnar in the main event was nicely done, and he served Raw well as the WWE Champion through the early pandemic. The Undertaker’s send off in the Boneyard match was the perfect way to retire the character. And the cool part was that it was against AJ Styles, so he got to enjoy being involved in one of WrestleMania’s biggest moments in its entire history.

The road to WrestleMania 36 was a mixed bag. In America, WWE focused on pushing the next generation, while in Saudi Arabia it would revert to nostalgia pandering. It feels like WWE accepted the differences in expectation by booking shows to please the live audience, but did so with little care for how TV viewers thought about it. This is typical WWE booking though. For the past decade or more, it has catered to the live audience over the TV viewers. Still, WWE did well to develop some new stars leading in to the pandemic.


Road To WrestleMania 37

Watching WWE in the early pandemic was a struggle. When we got to SummerSlam, WWE had Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt vs. Braun Strowman. The cool thing about this show? No part-timers or nostalgia acts anywhere. After Wyatt defeated Strowman for the Universal title in a lackluster main event, Roman Reigns returned to “save us”. This was also the first time since 2011 that SummerSlam did not feature Brock Lesnar.

WWE continued the trend of featuring full-timers at Survivor Series, although understandably, the show ended with The Undertaker’s retirement ceremony on his 30th year anniversary. The main event match saw Roman Reigns defeat Drew McIntyre in champion vs. champion. It was mostly a Raw vs. SmackDown affair, with each brand getting three wins a piece.

Royal Rumble 2021 was a solid event, although Edge winning the men’s Rumble from the #1 spot got a mixed reaction. Yes, it was a pleasant moment to see him win a marquee match, but to do so from the #1 spot as a part-time star was like what Brock Lesnar would do. Still, it was a fun event all around and that’s the main thing. Even more so because Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley became stars with their performances in the women’s Rumble.

Aside from a terrible feud between Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon, WrestleMania 37 was a decent affair. Sure, it had Bad Bunny take up a spot, but at least he had some training and performed well. Bianca Belair got a huge win at night one’s main event. Roman Reigns solidified his new heel persona by pinning both Edge & Daniel Bryan at the same time. WWE crowned other champions in Rhea Ripley, Apollo Crews, Sheamus, and the team of AJ Styles and Omos. Cesaro got a huge win over Seth Rollins. With no John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels or Triple H on the card, the event was pretty successful.

I’d say the most hated thing was having Hulk Hogan co-host the event with Titus O’Neil. This was obviously a ploy to help curb his racist image, but it didn’t stop fans from heavily booing Hogan and cheering Titus. Vince McMahon opened the show by thanking the fans, as it was the first time WWE had them in attendance since early 2020. Despite having a limited amount of fans, the event grossed $6.2 million. This proves that WWE does not need to rely on part-timers and nostalgia acts to sell WrestleMania, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. It had done a great job of building stars for the past year, and WrestleMania 37 was a payoff for their hard work in troubling times.

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Road To WrestleMania 38

With fans coming back to shows, WWE could get back to business as usual. Sadly, this also meant bringing back part-timers like John Cena (vs. Reigns) and Goldberg (vs. Lashley), who were given championship spots at SummerSlam. Neither of them won, but it goes to show that WWE still likes to bump ticket sales with these cheap tricks. The Cena & Reigns match worked because it was praised more so than the undercard, which is how it should be for main events. Becky Lynch returned from maternity leave and squashed Bianca Belair in 26 seconds, which was so ill-received it lead to a heel turn.

Continuing from the success of SummerSlam was the first time critics praised a Crown Jewel event. Edge & Seth Rollins killed it in a Hell in a Cell match, and everything else worked aside from the Queen’s Crown final between Zelina Vega & Doudrop. Roman Reigns remained the focus of the company by going over Brock Lesnar, although doing so with interference to keep the rivalry going. Goldberg defeated Bobby Lashley in a No Holds Barred Falls Count Anywhere, just to get one back after losing to him at SummerSlam.

The biggest fail was Survivor Series. After such a good run of form, WWE didn’t seem to care to make it something worthwhile. Big E became WWE Champion a couple of months before, and really didn’t need to lose to Roman Reigns. His momentum was already dwindling, and this served as a nail in the coffin of his title reign. It was cool that WWE didn’t rely on the popular part-timers to sell the show, but creative did little to get us invested. Again, they were just a bunch of Raw vs. SmackDown matches with no rewards or repercussions.

The single most annoying thing about Survivor Series was them plugging the event as The Rock’s 25th anniversary. While The Rock had mentioned it on Twitter, there were no videos made and he did not appear “via satellite” or in person. It was cheap for WWE to celebrate his anniversary like he would, because fans would tune in with the hope he’d be there. The Rock had already stated he wouldn’t be there, as he was busy filming a movie. Many fans were hoping he would make a return so he could challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship and the “Bloodline”. WWE knew this, and instead of not getting fans’ hopes up, they purposely played to this hope to bump viewership.

WWE hyped Day 1 up so much it is worth a mention. It was supposed to feature Brock Lesnar challenging for the Universal Championship, but because Roman Reigns contracted COVID-19, WWE flipped the script. Lesnar destroyed four of Raw’s top superstars to become WWE Champion, including pinning the champion Big E to end a reign which WWE hardly supported. It was painfully obvious where this would lead, so there was no surprise when Brock Lesnar won a dull Royal Rumble to set up a unification match at WrestleMania.

The Royal Rumble also saw Ronda Rousey return and go over all of WWE’s full-time stars, and the match itself wasn’t anything to write home about. WWE felt like bringing back Beth Phoenix so they could have her & Edge vs. Miz & Maryse, which could have been better. It’d make sense if it meant Phoenix & Maryse would wrestle more often, but this never materialized. The winners of Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey turned out to be hollow choices, as evidenced by WrestleMania 38.

Brock Lesnar lost abruptly to Roman Reigns in the main event after 12 minutes, probably because of an injury to the champion. Rousey lost her match to Charlotte Flair, which is healthy because she was undefeated in singles matches. It was about time that someone had the luxury of going over Rousey, but it’s not like Charlotte Flair needed the rub. Imagine if this had been someone like Rhea Ripley? And while the show had some highlights and was all around a fun show on both nights, we should remember that we saw victories given to:

  • Logan Paul (w/ The Miz) over The Mysterios
  • Johnny Knoxville over Sami Zayn
  • Pat McAfee over Austin Theory
  • Mr. McMahon over Pat McAfee
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin over Kevin Owens

This doesn’t sound like building to the future. However, we could also look at Cody Rhodes going over Seth Rollins. We could talk about Bianca Belair becoming a champion in consecutive WrestleMania’s, or Damian Priest getting the spotlight after Edge vs. AJ Styles. There were some positives, but overall, this was another event which placed nostalgia, part-timers and celebrities over WWE’s full-time talent.

The only guy who had any right getting a win here was Stone Cold Steve Austin, just because we know it is a one-off and the fans love him that much. It would be a travesty if he didn’t get a win in his last-ever match, and the way they booked it as a surprise was exceptional. Austin put Kevin Owens over in defeat, because he got to share the spotlight with one of wrestling’s biggest legends.

Having Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the ring at the same time screams nostalgia. The duo represents the Attitude Era in all of its glory, so it was nice to see this one last time. Sure, Vince screwed up the stunner, but it was in good fun. It feels very much like Vince wanted to relive the glory days, even if he knows his body isn’t really up for taking bumps. What we’re seeing is a 76-year-old promoter closing a chapter of his life. Think of this as the true “End of an Era” a decade on for these reasons:

– Triple H returned from his heart condition and officially retired from competition.

– The Undertaker’s Hall of Fame speech was from the heart, after Vince genuinely inducted him in a way only he could.

– Vince shared one last beer and stunner in the ring with Stone Cold Steve Austin, after winning what is likely his last ever match. What does that tell you?

– Vince got a lot of heat on his protégé Austin Theory and his new favorite color commentator Pat McAfee, who both represent the next chapter in WWE.

– Bringing Cody Rhodes back as the American Nightmare not only shows there are no hard feelings, but that he has faith in Cody to get over using something WWE didn’t create. This isn’t typical Vince (who loves to own everything!), so it shows a change of direction which is more clear by Cody going over. The old Vince would have made Cody lose and earn his way to a victory (over Rollins) a few months down the road… partly to spite AEW, but also to show who the boss is.


Conclusion

We’ve been through a decade of flagship shows and highlighted all the difficulties. Mostly, WWE has made a ton of money, even if fans and critics panned many of the shows. We can’t blame them for wanting to take advantage of big names, although it’s obvious this has happened far too often to be healthy. When you look at the current roster, how many of them could believably beat Roman Reigns and carry the company? Nobody. Is anyone a bigger name in the women’s division than Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, or Ronda Rousey? No chance in hell, although Bianca Belair is getting there.

WWE has used the same superstars for so long that it’s impossible to replace them in the short term. And what about those dreaded part-timers? Can WWE squeeze anymore milk out of the Brock Lesnar and Goldberg cash cows? Considering how much they have lost, it doesn’t seem likely. Goldberg has lost four of his last five matches! Even he says it’s time to give back. So if we see Goldberg again, I wouldn’t expect him to win championships. He could elevate some talent, but his days are certainly numbered.

As for Brock Lesnar, he’s had a phenomenal run over the past decade. He still has a decent win-loss record, but losing to Roman Reigns clean is telling. The only way he could be the face of the company again, is if Reigns gets severely injured. So the goal should be to develop superstars to the point they can replace Lesnar in the #2 role. I’m fully expecting the rest of Brock’s career to be about elevating stars, instead of it being about keeping him sweet at the top. Roman Reigns is firmly above him now, and they have done this rivalry to death. Lesnar can just have fun now, doing entertaining cowboy things like we saw with Sami Zayn.

I should remind people who weren’t around for the Attitude Era that there was a time when WWE focused solely on creating fresh talent. It wanted to get away from the cliche stuff like saying your prayers and eating your vitamins, to bring you something less insulting. They did this, not just by having entertaining gimmicks, but by making titles mean something, even if they regularly changed hands.

For example, they would often have #1 contender matches, so title opportunities weren’t just handed to someone because they asked nicely. Remember when Finn Balor got a title shot against Roman Reigns? He hadn’t earned it, but because Reigns appreciated him asking, it was just given to him because Reigns said he needed something to do. This devalues championships and makes it harder to build stars from their matches, because if WWE can’t take them seriously, then who will?

If literally any part-timer can pop up, say “you’re next!”, and get a title shot, it makes wins and losses mean nothing. At that point, it’s more about whoever WWE sees as the biggest draw, instead of who is the better competitor, which devalues all the skill and hard work full-time talent put in to reach the top. Age doesn’t matter, nor does being in “ring shape”, which is something announcers used to point out. There should be some effort made to reward those who carry the regular programming and live events all year round, otherwise all you do is frustrate the talent and their biggest fans.

Back to part-timers, aside from Lesnar & Goldberg, there isn’t anybody WWE can call on. Undertaker & Triple H are retired. John Cena and The Rock are firmly in Hollywood roles. There’s no other logical way to go. WWE hasn’t got a choice but to move on to a new era. One where it takes superstars who have been floundering in its mid-card for years, and actually make something of them. There are many exciting prospects coming through, but it will take time to get them over. See what Vince McMahon is doing with Theory, and it feels like he knows WWE needs him to build stars who can carry things when he’s not around.

I know that sounds morbid, but when you’re 76-years-old, you’ve got to think about these things. There will be a WWE without Vince McMahon someday, and he should impart and project as much of his wisdom and popularity on those who he feels can continue his legacy. They will be his last works, the superstars who can say decades from now, that they wouldn’t be where they are without Vince McMahon. And to be fair, many of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.

For it should be said that while the old man has frustrated us many a time, there have been a myriad of moments when WWE made our day. Those of us who have been around long enough, we know all about Vince and his methods. When he’s no longer capable of doing this, WWE just won’t be the same. No matter who takes over, it won’t feel like WWE anymore, because it has always been his vision. So long as he’s around, the cheap tricks will never stop, but from what I’ve seen lately, it feels like there aren’t many left up his sleeve. We’ll just have to wait and see!

With that said, you have my gratitude for taking the time to look through this two-part piece. Please let me know if you think WWE will keep on relying on nostalgia, or if it has finally run out of options. Also, are there any superstars who can take Brock Lesnar’s spot? Have an enjoyable weekend, and thank you very much for reading.

WWE

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