Hi! Today, I’d like to talk about part-time WWE contracts and how they affect the full-time rosters development. I’d like to take a look at the history, as well as the positives and negatives of having select names under this type of contract. It’s a topic which continues to find its way in to wrestling discussion, so I’d like to tackle it without being biased if possible.
I’ll look at both sides of the coin. You will decide if it’s best for business, or if it sets a bad precedent which needs to be dealt with before it causes a decline in the advancement of future superstars. I’ve got a lot to say, so I’ll split it up in to two parts; with the second post going up in early December. There are ten names I believe are synonymous with the part-timer label, so now .. let’s take a look at the careers of five of these men.
The original part-timer. When anyone complains about a part-timer taking the spotlight, they have to remember The Undertaker. And no matter how much we love him for everything he’s done for WWE, he has taken a Wrestlemania spot for the past six years despite wrestling once (and perhaps a few more times) a year.
- The Streak. His injuries plagued him, forcing him to go part-time, but he was capable of working Wrestlemania to keep The Streak alive. It was a huge selling point for casual fans to watch Wrestlemania. Even today, seeing The Phenom at Wrestlemania remains a selling point even without The Streak.
- Getting Others Over. It wasn’t immediate, but after The Undertaker lost the streak to Lesnar his once-a-year special match turned in to a glorified platform. Lesnar used the momentum from conquering The Streak to keep his aura, and Roman Reigns proved WWE is “his yard” by beating him last year. He’s done right by using his legend to help the future.
- He’s loved. Despite his part-time status, very few fans were against him returning once a year. It was widely accepted, because he’d paid his dues and the fans had the utmost respect for the man behind the gimmick. He was able to do it without an increasing disdain, although there’s been a small minority wishing he’d hang up the boots.
- The Streak Ended. Many feel The Undertaker should’ve retired after losing the streak (or with it still alive) because there was little for him to stick around for. Depending on who you ask, it was a combination of The Streak and The Undertaker which sold Wrestlemania tickets, and an old Undertaker with a plethora of injuries is not something fans want to see.
- Please Retire Before Your Health Worsens. Some fans have said they’re worried for his health. They feel that he cares too much for the fans, and Vince doesn’t care enough about his long-term health to turn around and say “No .. it’s over”. Vince wants to sell tickets, and Undertaker loves the fans so much he can’t walk away. This is an unhealthy approach to the twilight of his career.
- Lack Of Opponents. An increasing problem is there’s not enough new, fresh stars who could face him. Bray Wyatt wasn’t anywhere near ready. Reigns probably needed a few more years, and his win last year just made those who hate him .. hate him even more. And the Hell in a Cell with Shane McMahon was completely unnecessary; it didn’t benefit anyone. And who did he face before Lesnar? CM Punk .. which was good! Yet sadly, Punk didn’t stick around to benefit. Before Punk he had Triple H twice, which goes to show how little WWE builds its fresh talent up to face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
And what looked like his retirement at the end of Wrestlemania last year, was probably not. His career continues to be extended at the expense of the next generation. Braun Strowman should show up and wreck The Brothers Of Destruction in five minutes, establishing himself as the true monster among monsters. I love The Undertaker, I grew up watching him in all of his glory, but he just doesn’t belong at Wrestlemania anymore (in a match). He’ll always be a solid ambassador, he’ll be great in smaller roles, but they should really consider putting an end to it .. unless he can somehow fix all of his injuries and return to a full-time schedule.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Not long after The Undertaker went part-time, Dwayne Johnson graced us with his presence after years away from the ring. Despite the good nostalgia and hope he would return more often, it was not the case at all. He promised he’d never leave again .. then he left. He did everything to sell Wrestlemania, while at the same time promoting himself and taking up main events against John Cena. He drew mixed reactions from some crowds.
- The Rock is such a big star that you can put him against anyone and make his opponents name bigger by association. His career in Hollywood has made him a household name to the world, and some of his biggest fans of his movies (probably) tuned in to Wrestlemania to see what he’s like in the ring. The Wrestlemania’s he headlined sold very well, and it goes to show that Vince knows when to bring back his biggest stars for maximum profit.
- He doesn’t need it. Dwayne is so filthy rich that he doesn’t need to step in a ring for the rest of his life. He paid his dues years ago, and he feels that’s enough to be respected by WWE fans. So when he does return, he’s doing it for the fans, and on occasion he’s gone off-script to please them at Vince’s displeasure. What’s Vince going to do? Fire him? He wouldn’t dare. Vince needs The Rock way more than Dwayne needs Vince.
- It’s not fair on the full-time roster. They’re never going to surpass his mainstream appeal by working for WWE, so he’s got the unfair advantage. Guys like Rusev have to job to him, because they’re small and insignificant to The Great One. For no reason at all, The Rock beat CM Punk for the WWE title .. and not in an epic, equal contest, but in a match which saw The People’s Elbow pick up the victory. Insulting to Punk and his fans.
- Some fans hate him because he’s always had an ego. Even when he was a full-timer, The Rock hasn’t always been universally liked. He had patches of mediocrity, where he played the face but went through the motions of saying and doing the same thing each week. He didn’t quite have the love of the audience like his rival Stone Cold Steve Austin; which is why he was heel in most of their feuds. Because of this, he can return anytime and still find fans who don’t want to see him. This was evident in his Wrestlemania XXVII promo, where he had to accept that some didn’t want him there; although you could tell he was surprised and a little insulted.
- He puts the wrong guys over. We’ve seen it twice now .. after a big match, or if he’s come out after a match he wasn’t in to raise the hand of the victor. Raising the hand of John Cena after his loss did not go down well .. but raising the hand of Roman Reigns (one of his family members) after winning the Rumble was on another level. You could see it on his face .. he didn’t know what to make of it.
Unlike The Undertaker, The Rock left us. He saw big money in Hollywood, and felt he’d be better off acting than he would doing what his father and grandfather did. He always claimed to be following in their footsteps, yet he only showed up for Wrestlemania when it suited his acting career. Showing up ‘via satellite’ became a running joke, and it was evident to fans that he’s not reliable, and he doesn’t mean everything he says.
Undoubtedly he is a massive draw. Vince can’t say no .. and he’s got to give The Rock something which makes him look good, otherwise he’s not going to do it. Like I said earlier, Vince needs The Rock more than Dwayne needs Vince, so Dwayne has all the power, which is detrimental to the talents who have to job, or worse .. lose titles to “The People’s Champion” before the biggest show of the year.
When he quit in 2010 it didn’t look like he was ever coming back. Coincidentally, he moved on to his movie career up til his return in late-2013 while working on Guardians Of The Galaxy. He was welcomed at first, but it turned sour when he eliminated Roman Reigns to win a Royal Rumble match which did not include fan favourite Daniel Bryan. The fans disdain was so clear a change had to be made to salvage the Wrestlemania main event. He was mocked for donning blue attire during the Evolution vs. The Shield match, and quit again shortly after. It was one of the worst returns in recent memory.
- While he was a draw, it did not hold a candle to the rising popularity of Daniel Bryan. Arguably, without his sudden push (despite only beating Del Rio beforehand) to win the Rumble, fans might not have seen Daniel Bryan win the title at Wrestlemania. The mistake to book Batista to win, and the even bigger mistake of not including Bryan, fueled a ‘Yes Movement’ which gave Vince McMahon no other choice. The fans would’ve crapped all over Orton vs. Batista, so while it was a negative .. the fans turned it in to a positive by letting their voices be heard far and wide.
- Putting the early booking aside, Batista took the fall for Bryan in the Wrestlemania main event. Not only that, but reuniting with Evolution was the only good thing WWE could do with him. Yes .. he shocked the world with his blue attire, but he, Orton, and Triple H helped The Shield considerably. While Batista wasn’t happy to return as a face, he enjoyed the positives of his WWE run and can be quoted as saying he enjoyed “putting guys over” and “repaying favors”.
- He didn’t have any right to win the Rumble and he knew it. Despite this, he likely didn’t do enough to tell Vince it was a bad idea, which is understandable as he was getting a big Wrestlemania payoff. It wasn’t his fault Bryan wasn’t in the match, but his attitude didn’t help to get fans on his side. He wasn’t being professional, as he fished for heel reactions while Vince wanted the opposite. You can see why he did though, as WWE seemed oblivious to the popularity of Daniel Bryan, and Batista felt he wasn’t deserving of the disrespect. They brought back a part-timer and pushed him as the top star, while the full-time star wasn’t getting a sniff of the action. WWE booking at its worst.
- His ego and movie career made him and WWE believe he’d be welcomed back like The Undertaker or The Rock, but he was never on their level. The fact he quit again so soon, tells me he’d moved on from wrestling long before his return .. he was just looking for one last big run before riding off in to the movie career sunset. His success as Drax in Guardians Of The Galaxy ensured he’d never need to wrestle again to be successful. And I think most fans would agree playing Drax is a way better gig than Bluetista.
I’m still clueless to why WWE found it necessary to push Batista while Daniel Bryan was red hot, but it goes to show it’s the fans who make legends. While Batista had a really successful run in WWE, his return will always be remembered as a joke. He couldn’t connect with fans, WWE were powerless, and he gave us all a good laugh by being the odd one out. It’s a prime example of how a part-timer can almost ruin a career. Imagine if Batista had gone on to win the WWE title? Imagine if WWE didn’t listen and went ahead with it? Wrestlemania XXX will have gone down as the single worst PPV in recent memory.
It didn’t seem real and it was over in a flash. Sting’s best work will always be in WCW and TNA Wrestling. Granted, his later days in TNA was a bit of a joke(r), yet it didn’t tarnish anything he’d done before. When he debuted in WWE, the hype for a possible Sting vs. Undertaker match was huge. There was only one match fans wanted to see, and it was Icon vs. Phenom. Sadly it never happened, and the matches he did get didn’t do enough to sell his legacy. An injury he picked up in a match with Seth Rollins may have retired him for good, but we’ve yet to have confirmation on this.
- Due to his age and several injuries, it was impossible for him to work a full-time schedule. Not only that, he’s an old school guy who has always done the right thing by putting guys over. He did it in WCW, he did it a whole lot in TNA, and he wanted to do it in WWE too. I like to think he did everything he could with what he got, and it was cool to see him side with his former enemies the New World Order against D-Generation X at Wrestlemania.
- Coming to WWE finally bridged the gap so his fans could celebrate his WCW career. Collections of the Monday Night Wars could be sold easier with one of its biggest names to endorse. For Sting, it was more to do with pleasing the fans than bowing down to the company he worked against for decades. He was never going to become WWE champion or win anything significant, but at least he can retire knowing he worked for WWE and checked it off the bucket list. He will enjoy the royalties which his family can live on.
- It’s hard to say anything negative about Sting because he’s such an awesome guy. In this instance, bringing him in as a part-timer had to be done and the fans really wanted it. We got to see a few matches, but I guess the only downside is he got injured. Older wrestlers need to be wrestling frequently if they’re going to stay in ring shape, and I think the lack of matches affected him. He couldn’t keep up, and I don’t blame Rollins or WWE for it. I can’t blame Sting either, for wanting to give the fans something. The only negative is that bringing in older guys to wrestle young lions can easily lead to injuries. In a worse case scenario, it could lead to something dangerous.
Is it a risk he should’ve taken? The fans will always selfishly say yes (me included), while his family might have thought otherwise. Is one more match worth being paralyzed for life? Is one more match worth a life? I’m not trying to be over-dramatic, but I do get concerned when an older wrestler filled with injuries is expected to work with someone who should be running circles around them. All it takes is one botch. I’m happy I got to see Sting in WWE, but I’m not so happy that he couldn’t end his wrestling career on a high note. Perhaps he will return one day for a retirement match?
I was shocked to see his return, and the hype was real. It’s unbelievable after all the years, that he was able to put his differences with Vince & WWE aside for one last run. His backstage reputation hasn’t always been great, largely because he’s never learned how to work the right way. His WCW character was so dominant, yet effective. WWE managed to bring the dominance back, and some loved it, while others didn’t care for it.
It was difficult for some to digest, as he was almost 50 and hadn’t wrestled for 12 years. Lesnar was the favourite, but he lost in short & surprising fashion. He went on to beat full-timer Kevin Owens (w/ Chris Jericho) easily for the Universal title, before going to Wrestlemania where he picked up the one-and-only clean loss of his career to Brock Lesnar.
- The most positive thing was he was doing it for his family who never got the chance to see him wrestle. So it wasn’t a completely selfish motive, although you could say he only came back for them and not the fans. The moments with his son in the ring were a little awkward, but it showed him out of character, which hadn’t been seen before in WCW or WWE. The warm welcome back from Vince, and lockerroom, would’ve felt like closure to him. He was finally able to put the past in the past, and look to a better future.
- While he did destroy a number of wrestlers, he showed that Lesnar is indeed human who can make costly mistakes. We also got to see Goldberg lose clean in his last match. I think the match at Wrestlemania XX had haunted both he and Lesnar, and they wanted to put it right. It will become history, as part of the Universal titles legacy.
- It showed us a screwed up logic that a 50-year-old man can return after 12 years and wreck everyone. Is there no such thing as ring rust anymore? Ok .. so they played to it by only having him work short matches, but if Kevin Owens was even a smidgen of a credible champion, he’d have taken Goldberg to the limit much like AJ Styles did to Brock Lesnar. Owens’ career was hurt considerably, and he’s still recovering. All it takes to stop Owens .. is to wheel out the old WCW guy who never learned how to wrestle.
- Him beating Lesnar so quickly led to comments that The Streak was devalued. In a way it was, but in another it wasn’t. Lesnar was cocky, unlike with The Undertaker where he took the opportunity of beating The Streak very seriously. And as was seen on their return match, Lesnar had a game plan and took everything Goldberg had before winning the Universal Championship. Lesnar quick loss made him look ordinary, which was too much for some fans to handle.
- The biggest issue I had with Goldberg’s run was it only helped Lesnar. His dominant character meant he couldn’t put anyone over til he was ready to leave, and I think some fans knew this and didn’t appreciate taking a spot away. Rusev played his part by being fed to him, and the only guy who had any kind of positive interaction with him was Roman Reigns; when they teamed up to double spear Braun Strowman.
We’ve made it half-way through this topic, and I’m beginning to see a trend. The status of a part-timer is acceptable for some, and not for others. It’s heavily reliant on logical booking, as well as how much it affects the current roster. With Sting we had an icon who would’ve done a lot for the current generation had he not been injured, while with Goldberg his character didn’t allow him to do so (without seriously damaging his appeal).
I felt like talking about this in-depth as it’s easy to get caught up in wanting our favourites to get over, while being blind to the fact they don’t draw as much as they need to. The problem is wrestling isn’t as mainstream as it was in the 80’s/90’s, and WWE is stuck in the past. Vince has to keep bringing back the big guns for Wrestlemania to sell tickets, and it shows a lack of faith in the current generation. It feels a lot like WCW when the old guard used their power to get lucrative contracts and main event spots, while those who put in the hard work and sacrificed time away from their families always came up short at the glass ceiling.
How do you feel about part-timers? Is there room for it? Or do you think any talent who isn’t (or can’t) willing to work a full-time schedule shouldn’t get any opportunities? Was it right to bring in Sting? Was it right to give Goldberg one last run? Will we see more part-timers in the future? When do you think Vince will move on? Should The Undertaker retire? There’s so many questions, and some are not easily answered. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I promise to post the second half in early December. See you then, and thanks for reading!