WWE’s Conundrum of Not Letting Go Of The Past


So, if you haven’t been keeping track of the news lately, WWE Hall of Famer Edge is reportedly a “lock” for the Royal Rumble match. I didn’t really know how to take the news. For those of you who don’t know, Edge is my favorite ever WWE superstar. He is the reason I got into wrestling in the first place.

Seeing him potentially compete in the ring is something that I’d love to a great degree. However, that excitement is offset by genuine concern for his well-being. It is also indicative of a deeper issue that has stained WWE for many years.

There are so many examples of WWE being over-reliant on relics of the past. Now, the biggest argument in WWE’s favor is that more recognizable ratings equal ratings and more interest. WWE is a business before it’s a professional wrestling organization, and they will typically do what is in their best interest for their bottom line.

However, at what point does the consideration of wear and tear come into consideration? At what point will it be realized that there is only so much that superstars in their late 40s and early 50s can offer? Allow me to provide you with some examples.

The most immediate example that comes to mind is Triple H. Now, Triple H hasn’t been shoved down our throats as often as he used to. However, he always seems to be heavily involved in situations that involve shows in Saudi Arabia or WrestleMania these days.

The issue that I have with Triple H matches is that WWE still asks him to work the Triple H-style main event match even as old as he is. We all know what those matches entail. They are at least 25 minutes, involve a lot of directionless offense from outside, plodding/inconsistent limb work and a lot of times, interference. This issue was exacerbated with his match against Batista at WrestleMania last year. He also had this issue in his series of matches with the Undertaker in the fall of 2018, the latter of which resulted in a torn pectoral muscle.

Then, we had Shawn Michaels. As we all know, he had what we was supposed to be his retirement match at WrestleMania 26 against Undertaker. It was an intense and emotional match that had the perfect ending. 8 years later, we see a fully bald Shawn Michaels attempting moonsaults from the top rope because WWE offered him one huge payday.

There are other superstars that could be referenced, but if there is one more person that can be referenced, it would be The Undertaker. Undertaker’s character is arguably the most iconic in not only WWE history, but all of professional wrestling. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, chances are you may have heard of him in one form or another. That’s how much his presence permeates with people. He grew his legendary status, not only because of how well he sold his character, but because of his quality of work in the ring.

That’s exactly why it pained me to see him perform in the ring these last few years. The first sign that told me that he may have needed to hang up the boots was WrestleMania 30. We all remember that as the night his undefeated WrestleMania streak ended. I remembered that as the night where I believed Undertaker should have retired. When I saw him trying to tombstone Lesnar, or even take his brutal offense, he truly looked like an old man trying to prove a point.

Over time, his matches weren’t as bad as he took a year off, but then WrestleMania 33 happened. That was when I definitely thought it should have been over for him. We even had him folding up his gear in the ring and leaving it in dramatic fashion. That’s as obvious a send-off will get. Yet he continued to pull his old, battered body for the years that followed. It culminated in one disaster of a match that he had against another relic of the past, Goldberg.

Undertaker didn’t compete at WrestleMania last year, which may be a sign that his in-ring days may soon be over. I respect the fact that legends such as Undertaker and others continue to compete for our entertainment, but the Edge news kind of hit me differently. Maybe it’s because he’s my favorite.

If you don’t know, Edge retired in 2011 because his neck deteriorated to the point where the slightest bit of contact could render him paralyzed from the waist down. He left as World Heavyweight Champion in a tearful retirement speech. While many were certainly sad to see him go, it was absolutely the right move. A few more years of in-ring competition can’t be traded in for the quality of life that comes after. Edge would make periodic returns here and there, but nothing resembling anything in the ring.

Then, Summerslam last year happened. On the pre-show, Elias did his little shtick before Edge surprisingly returned in his home country. He stared at Elias for a few seconds, and then he was charging before hitting a Spear (or running shoulder tackle). I literally could not believe my eyes. Edge? Getting physical? After a triple neck fusion?

The first thing that went through my mind is that this was just a one-off for the live crowd. However, what I also know is that Edge had to have undergone some sort of intensive medical approval to perform such a move with his history. When I first heard the rumors, I didn’t really take much stock in them. But the more I think about it, the more Edge may actually return and do a match here or there.

The reason why I’m against Edge returning was because I don’t want him to risk anything. Injuries with the neck, especially, are not to be messed with. The last thing I want is my favorite superstar to be wheelchair bound for his life because WWE threw a lot of money his way. He also doesn’t have anything to prove either.

All of these examples I’ve provided all relate back to WWE’s reliance on names of the past to provide more eyes on the product, instead of developing current talent. It’s completely understandable why WWE would want to bring names back on occasion for big shows. But when the obsession gets to the point where superstars in their late 40s with intensive injury histories are being asked to perform, I think that’s a bridge too far.

I’d like to provide a disclaimer that I am not against legends returning for matches. It’s the perpetual long-term use and mindset that I am against. The time that’s spent on giving legends more and more matches they may not be in sufficient physical condition to compete in could be time spent developing young talent into main-event caliber status.

That is my take on everything. What’s yours?

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