WWE: Worrisome Comparisons with WCW's Dying Days
I was watching some old documentaries about WCW last night, and could not help but notice a number of striking similarities with the current way the WWE's product is created, managed and presented.
Now, I do not think WWE is going to go out of business, or be bought by TNA any time soon, but it is still food for thought, and something the company should be aware of.
History is there to be learned from, after all.
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
It was one thing in the Attitude Era to have guys like Vince McMahon on TV.
Vince was a "corporate guy" in WWE—his background was with the corporate side of things, and he just inserted himself onto television to help the product. Vince still thought from the perspective of a wrestling promoter about things—that is what he is and will always be, first and foremost.
Triple H, however? Not so much.
Triple H has been granted increasing levels of official power behind the scenes, while keeping himself at the forefront of WWE's televised product. He's still great on the mic, but he talks too much. Then there was Kevin Nash vs. Triple H. Can we not talk about that please?
Sin Cara is booked well in the ring, but can't have a long-term feud. That just stinks of being picked by a guy who knows in-ring psychology, but not proper storyline development to me. Who picked him as a new member of the roster? Triple H - a wrestler, not a promoter.
The other figure allowed too much control over their role is The Rock. He was allowed to stretch his feud with John Cena out for a year because films meant he was never able to appear week-to-week and build a proper program. How many other wrestlers could Cena have put over in that year long period? How much wrestling action could we have seen instead of those dozens of promos? How many storylines were disjointed because every time The Rock wanted to show up, Cena switched priorities?
Top Singles Title Is Not the Focus of the Show
When you think of WCW, you do not think of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, do you? You think New World Order, with Hulk Hogan at its head. A bit like how the WWE is all about John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Triple H, none of whom are current holders of the WWE Championship.
Stretching Angles out to Breaking Point
This goes back to my earlier point about The Rock vs. John Cena being dragged out far too long. They are doing it again with Brock Lesnar, having him barely appear on TV yet main event SummerSlam.
The same can be said about WCW's NWO angle, and also Goldberg's undefeated streak. The NWO just became too big, and when the angle fell apart, it took the entirety of WCW with it.
Goldberg's streak was built into something doomed to break his character when it broke, and whatever storyline was used to break it was never going to be big enough to justify it.
There is an exception here—The Undertaker/Shawn Michaels/Triple H storyline.
Likewise, WCW had Sting not talking for a solid year. When done perfectly, you can do these things. But it's a one-in-a-million thing.
Breakdown of the Brand Split
We have a brand split. Apparently.
In reality, that isn't true because the guys from both brands appear on both shows, feud with each other, and switch brands whenever they feel like it.
Why is this?
Because the roster was too thin to justify having two brands and because SmackDown was being forced to suffer as a result of this.
Kinda like how WCW tried to create a second brand (an NWO brand), but ended up with all of the roster on the NWO, aside from a few random, lost rebels.
There is a limit to what a wrestling promotion can create, and two brands just seems to be beyond anyone's power. One of the two is always far too weak, and the other diluted by the handful of major talents still with the weaker brand.
Relying on Someone Else's Second-Hand Talent as Your Main Attraction
Hulk Hogan, anyone?
WWE had used Hulkamania to put themselves at the top of the wrestling pyramid, but in the process, he had become stale and WCW took him on. They managed to revitalize his career, but he was definitely past his in-ring peak.
Failed to make it in NFL, and lost his last two UFC fights. He's back in WWE, and doing great, but he's lost a step—his promo ability has gotten worse and he's clearly rusty on how to wrestle without injuring people.
Too Many Old Guys
It used to be joked that WCW was where WWE wrestlers went to retire.
Ric Flair's on his way back. Vince McMahon is back on TV. The Undertaker and Triple H are still considered among WWE's top attractions. WWE is attempting to get Tensai over in a whole new gimmick and treat him like a brand new star when he's almost 40. WWE's most impressive performer last year was CM Punk, but close second was Mark Henry.
Some guys like Taker still perform, but it's a worrisome sign that no one has come along to take their place.
The 1000th Episode of Raw celebrations should be great, but I wasn't that thrilled by Roddy Piper's recent return. It was fun when Vader turned up the other week because it had been so long. Piper? He's made "Look, I'm old, but I can still beat people up!" comebacks far too often now.
It is stale.