John Cena's confrontation with John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit 2012 was inevitable. The wet paper bag of a match was born from WWE's reliance on old ideas and leaning too heavily on John Cena.
Memories of the classic feud between Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon have led to WWE repeatedly trying to recreate that magic.
Before Cena beat down Laurinaitis with a grin, WWE tried to pit CM Punk against Laurinaitis and before that Punk had beef with Mr. McMahon.
Repeatedly trying to go back to the authority figure vs. rebellious wrestler is understandable. McMahon vs. Austin was the engine that powered the Attitude Era.
Austin would be not be as legendary as he is today without his longtime rival.
As much as WWE would like it to be, Cena vs. Laurinaitis is no Austin vs. McMahon.
Laurinaitis doesn't have the dramatic presence that McMahon has. He doesn't have near the amount of heat on him, either.
Mr. Excitement has been forced upon fans time and time again.
While he's had his moments, he doesn't stir up hate the way that McMahon did. He is clearly playing a role where Vince McMahon is so convincingly vile that it's hard to tell what is persona and what is personality.
Mr. McMahon had so many successful feuds—so many explosive moments—that it's no surprise that WWE tried to simply insert a new suit-and-tie man to fill his role.
With Cena as the face of the current era, occupying Stone Cold's old position, it was only a matter of time before he faced off against Laurinaitis.
Like Hollywood producers, WWE goes back to what's worked in the past.
There are several reasons this latest retread of a classic story turned out so stale. Their feud didn't have the buildup it needed, for one.
It seemed WWE was in a hurry to get to the climax of Cena and Laurinaitis' conflict.
Though even if WWE had been patient with that story, if Cena was more like Stone Cold and Laurinaitis was the second coming of Mr. McMahon, would fans really have been invested in those two colliding?
Give wrestling fans something even slightly new and they'll simmer with excitement. Hand them a scenario they've seen too often and you may get a blank-faced response.
Rather than try to duplicate that perfect storm of the rise of the corporate villain coinciding with the rise of the ultimate anti-authority figure, WWE needs to find new stories to tell.
The failure of the Cena vs. Laurinaitis storyline and ring action is a reminder that the more that WWE recycles old stories, the more diluted and uninteresting they become. It should serve as an inspiration to seek out fresh ideas—to trek toward a future full of innovation.
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