In the last two years, WWE has relied on part-time wrestlers to give its show star power. Yet the company’s future would be brighter if it dropped this approach post-WrestleMania.
WrestleMania XXIX is a great example of WWE’s reliance on living legends.
Four part-time acts—Triple H, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker and The Rock—would appear to be headlining the show. Chris Jericho is almost guaranteed to be involved in a match somewhere on the card, while many of this year’s Hall of Fame class are healthy enough to participate in an impromptu contest.
This is completely understandable in the run-up to WrestleMania.
Cameos from alumni allow fans to relive the golden moments of the past. Many of these will have happened around WWE’s premier event, and this in turn helps build excitement to the next WrestleMania.
There is also an attraction for older, or former, fans who may tune in to WWE programming if one of their past heroes has returned. These casual fans are essential for bumping the viewing figures up, and lifting WrestleMania to the level of success that has come to be expected.
The return of a legend is even more special when a never-before-seen match comes around between two talents who seemed destined never to meet.
Certainly the suspected fight between CM Punk and The Undertaker fulfills the fans’ expectations of seeing something special and new. Triple H against Brock Lesnar or the WWE Championship match between The Rock and John Cena would also have that added edge had these encounters not been seen within the last year.
Yet it is essential for WWE to cut this part-timer trend dead as soon as the WrestleMania season has closed.
It might seem an undesirable decision for both the fans and the company, as this article has already outlined that there are benefits to using these part-timers. However, there are a number of substantial reasons why such a drastic move would benefit everyone with an interest in WWE.
One obvious, measurable problem with the over-reliance on past stars coming back to the company is the loss of excitement they produce per return. Bret Hart’s first appearance on WWE television for more than a decade stopped the show dead as fans went crazy for the returning hero. Now there is little discernible difference between his appearances and those of any other face on the roster.
Clearly, Hart was never going to receive the same ovation that he did on that opening night again. Yet his previous isolation from the company makes him a great example of how overuse as a cameo act declines that performer’s worth as weeks and months go on.
There is also the classic wrestling trope that the removal of these part-time characters would leave more room for younger guys to develop.
Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston have all been lost in the shuffle for roles to play at WrestleMania. Their appearances have been reduced to one-off matches with others who are already involved in feuds building to the big show in April.
These three have all been on the receiving end of big pushes that looked destined to end in greatness. Their failure to get over is often attributed to a combination of bad booking, poor definition of character and misfortune.
However, another factor that is often missed is their role being bumped down the card due to the appearance of a part-timer.
Simply not interacting with these top names from the past leaves them with the appearance of not being in that class. Worse results come from a defeated legend then moving on to one of these up-and-comers, as it appears to the world that the alumni is seeking a weaker opponent and that further devalues the midcarders’ role.
For WWE’s future to be bright, the company needs its alumni to make a big impact when they arrive. Their over-frequent appearances has reduced this effect significantly. It has also had the knock-on effect off stopping the development of new stars.
It is time for WWE to concentrate on the future so its past can really make a significant impact.