Too often, the release of wrestlers from WWE has meant precious little, other than the effect it will have on storylines or the lives of the wrestlers in question.
However, the release of Ken Anderson, better known as Ken Kennedy or Mr. Kennedy, can serve as a lesson and guide for building superstars in the future...provided, of course, that the WWE powers-that-be are willing to take stock of where they stand.
Let's take a look at what Anderson had to offer.
There is no denying that the character of Mr. Kennedy was one that fed primarily off ego and crowd reaction, be it positive or negative.
From the moment he took the microphone from Tony Chimel and insisted he could give himself a better ring introduction, you knew that he had the ability to connect with an audience and push them to a certain desired reaction.
In today's wrestling market, this is a vital ability to possess, and cannot often be taught. Without it, you lose overall marketability, as well as the ability to, as J.R. is accustomed to saying, making sure there's a butt every 18 inches.
2. Athletic Ability
This is not to be conflated with workrate or technical skill. On pure athletic ability, Anderson had it. How many guys have the ability to do a great senton bomb?
OK, now how many of those guys can do it with a 200-250 pound man on their shoulders? Exactly.
Anderson is extremely quick and has the ability to do moves not many others can. Once again, an ability that cannot be necessarily trained.
Those points being said, here were his weak points.
1. Wrestling Skill
To be brutally honest, Anderson's workrate and skill in the ring, in putting together high-quality and gripping matches, is lacking. He was able to make up for it on athletic ability at times, pulling out moves that only a few select people can perform.
But, simply being a guy who can pull off the high-spots doesn't get you far. Look at Edge: before his neck surgery, he was a high-spot performer, with a decent place on the card but not a real "wrestler."
Since his neck surgery, he has worked on that part to the point where his matches are high on the card and almost always put together well.
2. Ring Safety/Injuries
Every wrestler botches a move now and again. Most of the time, though, they are limited to bruises, scrapes, or maybe a lingering soreness for a few weeks. Very few wrestlers have injured someone else severely as a result of their own negligence.
Anderson, unfortunately, falls into that category, having injured Cena's pectoral muscle when botching a move.
A further look into his career shows that there are several times he could have severely injured a superstar had it not been for their presence of mind or own training preventing the injury.
In fact, I believe the back suplex on Orton (not just the shoulders that could have been injured, mind you, but also the neck) was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Anderson, either through his own ring work, or just simple bad luck, has the tendency to injure himself constantly as well. Look at his record. Anderson was called up to WWE in September 2005.
He injured himself severely in December 2005, made a return in June 2006, and began the longest streak of his tenure that did not see an injury: 1 year. He made a return to the injured list in May 2007, and has been in-and-out of action ever since.
Now, I know what you're saying: But Nick, where's the lesson? Here's the lesson:
The character of Mr. Kennedy, and Ken Anderson in general, are symptomatic of a new generation of wrestlers epitomized by not only himself, but also John Cena, Batista, and others.
It is a generation that puts more emphasis on the ability on the mic and at the merchandise counter than one's ability in the ring.
Look at the list above: how many wrestlers on the active roster could you apply that list to? The only thing really separating Anderson from the others is that he has injured other wrestlers, and will probably do so again in the future. The others (Batista excluded for the neck injury with Cena) have been lucky.
But luck only carries so far. At some point, WWE management has to realize that the lack of a good workrate and skill inside the ring WILL translate to wrestler injuries. If they're lucky, those injuries will be nothing of a career-ending or life-altering nature.
But look at D-Lo Brown, a decent worker but not exceptional. Because of his botched move, Darren Drozdov is permanently limited to either a bed or a chair. Another example that comes to mind: the first season of Tough Enough, where the inability of one trainee ended the runs of some other promising trainees.
Additionally, the upside to focusing on in-ring ability will also be an improved product that satisfies fans old and young alike. If it weren't for the fact that, to borrow an old phrase, John Cena doesn't know a wristlock from a wristwatch, I would actually like his character. Same for Batista and the rest.
Anderson's departure represents a point at which WWE, without necessarily mentioning it or Anderson, can take a chance to explain to its superstars and the insider wrestling community in general, that seeing his work has resulted in a change of heart...one that will, obviously and always, take the bottom line and ability to sell into consideration, but one that will put workrate and safety paramount above all others.
It's your ball, WWE. You've dropped it in the past, but that's only been with silly gimmicks and storylines. This is real-world stuff. Please, for all of your performers past, present, and future...please don't drop it.
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