WWE is set for an evolutionary transition, one where the speedier mammals take over after the lumbering dinosaurs are no more.
The company's giant wrestlers are aging and nearing their exit. The Superstars behind them are more athletic than immense, forcing the definition of a big man to change and altering the product for the better.
WWE will be without Kane, Mark Henry, Big Show, Undertaker and The Great Khali before long.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via SEScoops.com, reports that "Kane has reportedly been telling friends that he has been planning to retire from pro wrestling for a while now, but that he has trouble walking away from the money."
Kane is 46 and has put in so much ring time that it's surprising his body is still holding up. He knows that can't last forever, so he's already preparing for life after WWE by starting his own insurance company.
Henry told JSOnline.com that he will retire when his contract expires in two years.
Big Show (42), Undertaker (48) and The Great Khali (41) are all nearing retirement as well. When they all hang up their massive boots, the WWE landscape will shift.
The next generation is bereft of giants.
While the Superstars set to take their place certainly aren't small compared to the average person, the truly gargantuan wrestler is an endangered species. There are no 7-footers ready to step in after Khali and Big Show. The same goes for 400-pounders.
|Younger Large WWE and NXT Superstars|
|Big E||5' 11'', 290 lbs|
|Alexander Rusev||6'0'', 305 lbs|
|Roman Reigns||6'3'', 265 lbs|
|Sheamus||6'4'', 267 lbs|
|Mojo Rawley||6'4'', 290 lbs|
|Cesaro||6'5'', 250 lbs|
|Luke Harper||6'5'', 275 lbs|
|Erick Rowan||6'8'', 315 lbs|
|Brodus Clay||6'7'', 275 lbs|
|Colin Cassady||6'10'', 276 lbs|
Harper is a large man, but he's no giant. At 412 pounds, Henry is over 100 pounds heavier than Rusev, a man who has been booked at NXT as an overpowering, oversized brute.
Big Show (7'0'', 425 lbs) and Khali (7'1'', 347 lbs) tower over all those men. Once WWE is without Big Show, Henry and company, big men will have to replace giants, large hills have to replace mountains.
Seeing Big Show walk past you is an unreal experience. Everything about him, from his fists to the width of his shoulders, seems too large to be human. That awe inspired by size is the main reason Khali has had a job with WWE for this long.
It's a part of why men like Haystacks Calhoun and Andre the Giant attracted such large crowds throughout their careers.
This shift away from giants will ultimately better the product, though. Rather than choose between small, athletic grapplers and ponderous big men, WWE has a roster filled with several Superstars who fit both categories.
Big Show, Khali and Henry's offenses are all limited. Chops, punches and slams make up much of their repertoire. Their successors make up for girth with better wrestling ability and more impressive move sets.
Harper hit a suicide dive onto Dean Ambrose at Elimination Chamber.
Reigns soars when he nails his dropkick to a foe on the ring apron. Rawley's leaping ability is unbelievable for a man his size.
WWE's giants never possessed motors like these men. One just doesn't see Henry hit a suicide dive or Big Show get the hang time that Reigns or Rawley can.
As a result, when WWE's biggest men are replaced with the next crop of large warriors, matches will only get faster and more thrilling.
Harper, Rowan and Reigns have been involved in some of the best matches of the last two years. Plug Khali, Show and Henry into those bouts and things are destined to slow down, the athleticism is sure to suffer.
As we've seen in the case of men like Khali and Raja Lion, bigger doesn't equal better. At a certain weight, a wrestler struggles to move. With too much height, awkwardness is unavoidable.
Kane and Undertaker are of a rare breed—true big men who aren't wooden in the ring.
Short of finding another pair of near-7-footers like those two men, WWE will instead have to rely on Superstars like Harper who may not quite fit into Undertaker's boots, but are plenty big enough to create an aura of dominance.
Tomorrow's big men will be trimmed down in size. Seeing two 400-pound behemoths crash into each other will only happen on the WWE Network archives. Trading in Khali for Cassady, the stiff giant for the large athlete, though, is an upgrade.
One may see the future without true giants as a lack of gargantuan men or instead see it as the next step in a natural evolution. Massiveness is a fading trait as in-ring excellence takes its place.
As the super-heavyweight class dwindles, the heavyweights will have to thrive instead.
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