The August 25th episode of Raw kicked off with a Hall of Fame forum featuring three of the biggest names in professional wrestling history.
Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair went on to engage in a half-hearted debate about John Cena that served as a microcosm for a glaring problem in WWE.
The conversation centered on whether or not Cena still had it. But as each legend went through the motions, unnaturally reciting scripted talking points, a greater question arose.
Do any of these guys still have it?
The answer to that question should be yes. In fact, there shouldn't even be a question. Like a great NBA shooter, who typically keeps his shooting touch long after he retires from competition, any legend who could deliver a charismatic promo in his day does not lose that ability overnight.
Michaels, Flair and Hogan are each capable of contributing to ongoing WWE storylines and adding much-needed legitimacy to WWE Superstars during a youth movement. Their uneven use as walking sound bites, however, has made for more awkward moments than compelling television.
How would you grade WWE's use of its legends as of late?
Hogan took time out of his schedule of shilling for the WWE Network to shill for John Cena. Flair, still seeming lost and unsure of his motivation, clumsily refuted Hogan's claims that Cena could beat Lesnar.
Seriously, is this the same guy who cut the golden spoon promo? Although Michaels also underwhelmed on the panel, he was the only legend with any semblance of character continuity.
Michaels has, for the most part, kept up appearances as a heel since turning on Daniel Bryan last year at WWE Hell in a Cell. Michaels’ sporadic appearances since then have featured him trash-talking Bryan, superkicking a babyface CM Punk and publicly writing off Cena during the aforementioned Hall of Fame Forum.
Michaels’ alliance to Triple H is no secret to wrestling fans, and including him as a full-time member of The Authority would do wonders for Seth Rollins, who is currently transitioning into a new role as a top heel.
Comparisons of Rollins’ smug behavior with that of HBK in his prime would easily translate to audiences, especially with the two working closely.
Rollins has done everything he can to establish himself as a main event heel. He’s joined the top heel alliance, won the Money in the Bank Ladder match by nefarious means and curb-stomped Ambrose out of WWE storylines.
Still, something is missing. His abrasive attitude—which was a point of focus during the Journey to SummerSlam special (subscription required)—needs to shine through.
Who better to help him get there than Michaels? The Attitude Era was basically named after him.
Each legend could contribute in ways that make sense for WWE storylines while making efficient use of major stars. Hogan seems tailor-made for a mini-program with Rusev, while Flair could follow up on a recent interaction with Randy Orton to add life to a stale persona.
WWE can do better than a lackluster panel designed to keep casual viewers from watching the Emmys. More importantly, WWE legends deserve better.