For those that would like to see the TNA side of things, please read part I
This past Monday, 1/4/09, like many millions of people, I sat down in my home to watch Impact and RAW. Like so many others I also taped TNA to watch it in its entirety later that evening, although I did have it playing in the other room. After the hour of TNA that I did see, which included a Steel Asylum match and the surprise debut of Jeff Hardy, I was ready to see Vince's response.
The show was alright and I was fairly happy with it, mostly due to the fact that I am a huge Hart mark, and then any thoughts I had of this being an episode of RAW where I actually like just about everything I saw were flushed down the toilet, just as RAW was about to reach home free.
RAW ended with Vince Kennedy McMahon, a 64-year-old man, kicking Bret Hart, a 52-year-old man, square in the place where the sun sure as hell doesn’t shine.
This segment pissed me off, and not just because Vince just kicked my favorite wrestler in the history of ever in his happy place, but because it effectively guaranteed my worst fears when I sat down to watch RAW that night.
The WWE just hasn't learned
Vince seems to have a problem. He really can't help but involve himself in a storyline in some way when his brainchild, Wrestlemania, is drawing near. Maybe this due to some form of ego, or maybe it is him simply attempting to relive his past glory which is not for me to decide.
Normally I would not have any problem with this as the last several times that come to mind have involved new stars or the creation of superstars, but in this case it involves a 52-year-old man. The way Vince went about doing what he did, and Hart's reaction afterwards, pretty much guaranteed a storyline between the two, yet there was no clues either on 1/4/09, or even tonight that this feud will involve any other wrestlers.
I will admit the Hart mark in me wants to see Bret kick Vince's teeth in, but the other part of me, the logical one, does not want to see Hart every step inside that ring for the purpose of wrestling ever again.
I am not the one that ultimately says whether or not Hart can still get in that ring and still bring out a good performance, only Hart truly knows that, but I will say that I don't think I want to see him try, especially after the stroke. I am just too concerned for his physical health.
Furthermore, after watching TNA and taking an honest look at RAW, can you see the similarities? Though comments from Bret state he was not brought in to counter act Hogan being on Impact, The fact that a feud between Bret and Vince was hinted really gave the feeling that Vince was saying "hey look TNA; I can do the same thing you are doing and still get better ratings."
WWE follows a set formula for the push of every star
Many of you may refuse to admit that, but simply look at history, and you will I am correct in most cases. To be exact on what I mean by a formula, it is a method of pushing stars that is repeatedly used, and can involve little thought.
I looked over the past two months with the push of Sheamus, and I realized this was not something new, and this sure as hell wasn't a unique idea. It is simply a formula applied to every fairly big guy for them at this point. It is certainly not one they have experienced with only once recently.
I would like you to take a look at the early career of Brock Lesnar and simply look at the WWE career of Sheamus.
Lesnar debuted as a heel, with a manager by the name of Paul Heyman, he spent the next two months destroying the Hardy Boyz, men quite honestly at best half his size, in his first feud. After this he was instantly pushed down our throats successfully beating Bubba Ray Dudley, Booker T, Test, and Rob Van Dam, all established midcarders, to capture King of the Ring 2002, effectively securing him a title match.
Lesnar bided his time waiting to take the opportunity, and after a month long storyline with Hogan, Lesnar went on to defeat The Rock, whom was the arguably the biggest star in the company at that time, to secure the WWE title after only 5 months of being in the WWE, along the way effectively proving almost nothing.
Sheamus debuted on June 30 of 2009, after several weeks of defeating Jobbers he entered a brief feud with Goldust. After defeating Goldust, Sheamus had a brief feud with Shelton Benjamin, an established midcarder.
He debuted on Raw in late October and successfully retired Jamie Noble, a man half his size. He was also one of the survivors of Miz's Survivors Series team. After this he won a battle Royal securing himself a title match. He went on to take that title match defeating John Cena, arguably the biggest star in the company right now, to win the WWE title after six months in the company.
What is the only true notable difference between Sheamus and Lesnar? Lesnar wasn't as good on the mic as Sheamus so he needed Paul Heyman to talk for him. Now I am not attempting to decide which of these men is the better performer or was built up better, that is for everyone else to decide. What I am saying is the approach used to build them is similar.
This formula was also applied to Swagger, but given it was only on ECW, it didn't have as much of an impact and it certainly did not have everyone on the internet talking much as Sheamus currently does.
We all know the formula of WWE applies when creating the "face" of the company. In fact the three best known times they have used this formula can best be summed up in three names:
Another well established formula is applied to wrestlers that are less than 230 pounds, and of a lean build and it normally goes something like this; give small push, if the crowd response is below standards, the wrestler is made into a jobber, if good, the wrestler is given US/IC title.
Title run lasts as long as the crowd response is at a medium level, if for any reason it falls below standards, or does not increase steadily, the wrestler loses the title and becomes a Jobber, or repackaged.
If the Crowd response continues to rise rapidly, the wrestler is then put into a feud with an established Main Eventer. This is more of a preliminary rivalry. If crowd response grows drastically, the wrestler will be pushed into the Main Event picture, if not they are dropped down to the midcard for further development.
A large number of wrestlers on the current roster are at different phases of this formula including Kofi Kingston, whom is currently at the most advanced stage, Evan Bourne, who is at the Jobber/possible repacking stage, and Shelton Benjamin, who is been stuck going back and forth between the bottom stage and the most advanced stage for years.
Another rather popular formula is "the rift in the tag team", this formula has been around a very long time, well before WWE used it. This one normally has both a "winner" and a "loser" involved based on the fact that one member of the team will get over and the other will not. In rare cases both members can get over. An example of one of these rare cases is the recent breakup of the Miz and John Morrison.
A spinoff of the above formula is the less commonly used "separation from the stable." This variation normally features one, or maybe two, wrestlers turning on a stable they were previously apart of in most cases turning them face and having them get over through repeated wins against former stable members.
The number of formulas really has no end. Now I'm not saying that these methods don't work, I'm just saying that when you see every star pushed in the exact same way it gets a little stale. It is only when the WWE, or any other promotion for that matter, uses a different method of pushing their wrestlers that something new and exciting is created, leading to a golden age for the wrestling world.
WWE consistently returns to what "works"
I feel really bad saying that, I really do, because like many others with the current rise of Kofi Kingston, and the push Sheamus has received I wanted to believe that they would not again but honestly Monday night solidified that they will continue to do so.
It is ridiculous that we are forced to sit through the evil boss storyline at least at one point every year. The gimmick worked wonders back when Vince wrestled Steve Austin, and even when he formed the corporation stable, it worked. However the story has gotten insanely stale.
What made the storyline successful before is it was new and controversial. It isn't new like before, in fact it's actually become more of a same old, same old storyline and it is almost always one that involves a main event talent who really doesn't need to be involved because they are already over such as Randy Orton.
Another thing that "works" the WWE likes to turn too is Degeneration X. Now unlike most people I really don't mind DX reunions too much, but I got to say that at this point it is just getting dull, and some little kid must have shared that sentiment considering the fact they were willing to go so far as to add Hornswoggle to the group as a mascot for “entertainment value”.
Furthermore is the fact that we continue to see the same people in the Main event picture taking up about an hour of the show, something that has been covered to the point that due to the sheer number of times people have read about it likely makes their eyes bleed.
Due to the WWE continuously going back to John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge, Batista, and Triple H to serve as heavyweight champions, it would seem WWE has no faith in their younger talent whatsoever and it would also appear they lack faith in some of their other veteran talent as well.
Honestly if you must use established stars in the title picture, you can at least rotate it a little bit, in all seriousness, when was the last time Kane even received a shot at the World heavyweight or WWE title? It doesn't matter the guy doesn't have to win; it would just be nice to see someone else wrestling.
Another thing that grinds my gears is the fact that WWE put the world championship on Sheamus yet it seems they have no confidence in him at all. While it is true his push is based on the "Lesnar formula," you can still have the man wrestling at least people at the upper midcard level, instead of people like Evan Bourne who are currently near the bottom of the midcard scene.
Now people may say "Sheamus doesn't deserve to be WWE champion," and "I can't buy him as champion," but say what you will the man is currently the champion and guess what?
It’s not boring, it’s not the same, it's new, it’s something different which ultimately is what makes money and creates interesting television. Just as any car dealership today would not benefit using the plan of a car dealership that was successful in the '80s, WWE will not succeed if they continue to use the same plans they used in the '90s.
If WWE wishes to continue to succeed and stay alive as a wrestling promotion they ultimately need to learn that the most benefits lie in their long term investments, not returning consistently to what worked in the past for short term value, but keeping with those that are going to be around in another 10 years, the people that are young and hungry.
If WWE does not learn now, they may stand to lose some of their greatest assets. TNA is right now looking like the greener lawn to the young stars that fear they may never be in the world title picture, especially to those that are close to Jeff Hardy. Maybe if these few jump ship WWE will learn its lesson...or maybe they will continue in their quest to achieve past glory and not learn…until it’s too late.