Acting Tough and the WWE: Can a Wrestler Have a 20 Year Career Anymore?

Cec Van Galini@@MJA_GalbraithAnalyst IIIJanuary 14, 2011

One major criticism I have of the latest episode of Raw, was the notable absence of wrestling. And it is not a new phenomenon for either the WWE or, its counterpart TNA. If it's not CM Punk's somewhat violent initiations or Jeff Jarrett's bizarre MMA challenges, we have interviews, promos and adverts.

Wrestling in the world of the WWE and TNA, is now passe.

It is a trend that I have noticed for a long time, that the shows has become much more about characters than wrestling. I must admit that I have a liking for the IWC's anti-christ, John Cena but, I will also freely admit, that he is hardly in the same league as Bret Hart when it comes to technical ability.

Cena is however an actor, and he plays the role well.

Look around the world of wrestling and, you will see a number of similar Hollywood hopefuls. Would these superstars last five minutes in the legendary Hart dungeon?

The problem for wrestling is that off the back of the Attitude Era, story-lines and promos have become weak. Far too much time is spent building up the stories, which ultimately fail to inspire because, the live audience is wanting action.

Pay anywhere from between $25 and $300 for a ticket, and you will want some actual wrestling. Promos need to be short, to the point and sandwich quality matches that help sell the original feuds.

If we accept this premise that superstars are now merely actors as supposed to trained wrestlers, it begs the question as to whether they can survive much long than say 5 or 6 years before they become obsolete?

It is hard not to like the Die Hard series of movies (Bruce Willis, terrorists, the building, that catchphrase). But it would be impossible to enjoy watching it, if the role is played continuously over and over again.

Would you want to watch Die Hard 42?

Characters have half lives, some of which can be sustained if we look at James Bond and the aforementioned John McClaine, but not so in wrestling.

John Cena receives much criticism for not changing. And while he has been able to sell some of the more recent story-lines well, his character has little room to develop. Financial restraints mean that he cannot turn heel. And yet this is the basic model of wrestling for the last twenty years. Its worked for Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair.

Today however they are bubble-wrapped and given 5-10 minute squash matches so that the next day they can do the same thing over and over again.

Maybe it's the amount of wrestling on TV but, it seems that wrestling can no longer produce a lengthy and original career for a superstar. Even the most ardent of Cena or Orton fans will struggle to actually say what they have added to the WWE in terms of originality.

I have asked on previous occasions what Orton has ever brought to the ring, but I stand in the minority on this. But from recent months, Orton arrives to a massive pop, loses it, kicks the guy, does the DDT, then loses it again and hits an RKO. Nothing seemingly changes.

How long will the WWE continue to support Orton before they get bored?

The likes of the Undertaker and Shawn continuously changed their act, they became heels, they formed groups and changed their move-sets. Not so today, the likes of Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Randy Orton, Big Show, and Edge; come out night after night to do the same thing.

I imagine an Orton fan is already writing a reply to say what about Evolution and Legacy for Orton. Evolution helped launch his career but the example of Legacy did nothing for the careers of DiBiase and Rhodes, who had to both undergo radical overhauls since the group's demise.

Evolution helped Orton and Batista, Legacy achieved little to nothing.

Even the legendary Steve Austin struggled at times to create new scenarios to entertain the WWE Universe. Arguable the biggest face of all time, his action packed matches and promos propelled the WWE into the stratosphere, and yet nothing could save the character when everything had been done. A heel turn would not work, because Austin was a face character.

His eventual heel turn ultimately did not make sense, nor would a defeat to Jonathan Coachman (had he accepted that job instead of resigning). In this instance, the character became old news. While every wrestling fan would surely love to see him again, there is not much more Austin can do in terms of originality in that particular character.

Before I am dismissed completely as a grumpy IWC member, I would point out that there are many positives at present. And the shining light amongst them is Alberto Del Rio. Together with Ricardo, Alberto has kept his promos short and has greatly impressed in the squared circle.  He seemingly has it all.

The title will surely arrive for the Mexican sooner rather than later.

But getting back to the original question, can Orton and Cena survive for another five years without a major change in either their move-set or character? Its arguable that they will always be popular with some but, with ratings almost a third from a decade earlier, is wrestling in danger of losing its core values and core support?

The acting wrestlers like Austin and the Rock got out at the top and did not have to ensure a slide into obscurity. What does the future hold for today's generation whose technical skills are not their strongest asset?

Wrestling fans like wrestling. They also enjoy a beer truck promo. PG may restrict such actions today but there's no reason why the WWE cannot think up and offer simple promos that do not require method acting in order to sell it to fans.

Nowadays, wrestling is seemingly confined to Superstars. Raw, Smackdown, and NXT is about honing acting skills, with the odd match thrown in.