Yes, I am aware that I have written an article with the title “How WWE Superstars Can Learn from Charlie Sheen”.
Please bare with me, this is not a joke.
I believe that upcoming Superstars in 2011 can learn a great deal from the Charlie Sheen saga currently dominating the output of most media outlets. Before I progress into how Charlie Sheen could help aspiring wrestlers, it is essential that I justify such a seemingly absurd statement. It is surprisingly simple:
The Charlie Sheen saga is the biggest work in the media today.
Charlie Sheen has capitalized on the public interest in the character he has portrayed over the past several weeks, and has arguably become the most talked about man on the planet. The perpetually winning being, from outside this terrestrial realm, with tiger blood flowing through his veins, is a well thought out persona. Sheen is merely playing this character in order to achieve his goals and remain relevant. Remember, Charlie Sheen is an accomplished actor.
Don’t get me wrong, Sheen clearly has some mental issues. The guy is evidently two nuggets short of a Happy Meal. But as a wrestling fan for over 11 years, I know a work when I see one.
But the character is so effective; the audience watching the raging “warlock” is compelled to suspend their belief in the logical and rational. The portrayal is so believable, the viewer takes what they see as fact.
This is where the wrestling comes in.
Who are the greatest wrestlers of all time? Constants on that list would be the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Why were they so successful? One crucial reason is that the fans believed they were the characters they portrayed. The audience was compelled to suspend belief and embrace the characters on TV. The wrestling audience in the 80’s believed Hulk Hogan was an all-American hero; not Terry Bollea from Georgia.
The Attitude Era was so successful, because performers from the top of the card to the bottom successfully conveyed a character the audience bought into. From The Rock to Scotty 2 Hotty, the audience knew what each performer was about.
In 2011, this is not the case.
The current generation of wrestlers, and the latest up and coming talents, do not embrace characterisation as Superstars did ten years ago. Furthermore, new talents in 2011 do not even forge a character effectively.
Such a large proportion of wrestlers on the roster not only fail to embrace their character, but they have a highly ambiguous character in the first place. For example, who is John Morrison and what is he about? Granted, the man is an amazing talent, but who is John Morrison? The same goes for Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan and so many more. It is a source of frustration, due to the fact that these three names are expected to break through into the main event scene—but how can they do this without any character development?
The audience can not invest in something that is not there.
There are examples of poor or inconsistent characterization all the way up the card. Take John Cena for example—who is John Cena? Is he a rapper, a marine, the eternal good guy, a comedian or an unstoppable force of strength and determination? The argument that they are merely different sides of the same persona are not valid, as Cena flips from one to the other on a whim. One week he’s serious, the next he is telling the worst jokes known to man. One minute he is playing up to the crowd, the next he is the doctor of Thugonomics. Make your mind up, John.
Such inconsistency prevents the audience from effectively engaging with the product. Were such inconsistencies evident in Austin or The Rock? No.
NXT illustrates this failure to develop characters more so than any other facet of the WWE. Granted, these guys are "rookies," but there is such a lack of depth of character on NXT, it is worrying what the future may hold.
The WWE audience in the post-Attitude Era has struggled with apathetic views toward the product they are presented with. Simply put, audiences do not care as much as they did 10 years ago. The lack of genuine characters to invest into can be seen as a central reason behind this.
It is not entirely fair to say that WWE programming is currently devoid of any character at all. CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes are examples of three contemporary WWE talents who effectively convey their character. The problem is, the depth is not there.
All WWE Superstars in 2011 need to embrace their character in order to better themselves and the overall product. The wrestlers need to believe that they are the character they portray in order to make the audience believe. Paul Lloyd has to believe he is Justin Gabriel, a member of the antagonistic group The Corre. John Hennigan needs to convey the fact that he is John Morrison, the gravity-defying Monday night delight.
Otherwise, the audience will not believe either one.
Charlie Sheen has proven that if you embrace a character and run with it, the audience will buy it.
If not, you run the risk of the audience having an apathetic view toward the current crop of Superstars.
But if the roster can effectively convey their persona, well, there is only one word to sum up the possibilities: