This year it seems Vince, despite trying to push younger talent, is still relying on the old blood to sell the year's biggest PPV. Whether it's HBK in the hall of fame, Austin as the special ref for Lawler vs. Cole, or The Rock as the Wrestlemania guest host, with some vested interest in Cena vs. Miz, it seems like the perfect time to officially have a handover of wrestling stardom to the next generation of wrestlers. These icons of the Attitude Era still haven't passed on the torch that was given to them.
Let's look at how guys like Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin cemented their place at Wrestlemania and as the WWE's top draws. Michaels beat Bret Hart in a sixty minute iron man match. Afterwards, Hart handed him the belt. Not only did HBK achieve his boyhood dream, but Bret giving him the title signalled Bret's respect for HBK as the new main man of WWE. This was perhaps a pivotal point in the legacy of Shawn Michaels. The torch was passed from the older guy to the young guy, and although more defining moments happened throughout the rest of his career, they may never have happened if not for beating Bret and having him metaphorically symbolize that HBK was his equal.
'Stone Cold' Steve Austin found his pivotal moment when his career sky-rocketed after his submission match, at 'Mania, against none other than Bret Hart. The match ended symbolically with Austin, bleeding in the sharpshooter, screaming in agony and refusing to tap. He passed out in pain and although Bret won, some fans found a new respect for Austin and thereafter, he was one of the top draws in WWE.
A decade or so later...Bret, Austin, HBK and the Rock still make appearances in the WWE, yet have they put over the next generation? All credit to HBK, while he was still wrestling throughout the 2000's, he made stars of guys like Jericho, Cena, Orton and others, but there are still portions of the fans who haven't accepted the latter two, especially Cena.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but if he did something against the Rock, it would have allowed him to not be the cartoony cereal-box superhero that his character has become. He could have left the great one speechless! Imagine what that could have done to his popularity with some fans.
I think HBK has put enough guys over to last a lifetime. Likewise, I think Bret's too old to come in and has passed the torch too many times and so long ago that for him to do so now would only leave a real connection with a small group of fans. But Austin and Rock, perhaps the two greatest wrestlers in wrestling history, if not in the modern era, need to pass the torch. Imagine the potential...
Imagine what a rub from these two could do to guys like Cena and Orton and Miz. It doesn't have to be a match, it just has to be symbolic. I agree with someone like Tommy Fierro, that the best way to turn someone like 'the Viper' Randy Orton into a mega-star would be have Austin give him the rub, share a beer with Orton and then Orton becomes the next 'Rattlesnake' by symbolically RKO'ing Austin in the same vane as when Austin would drop anyone who walked during his prime.
Do you think the Rock and Austin could give the rub that these young guys need to be fully taken seriously?
Or have the Rock say to Miz, "You remind me of a young me..." or even have him wrestle Cena and afterwards say that was one of the toughest matches he's ever had and say that maybe Cena can't talk...but he can wrestle. The torch has, in a sense, been passed to these world and former world champions already, but not in the symbolic way that different generations of fans are used to. Personally, I think to make these young guys need it to be seen as equals to those living legends.
You can debate about Cena, Orton or Miz's wrestling skills, but are their move sets in terms of repeating moves any different to these previous legends? That's a thought for another day...
Please feel free to comment.