WrestleMania season is reaching its climax as we move into WrestleMania week.
Over the past several weeks, we have seen the hype build, storylines develop and legends return. This article will focus on the returning legends, as the impact of their return is the crux of this article.
Legends are synonymous with the “Showcase of the Immortals,” so it can only be a good thing that the likes of The Rock, Steve Austin and Trish Stratus return...right?
Whilst there are certainly positives to the return of these legendary figures, there are almost negative consequences that must be considered.
Over the course of this article, I will present 10 reasons why returning superstars can harm WWE in the long term.
As wrestling fans, we are a highly nostalgic bunch.
We have a tendency to look back on the past through rose-tinted glasses, wishing that wrestling in 2011 mirrored the brilliance of previous eras. This characteristic is only exacerbated by the return of legends like The Rock and Steve Austin.
The return of Superstars from the past highlights the “then vs. now” debate, or more precisely, “Attitude Era vs. PG Era.”
It is unfair to compare the two products. They are completely different in terms of content and presentation. However, returning legends act as a reminder of “how things used to be” and leaves fans wanting a return to the “old days.”
This can be highly dangerous to WWE in the long term, as it can leave fans disenchanted with the current product, as all they want is to see wrestling as it was in the '80s or '90s.
It is part of being a wrestling fan to want legends of the past to return. It is a naturally occurring component of being a wrestling fan.
However, if we are lucky enough to see the return of a superstar, we have a tendency to become consumed by unrealistic expectations.
When Steve Austin returns we become so hyped up we expect him to wrestle again, irrespective of the fact his body may not be able to handle one more match. It is a similar situation with The Rock: “He’s back, so he must be wrestling at some point.”
These unrealistic expectations can harm WWE as once their return does not meet such expectations, the fans become disillusioned with whatever they see instead.
WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year, so surely it should be the showcase of the top talents and rising stars on the roster?
Although Del Rio and The Miz are heavily featured, older or returning stars such as Rock, Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, Jerry Lawler and even Michael Cole are somewhat overshadowing their presence on the WrestleMania card.
This may harm WWE and the rising stars in question as once ‘Mania has passed and the returning stars have left, there is a chance that the audience will be ambivalent towards the achievements of the rising stars at WrestleMania.
WWE programming has been on tremendous form all year. Hype has steadily been building towards WrestleMania XXVII and the majority of fans are truly engaged with the product.
There are numerous reasons as to why WWE programming has been of a higher quality recently, one of them being the returning superstars.
But what happens after WrestleMania?
What happens when the returning stars leave?
In recent memory, WWE has struggled to eradicate feelings of apathy amongst the WWE audience. There is a chance that this apathetic mindset will be emphasised once the returning stars leave, as some may feel that there is nothing to be excited about any more.
Whilst it is certainly untrue to say that there is nothing to look forward to once the returning stars have left, it will certainly be an opinion of many fans in the wrestling community.
Since 2009, WWE have realised that it is imperative that they establish new stars. This is something they seriously neglected previously, but WWE seem to have addressed this mistake.
However, turning the focus on to returning stars is certainly a step back in regards to the youth movement.
Whilst it is fantastic to see the returning stars, many of them should be in a supporting role to the future stars, as apposed to taking their spots all together.
This leads me to the next point...
As previously mentioned, the returning stars should be used in a manner that helps, not harms, the product and the current stars.
Granted, Trish Stratus is an amazing talent, but why should she be on the card as apposed to Natalya or Beth Phoenix?
Whilst it is terrific that The Rock is back, his presence has arguably stripped away The Miz’s credibility, as he is an afterthought in his feud with Cena.
Returning stars, in most cases, should be in a supportive role (like Steve Austin’s role as guest referee) as opposed to a dominating role.
“Thank you for bringing in Stratus, Austin and The Rock after seven years, but I would very much appreciate it if JR could announce ‘Mania and if Sting could come in. Thanks.”
Although it has been exaggerated in the statement above, this is a sentiment that is spread across the entire IWC.
We have been spoilt in the past by watching wrestling in an era when literally anything can happen. We still demand the same level of surprises despite the fact that the proliferation of the Internet makes this extremely difficult.
When these expectations are not met, WWE, not necessarily due to any fault of their own, run the risk of their fan base becoming disillusioned with their current product due to their innate desire for more shocks and surprises.
This is something that WWE has to be extremely wary of.
The Rock’s continual mocking of John Cena has been hilarious. I have loved every moment of it. However, such actions may bury Cena considering the fact he hardly has the support of the entire WWE Universe behind him.
This really comes down to the nature of The Rock’s hosting WrestleMania on April 3. Whilst it would be fantastic to see him cutting promos on numerous talents, WWE has to consider the future.
Although a promo that absolutely destroys one of the superstars would be funny, as soon as The Rock leaves, you are left with a wrestler with diminished credibility.
Despite some of the statements I have made during this article, WWE have done a tremendous job of building WrestleMania XXVII by mixing the old and new talents.
However, what happens in 2012?
Something as monumental as bringing in The Rock after seven years is hard to replicate.
Is there anything bigger than bringing The Rock back? I’m not sure.
Bringing in old talents like WWE has done this year may harm the reception of future WrestleManias, as they have set a precedent that they may struggle to keep.
In a climate when wrestling sometimes struggles to be compelling all year long, WrestleMania truly exists in its own bubble.
The quality of programming during WrestleMania season is truly special and unlike the rest of the year.
Bringing in old talents only strengthens this bubble, as it causes a detachment from the rest of the wrestling calendar.
Granted, this is part of the intrinsic charm of WrestleMania. However, if this works to the detriment of the product for the 8-9 months outside of WrestleMania season, WWE may have to consider changing things up.
Thank you for reading my article.
Please feel free to comment on my list, as well as providing your own thoughts on the returning Superstars and legends.
And for the record, before I get hated on like David Arquette in 2000, I actually love the fact that we have seen an influx of old superstars and legends.
This article is merely addressing the negative effects of their return, as it is easy to become consumed by the hype and excitement.
Again, thanks for reading.