Since the turn of the millennium, WWE has somewhat struggled building and establishing new stars. Whilst there have been some success, namely Cena, Batista and Orton, there have been numerous Superstars who the WWE have dropped the ball on. The likes of Mr. Kennedy and MVP should be prominent figures in the WWE right now. But they are not.
For whatever reason, WWE are seemingly unable to build Superstars the way they did in the late '90s. Instead of committing to a number of performers and pushing them appropriately, WWE have pushed numerous wrestlers only to halt their progress on a whim.
The following talents, although pegged as the future of the company, have been plagued by the dreaded “depush”: CM Punk, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan. That's a lot of guys to be pushed only to be depushed in the space of a year and this is a dangerous game for the WWE to play.
The audience will end up feeling ambivalent towards newly pushed talent as they will immediately question how relevant they will be four weeks from then.
The WWE needs to establish new stars as the audience demands something new. Unfortunately, recent history suggests this may be a struggle.
But there may be hope.
The recent re-branding of WWE may provide the opportunity needed to establish new superstars. In particular, the part of the initiative centered on new programming and the WWE Network has a great deal of potential in this field.
Recent reports around the web and from the shareholders meeting indicate that WWE will be unveiling new programming very soon. In addition to this a launch of a WWE Network is expected in the next 12-18 months.
Hopefully, WWE will note the success of Tough Enough compared to NXT and realise that they need to experiment with diverse programme types and styles of production. There is only so much of a story that you can tell in the wrestling ring. The WWE should diversify their output and production style, allowing talent to establish their characters and connect with the audience in new ways.
Let’s run through a number of potential shows WWE could experiment with in order to establish new stars.
How about a scripted "reality" show focused on an individual Superstar? One example that would have the potential to be great would be CM Punk. The show would follow Punk as he trains, badmouths his current opponent and preaches the straight-edge lifestyle to the public, subsequently getting in entertaining scenarios.
Or WWE could produce a show similar to HBO's 24/7 or UFC's Primetime in order to hype an upcoming PPV. In this show they would document the events leading up to the main event match and follow the superstars as they prepare, gaining an insight into just how much the match means to the wrestlers. This would be perfect for The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Another program could be a road diary of sorts, with cameras following different sets of stars as they travel across the globe. Not only would this show a side of the WWE you do not see on television (traveling, media, house shows, etc.), it would allow different talents a chance to show some personality, thus establishing their identity for the benefit of the audience.
For example, the first series could consist of Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Tyson Kidd, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Chris Masters. These performers would then have the opportunity to present themselves in a way not seen before.
One final suggestion could be an extended interview show, more serious in tone than what you would see on Raw or SmackDown. Here two Superstars soon to be competing against each other would feature. They would then be interviewed at the same time, speaking on all aspects of their rivalry. Again, this would be perfect for the Rock vs. Cena rivalry.
All of these programs would allow the Superstars to establish their character and forge a connection with the audience, a connection needed for new talent to develop. Seeing the Superstars outside of the WWE Universe bubble and watching them in varying contexts would add a necessary level of authenticity to their character.
Furthermore, the audience would then have an invested interest in what they are doing, increasing the importance of the flagship shows and PPV's.
There is a very good chance that these shows would be successful. Reality-heavy shows are heavily integrated into 2011's pop culture. The success and continued coverage of the likes of Jersey Shore illustrates this point.
More importantly, the additional hours of programming will allow numerous WWE Superstars the opportunity to establish themselves. Raw and SmackDown can only tell so much of the story necessary to build characters and matches.
WWE needs to make the most of their re-branding initiative and focus on developing new ways to present their Superstars.
In the 1990s the Attitude Era was a runaway success. One of the reasons was because the Superstars and Divas were labeled as the first reality stars and the audience connected with them.
By diversifying the television output and allowing today's superstars to shine on different platforms, the audience may be able to establish this connection again, giving birth to new stars.