Attitude Adjustment: The New Generation of the WWE Must Emerge from the Shadows
It struck me recently that the Attitude Era of wrestling lasted considerably longer than the 1996-2001 period. If we take any wrestler that was either in his prime or even just the beginning their career, both the WWE and TNA are dominated by the Attitude Era.
The return of Brock Lesnar, whilst a sound move to replace the gaping hole that the Hollywood bound Rock has left, reveals a flawed WWE attitude to its young guns. Honestly who is there in the WWE today that could carry WrestleMania?
There are many superstars who have potential, but with creative writers more akin to B-list movie producers than wrestling experts, they will forever be pushed down. The Daniel Bryan WrestleMania moment is one such example. As theatre, it was actually quite good for a few moments, until it was analyzed that the highly efficient mat wrestler was beaten by an Irish kicker in 18 seconds.
The reality of wrestling is that it is produced by those who have no originality left. As with many television producers, once something is a success, it is bled and reborn until the next great thing arrives. In that time, the original product has died so many times that its power is lost.
In the cartoon world of wrestling, however, because the power is centralized in Connecticut, there is no means of reversing the downward trend of wrestling's slow demise.
For years, people have said that wrestling is in transition, that the next big thing is coming—and yet the last three WrestleManias have been dominated but yesterday's men. Even here, The Undertaker versus Triple H match was really, in essence, nothing more than Shawn Michaels' WrestleMania XXV match repeated. The same close finishes, the same energy and unpredictability. That being said it was still miles better than anything else barring the main event.
Are you happy with the WWE product?
The names that people continue to put forward as the next generation have no star power. Wade Barrett, the long term king, has been bizarrely mentioned as the "only" man to end the streak by some—quite why this is the case remains to be seen. Barrett is a Hollywood English bad guy with all the charisma and drive as a hundred other black-booted and black-trunked wrestlers.
If this sounds dangerously like Eric Bischoff, then it is, because as with Steve Austin, the key is not in the person but the marketing ability. Market someone as Stunning Steve and you will make some money, market him properly as Stone Cold Steve Austin and you will make millions.
Wade Barrett, however, is in a long line of wrestling talent whose only gears are reverse and neutral. Honestly, consider if you took the Rock/Cena, Jericho/Punk, Taker/Triple H match out of WrestleMania—how many superstars could legitimately headline WrestleMania?
And yet, examine the reality that within a year—or maybe two—only two of those, Cena and Punk, together with Randy Orton will be left. And is there any match formation involving those three that would be as entertaining as what we have witnessed before?
Maybe we were spoiled by the Attitude Era, maybe we just look back fondly on the golden eras of the 1980s and then the aggressive 1990s. Maybe today's wrestling generation have been dealt a poor hand by a wrestling giant that is unable, and unwilling to venture forward into unknown waters because it simply doesn't have to?
Wrestling is doing just nicely. It doesn't offend people. It doesn't need to try too hard. And so if getting by is enough, then so be it. The major breakout of Barrett, Rhodes and Co. is hence not needed.
Revolution is needed to change wrestling. It needs to blooden its superstars, take risk, try new ideas and venture into the unknown. The rise of reality and Punk had people on their seats until Triple H proved it quite literally was all about the Game and squashed it. His favored green-eyed son Sheamus now rules—hardly a coincidence.
Maybe we should just vote with our feet. Maybe if we turn off or switch over, they will react. But if the green sea of John Cena shirts is anything to go by at recent UK house shows, then maybe wrestling will always have an audience irrespective of what it puts on its shows.
In closing this article/rant/call, imagine explaining wrestling to someone who has never watched it before. You are a salesman for the WWE. How can you convince someone to watch the program when for the vast majority of the time it resembles a carnival act of tall men, farting ladies and muscle men?
It's a hard product to sell.
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