The WWE is a place where greats are born and legends are made, but lately, the real problem seems to be getting them to leave. Maybe this is a suitable topic for my first article, giving a hint to those old-timers who are still writing when they should really just be put out to stud. Just kidding.
Anyways, over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent to me that the WWE has a love affair with its own nostalgia. Be it the retro John Cena gear marketed as of late (i.e. the old-style WWF-fonted logo he used, or the AWA-styled shirt he wears currently), the return of D-Generation X every month, or just giving an old horse another go.
Now I am not a new fan. I've been watching WWE for as long as long as I can remember, and I still love seeing a lot of the old guys back in action. However, my beef is with the old-timers who are still in the company, and how they are effecting the business.
I think the example that most people can get on board with is Ric Flair. Love the guy or hate him, you have to agree that he was definitely past his prime by the time he left the biz. Now that's not a bad thing, but knowing when to hang it up is what really counts.
There are some guys out there who just can't seem to stay away, guys like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Goldust. Yes, I know these guys are not all on the same level in terms of wrestling calibre, but they all seem to find a way to get back into the limelight, whether you want them there or not.
Hogan always has that "ONE MORE MATCH" that needs to take place, Austin needs to make a once-a-year appearance to guest referee or at least give someone the obligatory Stone Cold Stunner, and Goldust needs that three or four months on the WWE roster once in a while to make us feel awkward about wrestling...at least that's all I get from watching his character.
There is nothing wrong with this happening every once in a while, but lately "once in a while" seems to be about once a week. I have so many examples to choose from, so excuse some omissions.
- DX reunions that occur nearly once a month
- Bringing back old school wrestlers for PPV (Honky Tonk Man & Roddy Piper)
- Bringing back old school wrestlers to fill out the midcard (D'Lo Brown & Goldust)
- Keeping old-timers on the roster for too long (Hacksaw Jim Duggan)
- Austin's seemingly annual return at Cyber Sunday as a "special guest referee"
These are just a few examples that only touch on the heart of what I am trying to get at. Is there anything wrong with seeing Duggan in the ring? I don't think so, but would you rather see him in a match against Cody Rhodes, or would you want to see a match pitting CM punk against Kofi Kingston? If you are like me, you'd pick the latter.
It's not that these guys aren't good wrestlers, but what is the point in having new, young, exciting talent if they can't get into the spotlight because Hacksaw is still hanging on? I think the evidence of this lies in the recent round of WWE lay-offs. Many talented, under-appreciated wrestlers were let go, and yet I still have to watch Hacksaw on Monday Night RAW. I would very much rather watch Lance Cade preform than Hacksaw, so why was the younger Cade let go? Were there even any wrestlers let go that weren't relatively young?
Right now the WWE has a lot of young, talented performers that are seemingly stuck in the same spot as everyone else. They basically sit where they are and hope they can hold on another year. Which is sad, really, because many of these wrestlers are people I'd like to see at the top of the card someday. There are lots of performers out there who have or have had main-event potential, but never went anywhere.
- Mr. Kennedy—definite a fan favorite, talented both on the mic and in the ring, has beaten several World Champions.
- MVP—over as a heel, also talented both on the mic and in the ring, has often feuded with main-event talent.
- Shelton Benjamin—Probably one of the most athletically gifted wrestlers on the roster, nearly flawless in the ring, able to put on great matches regardless of the opponent, has held both the IC and US titles, had three consecutive wins over Triple H, and was nearly unstoppable during his IC run in 2004.
These are just three wrestlers that I think have the best cases to be on top of the card. Yes, they have had their flaws, such as Kennedy suffering a few injuries taking him out of the picture, or Benjamin's mic skills not being quite up to par, and being shackled with a few bad gimmicks (i.e. his "momma"). But looking at these three, I see plenty of potential for championship runs, but nothing that has yet come to fruition.
Take Mr. Kennedy. I think fans can see him beating anyone on the roster in a match, so why hasn't he been given a championship run? He has the skill, the charisma, and the look. Was it the injuries? I guess we'll see when he makes his return, but I have my doubts on that.
MVP is another worker with all the talent and charisma a top-card draw could want, and he also has the look. What has held him back? He has had no major injuries that I can recall, only one backstage incident (which is minor considering that Jeff Hardy is only one strike away from being let go), yet he nabbed the title last PPV.
And finally Shelton Benjamin. Perhaps he is only on this list because I have taken a shine to him, but look at the stats. He's a multi-time Tag Team Champion, a former IC Champion a current US Champion. He's a great technical performer in the ring and has proven that he can be innovative as well.
Benjamin has been in nearly every Money In The Bank match but has never won, despite providing some of the biggest highlights in those matches. So what went wrong? He had everything going for him when he first shifted to RAW, beating Triple H three times in a row and capturing the IC title.
Then, suddenly he was burdened with a gimmick where he was paraded out by his "momma." Despite the setback, he started a feud with HBK and brought out the best in himself once again. But alas, even that was short lived, and now he is bridled with the hum-ho gimmick of the "Gold Standard," which is anything but.
These men have all had their flaws and faults, but like I said, this is only a fraction of the individuals who I feel should get a bigger push. There are others like John Morrison, The Brian Kendrick, and Carlito, who I feel could also be given a bigger role. So why could so many good, young, talented guys be overlooked? Because are some old timers who need to pack there bags and move onto retirement.
WARNING: YOUR FAVORITE SUPERSTAR MAY BE ON THIS LIST, SO PLEASE DO NOT BE OFFENDED. I FEEL THAT LIKE AN OLD SICK DOG, SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA PUT THEM DOWN IN ORDER TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT.
- JBL—Possibly the most hated man on this list. I, for one, am not a fan. Sure, he is still good on the mic, but he is out of shape (although has begun to work on that, it seems), boring to watch, and hated by many WWE viewers, not for being a heel (which would be fine) but for being a waste of space on the roster. His prime may very well have been during his time as Bradshaw with the APA, but his biggest accomplishment occurred when he transformed into the talentless bum known as John Bradshaw Layfield: an old cowboy who always seems to find himself in the title picture for no apparent reason.
- Shawn Michaels—I know many fans love HBK and hope he will wrestle forever, but honestly, is that what you would want for HBK if you truly loved him? The man has already broken his back for the business and continues to take punishment for the fans (just look at his feud with Jericho earlier this year). He really hasn't lost his touch and will probably continue for another 2-3 years before people will start to really notice it. He is a man who has the mind and body of a 40 year old, but moves and acts like a 20 year old, yes it's fun to watch but how long can he go before his body can't keep up? Still he can fill in for the best of them when the roster starts dwindling due to injuries.
- Triple H—Here is a mixed bag; some love him and some hate him. While I am of the latter persuasion, I will forgo my personal grudges and just focus on the facts. The man is nearly 40 years old, he's torn his quads in both legs, and is still in the main event spotlight. If I said this about someone you didn't know, you would think "WOW, this guy should start thinking about his future and move on." Yet Triple H keeps on trucking, and when you are in the main event you can't afford to slow down. Yet Triple H has, slowly, slown down. Just go back and watch one of his matches when he was still known as the Blue Blood Hunter Hearst Helmsly. He was much faster and much more intense. Time has definitely caught up to this old dog, and for his own sake I hope he laces his boots up for the last time sometime soon.
- The Undertaker—Possibly the hardest person to say goodbye to on this list. I don't think anyone can truly hate the Undertaker. He is timeless, kinda. Actually, he is 43, and like Triple H, he has had his fair share of injuries yet has stayed in the spotlight. Now he has the liberty to take months off at a time because of all his hard work, and by looking at him I think he really needs it. Lately his face isn't the face of a man that need be feared, but of an old man who looks beaten down (seriously take a look). Like Triple H, he has slowed down in the ring, perhaps not as much, but he still has. Does anyone else but me remember when he did his clothesline and did a front flip? Now it's more of a fall to the side. He's also one of the only superstars who has four finishers at his disposal, although each seemed to take five years to come into being (chokeslam, tombstone, last ride and hells gate). But Undertaker can still be called upon to put on a great match regardless of his opponent, possibly one of the only superstars on the roster who can really tell a story in the ring.
So are any of these guys bad wrestlers? Well maybe JBL, but the rest still have talent. Are they bad on the mic? No, I don't think you could say that about any of those men. But like Ric Flair, who could also put on a good match and be dynamite on the stick well into the twilight of his career, their time is nearing. Maybe a lot of us don't want to see them go, but really, it is what needs to be done.
It will be hard for me personally when the day comes where the Undertaker hangs up his boots and the "Phenom" ceases to be, but in a way it'll be a happy day. He'll be able to finally relax from the WWE's demanding schedule, and I'll be able to see the rise of a new star to take his place.
Now I know that many people will say, "well what about guys like Jeff Hardy who just recently got to the limelight?"
Well yes, he did do it, but how long did Jeff have to sit in the undercard and midcard before ever getting a shot? If wrestlers like Triple H were not around, it would've happened alot sooner, I'm guessing. Why have guys like Hardy and Edge had to work so hard to get to where they are finally at? They both paid their dues long ago, and both showed they were uber-talented from the get-go.
Did it really need to take so long? I don't think so. I think it's just that maybe we fans have to let go of some of our old favorites, hard as it may be, to give a new life to WWE and to do what's best for those who helped make wrestling what it is.