Examining WWE's Nostalgia Problem and a Possible Solution to Fix It

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2019

Ric Flair, The Miz and Hulk Hogan.
Ric Flair, The Miz and Hulk Hogan.Credit: WWE.com

Monday's Raw will feature a special episode of "Miz TV" with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair as special guests. WWE is promoting these appearances heavily, and this is part of the problem.

The company keeps relying on names from the past as an attempt to drum up ratings and get former viewers to tune in again. It's relying on fans being nostalgic for the so-called "good old days."

It seems like everyone over the age of 25 thinks wrestling was better when they were a kid, and while this is always a matter of opinion, WWE tries to appeal to them, which sometimes leads to a disastrous segment with someone whose time in the ring is long over.

Let's look at WWE's nostalgia problem and what can be done about it.

                               

WWE Hasn't Created New Megastars

Hogan and Flair are just the tip of the iceberg. WWE has been relying on retired Superstars like Shawn Michaels, Edge, Bret Hart, The Rock and others because it has failed to create any bankable stars in recent years. Even Brock Lesnar falls into this category as a part-timer.

Some people will point to wrestlers like Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch as popular acts, but they have come nowhere near reaching the same level of mainstream popularity as John Cena or Batista.

WWE has had years to prepare for Cena becoming a part-time act before eventually retiring. It has tried to build new megastars, but the WWE Universe has not supported most of these efforts.

When Reigns was originally being positioned as the face of the company a few years ago, crowds would boo him out of the building in almost every city WWE visited. He gets a good reaction now, but part of that might have to do with the company choosing not to overuse him.

Seth Rollins remains popular, but he has yet to become a household name outside of the wrestling business. Other than Ronda Rousey, whose future seems uncertain, WWE has no one non-fans will care about enough to check out on Raw or SmackDown.

                                  

The Saudi Arabia Shows 

WWE has held three events in Saudi Arabia over the past two years and has another one scheduled for October 31. These shows perfectly illustrate the problem the company is facing.

At the first event, The Greatest Royal Rumble, WWE relied on Cena, Triple H and The Undertaker to fill big roles on the card when none of them had been part of major storylines leading into the show. Cena vs. Triple H was hyped by one or two promo segments only.

The following event, Crown Jewel, is where Michaels came out of retirement to team with The Game to face Kane and The Undertaker in what many would call a less-than-stellar performance.

The third event was called Super Show-Down, and it once again relied on The Deadman in the main event against Goldberg.

The former WCW champion suffered a concussion early in the match, which led to one of the worst bouts either competitor has ever had. Goldberg even took to Twitter to explain what happened afterward because he knew people wanted to know why the contest went downhill so quickly.

When WWE is forced to rely on retired and part-time Superstars to main-event pay-per-views, this is what happens. Plenty of people in the Hall of Fame can still put on good performances, but they haven't been the ones being featured.

                             

The 'Good Old Days'

Unless you are a young person who is growing up with the current crop of Superstars, it almost always seems like people think WWE was better during a different era.

The '70s had big names like Bruno Sammartino creating world title records nobody will ever be able to break, and the '80s had an even bigger boom with the likes of Flair, Hogan and Randy Savage emerging as top stars in the industry.

The '90s had guys like Hart, Michaels and Sting leading the charge before The Attitude Era saw people turn to The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Kurt Angle and Triple H.

Even the 2000s had breakout stars like Cena, Edge, Batista and Randy Orton making their mark on the industry. Believe it or not, some people pine for the Ruthless Aggression era.

This is where things get a bit murky. WWE wants to appeal to everyone, which means it has to occasionally use some of these people to scratch that nostalgic itch we all have from time to time.

However, if WWE was able to build new megastars the crowd cared about as much as these legends, the company wouldn't need to keep bringing the old guys back.

                                

The Only Solution

WWE is doing great financially, at least for now. Its stock price sits at $70/share as of the end of business on Tuesday, according to MarketWatch.com. At this point five years ago, its stock price was just below $14/share.

Being profitable is great for investors but means nothing to the average fan who doesn't own shares in the company. The WWE Universe just wants a good product, and the company was not delivering on a consistent basis until recently.

Instead of relying on part-timers and Hall of Famers to bring in lapsed viewers, WWE needs to focus solely on building new stars for the future.

Cameos from legends need to be saved for the Hall of Fame and WrestleMania. The rest of the year, it's should be up to the full-time roster to make the shows must-see programming. 

At one point, Braun Strowman was poised to be the next breakout star. He was being booked as unbeatable, and WWE was spending a lot of money to get him over with segments like the times when he flipped over an ambulance and ripped a Ford Mustang apart with his bare hands.

This is the kind of strategy management needs to employ with whoever it decides will be the next Rock or Stone Cold. The old saying goes, "You have to spend money to make money."

Instead of paying ridiculous sums to get people like Goldberg to show up, WWE should be investing that cash in putting over someone who can lead the roster for the next decade.

What the company is doing right now with Bray Wyatt is a perfect example of the kind of strong push it needs to give to some of its younger stars who have a chance of becoming popular in the mainstream.

WWE has no shortage of charismatic performers. It just needs to pick a few and commit to making them famous. It if keeps changing course and pushing different people all the time, fans might start flocking to other promotions as they did during the Monday Night War.


Who do you think should be WWE's next breakout star?

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