As wrestling fans of the modern age, we see everything happen at a much quicker pace than in the years past. Gone are the days of multi-year title reigns, ongoing feuds, and slowly built up characters. Today we see rookies win world titles in mere months, three week title reigns, and feuds that never get off the ground to be good.
This was a fairly natural progression though. Wrestling as a whole has been getting more television time than ever before and therefore the need for constant change in order to keep fans entertained. The nature of the Monday Night Wars clamored for constant plot swerves and title switches to keep fans hooked. Now this might be fairly obvious to many fans, but do any of us really see the impact this rushed way of doing things has had on wrestling? While it has produced some stellar moments, such as much of the Attitude Era, this rushed time hasn’t done a lot of good for a lot of wrestlers, and in turn, this has damaged much of the business as a whole.
Ok, Tim, what the hell are you talking about? Well, let’s look at an example. John Cena rose through the ranks of WWE fairly quickly. In less than three years, he won a world title. He found a gimmick that seemed to be over with the fans, and WWE capitalized on it. Yet instead of making sure that the gimmick had time to mold, WWE went for the quick fix and threw the belt on their most popular star at the time. Soon, people didn’t care about him anymore, and now he finds himself in a very unpromising predicament. He receives more jeers than cheers, and he gets booed worse than the company’s top heel. A lot of this is due to the quick rise he had to the top. There were no testing grounds for the longevity of the character, and that in turn has significantly hurt his run at the top.
There’s also the case of Brock Lesnar, who in mere months, went from being a rookie to becoming the WWE Champion. In his rookie year, he not only won the King of the Ring and two world titles, but he also claimed clean victories over the likes of The Rock, Undertaker, Ric Flair, Big Show, and Kurt Angle. Not many others can say they had a year like that. Then, not even two years after his debut, his superstardom went to his head, and he got burned out. He turned his back on the company, and left for what he thought would be greener pastures in the National Football League. This was yet another classic case of rushed thinking on WWE’s part. They pushed someone so hard in such a small amount of time, that he felt bigger than the company itself, causing him to take his ball and run.
The same also happened with Randy Orton. In 2004, he was being pushed as a mega-heel, and as soon as he started to get some cheers, WWE put the World Title on him and turned him face. His horrid face run saw a brief title reign, and several setbacks for the young star. In order to salvage his career, he had to turn heel once again, and has never been able to revert back to the momentum he had before WWE screwed up his run.
Do you see a pattern yet? Rushed thinking and the concept of the “quick fix” have significantly damaged the careers of several young stars during the last few years. This in turn has also damaged fan following. How can WWE possibly get a loyal following when they have to constantly make changes to their characters because they failed to think for the long run? It’s understanding that they want a new top star like they believed they had in Cena, Lesnar, and Orton, but they have to be patient. Without ample time to test out a gimmick, putting someone at the top can prove to be disastrous. WWE needs to learn that time is of the essence!
Let’s look at some former and current top stars to solidify this slowed time theory. Steve Austin, arguably the most popular wrestler of all time, didn’t achieve his superstardom over night. He traveled the world, and went though several promotions before arriving in WWE. Even then, it would still be a good amount of time of molding until he finally found a character that suited him best. Still, it was still almost two years until he finally claimed the WWE Title. That was a significant amount of time. His rise to the top wasn’t planned or rushed, yet it was perfect. The same goes for guys like Triple H and the Rock, who all spent years in different gimmicks and, in Hunter’s case, different companies, until they finally found their calling. No one was sitting back orchestrating their rise to the top. It gradually happened, and over time, these wrestlers became huge.
Now, in my last column, I said that wrestlers belong in certain roles, regardless what we as fans think. However, even though wrestlers may be stuck in certain roles that suit them, but may want another role (ie, a mid-carder who wants to main event) sometimes time can change that. For instance, if you had told in me in 2003 that we would soon seen Bradshaw win the WWE title, I may have shot you. Same for Batista. Now while I still stand by my theory of some wrestlers being suited for certain roles, time does have the tendency to change things. What seems right one day, could be totally wrong on another.
It does seem almost impossible though for things to slow down. As I mentioned earlier, fans don’t want to see a champion have a belt for a year anymore, or see a feud go past two months. Wrestling companies now have to act faster to give fans what they want. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is the status quo, but things can be switched around to adapt to this. Young wrestlers can do their part by traveling the world to see what suits them best instead of jumping to WWE contracts right away. WWE needs to have more faith in their wrestlers to build their own characters. That way, if a character proves to be successful, then perhaps in turn, fans wouldn’t mind seeing them in long title runs and feuds. It works both ways!
Essentially, it’s time for WWE take a step back and slow down. They need to stop force feeding their rosters while trying to find the next big star. They need to be patient and give their wrestlers more time and freedom to develop their abilities, and find their calling. This is quite simply because Time is of the Essence!
Finally if you just read this, thanks very much for your time! I always enjoy interacting with my readers, so if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Until next time, this has been From the Eye of the Dragon…