Thursday 29 November 2012

Middle of the Road

Over the last couple of months WWE have made a noticeable effort to do something with non-main event performers. Daniel Bryan and Kane have been placed together as Team Hell No and are currently on top of the most interesting WWE tag team division in years. The Divas have enjoyed a competent storyline which, in a roundabout way, has illustrated how much the Divas title means to the performers involved.

This is very much a positive thing. Not only has it given viewers more reasons to tune in but it’s also given performers something constructive to do. When that happens there’s more chance of them getting over.

Unfortunately the mid-card singles scene has remained pretty much untouched. If the promotion is serious about wanting to create new stars then this is an area they are going to have to improve.

Main events should be populated by the most over stars. That’s logical. While a handful of men can get over enough thanks to a strong push, such as Ryback, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, others have to take a slower path and earn their way up the card by continually putting in solid performances and building a rapport with fans. Dolph Ziggler is a perfect example of this.

The trouble WWE has at the moment is that their main event bracket is so thin they have gotten into the habit of rushing guys to the top. They plug a gap at the top only for another to appear as one of their established stars leaves, goes part-time, or hits the injured list. That then means another guy is fast-tracked. It’s a vicious circle. The mid-card has become neglected and as such there is nowhere for those not blessed with a sustained push from the office to get themselves over.

Zack Ryder is a man who has been let down by the lack of a proper mid-card. This time last year ‘Long Island Iced Z’ was beginning to look like he could become a meaningful part of the company’s future. He teamed with WWE champion CM Punk and World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan in a six man tag match on the December 19th RAW. Not just anybody gets put into that spot.

Things went bad for Ryder when he was chosen to work as cannon fodder for Kane during ‘The Big Red Monster’s’ programme with John Cena. Obliterated on a weekly basis ‘The Internet Champion’ soon found his fan base shrinking.

Had there been a functioning mid-card in place, populated by performers fans had been given a reason to care about, meaningful championships, and matches that received a decent amount of time, then Ryder could have been quickly rehabilitated. His senseless multiple jobs to ‘The Devil’s Favourite Demon’ and harmful presentation as Cena’s li’l buddy could have been erased within a month and Ryder could have gotten back on track.
It’s not inconceivable to think that by now Ryder could have been in a high mid-card spot, featured in a purposeful match on RAW every week, had he been treated better at the start of the year. That hasn’t happened because WWE doesn’t have the tools to help talent of his level out.

On the bright side there are signs that WWE is going to get serious about this area of their programming again. Antonio Cesaro has had some relatively lengthy title defences since winning the United States championship. Let’s not forget that he received a surprisingly rowdy response when he lifted the gold from Santino during the SummerSlam pre-show. That showed that fans will still take an interest in performers outside of the headline zone, if they are presented in the right fashion.

Kofi Kingston’s Intercontinental title victory over The Miz last month was also indicative of a renewed interest in the mid-card. Over the years ‘The Boom Squad General’ has proven to be WWE’s performer of choice when they need a babyface to fill a role outside of the main event.
Is he happy or in pain? I know I can't tell...
During the summer of last year he was placed into a tag team alongside Evan Bourne. The idea was that the two would spearhead a revival of WWE’s tag team scene, working against teams such as Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger (unofficially known as All American Perfection) and Awesome Truth. That was followed by this year’s stint alongside R-Truth, and there are numerous examples of him being tossed the Intercontinental or US title throughout his five years on the main roster.

Kingston as Intercontinental champ is a good move. He can have the mid-card division built around him, and there are plenty of opponents waiting, such as Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, Tensai, Hunico, and the Three Man Band. If time is invested into giving Kofi matches and storylines that fans can believe in then the mid-card (and the IC belt too, for that matter) could be revived quickly.

Triple H, Edge, and The Rock all earned their way to the top of WWE by making themselves stand out in the mid-card to earn a promotion. Plucking successful guys from the lower ranks and hoisting them up the ranks used to be something the federation excelled at. With a little work that can be the case again.

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