Monday 26 December 2011

The Big Fish

I’ve mentioned many times before that WWE seems to have trouble elevating new talent to the main event level. It’s a big problem that is affected by a number of factors, and the longer it stays unaddressed the worse it gets. The wrestling business is constantly transitioning from the present to the future. Today’s stars need to put over new talent to ensure new stars are created who can keep drawing money. That’s how wrestling has always survived and how it always will.

A large part of WWE’s dilemma is their obsession with John Cena. He has been pushed as the promotion’s number one star since 2005 and was in a prominent spot for some time before that. He has his merits: he elicits loud reactions from fans; he possesses impressive verbal skills and can cut logical, coherent promos; and he sells a lot of merchandise. None of these things are bad. They all contribute to making money in some way and as that’s the ultimate goal of any wrestling company Cena cannot be considered totally worthless.

Unfortunately Cena’s bad points outweigh these positives. He is notable as one of the worst workers in wrestling history, his ridiculous punches and inability to sell making it impossible for anybody over the age of eight to suspend their disbelief during his matches. He routinely cuts promos that make most grown men cringe (and grown men form the majority of WWE’s fanbase remember), which has a negative effect on viewing figures and attendance. Easily his worst offense is that he seems incapable of doing what I said needs doing in my opening paragraph: creating new stars.

It is part of Cena’s job as the company’s leading man to help prepare the stars of tomorrow. He may only be 34-years-old but he can’t wrestle continuously. Sooner or later, whether it’s in 2012 or 2032, ‘The Doctor of Thuganomics’ will need to retire. If he hasn’t helped create a new batch of stars before that then he will have left an employer who’s been very good to him and fans that have been very loyal to him in a bad situation.

There’s the possibility of injury to consider too. If Cena breaks a leg or tears a muscle who does WWE have that can step into his shoes? What if he suffered the same fate as Edge did in the year and had to suddenly draw his career to a close? There are promising guys on WWE’s roster but it would take time to turn them into legitimate main event stars, and it would be a much tougher process without Cena there to aid in the process by making losing to them.

Cena’s feud with Alberto Del Rio a few months ago illustrated that he doesn’t know how to get people over perfectly. ‘The Leader of the Chain Gang’ undid over a year’s hard work in just a few short weeks, pointing out that ADR doesn’t own the cars he drives into arenas, belittling him on a weekly basis in promos by telling him he “[was] not a worthy champion”, and failing to sell the cross arm breaker finisher, which had been built up as a devastatingly painful hold.

A worthy champion? Not according to John Cena...

The cars were obviously not ADR’s but it was part of his aristocrat gimmick. Why Cena was allowed to trash the gimmick while it was still in use (and as it’s still an ongoing part of Del Rio’s act there clearly weren’t plans to discontinue it, making it odder still) is a mystery. All it did was make ‘The Essence of Excellence’ look like an idiot at the beginning of his first WWE title reign. That harmed his perception with fans. It didn’t do the WWE championship any favours either. The same goes for Cena being permitted to routinely state that Del Rio was not a worthy champ. ADR was a sneaky heel who’d cashed in Money in the Bank to win the title: he wasn’t meant to be worthy, he was meant to be a scheming cheat. Cena didn’t help the cause there either.

Changes need to be made in Cena’s attitude. He cannot be allowed to continue burying anybody who threatens to get over at the top level and join him in WWE’s metaphorical main event penthouse. While I’m on the subject, CM Punk could use a little work in this area too. He buried Del Rio almost as badly as Cena did, and has harmed other performers with his inside jokes and smarmy putdowns. He’s still not operating on the level of Cena though. He can at least make his opponents look good in the ring.

Heel opponents need to be treated as genuine threats by established headline babyfaces. If a rising heel is treated poorly they will be perceived poorly. That means when Cena and Punk attain their inevitable victories over these opponents all they’ll have done is beaten a poor opponent. And who wants to pay to see that?

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