There have been a number of complaints online as to the WWE’s introduction of certain characters and wrestlers. It is as though they give them a character, throw them on television, and then expect them to succeed. Or they take some one from the independent scene, some one who has been honing their craft for years, give them a new name, a new look and tell them to go out there and be this new persona.
I think the WWE have got it all wrong, and it is something they have really only done since the demise of WCW. Back in the 1980s when I started to watch wrestling, WWF (as it was) would get talent in from other promotions, especially as it started to gain market dominance. But these characters were generally allowed to maintain what had brought them to the table. Maybe a change in name – Dingo Warrior became Ultimate Warrior, but he was still the psycho who talked to his gods; Randy Savage was the same Macho Man; Rick Rude was always Rick Rude, from his WCCW days. Sometimes Vince McMahon would use new acquisitions to get back at other promotions, by portraying their former champs as chumps (polka dot Dusty Rhodes, anyone?), but generally he would allow the people to bring what they already had to the table.
This culminated in the arrival of Ric Flair, who was even advertised as “the real world’s champion”. He was allowed to be the same Nature Boy he had been in NWA/WCW for all those years.
Of course, gimmick changes happened, but generally the wrestlers had either grown stale with older gimmicks, gimmicks had worn out their welcome, face/heel turns occurred, or they were being punished (see Adorable Adrian Adonis). With the advent of the Monday Night Wars, it became all a little bit odd. People would jump back and forth, and because of copyright lawsuits (or the threat thereof), were not allowed to use their names. But – and this is a pretty big but – they still were essentially the same characters they had always been. IRS became VK Wallstreet, Haku became Meng, Sandman became Hak, X-Pac became Syxx, etc. But many still kept their names – Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Raven – and their personas.
Then we come to the issue of Diesel and Razor Ramon. When Kevin Nash and Scott Hall jumped to WCW, they took on their own names, but especially Hall kept a similar persona. Lawsuits and threatened lawsuits abounded, resulting in the Fake Diesel and Fake Razor characters on WWF television.
Yet some jumped to different promotions, kept their names, but underwent a total gimmick transformation. A perfect example of this would be Mike Awesome, who went to WCW and became the fat chick thrilla and that 70’s guy before (too late) they let him be the badass he did so well.
But nowadays in the WWE, where you came from and what you’ve done does not mean a thing. They want the generic action heroes that are essentially interchangeable because the Monday Night Wars left scars – the company needs to be bigger than the individual in case said individual jumps ship. So they take the guys from TNA, ROH, Sh*tfest Pro Wrestling, wherever, and then repackage them completely, so they have control over the marketing and the likeness, so if they ever did jump ship, they’d have to use another different name and likeness.
Here lies the problem. They go to a farming territory (FCW at the moment) where they are given a new image, a make-over, a new name, whatever, and then everything that made them unique and different and attracted the eye of the WWE in the first place is stripped away from them. They are then thrown onto the main shows, and are expected to get their characters over.
Brodus Clay is a dancing fool, but his squash matches show little character beyond that. Generic fat man offense is all he does. Ryback is a Goldberg clone, squashing up to two jobbers at once. But is that it? Go out there and be strong and intense. Sandow is a different one, because his character actually is more than a simple gimmick, but he still needs to back it up in the way he wrestles. The list goes on.
It is interesting to compare these to two former ROH wrestlers. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) managed to bring their ROH wrestling personalities to the WWE, and now, years after their debut, we’re seeing them tear the house down because they have been allowed to revert to their old wrestling ways. Yes, Bryan now has the “Yes!” chant, and CM Punk is a bit more attuned to the WWE main event kicky-punchy style, but when they fight some one who can match them (i.e. each other), they bring out that wrestling goodness I grew up with.
I would think the WWE would learn from this. Sure, change their names if that’s what floats your boat. But why change the name of the second and third generation stars they have? Joe Hennig should be Joe Hennig, and he should be allowed to wrestle like he did in the indies. I was bored by him in WWE, but what I saw of him online from earlier in his career, he was so much better than that. That brings me to the way they wrestle. The WWE main event style was developed to, basically, suit Steve Austin and HHH after their injuries, making it less impactful on broken and breaking bodies, and I can appreciate that. But to have everyone have the same offense with maybe only a finisher that is different helps lend credence to the theory that televised wrestling is dull.
They need to use the farm system, FCW, whatever, to let the wrestlers develop these new personalities much more fully. They need to take what these guys know already and only make changes where their actions are potentially dangerous. They need to de-emphasise the generic things, and accentuate what brought them to the table in the first place. This differentiation may finally relieve some of the boredom of the jaded public, who only know John Cena, and that’s it. The kids might buy Cena’s merch, but it is older demographics that watch Raw, Smackdown and PPVs. There has to be more money there. And if they want to make more money, they need to add excitement and interest to their roster first and foremost.
They need to let the wrestlers be what they can be, not what they are created to be by some soap opera writer in an office in Titan Towers.
Now for this week’s piece of Australiana:
Spiderbait is one of my favourite Australian acts from the 90s/2000s. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live, and they are even better on stage.
Tags: brodus clay, character, cm punk, Daniel Bryan, Dusty Rhodes, Gimmick, Haku, HHH, john cena, Meng, Mike Awesome, Ric Flair, ROH, ryback, Steve Austin, Ultimate Warrior, view from down here, WCW, wrestling, WWE