This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was the best the WWE has put together in a long time.
This is not a sign of a renaissance for the struggling company, however. It’s actually a disaster at the worst possible time.
The WWE is getting ready for the Royal Rumble, one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, Sunday night. The show also starts the “road to Wrestlemania,” the three biggest months of the year for the company.
Their final Raw before the Rumble, designed to convince fans to buy the show, featured a “reunion” of stars from the 1980s and 90s. Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, the Outsiders and a surprise appearance by Sting were the main draws on a show which should have made fans want to see the wrestlers who would be competing Sunday.
Sure, the younger guys were there. John Cena, Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar did reasonably well to prove their disdain for each other and to try and make their match Sunday seem important. They were clearly overshadowed, however, by the stars of yesterday. In fact, one new tag team, the Ascension, whose gimmick is to be a Road Warriors rip off and to talk about how much better they are than old tag teams, got beat up by the APA, the New Age Outlaws and other blasts from the past. It was a funny moment, but it killed any momentum the new blood had gained in recent weeks.
If they had beaten up the old teams and then been met by some other new group who came in to save the day, the angle could have led to something. Instead, the hot tag team the WWE has been grooming is now the guys who got beat up by 50 and 60-year old men.
While the other younger wrestlers didn’t lose fights to old returnees, they lost valuable face time and credibility. The promos Lesnar, Cena and Rollins delivered would have been a solid way to head into a huge show on their own. Cena’s fight to get three other new stars reinstated could have been drawn out and taken into the Rumble. There are plenty of ways to work on making today’s stars a bigger deal.
Instead, during one of the most important times of the year for building up the current talent, the WWE chose to get eyeballs to the TV by promoting people they know fans like, but who won’t be there Sunday and won’t get any of the current talent over with the fans.
Perhaps the WWE thought bringing the old wrestlers on would get more fans to watch, and those fans would become interested in the current talent and watch the Rumble. Instead, their appearances just made me long for a previous generation, when I cared about the characters on the show and the rivalries meant something.
When Scott Hall, who looked about 150 years old, did his "survey," the fans were excited. Ric Flair gets fans going simply by wooing and talking. Kevin Nash was entertaining, Shawn Michaels is hysterical still, and if he and Triple H had broken out a DX skit it would have been great.
When the Big Show, who is much older than much of the current talent, confronted HBK, Flair and Hogan, there was tension in the air which just doesn’t exist when Rollins and Cena argue. Part of that comes with 20 years of history and isn’t the younger generation’s fault. But part of it is another demonstration of how the company has been unable to make the next generation relevant.
It is often unfair to compare current athletes to older ones in any sport, competitive or choreographed. The Attitude Era in particular was one of the best ones in the history of wrestling, and it was sparked by the incredible NWO angle the WCW had put together. It’s unfair to compare the current talent to those greats, just as it will be unfair to say the next Yankees shortstop stinks because he’s not as good as Derek Jeter.
In wrestling, however, the company’s job is to make us care about the current talent. It’s most important task is to make us want to watch them fight on pay-per-view. Instead, the WWE tried to give us the greats of the past and hope in the process we caught on to what’s happening now.
In a way, it worked. After watching Raw, I want to watch a bunch of pay-per-views. Unfortunately for the company, they’re all from 20 years ago.
The reunion was great, but it only shined a spotlight on how far the company has fallen. It hurt the guys on the top of the current card and ruined any chance of the guys on the middle of the Rumble card to get any attention.The company hurt itself Monday by making things great for a night. The reunion did nothing for the people who need help and will just remind us of how boring the recent Mondays have been.
Maybe next week they’ll bring back the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.