1Wrestling.com Article – Post-Wrestlemania Season
Generally speaking, casual fan interest in WWE – and pro wrestling in general – increases around this time of year. People are drawn in because they know something special will happen; WWE will wheel out the big stars and put the big stories in the foreground, looking to create memories which will last forever. That’s what the hype says anyway, and while it may often be true to an extent, more hardcore fans must wonder why that same attention to detail isn’t given all year round?
Traditionally, WWE’s business takes a dramatic drop-off post-Wrestlemania. A lot of fans disillusioned with the modern product as a whole go back to doing other things, waiting to once again pounce come the following January. Meanwhile, those us who simply cannot get enough wrestling stick around and pick up the pieces.
With The Undertaker growing older and suffering the effects of a lengthy career, it’s likely his annual schedule now includes Wrestlemania and nothing else. The Rock, if he does drop the WWE Championship to John Cena on the big stage, will resume his glittering Hollywood duties. Other possible names wheeled out for ‘Mania; Triple H, Brock Lesnar and Ric Flair will only make sporadic appearances throughout the year, not house show or even TV regulars through late-Spring and into the Summer.
A lot of these names contribute heavily to overall interest in what is most definitely the biggest pro wrestling showcase of the year. The Rock himself brings an army of casual and even non-wrestling fans with him, such is the brightness of his star outside the wrestling bubble. The Royal Rumble buyrate will depend largely on just how interested fans were in his title match with CM Punk, a match which had more than an air of generations clashing. Undoubtedly, there will be those who simply enjoy the atmosphere of the Rumble match itself, conditioned to know there is much entertainment on offer at this time of year.
Throwing my hat into the ring, this writer feels WWE must do more to build the more regular talent they have into genuine, money-making stars, ones able to sustain momentum and fan interest throughout the rest of the year. Names such as CM Punk, John Cena, Randy Orton, Sheamus and even The Big Show are all tested headliners, but I’m talking more names like Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett and Ryback.
Credit where credit is due, whether forced into it due to an injury to John Cena or not, WWE pushed hard and have persevered with Ryback. The man himself has connected with the audience and is well on his way to becoming a permanent fixture at the top of the card, should WWE play their own cards correctly. Similarly, Dolph Ziggler is one of the most over performers on the roster outside the familiar faces. Oozing charisma and with buckets of in-ring ability, Ziggler is finally showing the confidence required of a WWE headliner. It’s no co-incidence that this newfound belief comes in tandem with the promotion’s own faith in his talents, either.
Imagine how fresh the scene would look should WWE pinpoint Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett, for example, and book them in such a manner that they look equal (or dare I say mildly superior) to established names such as John Cena and CM Punk. This would take more than a tarnished win over one, such as Ziggler’s nonetheless thrilling Ladder Match victory over Cena at TLC in December, and instead a prolonged series of convincing wins over stars fans believe in. Both Ziggler and Barrett possess all the qualities necessary to be draws, certainly to the core WWE fanbase. Great vocal skills are something Barrett displayed from the outset, and he must be commended for not looking out of place opposite then-much bigger names like Cena or Randy Orton during the Nexus angle (remember that?).
A strict, even 6-month push, being portrayed as heavyweights on Raw, would give both the current Mr. Money In The Bank and Intercontinental Champion more aura, giving them the chance of becoming moneymakers for the company. Surely this is the overall end-goal, after all; to thrust fledgling headliners into the spotlight, giving them all the ammunition they need and letting their natural skills shine through, creating genuine main-event players in the process?
At the risk of tailspinning off into a tangent so thick you’d swear it was mud, this ties in rather nicely with another heavy topic circulating the pro wrestling airwaves; WWE’s ‘start stop’ pushing mentality, which keeps almost everyone on an even playing field and sees wrestlers losing steam just weeks after debuting.
Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), this isn’t working. Matt ‘Tensai’ Bloom, a literal giant of a man, is the perfect example of this. Being away from the WWE long enough for a new generation of fans to start following, Bloom improved himself remarkably during over a half-decade in Japan. Critically panned for his first stint in the big time, Bloom could not make it to the top as either Prince Albert or A-Train. Incredibly, the big man became a star in the Orient, as Giant Bernard, forming a hard-hitting duo with another American, Karl Anderson.
WWE were aware of this improvement, signing Bloom in the Spring of 2012 to play the monstrous ‘Lord Tensai’ character. The customary vignette video packages were shown for several weeks, before the promotion nonsensically chose to debut their latest signing on the same night Brock Lesnar made his return to confront John Cena. The return fell flat, almost as flat as Lesnar’s flat-top haircut!
From there, top brass seemed to lose faith in Tensai, unconvinced by apathetic fan reactions (What were they expecting? It’s surely up to the company to make fans care, not the other way about). Once ear-marked for a top-line feud with the aforementioned Cena, the former ‘Hip Hop Hippo’ has now returned to playing such a dancing gimmick.
Without defending Bloom too strongly, and realising there is more goes into a successful headline push than squash matches against enhancement talent, it appeared WWE pulled the plug on the push before they had even booked it. Such disinterest in their own storylines is a worrying trend, popularised by throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. In this humble opinion, there simply must be more of a gameplan than that. The wealth of talent on offer demands it.
The usual suspects at the top of the WWE cards are there on merit, no doubt about that, but imagine if today’s quickfire mentality had been the law during the time of The Undertaker, Steve Austin or Triple H. The latter failed to significantly connect with the fans until an on-screen association with Shawn Michaels, which happened almost 3 years after his debut, for one example. It’s unthinkable that “The Game” would have been shot down weeks into his initial run, decreed a failure and wished all the best in his future endeavours.
No, WWE must get fully behind the Dolph Zigglers and Wade Barretts of this world, should they wish for fans to do the same. Only by showing they are interested in these men will the audience follow suit. The post-Wrestlemania lull won’t be avoided, but it could be in years to come if WWE once again play those cards right. As wrestling fans here all-year round, we can only hope they have a royal flush in mind.