|Triple H at Wrestlemania 26|
By Chad Smart
They (not Fortune or Immortal) say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of professional wrestling. Look at last month’s Royal Rumble. Kevin “Diesel” Nash made a return to WWE after a 5-6 year stint in TNA. Even though he had been on television and Pay Per View during his time away from WWE, the reaction he got from the fans in attendance made it feel as if he had returned from a hiding out with Elvis and Amelia Earhart. It seemed no one cared about Diesel being 10 years past his point of relevancy or how he isn’t as mobile as he once was. All the fans were concerned with was here was a former world champion making a surprise return. Will the reaction continue to be as strong if Diesel sticks around is on TV on a weekly basis? That remains to be seen.
I bring this up because speculation among fans for the past couple months has revolved around the almost certain return of Triple H. Trips hasn’t been seen on WWE programming for about 10 months since he was beaten down by Sheamus. During that time, not only hasn’t he been seen, he’s barely been mentioned. I’m going to guess that whenever he makes his return, as soon as the lights go down and Lemmy’s voice is heard over the PA declaring “It’s time to play the GAAAMMEE” the fans in attendance will blow the roof of the arena. Only the cynical smarks will complain about how Triple H’s return will probably lead to Triple H seeking revenge on Sheamus thus making Sheamus look like a chump and knocking him out of the main event picture. Being off WWE programming for almost a year will help Triple H restore some freshness to his character and possibly to current story lines. Hopefully Triple H will return as a good guy which means he won’t be feuding or fighting with John Cena or Randy Orton anytime soon.
The Undertaker is another WWE superstar who, even after 20 years of portraying the same character, remains popular with the WWE Universe™ due to having not worked a full schedule in recent years. Currently the Undertaker hasn’t been seen in about 4-5 months. WWE ran a promo last week showing some unknown person entering a secluded shack. At the end of the promo was the date 2-21-11. Rumor has it that’s the date Undertaker will return to television. Fans on messageboards are starting to fantasy book who they’d like to see face Undertaker at Wrestlemania in a bid to end the undefeated streak.
Back in the territory days, before WWF and WCW became the top two national promotions, wrestlers would often move around from area to area. Usually spending 6 months to a year in one place before going to the next stop. While they would build up a reputation in one area, fans in the other territory regions would only hear about them in magazines or the occasional mention on the local wrestling promotion prior to the wrestler’s arrival. By constantly moving around wrestlers were able to keep their character fresh, and not burn out an area by having the same matches over and over again. After they moved on, it could be a couple of years before they returned. When they eventually came back to a specific territory if they were good guys the fans would welcome them back with open arms. If they were bad guys, the crowd would boo them out of the building and hope the good guys gave them a beating they’d never forget. It was their time away that helped sell more tickets.
Contrast that to today’s wrestling landscape. With WWE being the only big name in the wrestling business, there’s nowhere for guys to go to make the same amount of money. Therefore, unless WWE releases a wrestler, they will stay with WWE as long as they can. Couple that with WWE use of the same handful of guys in the main event scene for an average of five years and you get a stale promotion. Given the number of regular television matches and pay per view matches it’s not inconceivable to see the same guys fight 20 or more times in a year. That may not sound like a lot, but those matches are usually on consecutive weeks. That’s when it starts to get repetitive and annoying.
To finish this off, go back to the beginning and the comments about Triple H and Undertaker being kept fresh due to their time off screen. Now look at John Cena. Cena has been the face of the company for the last 5 years. With the exception of about 3 months when he was out with an injury, he has been the focal point of WWE programming. Fan reaction to Cena is usually mixed. Women and children cheer him. Guys tend to boo him. At the Survivor Series pay per view, due to a pre-match stipulation, John was “fired” from WWE. This would have been a good time to keep him off TV at least until the Royal Rumble. Give him some time off to recharge his batteries and make the fans eager to see him back in the squared circle. Instead, even though he was fired, he was on every episode of Raw beating up Nexus until he was finally reinstated. How can we miss you if you don’t go away?