Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lose the Attitude

By Chad Smart

Before I get into the meat of this article I want to make mention of one thing. We’re less than four weeks away from Wrestlemania 27 and there are only 5 matches announced for the show. I’m of the belief a show as big as Wrestlemania, with the extra time to build up the show since there’s no PPV in the month of March, should not have matches thrown together the last few weeks before the show.
The full card should be announced by now so the matches can be promoted. Okay, stepping of this soapbox and moving on to another one.

The Rock has been named the Host of Wrestlemania, whatever that means. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is now the special referee for the match between Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael "150 pound announcer" Cole. Trish Stratus is schedule for a match next week on Raw and is a trainer for the new season of Tough Enough, which premieres the night after Wrestlemania so it’s not out of the blue to speculate she’ll be involved with in some capacity at Wrestlemania. The match between Triple H and The Undertaker is somewhat built around a battle of the last two outlaws, which to me, makes reference to the two of them being the last of the true Attitude Era stars. Given Shawn Michaels history with both men and his video packages promoting the match on WWE programming, it’s also not unreasonable to expect an HBK cameo in Atlanta. All we need is The Godfather, Ken Shamrock and an surprise appearance from Pete Rose it’d be like Doc Brown gave us the keys to the Delorean and we went back in time ten years.

I understand why fans are excited about the return of all the past stars. I get the relationship and devotion fans have for the wrestlers who got them interested in wrestling. Show me some 1980’s NWA or Mid-South wrestling and I’m a kid all over again. That doesn’t mean I want to see the Four Horsemen or Ted Dibiase Sr., Jim Duggan, or Dusty Rhodes in important roles at Wrestlemania. And for the record, I’d prefer not to see Ric Flair wrestle another match. It’s time to move on. And yes, the guys I listed are older and have shown up on WWE programming in the last year or two. The point I’m poorly trying to make is I don’t have a problem with past stars coming back and making a guest appearance. What I fear happening is the past stars will be used in a manner that makes the current roster look inferior.

Look at the "feud" between The Rock and John Cena for example. John Cena has a match for the WWE Title against The Miz at Wrestlemania yet the focus of Cena’s promos has been The Rock. While The Miz hasn’t exactly been presented as an afterthought, how many fans would be upset if he was taken out of the equation and a match between Rock and Cena happened instead? If Rock is true to his word of never wrestling again, what’s the point of the verbal TÍte ‡ tÍte between him and Cena? What’s the payoff? Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I see Rock giving a rock bottom to Miz helping Cena get the victory and his title back. Why? Because seeing Rock and Cena in the ring together with both their arms raised will send the crowd home happy.

Then you have Stone Cold. When was the last time Stone Cold showed up and didn’t give someone a stunner? Who wants to bet against Jack Swagger ending up on the losing end of Stone Cold’s attack? Again, I get it. Wrestling fans enjoy it when their favorite wrestlers yell out catchphrases and hit signature moves. The crowd will explode when Swagger flops and flails selling the effects of the Stunner, but answer this, the next night on Raw who’s more likely to be there? Austin or Swagger? Who’s more likely to be wrestling at Wrestlemania 28? Austin or Swagger? Who is the company going to want fans to pay to see over the course of the next year? Austin or Swagger?

As I type this, I’m watching Wrestlemania 21. Hulk Hogan just came out and gave Muhammad Hassan the big boot and leg drop. Later in the show, if memory serves me right, Austin gives Carlito the Stunner to the delight of the crowd. That’s why I fear what’s going to happen at Wrestlemania 27.
I wrote a previous blog detailing why this year’s Wrestlemania didn’t have the "must see" feel to it due to the show potentially having more rising stars than established stars on the card. So it makes sense WWE management wanting to bring in big name stars to get fans to order the pay per view. But it seems like they’re taking one step forward and two steps back. Yes, they may get a few more eyes on the show but they’re not addressing the point of building new stars.

Here’s the current Wrestlemania 27 line up. (as of 3/7/11 9:26pm)
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes (hasn’t been officially announced)
CM Punk vs. Randy Orton (Nexus is banned from ringside)
Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole (w/Jack Swagger)
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio
The Miz vs. John Cena

Where’s Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler, The Corre, or Zack Ryder? There’s also established names like Kane, Christian, Big Show and William Regal that could be added to the show. What I’m trying to get at is With Triple H and Undertaker on the shelf for the majority of the past year, Batista and Shawn Michaels leaving shortly after Mania and Chris Jericho leaving months before Wrestlemania, there has been a poor effort to elevate new talent.

The Rock and Stone Cold are the exceptions not the rule when it comes to wrestling personalities. Much like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were heads and shoulders above most other wrestlers during the 80s and early 90s when it came to larger than life characters, Rock and Austin are in a league of their own. Expecting anyone to easily fill their shoes is unrealistic. Given how scripted most wrestling promos are these days, guys are already handicapped when it comes to showing natural personality.
I guess what it all comes down to is I would prefer to see the future on display at Wrestlemania instead of the past. I can watch DVDs if I want to see Rock and Austin at Wrestlemania. The Attitude Era unofficially ended 8 years ago. It’s time to move on.

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