It’s a comment often heard at the moment amongst Wrestling fans and critics alike, “WWE needs to make new stars”. It’s a fair point, we have been seeing the same men headline Pay Per View events for a few years now, with criticism directed at these Superstars being used too frequently, whilst others are just winding down their careers. Accompanying this with the speed at which rivalries in WWE now progress, viewers of the product are craving some new faces at the top of the bill.
But how easy is it to create these new stars? Throw someone straight into Main Event contention from the Midcard and they don’t tend to be viewed as viable contenders. Go one step further and give them the Championship and the consensus seems to be “Too soon”. So just how long does it take for viewers to accept a WWE Superstar as a man they want to see as Raw or Smackdown goes off the air?
Perhaps by looking at the rise of one of the men currently holding the upper card status it can be determined how long it takes for a Superstar to get there.
CM Punk debuted on WWE programming in 2006 on the now defunct ECW brand. He had a huge following within the Wrestling community already through his time on the independent circuit, and he was one of a small number of wrestlers that had managed to get his name out there despite the lack of another platform on the level of WWE to showcase his talent. Never the less, he made it to the big league eventually, even if it was on the smallest brand they promoted.
Although it was the least watched of all the WWE shows at the time (it mainly hovered around a 1.1-1.7 rating in the U.S on average) ECW was a good starting block for new talent making their way onto national television for the first time. Punk’s popularity ahead of making his TV debut soon transcended into his new role, and his ability to get a crowd reaction saw him pushed into a high profile match on the Survivor Series 2006 card teaming with the immensely popular DX and Hardy Boyz tag teams. Due to the crowd reaction, many thought this would be the start of Punk’s catapult to the top, however it would not be until September 2007 that he would get his hands on the ECW Championship after a lengthy and well received feud with John Morrison.
10 months later in 2008, Punk would win the World Heavyweight Championship after earning his shot through winning the Money In The Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania 24. However the manner in which he won it, cashing in his briefcase with no real build-up to be a viable Main Event star, almost seemed to play down the achievement, and he lost the title just over 2 months later. After a reign as the Intercontinental Champion in early 2009, he then won the World Heavyweight Championship for a second time in the same circumstances as the first through a Money in the Bank win in June of the same year. Despite a memorable rivalry with Jeff Hardy over the Summer of 2009, at the time it still felt like he wasn’t ‘the man’ in the company, when Randy Orton, John Cena and HHH were arguably all still seen as bigger names.
After losing the World Heavyweight Championship to The Undertaker, throughout 2010 Punk would enter programs back in the Upper Midcard, feuding with the likes of Rey Mysterio and Big Show, which perhaps also showed that he hadn’t quite fully broke through to the top tier at this point. After these rivalries and the Straight Edge Society storylines, he would enter a feud with Randy Orton at the start of 2011 whilst part of the New Nexus faction. It would not be until his feud with John Cena and his infamous promo in June 2011 that he would be seen as a bona fide Main Eventer in the company and a Superstar that had the ability, and more importantly the credibility, to be a true poster boy for WWE.
So roughly, it can be looked at that it took CM Punk 5 years to hit his Main Event peak. Yes, he won multiple Championships between 2006 and 2011, including the World Heavyweight Championship on a number of occasions, however the WWE never really pushed him as the big star of the company as they have been since 2011. If it took 5 years for Punk, which other Superstars have also been on WWE TV for close to this length of time that could make the transition and become a Main Event player in the near future?
Click “next” below to read part 2…