Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the Hollywood actor, the man who has wrestled 3 matches since 2004, now holds the most coveted prize in western wrestling and he beat a man who held the title for 434 consecutive days. Last year The Rock also beat the biggest star in pro wrestling in the main event of the biggest show of the entire year; Wrestlemania. Both these beaten men are the biggest stars in the WWE right now and wrestle a full schedule of TV and live shows all year round with very few breaks. This actor came in and beat them both, clean, at the two biggest pay per views in any given calendar year. Once The Rock held that WWE Championship belt above his head, a million groans echoed throughout the world as every single professional wrestling addict realised that the WWE had just signed its death warrant.
I was amongst the group of people unable to watch the match between CM Punk and The Rock without pacing up and down my living room and occasionally covering my eyes with pillows. All of which by the end of viewing had been launched all around the room. I was livid and couldn’t believe WWE and Vinnie Mac could shaft one of its hardest working talents as well as the entire roster who, over Punks entire reign, hadn’t been able to do what a “part timer” had managed to do. It seemed just so unbelievable that the entire event left me a deflated grumpy mess.
But are we not seeing the bigger picture here? Have we become so intelligent in how we view this form of entertainment that we simply cannot see what has been occurring for decades and most likely happened when we were younger as we egged on our most beloved heroes?
Each era has had its stand out star, all of which share very similar characteristics; they all told us exactly what we wanted to here, were most definitely not the best wrestlers but were pushed to the front because the kids loved it. Hulk Hogan is a talent I look back on and wonder how anyone could have cheered for him when you had Macho Man, Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper all having superb matches. It was as simple then as it is now; the fan favourite of the majority get given the dramatic storylines and main events to keep the casual masses entertained whilst the true wrestling fans get the genuine ring technicians in the upper/mid card for the superb wrestling matches to enjoy. It’s a trade-off that I feel most are missing nowadays.
In today’s WWE we have the part of Hulk Hogan taken by John Cena and, sporadically, The Rock with the rest of us able to drool over the in ring talents of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. The money the company needs to plod along is made in the main event but us smarks have to, and have always had to make do with the amazing matches falling before the main event.
There are obvious exceptions however, especially during the period just before the Attitude era when we had Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold having some of the greatest matches of all time as the headline acts on any given show. It was a time when the wrestling world was spoilt by having such gifted performers both in and out of the ring. It is a model that could very well rear its entertaining head in the coming years. The reason I say “coming years” is because over the past 4-5 years the WWE exhausted all its top tier talent and have had to rely on older guys to come in so they can draw the casual fans. Bringing about a transitional period filled with mediocre talent and returns.
Massive stars have left or gone part time with the company over recent years, either through retirement or personal issues. Guys like Edge, Jeff Hardy, the Undertaker, Triple H and Batista. All of whom were extremely watchable (minus Batista maybe) and could put on a superb programmes with all sorts of talent up and down the roster. This exodus left just John Cena and Randy Orton of the old guard to fight in the top spot and WWE had to fast track some good talent into being superstars. Naturally this has had some success but also a lot of failures.
CM Punk grafted his way into being THE heel of the company; Sheamus is making small steps up the proverbial ladder and Daniel Bryan is quickly becoming one of the most entertaining talents out of the ring to work alongside his supreme skills between inside the ring. The potential in the current ranks is very exciting but there is not one person ready enough to take the ball and run with it, not enough at least so that the majority of the audience could quite happily watch WWE TV without the likes of Cena or Orton to cheer along. Furthermore, no talent can yet replace the special moments the legendary symbols such as The Rock, Jericho and Triple H create when they return.
There has been plenty of talk about this current “era” being a transitional period before the next big rise in Pro Wrestling popularity. A theory I agree with seeing as WWE doesn’t seem to know what audience they are aiming at just yet. Which is a vast opposite when compared to the most lucrative era; when the WWE were aiming their product at teenage boys during the Attitude era. But I am suggesting that perhaps we are in a double transitional period and this second layer is down to the lack of household name talent that takes up 99% of the roster. It is practically forcing Vince to call on these past mega stars to bolster his deflated show. Even so far as to make one of them the WWE champion as no new guy can carry it yet but the title picture must remain fresh.
It’s a sad state of affairs of course it is, but what is most sad about it is the fact that Vince isn’t using these tried and tested guys in a productive way. He could and probably should be pushing these guys into feuds with the younger talent to create the next generation of ultra-stars but instead they have all feuded with names already established. Chris Jericho had his main feud with CM Punk, as did The Rock who also feuded with John Cena who also had a worthwhile feud with Brock Lesnar who ultimately left after beating Triple H. Outside of that you had Jericho leave after losing to Ziggler but that was done on RAW to very little acclaim. It’s a ludicrous business model when a rivalry between Brock and Ryback or Jericho and Daniel Bryan would do great business along with giving each talent member a boost up the ladder.
But I’m not Vince McMahon, I am not a millionaire and my only ties to pro wrestling come from my watching of it, my reporting on it and my brief time experiencing it in my more agile of days past. The reason Vince is a millionaire is because he crafts matches, every so often, that we genuinely want to see. The matchup between The Rock and CM Punk at the Rumble had the entire wrestling community standing up and taking note. All we smarks were in arms, desperate to find a way in which Punk could win. The casual wrestling fans supporting, as they do, the biggest baby face in The Rock and, in a rare occurrence in the modern era, both sides were just as involved as the other.
Don’t forget that CM Punk is the company heel and his job, when you break it down to the absolute bare minimum, is to put over the baby faces of the company. Thankfully this past year Cena has been steered away from the title scene to give Punk some space to bring some semblance back to the belt. CM Punk’s work with other rising stars has helped them no end even if they weren’t ready to hold the belt. CM Punk had beaten so many of the current roster that it had to take an icon to come in and beat him. It’s just a shame it’s a man who is a shadow of his former self in the most ludicrous of ways.
I don’t like The Rock and never have and especially dislike this actor trying desperately to be The Rock once again. I am not a fan of him being WWE Champion as I see it as a middle finger to all the guys in the back working there butts off to even be a part of scheduled WWE programming. I am also not a fan of how he became super Rock to win the championship. After a massive beat down by the shield, a power bomb through a table and a GTS to finish the job; he should never have been able to stand up let alone pin Punk clean. But this argument has been put to death since the Rumble!
The Rock is the WWE champion because he makes the money that keeps the wheels turning on the great locomotive that is the WWE machine. And during ‘Mania season, this is the prime time for business to be made so that we can enjoy great matches below him. Yes it is inevitable that The Rock and John Cena will headline the Greatest Show on Earth once again but let’s watch that for what it is; the match that is at the top because without it, at this moment in time, the WWE wouldn’t remain the behemoth that it is.
Hopefully we’ll have CM Punk Vs The Undertaker to keep us happy.
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This article was first posted on January 30, 2013