Sunday, August 3, 2014

State of The Game: A Look At Where Wrestling Is Today

Is it crazy in a week that has been filled with what can only be classed as bad news for the wrestling business that I am still very optimistic about its future? Let’s face it the demise of TNA is not a good thing even if you are not a fan of it like me. The WWE and their failure with the WWE Network is not a good thing either in the grand scheme of things for the business as a whole. In the end it appears the business is very much in a transitional phase. The one company that has made the most of that transitional phase has been Ring of Honor. They now even face a challenge with the departure of Kevin Steen to moving on to the next level. Still, if you look at the industry as a whole, the one thing I do walk away with is that the talent is there for it to be successful.

Maybe this is why I am still optimistic about the ultimate future and you would think that the best of that talent will find its way to WWE. The main roadblock to that in theory is the WWE taking measures to cut costs over the next couple years. This is the correct business move to make in a time where the product is in such a transitional phase. In my previous background of covering the NBA the one thing people tend to always do, or like do, is look to the future and who the next big stars to come are. This idea of the potential of guys like an Andrew Wiggins to become the next big star in the sport fascinates fans and media.  Wrestling has lots of those guys that we can see the potential in of being those big stars. The difference is in pro sports you have 30 or so places for that talent to go and compete to be these top stars. Wrestling has just one really pro team and that is the WWE. It is not to say anything not the WWE can not be entertaining and have some tremendous talent in it. More to say, that the WWE is the one true platform to get that talent “over,” on a very global platform that has the most mainstream attention from the world outside the wrestling bubble. 

So it leads to some very talented people for one reason or another not making it into the show on the big team that is the WWE. As an example of that I give you the Young Bucks who are for my money the best tag team in wrestling today. They recently teased a move to NXT that we reported on earlier this weekend. If they never truly had a shot in WWE for my money it would be a loss for everyone. They are brash and unapologetic for how talented they truly are. You can debate if that is just part of their gimmick that gets them "over," or how they truly feel. This is something that is missing in wrestling to an extent that line between reality and fiction. In any case, anyone that sees them for the most part can’t deny their talent. People raved about the match recently with the Usos and Harper and Rowan that went two out three falls. In May I saw the Bucks in a triple threat with stars from NJPW where that match was even better by a large degree. The difference is the stage it is seen on and the amount of people that know about it.

If you accept this idea that WWE is the one true major sports team and that they in a sense have a monopoly on the business that is pro wrestling, or as they would say sports entertainment, you can see how talent is not able to shine. If the WWE is not really in competition with other wrestling promotions and compete on a different level with entertainment as a whole that gives them a lot of power to do what they want.   In sports if a team passes on a talent they still end up as part of the league as whole. The team suffers consequences based on the choices the make in terms of talent they choose. WWE faces consequences too, but not to the same degree or extent that a sports team would. It is not like you can see Kevin Steen, Young Bucks, Adam Cole, A.J Styles and a list that could go on for days, on that same platform under the same brand. You do and can in a sports league.

The recent signings of guys like Prince Devitt, Kenta and soon to be officially Kevin Steen show someone is paying attention in the "Titan Towers" at what is going on in the rest of the industry. I am here to tell you I firmly believe that person is Paul Levesque, or at least he is listening to the people who are paying attention. The guy who in the past has been accused of burying talent is actually the one bringing it to light these days. You see all the work that Triple H has done with the creation of the WWE Performance Center. In addition his hard work on the NXT brand where that talent learns to develop.

In the past Paul has made reference to the WWE having their playbook and other places having their playbooks. He claims that when people come from other places it is their job with the help of WWE to learn their playbook. Another sports analogy and one that I think makes sense. WWE is not going to change how they do business to accommodate any talent no matter how big or good they are or can be.  What works for ROH, PWG or NJPW is not what works for the WWE. Nor should this at the end of the day,  I think with no offence to other wrestling promotions the WWE over the history of time has proven to be a company that takes calculated risks and has been a survivor. As much as we all like to Monday Night quarterback an episode of Raw and point out what they did wrong. The history and the track record of this company proves they have got more right than wrong over the years.

Proof of that point is asking any wrestler what that ultimate dream for them is? If they do not say to appear or main event a Wrestlemania, I question how successful they truly want to be. That is the ultimate show of shows and if you don’t want or dream to be on it, maybe you need to cut out the high spots and quit risking your life cause you must have some brain damage.

It’s not to say there is anything wrong with having a long career outside of the WWE and having some success which is possible. It is just no one ever dreams to play Triple “A” baseball and not make it to the majors.

If the WWE is willing and the talent coming in are willing to adapt to their playbook it could lead to some magic. A great example of that success has been Sami Zayn who has yet to make his way to the main roster but is clearly learning the WWE way of doing things without giving up who he was before he goes there.

The WWE has already been pretty successful at bringing in a number of guys that are just starting to break through and be ready to be the top stars of tomorrow. Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose and the guy the WWE sees as their next big thing Roman Reigns. The list could go on an include Bray Wyatt and others but the point is the WWE stocking up on talent and building a highly competitive environment that will push everyone to get better. That is what can make wrestling thrive again. When the guys in the first match are pushing just as hard as the guys in the main event good things can happen.

This is for my money what has been the big reason for ROH having success in 2014. There is a team but competitive environment with in that company. The WWE can have a similar environment if they allow talent the chance to grow and thrive. Which with their massive foot print can help make wrestling grow and bring back some of the fans it has lost over the years.

I just feel too strong about the amount of talent I see both outside of the WWE and with in it to not see brighter days ahead for wrestling. If this doesn’t happen it will only be because the WWE failed to capitalize on all the talent they have and could have at the end of the day. 

I believe that WWE does see the road to a future that is not about hustle, loyalty and respect and we just have to be patient to get there. Fans are in a rush to get there but honestly you have to proceed with caution because it takes months and years to get talents over. It takes far less time to blow it and miss out on making your next big star to go along side names like Hogan, Austin, Punk, Cena etc. Once you make those mistakes you sometimes never get a second chance.

While it may take some time I do believe brighter days are on the horizon. Like we were told to believe in the Shield this is something that I also believe in.

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