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Going Out With A Whimper

Hi Scott
There's been lots of talk on the blog recently about how thin the WWE roster is  with the exodus of top talent in the past few years.
Occurred to me that the problem isn't so much the high turnover of stars at the top, that's happened before at the end of the Rock n Wrestling, New Generation and Attitude eras.
The issue is more how many of the WWE's headliners of the past 5 years have left without putting over any new stars on the way out.
HBK - Retired by the UndertakerFlair - Retired by HBKBatista - Quit following loss to CenaRVD - Lost to Orton in a Stretcher MatchJBL - Quit after losing to MysterioVince McMahon - Fired by HHH, lost last match to Bret HartJericho - Left 1st time following loss to Cena, left second time following loss to Orton
In all these guys leaving the WWE the wrestlers who got the rub on the way out were Cena, Orton, Mysterio, HHH, HBK and The Undertaker.  All of them multi-time world champs by that point anyway.
On top of that you've got the ones that left due to unforeseen circumstances 
Angle - Left due to Wellness issues (last televised match a no contest against Sabu)Edge - Retired as Champion defeating Del Rio in last matchBobby Lashley - Quit while injured to pursue MMAUmaga - Fired due to Wellness issues
Plus you've got the Benoit and Guerrero tragedies.
Then you've got HHH and Undertaker who are semi-retired. I don't think HHH has put over a new main eventer since Jeff Hardy and honestly cannot remember the last time Undertaker lost to someone who wasn't already a bona fide main eventer.
In fact in all this Jeff Hardy is probably the closest they've come to someone going out on their back, but then I really don't think they planned for him to go out to Punk like he did and it's not like they made anything of it.
Isn't this the root cause of the lack of elevation?  Punk, Bryan, Barrett, Rhodes Sheamus, Ziggler etc are all trying to make each other. Nobody from the previous generation (except maybe Booker?) is giving them a leg up.
What do you think?

I absolutely agree.  Not to mention that WWF treats the previous generation like a bunch of clowns who we're supposed to mock as entertainment, so if they do bring in a "Legend" to give someone a rub it never works anyway.  So you've got Dolph Ziggler out there paying tribute to Curt Hennig every night, but Hennig isn't on the current politically approved list of people who we're allowed to remember respectfully, so they never bring it up.  And now the guys they've got get beat all the time, so beating them means nothing.


  1. Is this really anything new? 

    Who did Mr. Perfect give the rub to via losing on the way out?

    Bret's last match, against Shawn.

    Didn't Nash lose to Shawn on the way out?

    Austin's last match was against Rock.

    Hogan, lost to Yoko who had already been champ and over as a heel.

    I'm not saying any of this is right and there are probably some examples I'm not remembering, all I'm saying is that it wasn't so different during the attitude era.

    I still think, the easiest way (and most proven and effective process) to get a guy over is if the fans latch onto the character, put him over the entire main event roster at that time - all of them over a period of a few months.  If that dude is not super-over, then job him back out and send them back to the mid-card.  However, more times than not, the "rocket in the ass" push seems to work pretty well.


  2. "Rocket IN the ass" is a totally different method.

    Although, in fairness, one that is rumored to have been used quite heavily in the pro-wrestling business.

  3.  lmao!!  Kids, always proofread before posting.

    I'll leave it as is, let this serve as a lesson to all, especially to me.

  4.  When Pat Patterson was in charge, that was pretty much the only way to make it.

  5. I don't fault them for having this influx of older talent, because it's exciting and good for business. But eventually all of these guys will be gone, and afterward they're right back to having a thin roster (which isn't actually thin, numbers wise, and in fact could stand to lose the bottom half of their talent pool). So the only way they're going to ever elevate the mid-to-upper card guys is to cut out ANYONE that they'd ever be compared negatively to. Eventually Brock is going to leave, and Rock won't be full time, and Taker is going to have to retire, and HHH can stay behind the scenes. When that happens, it's time to cut Big Show, and Jericho, and Kane, and possibly even Orton. It honestly wouldn't even hurt them to give Cena a year off. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those guys being draws, but if you need to elevate new people, they're always going to pale in comparison. It's better to just have a clean slate, so that all this new talent stands on their own and isn't being treated as having to be better or worse than the guys that came before them.

    I think of it like this: in 92 when I started watching, Hogan, Warrior, Piper, Savage, and others were all pretty much gone, and Bret, Razor, Shawn, Yoko, and later Diesel, Kid and others were on the rise. I'm sure to the old timers who remembered the 80s, it seemed like the roster was weak compared to what it had been, with a couple of tag team guys on top.  But to me as a kid who had no real memories of the 80s, I never really even made the comparison, and if anything Savage seemed like an old timer when he got in the ring. For a kid now, all the Zigglers, Bryans, ADRs, and Kofis seem like they just aren't as good as Cena and Orton, and Cena and Orton are being made to look like they aren't as good as old timers like Rock and Brock. So once those two guys leave, they'd do well to not even have any of those old reminders there to compare them to.

  6. RVD actually won the stretcher match, didn't he? But Orton kicked him in the head afterwards.

    I see both sides of it. I can see why a guy like Flair, or Michaels, would want to have their last match be special, against someone they chose to end it with. Michaels idolized Flair and was probably the real "best ever", and Michaels and Undertaker were there together since 1990 and he had a lot of respect for him. It's not giving back to a new guy, but it's giving to a guy you respect. You could use Flair or Michaels last match to make a new star, but if they put an effort into it they could make new stars without having to put them over mega-stars and "retire" them. 

    But I don't see why a guy like Batista can't put someone new over, like Jericho did in 2005 with Cena. Batista will be back. It's not like he had a long, legendary career and deserves to go out on his own terms. He's taking a break from wrestling to do other things and will likely be back in some capacity again. He could've put someone over. Like Jeff Hardy with CM Punk.

    I don't know, I think guys who had great careers and are hanging it up for real deserve to go out how they choose, whether it's showing respect to another veteran or trying to make a new guys career. I just don't think they feel the need to put serious effort into building a new star. They just trot someone out there and tell us we're supposed to buy them as a new star without doing much to establish it.

    I think it's a difference between old school wrestling philosophy and sports entertainment philosophy - in the past when a guy was leaving the company needed him to lose to someone who would be staying to legitimize him. Now when a guy is leaving they just write him out of the program until they get the call to write him back in.

    I wrote that while watching the Flyers/Penguins came and lot my train of thought a couple of times, hopefully it makes sense.

  7. Yoko had only been champ for a few minutes at that point. Crushing Hogan helped make him more legit.

  8. Here's another problem.  They keep glamorizing the Attitude Era.  Remember those New Generation videos, where they'd show guys like Hart and Michaels and Kid and all the new stars doing these amazing things, while the old guard (Hogan, Warrior, etc.) were plodding around?  Then remember when the Attitude Era caught on, and they poked fun at the cartoonish nature of the New Generation?  Well, we're now in the NEXT generation, and instead of doing the usual "this is what we do, this is who we are, and we're better than them" in regards to the Attitude Era, they'll have guys from that time period come back.....and they're made to look better than their current stars.

    You might say, "Well, they are better."  And hey, in a lot of ways you're right.  But at the same time guys like Bret Hart couldn't hold a candle to Hulk Hogan's drawing abilities.  And, likewise, Bret Hart had a legendary career that somebody like Val Venis could never touch.  Point being, the prior generation may be superior in some (a lot?) of ways, but you're trying to sell your CURRENT product.  Make them look like the stars people want to see.  Reminding them of a better time with more stars does nobody any good.

  9. The Love-Matic Grandpa!April 15, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    For me, it's less about the older generation failing to put over the new stars (and as noted, that didn't happen as often as we tend to think it did in the old days) and more about the presentation. Say what you will about the likes of X-Pac, Val Venis, Dino Bravo, The Genius, etc., but those men were treated like bonafide stars and an important part of the overall show. These days, unless your name is Cena, HHH or Undertaker, you're likely to be either ignored on commentary while the announcers discuss the REAL stars, get stuck in dead in comedy segments designed to make Senior Citizen Vince chuckle, or serve as cannon fodder for the aforementioned real stars. Some guys like Show and Punk do escape this fate for the most part, but they're also not treated as anything special, either. 

    Worse, we have WWE's tendency to take their own failures out on the talent. Is it Jack Swagger's fault they put the title on him before he was ready, for example? Obviously not, so why the "jokes" about how ridiculous it is for him to be a former World champion? That's the kind of stuff you never used to see, and I honestly think it has contributed to the current batch of WWE talent (no matter how athletically gifted) not being seen as on the same level as stars of the past.

  10. I completely agree with your second paragraph - we "net smarks" can sometimes be the biggest marks of all. How many times have we seen a guy wrestle ONE match, cut ONE promo, or portray ONE character, and then write them off as not being able to hang. Or, even worse, we look at guys that are low on the card, the "NXT" and "Superstars" roster, and instantly assume that they suck! And yet, when a guy like Mark Henry - who has spent FIFTEEN YEARS being awful in the ring and a black hole of charisma - is booked well, everybody instantly treats them like they're actually talented. No, Henry sucks, he always has.

    Another example: As soon as Brock returned, people (including Scott Keith) laughed at the idea of him working with, say, Punk, because Punk "wasn't on his level". Umm, maybe not at this moment, but if you build him up over the next year, he will be. At one point, it would have been laughable to imagine "The Ringmaster", "Rocky Maivia", and a WRESTLING ZOMBIE as being on the same level as Hulk Hogan, but they all became just that. The guy wrestling in "Hog Pen" matches would become one of the biggest names in the industry? One half of "The Rockers" would become this generation's Ric Flair? Hell, who could have predicted that Ric Flair, that saggy guy that looked about twenty years older than he actually was and that broke his back in a plane-crash, would become, ya know, RIC FLAIR?

    It does seem strange to me that a lot of the "hardcore" fans, the people who have watched wrestling their whole lives and talk about it obsessively (the Doom Buggies, for instance), sometimes completely miss the forest for the trees when it comes to talent. Justin Gabriel is a talented wrestler. JTG is a talented wrestler. Tyson Kidd, Yoshi Tatsu, Jack Swagger, Curt Hawkins, these guys are all talented wrestlers. Hell, FESTUS was a talented wrestler, but because of his/their booking, gimmick, and place on the card, most net-fans dismissed them. Granted, some are more talented than others, and not everybody can be the next Hogan, Austin, etc., but it does seem that many people really think they're worthless and can't contribute to the company.

  11.  My guess would be this, the Rock and Wrestling era worked due to the storylines making sense, you didn't have many over the top gimmicks, so the adults could enjoy it as well as the kids. Hogan's act eventually got stale and even I stopped watching following WM 9.

    I had no interest in the New Generation and even after the Attitude Era brought me back, watching WM 11 and WM 12 bored me to death. Things certainly looked different when I began watching wrestling again in early 98 , the curtain was pulled back, real names started being used, and it seemed more realistic.

    Fast forward to now, the biggest problem in my opinion is that everything is stale. The backstage stuff isnt cutting edge any longer, its old hat now. The titles, of which there are way too many, mean nothing any longer. Even the women's division, which used to be over with the likes of Lita and Trish, is now a joke where most of the times the worst performers are the ones featured. It seems like guys get punished if they get over, that makes no sense at all.

    Until another company pops up, we will forever be stuck with what we are getting now. Sure we get some moments like the Nexus invasion or the Brock/Cena pull apart but would these moments be considered as special if they occured in 1998 or 1999, I honestly don't think so.

  12. How one can watch Mark Henry's work (yes, his WORK) over the last year and still think he sucks is beyond me. He's playing the best "big guy" since Big Show was ECW Champ.

  13. RVD won the stretcher match, but here's the thing: Randy Orton's career suffered nearly irreparable harm at the hands of HHH in 2004 and 2005. The punting gimmick, which was cemented by the RVD match, helped make Randy Orton's character shift and become someone who was taken seriously again as a world title threat.

    So RVD putting him over on the way out (via beatdown) was every bit as important, if not moreso, than had he lost a match to, say, Carlito.

  14. Threadjack programming note: There are showing what might be the best Raw of all time on Classics onDemand right now. The Hart/Austin street fight that led to the ambulance attack and Pillman returning at the end of the show to lay out Austin. Oh and Mankind tries to blow torch the Undertaker. 

  15. There's alot of truth in some of the examples you make; but it takes 2 to tango as the cliche goes.  Booking can help a wrestler get in the position to possibly get over, but not everyone is destined to be a top guy just by booking alone.  The thing with Henry is he looks like a monster, is a legit (or was) deadlift champion and in the days where no one gets booked like a beast he was.  Different is always good.  I would argue that other guys got similar treatment (Khali, Kozlov - he beat the freaking UT) and didn't get over.

    I will say this though, if you don't try, you don't know.

  16. What you say is perhaps true, but my poit is that WWE has always presented their current product as being superior to the past product.  The New Generation could do things that the Rock 'n Wrestling era could not.  The Attitude Era did away with the ridiculousness of the New Generation.  Yet, they never present their current crop of talent and the general product as being superior to the Attitude Era.  Whether it is or is not is irrelevant.  The point is, it was always presented to the consumer that way.  And not only do they NOT say that their current product is better -- they seem to create scenarios that confirm the belief that the prior era was better.

  17. I wouldn't say Henry sucks but people have been acting like he's some sort of wrestling god (tm JBL) over the past two years. He cuts decent promos, manages not to trip over himself or injure his opponent and in general just be competent doesn't exactly make him a great wrestler.

  18. You know what, I'll admit, I am guilty of having stated opinion as fact in that first post. Henry has improved, I'll give him that. He doesn't even "suck", he's a decent guy to have around.

    HOWEVER, maybe it's wrong of me to say that he "sucks", but I don't think it's unfair to say that he "sucks" as a main-eventer and World title holder. Really, what good match or promo has he provided since his push started last Spring? Yes, he has improved, but (and now this is my opinion again) not much: he's gone from being a 1* match guy to a 2* match guy, and from being a terrible talker to a decent talker.

    Give him a nice upper-card run, make him the IC/US champion if Vince wanted to congratulate him on (FINALLY) improving or thank him for all his years of service, but to make the guy the focal point of "Smackdown" was ridiculous. NOBODY is buying a PPV to see a Mark Henry match, and NOBODY is watching TV to watch one of his matches or hear one of his promos. He's more solid and confident on the mic, granted, but he's still not what most people would consider "charismatic".

    So, yes, that was my long-winded way of saying that I was probably too harsh on Henry in the first post, but I still think it's ridiculous to consider him a main-event talent.

  19.  Id have to agree with ya on them not saying the current product is better. I mean any time you see a product come out with a new formula its always "New and Improved", even if it's not. Meanwhile with WWE its "we aren't as good as WWF but we are all you've got". I'm guessing WWE is taking an honest approach with its consumers,lol.

  20. Oh, absolutely, nobody can truly become a star if they don't have the 1-2 combo of talent and proper booking. I mean, let's take Steve Austin as an example: the guy obviously had the talent in the ring and on the mic, but if Vince, for whatever reason, had gotten it in his head to never push Austin, or even treat him like a nobody (either by keeping him off of TV, repackaging him in a stupid gimmick, or booking him to lose in thirty-second squashes and never get any mic-time), guess what? He never would have been a star.

    That amazing promo that Punk cut last year that catapulted him into the main-event scene? Vince had to give him the time and the leeway, he didn't go into business for himself.

    Absolutely agree, though, that they need to take more chances, but they also have to make more intelligent decisions: for example, it doesn't do anybody any good when they job a guy out for months, give them a World title, and then continue to book them like losers for several more months. It's not Jack Swagger's fault that his reign didn't go over well; as much as he wasn't ready for it, it was Vince's fault for putting him in that position and then booking him like a joke.

  21. This is a great point, but i'm not sure it's applicable anymore.  The change at the top, when WCW was around, seemed to occur more frequently.  Maybe 6-7 years or so?  Now, you have Cena and Orton basically on top for 8 years and HHH has been in/out since what, '99/'00?  Taker as well, you'd basically be advertising that today's Cena and Orton are better than Cena and Orton used to be...I kid, but you get my point, I hope.

  22. The roster isn't thin at all. It's just gotten very stale and too top heavy for anyone to find room to come along and freshen things up. If only that big rumoured company from 2 years ago had actually started and poached some top talent, we could have a potentially fantastic main event scene. For now though we have to wait until someone decides to quit, gets 3 strikes or gets injured for there to be room for fresh faces at the top.

  23.  I can point to his matches against Sheamus, Orton and (the first one against) Big Show last year and his match against Punk a few weeks ago as good to great matches he's had. As a power worker, he's among the best right now, to me. Wrestling's all about variety. The main event scene should be, too.

  24.  Henry has finally, after all thes years, learned how to wor a matcha. btu he haz never improved his mosveset. he stil basicaly does the same shit he dia in 96. evereythint eles is ujsut fuiller

  25. I disagree.  Henry may be less awful, but he's still not good.

    That match with Punk made Punk look like an idiot.  If every single one of your high-flying moves fails, STOP DOING THEM!  Good big men make their opponents look good.  Henry can make himself look good.  Guess what, so could Goldberg and Ultimate Warrior!  Those guys must've been great workers too.

    Brodus Clay can do everything Mark Henry does and more, plus he's younger and healthier.

  26. Agree to disagree. I think Henry is better at every aspect of pro wrestling than Clay.

  27. "Hennig isn't on the current politically approved list of people who we're allowed to remember respectfully"


  28. To each their own. Personally, I think Show is a better "big man" than Henry - he's bigger, better in the ring, and charismatic.

  29. Gotta say, the points that Brak made (and that you elaborated on) are really good.

    I've never really thought of it like that, but your "New and Improved" analogy is spot-on. Works on a subconscious level.

  30. This. A thousand times, this. Glad to see that I'm not the only one who picked up on it. A lot of the same people who were so invested in the Summer of Punk have been more like, "Punk who?" since Brock returned. Like, now that the parents are home from dinner, it's time for the kids to go to sleep.

    Even stranger still is that Cena has been lumped in with the "parents". Does he desperately need a heel turn any less because Brock is back? Is his shit-eating smirk any less insufferable? Is his two-dimensional gimmick any less stale? I mean, we're all of a sudden fantasy booking Cena as Rocky Balboa now. Is this Bizzaro World? Is Cena suddenly better at his job than Punk would be? As you pointed out, the stature argument is the weakest of all. What are we, marks? Who but marks care about kayfabe stature, unless it's simply to hope that the most deserving guys are rewarded with the greatest success? And if that's the case, shouldn't we be rooting for Punk over Cena? Because we all remember that wrestling is a work, right? Cena's a 12-time world champion because a bunch of people arbitrarily decided it, not because he's the strongest, bravest man in the world. As you pointed out, Cena is perceived to be at Brock's level because he's been booked that way, not because he's an inherently better professional wrestler than Punk. Has being marks for Brock clouded the entire product?

    I for one would much rather watch Brock-Punk than Brock-Cena, because it would be that much more aesthetically entertaining. Any increase in kayfabe stature for Punk would be icing on the cake for a job well done. The best analogy I can think of is Major League Baseball defense, and Gold Gloves, which may as well be worked, as arbitrarily and undeservedly as they're awarded. I don't want to watch Derek Jeter (Cena) play defense anymore because he has a bunch of undeserved Gold Gloves. But I'll watch Alexei Ramirez (Punk) flash the leather all day, regardless of whether or not he wins the Gold Glove. I'll hope he does, if only so that he can receive the widespread recognition he deserves from those who need to be told who is good at what. And if he does, I'll be happy for him. But watching Jeter play doesn't feel anymore "epic" because he has a bunch of worked awards. Because I'm not a mark for baseball (Joe Morgan) anymore than I am for wrestling.  

  31. Very well.

    Have you seen Clay's NXT work?  Cause if not, you're missing on some really good promos.  Here's his elimination.

    Ignore Curtis' bit.  Clay's starts at 3:30.

  32. With Linda running again - Hennig's steroid/drug -> heart attack is not to be talked about (I believe that is what is being inferred)

  33. The Love-Matic Grandpa!April 15, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    It's one thing for us jaded net denizens to bitch on a message board about a new guy or an angle without giving either a fair chance. It's quite another for your LEAD ANNOUNCER (among others) to outright bury your own talent on national television. I mean, we all knew that certain guys "sucked" or were too old or physical wrecks or whatever way back when, but at least WWE allowed you to play along with the illusion and suspend disbelief. Now, it's all about picking apart the flaws and shortcomings and once you do that you kill the mystique for good. Once upon a time, heels weren't even allowed to mention that Hogan was bald, and now you've got HHH calling Punk "a skinny-fat waffle house cook" right before a major PPV. Maybe stuff like that doesn't really hurt business all that much, but I'm also sure it doesn't really help either.

  34.  He might even be the youngest!

  35. I agree with your point, but how is HHH calling Punk skinny-fat and a waffle house cook any different than Rock calling HHH a roody poo jabroni or Stone Cold calling Kurt a "goofy-looking bastard" or Jericho making fun of Rikishi's diaper?

  36. The Love-Matic Grandpa!April 15, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Never said it was. And while it may be entertaining, it also goes hand-in-hand with the gradual killing of the mystique. Rock, Austin and most of the Attitude era guys were booked so strongly and were part a part of such a red-hot era that they emerged relatively unscathed. However, I still think that one of the main reasons that many of today's stars don't seem as larger-than-life as their predecessors is because WWE is far more prone to point out flaws and shortcomings and then practically validate the criticisms with the booking. Don't forget, HHH went on to beat Punk clean at the PPV, thus basically proving his point about Punk not really being on his level. Cena buried Del Rio as a joke and then beat him with little effort. The jury's still out on Bryan, but maybe the 18-second pin wouldn't have stung so much if WWE hadn't spent so much time trying to brand him as a geek who didn't even deserve to be there, let alone be World Champion.

  37.  well, the attitude era (or the years after which worked in a similar template) IS (at least partially) responsible for killing the business. yes, Angle overcame those insults, but a lot of guys like Lance Storm ("boring!") didn't.

  38. That makes sense, which is why it's so surprising that they always speak so highly of him - the HOF induction, DVD, all the positive things that current and past stars say about him in talking-head segments, etc.

    He's still very much one of the "legends" that gets a lot of attention, despite all the drug-use and early death. Puzzling.

  39. The mentality seems to be, "Look!  We're making fun of ourselves so you don't have to tell us how dumb we are!  We're in on it!  LOL!"

  40. Drunk. But my point, however incoherent, stands!

    That being, for the record, that while Mark Henry has finally learned how to work a decent match that plays to his strengths and tells a good story, he still does about 4 moves total, and he doesn't sell for his opponents. That makes him boring to watch, IMO, although he's a lot more fun these days as a character.

  41. Alexei Ramirez? Gold Glove? My brain just exploded on several levels.


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