Monday, December 3, 2012

The WWE Needs To Change Its Booking Philosophy

For the most part, I enjoyed RAW this past Monday. Anytime there are a couple of good wrestling matches on the show, I feel like it is a decent one. How often do you see two long matches like Cena/Ziggler and Sheamus/Cesaro, to go along with Mysterio/Bryan and Punk/Kane. Those are four very solid matches that each delivered, for the most part, in their own way. And actually, out of all those matches, I enjoyed Antonio Cesaro vs Sheamus the most. Cesaro did not look a step out of place in his match against Sheamus. The guy is definitely a future star for the WWE. I love the way he delivers his upper cut. Cesaro definitely has a lot of potential.

But the key word in that whole paragraph is the one I finished it with: potential. There are a handful of guys on the current WWE roster that have so much potential to be future stars. Antonio Cesaro is just one of them. You also have Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes and you can even include Ryback in that mix if you really want to. Obviously he doesn't have the in ring talent the others have but his character has at least some potential. A lot of those guys are heels, and that is a problem down the line. But there is no reason a face turn isn't possible for someone in that group. Wade Barrett would be my first choice. I think he could pull off a face turn. But what that list of wrestlers says is that there is some talent on the WWE roster that, if given a true opportunity, could turn into future stars.

That is why, despite the good matches on RAW this past Monday, the booking of the show kept me from truly enjoying it as much as I wanted to. Lets start with the Cesaro/Sheamus match. Antonio Cesaro looks good the entire match. Than Sheamus starts his comeback and wins via countout. Sure, they protected Cesaro by not letting him take the pin. But why can you not let Cesaro win one? Does Sheamus really need a win that badly? He's beaten Cesaro and Sandow in consecutive weeks. Why not have Big Show come out and distract Sheamus. That allows Cesaro to take advantage of a distracted Sheamus and gives Cesaro a big win. Not too complicated.

And then there is the Dolph Ziggler/John Cena match. Good match between these two. Cena is selling an injured leg the entire match. So of course Ziggler will get the win against a hobbled John Cena. Right? Wrong. Ziggler misses with the MITB briefcase and Cena hits the AA for the win. Cena kicked out of the ZigZag, but Dolph can't kick out of the AA. What does that say about the WWE's thinking that they won't even let Dolph Ziggler beat a one legged John Cena. Dolph Ziggler is a future World Champion. Why not throw the guy a freaking bone here?

All of this points to a problem that has been very evident the last couple of years in the WWE. Their lack of ability to create new stars is something that could be detrimental to the WWE's success in the near future. Wrestlemania used to be a time where new main event stars were made. Look at Brock Lesnar, Batistia, John Cena, and yes even Chris Benoit, were launched to main event status at Wrestlemania. Now? Wrestlemania is used as a spectacle to make big matches with former past stars. Sure, that is all fine and dandy for business now. But long term? It could be a problem. What new stars have been made at Wrestlemania the last few years? None.

But the WWE has had ample opportunities to make new stars. Kofi Kingston appeared to be in line for a big push at the end of 2009. But for some reason, the WWE foolishly pulled the rug out from under it. Kofi appeared to be made in front of the MSG crowd after he hit the Boom Drop on Randy Orton through a table. But the WWE backed off Kofi's push, and he has been a mid carder ever since. Now was Kofi a guy that could have carried the company a la John Cena? Probably not. But he could have been a credible main eventer that wouldn't look out of place holding the WWE or World Title. I still think there is some hope for Kofi, but the window of opportunity is closing quickly.

And how about Jack Swagger? Swagger won the World Title in 2010 after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract that he won at Wrestlemania. Then Swagger went on to have one of the worst booked Title reigns in recent memory. He held the Title for only a few months before losing it in a Fatal 4 Way Match in June. The only good thing that was brought out of it was Swagger's promo on Smackdown where he introduced us to the Swaggie Sandwich. Then the WWE blew another chance with Swagger at Wrestlemania 26. With Swagger training Michael Cole, they had a perfect opportunity to turn Swagger into a face. Imagine Cole losing at Wrestlemania, berating Swagger, then Swagger flipping out on Cole and applying the ankle lock in the middle of the ring. Instead, Swagger continued on in that terrible feud and nothing amounted from it. Now? Swagger isn't even on TV.

Perhaps the best example of wasted opportunity is the Nexus. The Nexus debuted with a bang on RAW, destroying everything and anything insight. It was a group of young stars that were ready to make a name for themselves. But instead of making the Nexus out to be a strong force, they were made to look weak in comparison to the current crop of WWE stars. The WWE clearly had a problem with a dominant heel faction on top. Sure, there were some young guys in that group who probably didn't belong. But Wade Barrett carried himself very well as the leader of the group. Daniel Bryan's firing was completely stupid and weakened the group greatly. You knew the Nexus was dead the second they lost to John Cena at SummerSlam. No matter what they tried after, it wasn't going to work. Plus, we never had a clear direction on where the group was going. They always said everything was part of a larger plan, but that plan was never revealed.

That is why, at least for now, that my expectations for The Shield are tempered. I liked the promo they delivered on RAW Monday. I think Dean Ambrose is going to be a great promo guy for the WWE and the group could be big if it is booked properly. But at this point, nothing the WWE has done in the past few years seems to indicate that they will handle The Shield properly. Who knows, by this time next month they could be getting destroyed by Ryback every week. The problem the WWE has is that they for some reason feel the need to protect their top babyfaces, namely John Cena, Sheamus and Randy Orton. Why do you think Randy Orton won every match he had with Alberto del Rio. Sheamus has beat rising stars Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro in the last couple of weeks. And of course, John Cena can never take a clean pinfall loss. EVER.

All of this leads to a big problem the WWE will face in a few years. Maybe as soon as 2013. The Rock won't be around to save business every Wrestlemania season. Neither will Brock Lesnar. John Cena, Randy Orton and C.M. Punk are all in their 30s. Sooner or later, someone is going to have to assume the spot as the next top star in the WWE. To me, Dolph Ziggler has that written all over him. Ziggler has the charisma, he can work in the ring, and he handles himself very well inside and outside the ring. Miz could be that guy, but the WWE has already botched his face turn before it has even really gotten started. You just expect us to cheer the guy because he was thrown on Mick Foley's Survivor Series? Give us a reason to cheer for him and make us believe that he is actually a face. It could have been a lot better if there was actually a story behind the face turn and fans had a reason to care.

With 2013 right around the corner, the WWE needs to start taking more risks when it comes to making new stars. Give guys who could use the win a chance. What good does Sheamus beating Antonio Cesaro via countout do for anybody? The WWE needs to stop making John Cena and Sheamus seem so invincible. There's more money to be made with your top stars chasing a strong heel rather than almost being dominant on top. The WWE needs to adapt a better philosophy when it comes to making new stars. It seems like they automatically pull the rug out from underneath a potential push when one thing goes wrong. That is why it will be interesting to see what direction they take with The Shield. If The Shield ends up getting squashed by Ryback, then I find very little hope in the idea that the WWE will change their booking philosophy in the coming year.

We know Wrestlemania will be centered around the likes of C.M. Punk, John Cena, The Rock, Brock Lesnar and Triple H. But it should also be a time for the WWE to get people interested in other guys on their roster. Fans come back during Wrestlemania time because they know the top guys will be around. But the key for the WWE should be trying to keep those fans around by getting them interested in the full time guys that are on the WWE roster. The WWE is in desperate need for some new faces at the top of the main event scene. I give them credit for pushing Ryback like they did, but that hasn't worked out too well. If there aren't new stars at the top of the WWE by the summer of 2013, you have to wonder if there ever will be.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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