When Vince bought the big bad WCW we fans thought a new Golden Age had arrived. With all of the best talent at the fingertips of wrestling's greatest mastermind it should have been a slam dunk. Fans drooled at the prospect of countless fantasy matches but unfortunately it never really clicked.
Over the past decade or so we've seen that wrestling is at its best with great competition to push the industry forward. In the post Guerrero/Benoit era we've seen an over-reliance on the merchandise-King John Cena and many of his detractors loudly scream that he has kept others down. He has his obvious weaknesses (he's still loudly calling out moves) but you can't deny the work he has put in and the star power he brings. McMahon stated on Austin's Podcast that no other wrestler grabbed the 'Brass Ring' during Cena's run and that's why he was on top for so long. Cena's reign was/is impressive for its longevity but hardcore fans have been desperate for something more.
Well, it appears to have arrived! With the next wave of NXT stars already starting to perform on the main roster, the future is looking bright. Kevin Owens' debut was masterfully done and none other than Cena himself put the new guy over CLEAN in his first match; shocking the WWE Universe. The pair has upped the ante with each successive match in their already-classic feud and appear to be setting the new standard for WWE entertainment. The innovative offense shown by both is a remarkable showcase of how far wrestling has come.
It's an interesting time for wrestling as the cat has been out of the bag for years. 'Smark' fans are using the same industry lingo as those in the business and have appreciation for things like 'workrate' and ring psychology. They are well aware of botches and are much harder to surprise, though they love it more than ever when it does happen.
The WWE looks stronger than ever both in and out of the ring. If all goes according to plan we could be looking at the dawn of the next Golden Era.
Let's just hope we don't get swerved.
10 The Network
Easily the best part of Vince buying WCW and ECW is what he's done with the WWE Network.
The WWE took the Netflix model and ran with it. Stephanie McMahon likes to brag that their online original streaming/on-demand product is the only one of its kind. That's debatable but it's still a heck of a deal no matter how you slice it. To go from upwards of $50 for a single PPV to $9.99 is enough to guzzle a beer in celebration. But to add the incredible backlog and increasing amount of Network exclusives is a godsend.
Whether you're catching the latest PPV at your own convenience or binge watching horrid 2000-era WCW, the Network is a must-have for any WWE fan.
It's great to know that the WWE is pushing forward with technology while preserving the past.
9 Letting Personalities Shine
It's ironic, but wrestling fans appreciate honesty from their superstars. The best gimmicks have always been exaggerations of real-life personalities. Just listen to Steve Austin's mega-popular podcast to see how similar he is to his wrestling gimmick.
Over the past several years, the WWE has been guilty of over-scripting their promos and backstage segments, going so far as to bring in television writers. This doesn't work. Television writers who know nothing about wrestling and wrestlers who know nothing about acting are as terrible as it sounds. Look at Ric Flair or Dusty Rhodes' success on the mic. You couldn't script that. Flair and Rhodes couldn't script it! It happened organically when they were allowed to be themselves and let the creativity and passion fly.
The WWE seems to be getting back to that. The New Day is a great example. Their original babyface gimmick was doomed from the start. But when they embraced how unlikeable it was and turned heel, the fans accepted it with loving jeers. Their banter on the way to the ring and especially Xavier Wood's hilarious ringside commentary feels natural and is very effective. If the WWE embraces this and applies it liberally they will see great results.
Paul Levesque has been called a true student of the game and he has scored an A+ with the NXT.
With TNA floundering, the WWE's biggest competition would have to be the smaller indie promotions like ROH. Focusing on the hard-hitting action and new talent that many feel the WWE lacks.
Well Levesque created his own version of an indie promotion and he did a damn fine job of it. He has not only created an incredible breeding ground for future WWE Superstars, but he's also made one of the best damn wrestling shows on the planet. Well done.
If NXT is any indication, it looks like the WWE is in great hands.
7 Lots of Talent
For years it was the Cena show, but we are now seeing some new talent get major pushes. The former Shield members and Owens lead the way but many others are getting involved as well. Newcomer Neville may never be at the top of the card but it's great to see his talent consistently showcased. Heels like Bray Wyatt and Rusev look poised to finally take over from Kane and Big Show (if they ever decide to retire of course).
And don't look now but Smark-favorite Cesaro is finally getting some love from the management. I was a little worried when his tag-partner went down, but it looks like it might help his career after all. His recent match-of-the-year candidate with Cena and potential feud with Owens have Cesaro fans incredibly optimistic for the future.
There is a glutton of talent and more importantly, it appears to be being used properly.
And I haven't even mentioned another group of upcoming superstars.....
6 The Diva Revolution
Hallelujah the Diva Revolution is here. I was ecstatic to see these talented women finally get their shot on what could be a historic episode of RAW. They didn't disappoint when they were given a nice lengthy match at the following PPV either.
The three-minute matches with models is tired and insulting. Why waste time with wannabe wrestlers when there are plenty of talented women who have dedicated their lives to be the best in their field (and are just as beautiful). The triple threat match with Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Brie Bella clearly showed the gigantic gap in ability.
And just look at the talent ready to burst through. Charlotte Flair looks like the early leader of the pack. Her incredible athleticism and vibrant charisma make it hard to take your eyes off of her. She has a flair for pumping up a crowd and her figure-eight leg lock is a badass finisher.
With Ronda Rousey's domination of MMA and Stephanie McMahon's powerful presence at the top, it looks to be the perfect time for a long-needed revolution.
5 John Cena, The Veteran
Cena made it his mission to bring the company back from the most recent dark years to its current successful period. Sure his style can be awkward and clunky but he's pushing 40 and he's still introducing new moves to his arsenal. Sure he's been at the top for 10 years straight, but he let a newcomer pin him cleanly in the middle of the ring. If he had lost to every opponent the IWC wanted him to by the time Owens came around, it wouldn't have meant nearly as much.
And do the Cena haters remember how bad it was having Hogan on the top for so long? He barely wrestled, collected the biggest cheque, and stifled the main event for years past his prime. Fantastic talents like Chris Jericho and others were stuck in WCW mud as long as they were underneath Hulkamania.
Cena has been willing to step out of the main event spotlight to increase the stature of the U.S Title and give the rub to other wrestlers in the process. He's keeping up with the new talent and putting on some incredible matches as he enters the back part of his career. The WWE can still use him as a leader and money-maker to lead the new generation in.
4 Kevin Owens
He doesn't have the usual look, but he's still getting the push. His fans were just happy to see him in the same ring as Cena, they never thought he would cleanly beat him. It was a fantastic moment for Owens and the WWE to see the direction this takes them.
Owens is like a fan-created wrestler in a video game. He doesn't look like he should be able to pull off most of his insane repertoire but he continually surprises the crowd with a wide variety of innovative offense. Super kicks, power bombs, and risky top-rope moves make him one of wrestling's most exciting performers.
Like CM Punk before him, Owens says what's on the fans' minds. The way he uses terms like 'Super Cena' and how he takes time to randomly yell at Michael Cole make him easy to love (and hate).
There are current rumblings from longtime wrestling writer Dave Meltzer that the management is split on Owens. He has stated that certain unnamed parties are hoping to see the young Canadian fail, and that is perhaps why he was booked to tap out at Battleground.
How Owens is handled over the next year will be very telling of how the company wants to move forward with new talent.
3 The Smart Crowd
It's an interesting point in wrestling history as the business is incredibly exposed and the fans are more aware than ever of what's actually going on. We know wrestlers talk to each other in the ring we just don't want to see or hear it, we want to believe in the show. The whole world knows it's 'fake' but that doesn't stop the appreciation and enjoyment of the very real risks these performers take every night.
The crowd has also seriously evolved their participation at live events as well. Their chants are the closest thing North America has to epic European football crowds. They have the power to hijack shows and even change the course of booking as evidenced with Daniel Bryan's magical Road to WrestleMania XXX.
The crowd's increased knowledge has led to a greater appreciation for the finer points in wrestling. Talents like Cesaro and Bryan are appreciated like never before.
A hot crowd can elevate any show, and the WWE Universe can elevate an entire company.
2 Heels who Embody the IWC
CM Punk was incredibly popular because he spoke the mind of the hardcore fan. His promos took highlights from message boards and it resonated big time.
The WWE is similar to a Disney movie. They have big colorful characters for the kids, but also must entertain an older, wiser audience. Cena is a hero to many and a villain to the rest.
Owens and Bray Wyatt are loved by the older crowd and are booked well as heels. They can play evil monsters to oppose Cena and Reigns while the older fans cheer them on passionately. The way Owens rips Cena for using the 'same old s***' and how Wyatt tells Roman 'anyone but you' are wonderfully similar to Punk's classic comments. Anyone who still thinks the WWE 'needs' to turn Cena heel is missing the clever double-role he plays to perfection.
It's a tough game to play to such a wide variety of fans, but they're doing a bang-up job of redefining good and bad.
1 Acknowledging the Fans Requests
Two Royal Rumbles in a row have shown that the WWE is in fact listening to the fans. Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania XXX moment came as a direct result of the company eventually getting it right. They took another misstep at the next Rumble with Reigns' win, but quickly sidestepped his push with the clever Seth Rollins swerve at 'Mania 31. They're wise to keep Reigns incubating in feuds with other rising talent like Bray Wyatt until he is truly ready for his big moment.
These two events are big-time examples and symbols of the WWE's ability to keep their finger on the pulse. It means the world to see that no matter how big they get they still put the effort in to deliver what the fans want.
As long as they do that, we should be just fine.
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