As you’ve probably heard, this coming Sunday is the twenty fifth anniversary of the Undertaker making his WWE debut at “Survivor Series 1990”. It’s true that this is one of the most impressive milestones in wrestling history, but there’s another anniversary that should be looked at as well. This week on “Monday Night Raw”, New Day talked about their own one year anniversary. Today we’re going to look at why that’s much more important going forward and could be a good sign for the company’s future.
That’s really about the end of Kingston career highlights. Kingston was just a career midcarder who looked like he might move up to the main event in 2009 until some bad timing ticked Randy Orton off and the push was scrapped. Everyone knew Kingston had talent but there wasn’t much he could do to elevate his career.
Now flash back with me to December 2012. Big E. Langston is tearing up NXT as the biggest good monster in a long time. Around this time a group called Shield formed and took NXT over with Seth Rollins as NXT Champion. On January 2, 2013, Shield cleared out the locker room and stood tall. This brought out Langston to clean house and send the Shield running away. Langston won the NXT Championship the next week despite always being a step off with his obsession of counting to five and running over everyone in front of him.
Around this same time, Langston made his main roster debut as Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee’s bodyguard. His character had very little of what worked in NXT as he was really just another muscle guy who would run people over. There were flashes of his comedic abilities but they were very few and far between. After winning and losing the Intercontinental Title, Langston floated around the midcard for a bit and lost some showdowns with Rusev.
Finally we have Xavier Woods, who made his name nationally as Jay Lethal’s partner in TNA. After a pretty uneventful run over there, Woods showed up in WWE developmental and used a 90s nostalgia character which had gotten some fans’ attention. The matches weren’t great but Woods was called up to the main roster anyway, only to be repacked as another generic wrestler who teamed with R-Truth.
Now we’ll jump forward to July 2014 when Kingston and Big E. (now minus the Langston, because that’s what was holding him back you see) were a team who lost a lot. One night after another loss, Woods appeared (in a white suit) and said it was time for a new way of thinking. This lasted all of two weeks before the team disappeared again. It was rumored that the team would be brought back under the name of Speed Force. Yes I said Speed Force.
A few weeks later, everyone was relieved when vignettes started airing of the trio surrounded by a gospel choir and the name of New Day. The team debuted on “Smackdown” on November 28 as faces who didn’t have the best success. Soon after this, the fans jumped on them with chants of NEW DAY SUCKS which started up almost every single time they appeared.
After a few months of this and more limited success, it was clearly time for something new. Therefore, the solution was made to turn New Day heel, thereby giving the fans exactly what they wanted with New Day all along. The team started acting a lot less serious with more of their clapping and rhyming, which quickly started to catch on.
Less than a month later, they won the Tag Team Titles at “Extreme Rules 2012” and were suddenly the hottest act in the company. Within months they were two time Tag Team Champions, had a loose association with the Authority and were having main event matches on “Monday Night Raw”, all while Woods played theme music on a trombone, Kingston campaigned to save the tables, Big E. would dance a lot and all three talked about being unicorns.
This is the big lesson that WWE is hopefully learning again (yes again because it’s something they’ve understood before): recognize the talent and then adjust until it works. Translation: keep trying different gimmicks and characters until something sticks. Let’s take a look at some examples of how this can be proven either way.
The easiest case here is Kane. After some time elsewhere (including a match in WCW against Sting under the name Bruiser Mastino), he debuted in 1995 as an evil dentist named Isaac Yankem. Yes an evil dentist, who worked for an evil king. As you can see, not everything is all table saving petitions and unicorns.
When that went as far as an evil dentist was going to go, he was repacked as Fake Diesel. Somehow this was the better option and he actually lasted until the final three of the 1997 Royal Rumble. The gimmick lasted for about eight months, which was an improvement over the three that the evil dentist had lasted.
Then a few months later, he re-debuted as Kane, the demonic half brother of the Undertaker who could control fire and barely felt any pain. NOW we’re on to something and Kane would be the WWF World Champion nine months after he debuted. This character has lasted (with some big shifts one way or another) for over eighteen years and still has its effective moments.
Now let’s look at the other hand and consider only people still on the roster at the moment because otherwise this list would go on forever. Consider the following:
Alberto Del Rio
Of the people on this list, how many of them have either had the same basic character (turning face or heel doesn’t count as changing your character) for at least a year and how many of them can be summed up in a sentence or less? Some of them have had more success than others (Miz, Dolph Ziggler) and some have found characters that work but for the most part they’re all considered either stale or probably on the chopping block.
The same can be said of someone like Chris Masters. Masters’ gimmick could again be summed up in one sentence: he’s in great shape and he’s really strong. This was later changed to “he can make his chest dance.” That’s really it for his character and that’s all he got in the six years combined he spent in WWE.
You would think someone standing 6’4 with a great look, with a physique that looks like it’s carved from a stone and described by John Cena as the strongest man he’s ever been in the ring with might be worth putting some effort into, but instead he was given the Masterpiece gimmick and left to figure the rest out for himself.
Amazingly enough “he’s in great shape and he’s really strong” didn’t go anywhere and Masters was released from his contract twice. The talent didn’t matter because WWE gave him what they gave him and then stopped trying. Masters might not have been the next big thing, but he might have been worth a try.
This brings us back to the New Day. The good sign going forward might be that WWE is going with more of a Kane outlook: they recognize the talent that the three of them have and then tried a few different ideas until something worked. New Day might not go anywhere beyond where they are now, but at least we’re getting something entertaining instead of Big E. and Kingston coming out to quieter and quieter reactions for another guaranteed loss.
This system has worked in the past and there’s no good reason to not try it again. WWE hired these guys in the first place and maybe now they’re starting to put in some effort to get something out of them. It’s a different method of operations, or you might even say that it’s a new way, yes it is.
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