As wrestling fans, we are all self appointed experts. Ask any wrestling fan and they can tell you everything that WWE (or any company for that matter) is doing wrong and EXACTLY what needs to be done to launch the company into the new Attitude Era. All they need to do is push this person or that person or change this or that or whatever else that comes to your mind that you’re sure is a great idea. I’ve done it, you’ve done it and every big wrestling fan has done it as well.
While every wrestling fan does such a thing, the stars the bigger fans want to see rarely get those mega pushes because wrestling companies have a different perspective on what they are doing. It may seem like WWE keeps going back to the same ideas that they have tried over and over again (Hey, Brock Lesnar is back! And getting a World Title shot!) but that is the case for a reason: the ideas work, at least to a certain extent.
Over the weekend, WWE ran Clash Of Champions, featuring a main event of Braun Strowman challenging Seth Rollins for the Universal Title (thankfully not the rumored Erick Rowan vs. Roman Reigns non-title main event on a show about champions). Strowman wound up losing the match clean to several Stomps and a Pedigree. So yes, Strowman chokes in the big match again, which has been the case for him every single time, to the point where it is almost a guaranteed result.
Then the next night on Monday Night Raw, Strowman was right back, literally running over both sets of new Tag Team Champions in one of the first segments of the show. While it might have been a rather head scratching idea to have the champs get taken down like that, it served a logical purpose: reheating Strowman, who can be put right back into the same spots he has been in for months (or years), which is the case almost all of the time.
And it worked. Strowman got a big reaction and looked like a monster all over again. A few weeks from now, he will be put into another prominent match, where he will likely win, before ultimately coming up short in the main event World Title matches. That may be a repeating pattern, but that is the case for a very simple reason: Strowman is someone who the fans are going to react to every time he is out there. Hence why he was also the big ending segment after Monday Night Raw went off the air, when he beat up Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode again.
While we as wrestling fans watch the shows more often than not, we aren’t the reason people like Strowman keep getting these pushes. Whether you like him or not, Strowman is the kind of person who is always going to get a reaction and it isn’t hard to see why. Just look at the guy. He’s a mountain with legs, can lift heavy objects (including people), has a good catchphrase and speaks in a deep, intimidating voice. It’s easy to see why a casual fan can get behind someone like him and that has been the case every time. As wrestling fans, we are often looking for larger than life performers, which is where Strowman excels.
The same thing is true for Lesnar, who is put out there every few months as a World Champion or at least a big monster for the champion to slay (Seth Rollins has done it twice in about four months). Look at the guy: big, strong, monster, suplexes the heck out of people. It’s easy to watch him and see him as someone cool who could draw an audience. It might be a wrestling audience, it might be a UFC audience or it might be an audience of people who just like to see BROCK SMASH. You don’t need a backstory for Lesnar (or Strowman) because their looks and actions speak for themselves.
See how this could work:
That is where new wrestling fans are going to come from. When I was really young, I got into wrestling because of Hulk Hogan. He was big, colorful, charismatic and got your attention immediately. For the same generation, people like Randy Savage and Sting drew in a lot of new fans because you are instantly drawn to them. After that their talents will keep you around, but what gets your attention in the first place?
Is Undertaker a legend more because he wrestles well or because he has the most intimidating presence/coolest entrances in wrestling history? The presentation is what matters because there is always going to be someone who hasn’t seen him before and those people are going to be drawn in.
Comic book legend Stan Lee said that every comic book is someone’s first. The same thing is true of a wrestling show. There is always someone watching this stuff for the first time and maybe they will become a lifelong fan because of what they see. As long term fans, we know how awesome some of the less interesting looking people can be (Daniel Bryan is a fine example) but just seeing a guy with a beard in a flannel shirt isn’t going to draw in much casual attention. Put someone like Strowman, Lesnar, New Day (with their full on insanity), Shinsuke Nakamura etc out there and they are going to get attention.
That’s where the two worlds of wrestling fans collide. Sure we like to see people like Bryan or Ricochet or Johnny Gargano, but they aren’t likely to get the masses’ attention (at least not right off the bat). You can grow into them, but there isn’t much need to get accustomed to a Lesnar or a Strowman because you get the idea as soon as you see them. They are going to suck in your attention, which is how WWE hooks you.
It’s a pretty weird situation when you think about it, but we need to have the more established names showing up over and over again to draw in the casual fans who aren’t going to be sitting around watching the full show. The wrestlers that more hardcore fans might be wanting to see more of are more like the icing on the cake and could eventually become the stars of the company. Those people can and will get screen time, but they aren’t going to draw in the same amount of people that the stars we’ve seen over and over again are going to.
Who gets more attention just by looking at them:
That’s wrestling in a nutshell: the big names keep coming back to the top of the card because they’re big stars, but that makes it rather hard for anyone to break into the upper levels. At the same time though, without the big stars there is no one to help elevate the newer talent. It turns into a vicious cycle and that can be very frustrating as a long term fan. It might not be what you want, but it is the way to make things work, like it or not.
I know it gets annoying seeing the same stuff over and over again. It bothers me too and I was rolling my eyes seeing Strowman come out to the ring to run over the new champions, but then I heard the crowd react to Strowman. Fans like someone like that, whether they are in the arena or just watching for the first time. Strowman and the like may not be the most popular stars among bigger fans, but they are the kind of wrestlers that have to be there to get us what we want.
As annoying as it may be, that sort of thing is not going to be changing anytime soon, because there is always going to be another fan who gets to see an eye catching star for the first time. That fan could be sticking around for a long time and ultimately become someone like us, which is exactly what WWE wants.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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