Thursday, 13 February 2014

2013 Year in Review, Part One: WWE

The Year in Review, 2013
Part One: WWE

The 2013 wrestling year was a tough, interesting and a confusing one at the best of times. From headline company WWE to wayward TNA and radar dipping independents the scene is changing for 2014 in a way no one can expect. Below, in this four parter, Max Waltham looks back at the year in review, what can be done to make it better and the options for talent and producers if they care to bother for a greater year as a standout promotion.

Beginning with the number one national promotion in the land, WWE served up numerous details and scenarios which nabbed it the most successful company of the year. Regardless of whether liked or not, filled with such opportunities, talent had options. Still a slow process, WWE did provide the best entertainment for a number of reasons.

WWE's heavyweight division is extremely sparse. With Randy Orton and often John Cena as its two main footers, having surplus in Alberto Del Rio and recent upgrade of Daniel Bryan in the wings, all are stable names at the top. The problem is that all these four are seen as one dimensional, simplistic in a negative context and uneventful of a greater than great match, despite efforts. Fans are often bored and tired of the same feuds and enhancing its talent will remedy this predicament. WWE are often slow on this front and should develop the staff they have as many on the current roster are capable.

With plans to switch Damien Sandow from an aggressive gent to an honourable one instead has been debated and tested to fan communities who cannot fathom the idea. For WWE this is a sustainable choice, but in doing so, must require strong foundations for change with promos, detail available in script and storylines with match support.

Who if anyone should WWE launch into its headline programs over the coming year? As we have briefly explained in previous articles over the past three months, a number of stars should be enhanced upon. These include Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro and Seth Rollins. Up and comer Bray Wyatt and the family will be supportive structures in their own strong gathering. Rollins and Dean Ambrose can comprise the tag division with an imminent break up with Roman Reigns. There is no need to disband The Shield and could see two more members expanded into the group, including a diva. Paige is nowhere near equipped for these expertise and should be avoided.

After Unifying its heavyweight titles (at least for now) the 'E should not integrate unifications with all other titles. Unifications are meant to be a sacred and important change in the landscape of product. Plus it has never been more crucial for talent to rise to mid level status and only one of these titles will halt any progress multiple stars could achieve.

Randy Orton's recent turn to the darkside has been slightly uneventful. In parts the charisma has been kept very well, but the full effect has been mildly numb overall. Orton should have a level of distance, agreed, but does need a hard emphasis elsewhere to make up for his unpredictable, smooth and sweet glaze.

So who should WWE throw up to the top of the WWE main event? WWE need a number of varied challengers than the same old faces. Ditch the automatic rematch clause unless a certain circumstance when it was a shrewd move to have placed in contract. Earning the title opportunity is far more valid than automatic technicality. Names below do not mean making a heavyweight champ automatically but those needed to float around the surface and have involvement for strength to product.

Leading names for main event include Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, Christian and The Rock.  

Rookie call ups from NXT can find comfortability in midlevel matches, work ways to mid titles and someone can be an exception to  a certified made man by gaining a title quickly when credible. Only a strong option should receive this opportunity. Other NXT call ups can tangle in the tag scenario. A few names of note worth are Corey Graves, Sasha Banks, Konnor, Jake Varner, Mojo Rawley, Charlotte, Adrian Neville, Colin Cassady, Aiden English and Sami Zayn.

Aiden English. Also has a
wonderful tie somewhere. 
After dropping its calamitous divas division outright, Triple H has moved into tag team wrestling instead. Finishing a niche to boost his name to a flourishing division once sunk, Triple H can not only gain bragging rights but have scores of teams available that fans wish to see and appreciate.

For the divas, WWE should hire those who can help behind the scenes. Neglecting this, it should prioritise wrestling values as most important to its selling point as most model divas cannot handle even the basic of moves and turn the division into a farce which could have goldmine written all over it if WWE really bothered than devoting one year before getting bored. AJ, Tamina and Natalya are the obvious names to include.

For the tag scene The Shield need to grow. Showing vulnerability has been a great launch for them. There is no need to remove them outright and let them run a new path as a unit. As mentioned above new stars could join and Ambrose and Rollins can become a standout tag team tandem whilst holding individual status and sometimes singles action. Both would gain more in-ring experience for cleaner futures as well.

Legends come and go. They are necessary in certain circumstances but others are simply washed up and pointless. The Rock, Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar and returning beefcake Batista are just four WWE need to keep on the books where available. Others like returnees for a paycheck alone with unstable trust issues like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold should be avoided as they do not offer the product any real development and only soak up a portion of TV that destroys future growth for a bland nostalgic two minutes on screen. 

WWE had all the storylines. Though many levels of competition were not apparent and lacklustre, WWE put on a decent spread. From the CM Punk and Paul Heyman bitter rivalry and the Wyatt Family rising up with influential script elsewhere, both were strong encounters for all involved. Nothing could topple the story of the Summer. Daniel Bryan, the underachiever that came good despite all hierarchies expressing disinterest climbed the mountain. His fall from grace that followed was one that was daft by many but held a comforting protection pad at the bottom to break his fall. Bryan was insanely over and could not be harmed. Despite the upset of removing the title, the pocket rocket superstar was made, title or not. How WWE now capitalises on this mainstream name while not overdoing it and burning Bryan out with fans will be the test leading to the April supershow.

With all involved for 2013, WWE romper stomped and clawed its way back to the top with borrowed storylines, star influence and strong technique in wrestling. What it should do once more, as always suggested over the last how many years, is the need to invest in talent uprising. Launching more superstars that are credible, have options and potential, even if they initially flop, is vital to gain audience reception. Adding to WWE pecking order, at least they will be seen as countable stars to rely on in future. The main event would be better if there were scores of challengers rather than the same old floating around the scene. It does not mean everyone has to win or be continual. Having surplus in waiting is important for a division that has only four to five active heavyweights, all of whom the audience are bored with to some degree. If WWE can resist the urge to overdo the John Cena and returning legends for a paycheck mentality and focus on the current landscape it has available, it may be able to redefine fan interest. 2014 will be a test that develops WWE talent further. All in all, WWE made the most entertaining and thrilling year in wrestling and claimed all the attention. Simply put, there were no challengers. The action was red hot, encouraging and appealing. That was all that was needed to capture the year that provided content needed for the industry. Wrestling, like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, was firmly put back on the map. 

After CM Punk's recent headlines of leaving WWE on his own terms, WWE should decide where to place CM Punk. Whether CM Punk is a new type of star called up or whether it regains and willingly puts the original CM Punk in setting, the profile of such star should be upheld for the landscape than to ignore and decrease an extra name to the mix of contenders available in WWE. 

©  Max Waltham 09th February 2014

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