January 10, 2011
Gary Mehaffy

WrestleMania Countdown: Creating New Stars

Early 2011 means, in WWE, the Royal Rumble will soon be on our screens. And that in turn means that the ďRoad to WrestleManiaĒ is due to begin taking shape. Sometimes over the last couple of years there have been some angles shot earlier than the New Year (Shawn challenging Undertaker at the Slammy Awards show springs to mind) but more often than not this is the time period where things are put in place for ďthe granddaddy of them allĒ.

Yet there is a worry that will be something missing from this yearís WM Ė that being, new stars (and old ones, at that). John Cenaís injury worry this last week or two (which turned to be not very significant) combined with Orton replacing Morrison (or Lawler) as Mizís opponent at the Rumble (or at least, thatís how it looks) led to some very interesting stats. For those of you who havenít heard the Observer Radio from January 4th (or read the update on January 5th) it is now well over 2 years since there was a PPV main event that didnít feature Cena and/or Orton. Of course, there have been several people given chances over that time on top as well as them (Jeff Hardy & Sheamus in particular as new main eventers) but such a reliance on the same couple of people has, undoubtedly, been a contributing factor to the steady decline in PPV buy rates, both domestically and internationally.

It also led me to look back at WM26 from last year. Ok, so the last match on the card was Undertaker v Shawn Michaels, but I wanted to look at who was on the show compared to who is currently on the roster. In the 9 months (or so) since WM 26 just look at this list of wrestlers, sorry, sports entertainers, that are no longer on the active roster for one reason or another:

Released/left

Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Matt Hardy, Luke Gallows, Serena, Chris Jericho, Mickie James, Batista, Shawn Michaels, Carlito, Caylen Croft, Funaki, Mike Knox, Shad Gaspard, Slam Master J/Jesse, Jimmy Wang Yang & Vance Archer.

Currently injured

Christian, Evan Bourne, HHH, Undertaker & Goldust.

Honourable mentioned (not currently on TV at all)

Bret Hart, Mr. McMahon, Finlay & Great Khali.

(There are several others not used very often, e.g. William Regal among others)

This is not to mention the others that have been released from or injured on, the main rosters during this time since WM26 (Skip Sheffield, Kaval, Joey Mercury, most of the NXT season 2 & 3 roster, Paul Bearer, Jillian Hall, Katie Lea Burchill & Tiffany. Apologies if I have missed anyone out.)

Thatís quite the list. Ok, some of the injuries are almost healed (HHH) and one or two of the others may be back by WM (Undertaker, possibly Christian & Evan). One or two of the released/left list will more than likely be back, either permanently or sporadically, during 2011 (Jericho, Michaels) no doubt one or two of the NXT rookies will appear on our screens over the next few weeks, as well as one or two non-roster appearances at the Royal Rumble (there usually are, if the last few years are anything to go by. Personally, Iíd expect two, but what would I know!

Now, there is no way, that I can see, that any viable new headliners can be made, and pushed, between now and this yearís WM. Unless Vince can manage to get Brock Lesnar onto the card (and the Undertaker onto the card, one way or the other) the combination of the same old, same old in the main events, the lack of pulling the trigger on some of the roster when they approach the top of the card and some of the releases/injuries to key performers in the last nine months will probably lead to the lowest WM buy rate in years. I know that Vince, to an extent, has buried his head in the sand as to the extent of the problem, but this yearís mania buy rate might be the wake up call that he has needed during the last couple of years.

Had they pulled the trigger with Kofi just over a year ago, how big could he have become? Had they gone all the way with Nexus/Wade Barrett, could they/he have become mega huge as heels? What if they hadnít booked Swagger to look like a fool during his title reign? Could he have been a credible main eventer? Personally, I think the answer is yes to all of these, although some of you may disagree. There are other possibilities that I could include in this list, but you get my point.

It may be too late for new headliners for this yearís WM, but there is a need for new stars to be made, now more than ever (although how many times have we written that in the last year?). With several of the roster nearing retirement, or cutting back on their appearances, for one reason or another in the next year, Vince and his cronies need to look around themselves for people to push. Not only that, but the roster need to step up and ask to be given the ball.

Look at Miz. Ok, Iím biased, as Iíve been rooting for him for over 2 years, but he has been given his chance at the top and has more than risen to the occasion. Sheamus, before the Lord of the Rings costume of the last few weeks, has proven himself as a viable main eventer. If you take the chance you are given on the roster, it will pay off. Iím not naÔve, there will always be times when creative/management/other wrestlers will look to stop the push, but at least try.

This is the WWEís turning point (if you pardon the pun). There is no chance that it will go out of business but they are looking at hitting rock bottom in the next 6 months. Maybe it will take things (i.e. buy rates and TV ratings) to go so low that they are forced to look inwardly and address the real problems in WWE. Then, and only then, we might see the industry as a whole gather momentum and pick up once again.

garymehaffy@hotmail.co.uk

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