Connect with us


New Era, Same Agenda



When injuries plagued the roster and WrestleMania was noticeably lacking a buzz to build the event, Shane McMahon returned to the company after a seven-year absence. The reaction was one of the most memorable in quite some time and he touted a “new era” for the WWE following the biggest show of the year. As was seen on Raw, the “all or nothing” stipulation that was booked for WM was completely ignored, which as I wrote previously, kills the credibility of the product, but Shane remains a central figure on TV to progress the new direction of the brand. As Roman Reigns was booed to the point that the audio levels for the crowd were lowered at WM, there had to be something to jump start his title reign so that the WM win that the company has planned for years didn’t fall flat. In an effort to build hype around Roman, Shane announced that AJ Styles would get a chance to become the number one contender for the belt. AJ, a former TNA and IWGP champion, won the spot on Raw and started a main event angle with Reigns. Around the same time, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows made their much anticipated debut when they attacked the Usos. The WWE now had three of the key members of the Bullet Club, the biggest stable in the world for the past few years, on the main roster.

A feud between “The Club” and the Samoan family developed, but fan support had tilted toward AJ, who arrived to a major reaction at the Royal Rumble just a few months ago. At the Payback pay-per-view, a series of shenanigans were booked and Reigns retained the title, which set up for the rematch last week at Extreme Rules.

As I said earlier this week in an article about Cody Rhodes’ exit for the company, it appears that the WWE is looking for the “next John Cena,” but there’s only one Cena and I don’t know how realistic it is to expect that the next potential top star fits that specific mold. Taking nothing away from Reigns, John Cena is a rare breed and a true workhorse, and that’s exactly why he worked the main event scene for nearly a decade. Cena was the right type of performer with the right type of character to excel in the specific time frame that he began his WWE career. Keep in mind, much of the success of pro wrestling is timing and wrestling in a particular era could make the difference between a mega star or a mid carder. Hypothetically, would Stone Cold have been as successful as he was if he worked in the PG era? Don’t get me wrong, Steve Austin has the ability to get over in any era, but would he have been the biggest star in the history of the industry if he had PG restrictions? Again, timing and the climate of the business can play a role in the status of some performers, and maybe the timing of following Cena as the top guy is one of the reasons that Roman isn’t over with the audience.

Some have said that Reigns should turn heel, a logically suggestion since there was a time in sports entertainment when getting booed in every arena made someone a heel, but that’s not the case. WWE brass want their version of a sports entertainer and a competitor that they created from the ground up to be the representative for the company for press, promotional work, etc. I’ve said it many times, but until the Reigns main event run starts to decrease revenue, which it hasn’t, why should the WWE book anything differently? If fans are still buying tickets and subscribing to the network, why shouldn’t management book their own type of champion?

However, there was still the matter of getting some hype for Roman’s initial title defense so AJ was booked for it, which essentially uses the sizzle that he brought to the table to help build a buzz for Reign’s pay-per-view match. I found it almost comical that many fans on social media actually thought that AJ would win the title, simply because management isn’t going to derail Roman’s main event status a month after Wrestlemania, and maybe I’m being too cynical here, but I doubt Vince would put the WWE title on a wrestler that was closely associated with TNA for over a decade. Aside from the Royal Rumble debut, the argument could be made that the writing team hasn’t done much to keep AJ’s character strong, and his in ring performances are probably what keeps him over with the audience more than anything. Styles traded wins with Chris Jericho for his original feud, but he did the job at WM 32, which accomplished nothing considering that a loss wouldn’t damage Jericho’s status. Following the loss at Extreme Rules, Styles has done the job at three consecutive PPVs, one at the biggest show of the year and then two in title matches so how is he going to be perceived as a top level star if he loses repeatedly on the big stage? One of the dangers of rushing a talent to the main event picture is there has to be some caution about how it’s booked since if you start at the main event, there’s usually only being booked in a less prominent spot from there.

As mentioned, “The Club,” Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were signed to WWE deals, and the duo debuted after WM 32. Many fans expected a Bullet Club type stable with AJ Styles, but it was never actually completely set as a group and after the promo on Raw this past week, it seemed like the stable has already concluded. Granted, Gallows and Anderson have value as a team outside of a Bullet Club spin-off, but why book them in an angle with AJ as a reference to the New Japan stable if it’s going to conclude in a month? The Bullet Club has years of success in Japan and somehow they only made it a month on Raw, which seems like a waste of potential. At this point, the only thing Gallows and Anderson have really done on WWE TV is sell for Roman Reigns, and with The Club dissolved, where does the team go from here? The momentum of the competitors in “The Club” stable has basically halted and depending on what they are booked for next, they could get lost in the shuffle on Raw. Considering how much hype the New Japan signings had earlier this year, it would be disappointing if they floundered after a rushed main event storyline. In some ways, the hype and potential that AJ brought to the table was sacrificed to try to get Reigns over for the start of his post-WM title run. Obviously, Styles is a tremendous in ring performer and he had two great PPV matches against Roman, but that was only booked to try to get the champion over. Management wanted someone that could make Reigns look good in the ring and AJ did the job. For whatever it’s worth, it’s doubtful that AJ will complain about how he’s booked during his time in the WWE because as I’ve said before, he had to get major money to sign a WWE deal, considering that he traded making great money in Japan and the flexibility an independent schedule for the grueling WWE travel schedule. I would guess that Styles is making the most money of his career and considering his age, it makes sense for him to cash in for a major contract before he retires so from a business prospect, it’s a win-win situation for him.

So, what does all this translate to for the fans?

Essentially, the “new era” is an illusion to try to spark a renewed interest in the product. It might be promoted as a new era, but the agenda is the same. Some new talent can be added to the mix, but management is still on the same path with the same set of priorities as before. The goal since Roman Reigns started in the developmental system was to make him the star that takes the John Cena spot and that’s still the plan. A few NXT stars transition to the main roster to keep the vocal fans enthusiastic about the shows, but in most cases management is still going to book their version of sports entertainment. The audience can be thrilled with AJ, Enzo, etc. but it doesn’t matter if they cheer the new talent and boo Roman every week, the WWE is going to continue to book Reigns as the top guy. Again, if the fans are paying to subscribe to the network, does it really matter if they boo him? In terms of business, Roman Reigns is a “successful” champion since the company continues to make money when he’s at the top of the card. Keep in mind, there was a record number of tickets sold for WrestleMania and Reigns was booked in the main event so are the fans really that disgusted with him at the champion? I’m not saying fans shouldn’t watch the shows, but the reality of the situation is until there’s a decrease in revenue, WWE brass technically doesn’t have a reason to change their plans.

-Jim LaMotta


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.