WWE Is Relying On Has-Beens To Pack Out The MCG
The Super Show-Down will be headlined by your childhood wrestling idols, but should WWE be building up new stars instead?
Sixteen years after World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) returned Down Under with its Global Warning tour, it now looks to set attendance records again for its biggest event ever in Australia, Super Show-Down, this Saturday at the MCG.
Super Show-Down will be headlined by your childhood wrestling idols, The Undertaker vs Triple H, in a match marketed as "the last time ever" these two will meet in a ring. Apparently the previous time they wrestled -- at WrestleMania 28 in a 'Hell in a Cell' match, billed as "The End of an Era" -- it actually wasn't.
Similarly, ’Taker, as he is affectionately known to fans, effectively “retired” in a match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 34 a year and a half ago. But like the Dead Man persona he takes on, he was resurrected at this year’s WrestleMania to defeat John Cena in what was also dubbed a once-in-a-lifetime event.
But at 53 years old, The Undertaker is far from the supernatural hero of yore. He has appeared visibly fatigued in the occasional match he wrestles for at least the past five years, if not longer, and given the high rates of early deaths in the industry, I would prefer not to witness him literally die in the ring next weekend.
His opponent, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, is not exactly a spring chicken himself. At 49, he currently spends most of his time in a suit as WWE’s Executive Vice-President of Talent, Creative and Live Events. So I guess we can thank him for WWE’s continued reliance on stars from his heyday.
But we also have Levesque to thank for NXT, WWE’s minor league where many of its current and future stars are built, including the Australian wrestlers who will show up on Saturday, such as “The IIconics” Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, from Sydney, and Melbourne’s own Buddy Murphy, formerly known as Matt Silva in local promotion MCW.
Also wrestling at Super Show-Down will be Universal champion Roman Reigns. Heir to the The Undertaker’s throne, as well as those of fellow household names like Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Reigns’ cousin), Reigns is WWE’s shaky attempt at building a new star. Internet pundits will complain that WWE doesn’t promote enough younger talent as I am doing here, but in the case of Reigns, we complain that his ascension was too prescriptive and inorganic.
In the age of the anti-hero, we love to hate on the good guy or, in wrestling parlance, the babyface. Perhaps in an attempt to combat the inevitable boos that will echo from the MCG on Saturday, WWE has aligned Reigns with his old Shield teammates -- a three-man vigilante group decked out in tactical gear and billed as “The Hounds of Justice” that was adored for much of the mid-2010s -- Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, who has recently returned from injury.
On the other hand, self-made notorious UFC fighter-turned-wrestler Ronda Rousey, who returns to the site of her first and most crushing defeat for Super Show-Down, has drawn criticism not just for her controversial comments about a trans-gender competitor but for not having “paid her dues” in wrestling, winning the women’s championship in August after only a handful of matches.
And that’s the problem with WWE and its reliance on big names who are arguably past their prime: by the time a wrestler has paid off this arbitrary debt, honing their craft on the independent wrestling scene, toiling away in NXT, then being embroiled in a series of meaningless feuds and matches in WWE proper, they are oftentimes into their late 30s and early 40s before they catch their big WWE break, if ever. (This usually only applies to male wrestlers. It's rare to see a female wrestler stay active in the ring after her mid-30s and/or motherhood, which is another problem in itself.)
Given the high injury rate of WWE Superstars, coupled with the above mentioned propensity for early death, younger wrestlers are naturally more resilient so at the very least it seems like a poor business model to hinge your product on unpredictable older wrestlers.
With the 41-year-old John Cena, WWE's biggest mainstream star in the last 15 years who will also be at Super Show-Down, spending more time in Hollywood, and the disdain for Reigns and souring to Rousey, there is an argument for WWE wanting to shy away from building new stars. But now is the time they should be leaning into it, trying new things with more wrestlers to see what sticks.
Feature Image: Getty