I’m going to take an unpopular stance.
The WWE, as of this moment, is heading in a new, exciting and youth-filled direction.
Let’s focus on the main point of that statement — “as of this moment.”
Think about it. No John Cena (injury). No Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (movies). No Triple-H (as an active competitor). No Undertaker. No Kane. No Chris Jericho. No Brock Lesnar.
Tonight, was the first night in a long, long time, where the youth of the WWE was on display. Yes, all of us jaded longtime wrestling fans can mumble and grumble about Triple-H still being the center of attention, about Randy Orton being champion, but let’s examine tonight.
Daniel Bryan main events for probably the 10th week in a row (maybe more). Yes (yes! yes! yes!), the same Daniel Bryan who I ran into around 2002 in a small rec center in Philly. The guy, I easily outweighed and towered over…and I was 5’10, 200lbs. at most. This guy, who by traditional WWE standards should be relegated to wrestling on Superstars, is headlining the WWE’s flagship television program on the regular and just headlined their #2 pay-per-view of the year. That’s WWE putting their money behind a young talent. Oh, and the fact tens of thousands chant his catchphrase every night doesn’t hurt either.
So who did he face tonight? The Hounds of Justice, The Shield. Despite their recent loosing streak, this trio has been the backbone of WWE televised and dark match main events since their arrival. These dudes put on excellent matches and are now aligned with #1 and #1a heels in the company. Oh, and two of the members of the group happen to be former Internet Wrestling Community darlings — Seth Rollins aka Tyler Black and Dean Ambrose aka John Moxley.
The other hot program? CM Punk, the best in the world. You can say Punk is part of the “old guard” or one of the more mainstream guys in the WWE right now, but let’s be honest he’s still a young, talented dude who hasn’t clogged the main event scene as long as the others have. That and he still delivers a captivating performance. Tonight his feud with Paul Heyman escalated to near Godfather Part II-esque proportions. It was dramatic, over-the-top and one of the best intense angles the WWE has run in a while. In the midst of this feud is young Curtis Axel, a young talent that had floundered for years in the federation. Now, tonight, he got made. He wasn’t just a bystander, he was an active participant, who proved he’s more than capable of hanging in the ring with CM Punk.
Who’s getting the most buzz in the WWE right now? The Wyatt Family. A trio consisting of young, up-and-coming talent. Bray Wyatt, who tanked as Husky Harris a few years back (and who wouldn’t with a name like that?), is walking perfection as the Southern cult leader. Whoever is producing and editing the promos for The Wyatts should be given a multi-million dollar raise, they’re unbelievable. Think about it, when was the last time, a vignette for a talent that’s already debuted meant anything?
Look at the veterans on the show. Rob Van Dam and Christian, while somewhat past their prime, are being used to enhance the young talent on the show or at least give established talent good matches. These are roles the likes of Ric Flair and Chris Jericho have amply filled and are roles that are necessary in developing young talent.
Look at the rest of the card — Fandango, Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, Titus O’Neal … all young talent that are finally getting the recognition and spotlight they deserve after years of being stuck in neutral. Also, Los Matadores (Cough…The Colons)? I’m hoping this is the new Kai En Tai — a complete comedy act that can get over with the crowd. If they’re making these two guys serious wrestlers this will be doomed from the start.
The WWE has never been kind to young talent. Look at the past five years or so with guys like: Kaval (Low Ki), Scotty Goldman (Colt Cabana), Antoni Polaski (ECW’s Angry Amish Roadkill), Trent Barretta, Caylen Croft, The Spirit Squad (minus Nicky aka Dolph Ziggler), Vance Archer (TNA’s Lance Hoyt), Ricky Ortiz, Eric Escobar, Ryan Braddock (TNA’s Jay Bradley), Gavin Spears, KC James, Gunner Scott, Michael Tarver, 90% of the NXT dudes past Season 1 etc. — none of them got a fair shake at all when they came up the main roster. Hell, you probably don’t even remember 90% of these guys.
But if you’re looking at tonight’s Monday Night RAW and who competed on it, you gotta believe there’s hope for the future of the WWE. And it has to happen because the WWE has run through most of its veteran workhorses. They can’t rely on Triple-H, HBK, Ric Flair or Edge to carry guys. They can’t bring out The Undertaker more than once a year. Kane and Jericho are not getting any younger. The WWE’s hand has been forced to make new stars and if tonight serves as an indicator of what’s to come, this is going to be an exciting.