Pop-Ed: Old School is Hurting the New School

“One thing is for sure, WWE is relying a lot on the “Old School” or simply the past of the company to get higher ratings a buy-rates. Brock is back, Batista is on his way, we know Triple H and the Undertaker will somehow get involved in WrestleMania 30, and who knows how many other stars from the past will show up. As much as I get excited to see these guys, one has to realize it takes away from stars on the current roster, making it more difficult for them to get a chance to shine at the Grandest Stage of Them All. Tonight, no Dolph Ziggler. No Kofi Kingston. I do wonder what WWE has in mind for the future, do they rely on their current talent or not? “

— Michael Dworkis, from his review of Old School RAW

Last night was the WWE’s annual Old School RAW. It’s a fun tradition that’s full of nostalgia and brings you back to the bygone days of the old WWF when we all believed wrestling was real.

Yet, if you look past this one night of nostalgia, you’ll see that the “old school” trend is being employed by the WWE every week and more importantly, it’s filling up the card for Wrestlemania 30.

Brock Lesnar returned last week to claim a title shot. Dave Batista returns on the 20th. There’s no doubt The Undertaker will be returning in time for ‘Mania. Rob Van Damm announced that he’ll be returning to WWE shortly. The rumor mill has been stirring that Triple-H will be taking on CM Punk, that Bill Goldberg and Hulk Hogan could be returning and there was some talk not too long ago that Shawn Michaels would don the tights one more time to face Daniel Bryan. Supposedly, the WWE engaged Steve Austin about making in-ring return.

The phrase “What’s Best for Business” has been bandied about a lot recently. And when you think about it, for the 30th Anniversary of Wrestlemania, the biggest wrestling event in the world, it makes sense both from a logical and financial standpoint to have the legendary names return.

Logically, the WWE should be celebrating their past and throughout the years have always had (mostly) well-planned run-ins and cameos by stars of days past. Think about it for this year — the place would explode if Hulk Hogan came out and laid someone out with the big boot. The arena would be unhinged if Stone Cold’s theme hit and the Texas Rattlesnake hits the ring for an impromptu beer bash. And who doesn’t get chills at The Undertaker’s theme? This logic equals money plain and simple. People will pay to see the legends.

However, where does that leave today’s generation of superstars? Now, the WWE isn’t just planning on cameos and run-ins from their legends this year, they’re booking them into main event programs. You sure as hell know Dave Batista is not coming back, especially with a major summer movie coming out, to help create a young star like a Rob Van Damm would. No way, this guy is coming back for a big money deal and main event status. The rumors are swirling it’ll be Batista vs. Randy Orton as a possible main event. Then there’s Brock Lesnar, he’s inserted himself into the main event picture. Does he face Orton? Cena? The Undertaker? Wherever he is, he’ll be towards the top of the card. Then there’s Triple-H, how can he miss a Wrestlemania moment? And when was the last time Kane and/or The Big Show was left off the show?

If you look at all this you realize that the WWE is thinking about the now and the future can take care of itself when it arrives. In short — let’s make fast dimes instead of slow nickels. It makes sense, the economy sucks and if you can grab a buck now, grab it. But it’s also hugely short-sighted. This influx of older talent suggests that the WWE has no faith in their young(er) talent. Despite the fact CM Punk and Daniel Bryan move tons of merchandise, they’re going to be down the card (unless the Bryan vs. Taker rumors are true). The Miz, who was once a top heel, might not even make the show. The same goes for Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and Damien Sandow — all three, if they’re lucky, will end up in a Money in the Bank-type match.

How is the WWE supposed to have a future if they have to rely on men who are well into their 40s, and maybe even older, to carry their flagship show?

The company, one day, has to realize that the old guard has to step aside and a chance has to be taken on unproven commodities. Buddy Rogers stepped aside for Bruno Sammartino. Bruno stepped aside for Bob Backlund. Bob Backlund stepped aside for Hulk Hogan. Shawn Michaels stepped aside for Steve Austin. Steve Austin stepped aside for The Rock. The WWE took chances on ring vets like Austin and Mick Foley to carry them, at one time they put their faith in an up-and-coming wrestler from California named John Cena, they allowed a failed baby face named Rocky Maivia to become a heel, they took a tag team wrestler named Shawn Michaels and made him The Heartbreak Kid.

The WWE has it in them, they just have to take a risk. They need to allow Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, D-Bry, CM Punk and others to carry the company. They cannot trot The Undertaker out too many more times, they can’t hope Triple-H can still go or that part-timers with million dollar deals like Batista, The Rock or Brock Lesnar are going to want to keep wrestling.

Old school is great. Nostalgia is wonderful. But, the future of wrestling is knocking on the door and the WWE has to open the door to be able to create new stars and be successful.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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