HLR: Hustle. Loyalty. Reigns.

Whether you like him or not, there’s no question that Roman Reigns’ current position and bright future as a top-flight singles competitor was inevitable from his early days with The Shield. He has it all – a powerful physique, good looks, wrestling in his blood, and a unique and marketable look. However, as the weeks of being an individual have strolled by, more and more cracks are starting to show in the ‘Juggernaut’, leading to some fans slowly turning against him.

John Cena’s evolution from rap thug to corny hero.

John Cena, WWE’s most polarising – not controversial (I hate when Cole and King say that) – star never used to be in this love-hate relationship with the WWE Universe. After his ‘Prototype’ gimmick, Cena quickly became a fan favourite as the ‘Dr of Thuganomics’, and this bad-ass rap persona was quite a stark contrast to the Cena we’re used to seeing today. He was still a poor wrestler, but had much more diversity and was increasingly experimental with the manoeuvres he performed. If this didn’t win fans over, his unique and entertaining character certainly did. WWE saw this and pushed Cena further, all the way up to the point where fans started to boo him due to his constant dominance. Cena gradually evolved into WWE’s poster boy, and so followed suit with a squeaky-clean Captain America-like persona. He kissed babies, posed for photographs, and did everything that was required of a gold-standard WWE mascot. He was dubbed as the modern Hulk Hogan. However, Cena brought in the dough via merchandise sales from children, and this has been a prime factor as to why he has been kept in this position despite his in-ring work becoming lazy, unimaginative, and repetitive. The rest is history.

As for Roman Reigns, his fans are beginning to worry that he’ll suffer the same fate. Like Cena, Reigns’ official WWE beginning started with a bad-ass gimmick – being a ‘hound’ in The Shield. We got to see glimpses of his ability, and these glimpses worked perfectly as we weren’t spoiled with too much. Being part of a faction allowed Roman to shine where he best could, leaving the rest to Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. We were always left wanting more of all three individuals, both on the mic and in the ring. It was perfect. Forward to the fourth quarter of The Shield’s reign (no pun intended), it was clear who WWE were going with as their next breakout star. Reigns became the centre of attention of the ‘Hounds of Justice’, but we still had Ambrose and Rollins to keep his push from going stale.

Reigns’ ‘Superman Punch’ is becoming overused and overpowered.

It was only right for The Shield to split ways after their rivalry with Evolution. Many were waiting for this moment, and it couldn’t have come at a more idyllic time. The WWE Universe were anxious to see how each individual would cope as a singles competitor, and were soon enlightened. It was evident that Ambrose and Rollins could hold their own as singles stars, due to their confidence on the mic and excellent in-ring work. As for Reigns, it’s a two-sided story. Some would argue that Reigns is better than ever, whereas others would say that he can’t hack it on his own. He’s definitely improved on the mic – you can see his confidence growing week by week. However, the content of his promos are quite unimaginative and boring in general. His in-ring ability is where fans are starting to draw comparisons with John Cena. Reigns is dominant in the ring but, like Cena, abuses four to five moves. He’s being pushed exactly how Cena was – coming out on top on nearly every occasion, and having bursts of ‘overpowered’ signature moves. I believe his look and heritage are the only factors that’s keeping him likeable by some of the more critical fans. Cena and Reigns’ cross of paths in recent times has really made these comparisons clear.

Initially, many thought that Reigns would be the ‘Batman’ of the superhero metaphor that is WWE’s poster boys. However, it’s becoming evermore apparent that Reigns and Cena are more alike than one would think. Their recent exchanges and segments have led fans to draw comparisons of Captain America meeting Superman. Reigns’ opportunity to be the dark knight is rapidly diminishing. If he continues down this route of being over-pushed and overpowered, he’ll lose his cool as the anti-hero fans so desperately wanted, and instead end up as another corny protagonist. All Roman needs now is a brightly coloured t-shirt and a cringe-worthy catchphrase.

It would be a shame if Roman Reigns ends up as a second-fiddle John Cena. Although he has much to learn and improve on, he undoubtedly has a lot going for him. Given Daniel Bryan’s absence, WWE need a face that the majority of fans genuinely give a damn about. If WWE manages to keep Reigns appetising enough to satisfy the Universe’s constant hunger for something refreshing, he could fill the anti-hero spot that CM Punk left collecting dust, and potentially more. It’s all ifs and buts, however this is certainly a growing issue that is becoming progressively prominent as the weeks roll on.

Reigns2

Do you agree? Is Reigns becoming stale, or are critics being too harsh too soon? Voice your opinion below, and don’t forget to share!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

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Ushering in a new era: WWE’s game-changing week

What a week it’s been for the ‘WWE Universe’. It’s been an emotional seven days, with ups and downs all round. However, despite all the momentous events, the take-away message for this week has been difficult for some fans, and promising for others; the WWE seem to be transitioning into the newest era of its professional wrestling existence.

WrestleMania XXX

Many of you may disagree here, but this was one of the best WrestleManias to date (just beaten by WrestleMania XVII). It had all the ingredients for a successful show, but most importantly, it also signified the slow but sure ending of previous eras that we’ve all clung onto.

The opening

The show kicked-off with Hulk Hogan, introducing the show and welcoming everyone to the Silverdome (ha). He was only to be screen-shot-2014-04-06-at-6-34-01-pminterrupted by ‘Mr Attitude Era’ himself, Stone Cold Steve Austin. After some classic Austin talk, out came The Rock! It was an awesome segment, and long-time WWE fans have waited for years to see ‘The Rattlesnake’ and ‘The Brahma Bull’ in the same ring at the same time. We only got to see a glimpse of this at WrestleMania XXVII. It was probably the best WrestleMania opening we’ve seen to date, and quite frankly, it’s uncertain as to whether we’ll ever get another opening as epic as this one. Can you imagine any bigger legends of the industry opening the show in that fashion? It’s hard to imagine how the WWE would top this in future ‘Manias (unless they lazily brought the same three back in future years to come), and this opening was just one of the reasons to suggest WWE’s closing of one era and opening into another.

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

20140406_WM30_LIGHT_HP_CesarAndreCup1Many people predicted The Big Show to win this match, as it was only right for a legendary giant to be the first man to win such an accolade. However, while it did make sense to have The Big Show come out on top, WWE prioritised their future here, and gave Cesaro the nod to pick up the win. Having the ‘King of Swing’ be the first man to win this prestigious award should now persuade the people who weren’t already convinced that Cesaro is a fully-fledged competitor of the future. This is another indication of WWE shifting its way into a new era, as often relying on stars from the past to carry the company forward is definitely the incorrect move.

The Streak…is over…

What a shocker this was. The reaction from the live crowd (and probably everyone watching around the world) was immense. The end to this match was like Marmite, you either loved it or you hated it (I personally loved the chaos and buzz it caused). However, no matter what anyone’s opinion of this outcome is, it can’t be denied that this result is a major indication of the WWE’s era transition. We now have no ‘Streak’ to look forward to, and whether this be Taker’s last match or not, every future WrestleMania will never be the same again. Hey, maybe they’ll start a ‘Streak’ with someone else? Highly doubtful, but you never know. ‘The Deadman’s’ spot on the ‘Mania card will probably now be taken by a current/future star, once again highlighting the point of the WWE prioritising its future. Oh yeah, and Brock Lesnar was the guy who won, by the way.10150695_1424505227806276_7106890449998293072_n

The ‘YES’ movement flourishes…

An obvious indication of the future rising here; Daniel Bryan not only beat Triple H, but then went onto defeat Randy Orton AND Batista in the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. WWE’s hottest acquisition beat three future Hall of Famers in one night, and to top it all off, he did it on the grandest stage of them all. If evolution ever came to an end, it would be now.WrestleMania-Daniel-Bryan

The Hounds claw their way forward

Not much to be said here. The result of The Shield vs The New Age Outlaws and Kane was another obvious indication of the WWE promoting its current echelon of stars so that the company can continue to gracefully exist in its new era.

But…what about The Wyatt Family?

Bray Wyatt’s loss to John Cena should not be looked upon as a contradiction this theory. Firstly, it would’ve been too soon for Bray to win against WWE’s poster boy. Secondly, The Wyatts have been given a huge push already, and there’s no doubt that by next year’s ‘Mania, they’ll be even bigger than they are now. Last of all, John Cena may not be a ‘new guy’, but he’s certainly far from done. He’ll be like the Taker of the next generation – a living legend that up and coming Superstars will strive to beat to get themselves noticed. The Wyatts will most-definitly be part of the future. All in good time.

RAW after ‘Mania

paigeWithout going into too much detail here, it’s safe to say that this RAW really made it clear that the future of the WWE is near, and that a new era is beginning. Alexander Rusev made his long-awaited in-ring RAW debut, and annoying Adam Rose and corny Bo Dallas vignettes were scattered throughout the show. The biggest story of the show, however, was twenty-one-year-old NXT Diva, Paige, who interrupted AJ Lee and nabbed the Diva’s Championship off of her. While many can agree that she shouldn’t have won the gold just yet, you can be sure that WWE has its future in sight. Let’s not forget about Cesaro becoming a ‘Paul Heyman guy’ as well, joining the likes of CM Punk and his 434-day title-reign, and Brock Lesnar’s defeating of ‘The Streak’. Before you say it, let’s leave Curtis Axel out of this one, shall we?

The late great Ultimate Warrior also said his final words in the public-eye, which mentioned the current-future WWE locker room: “In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well.” Don’t be surprised if next year’s WrestleMania contains less matches with legends and more with the current roster.

To conclude, many of this week’s events in the WWE have indicated a potential shifting of era. Stars of the past have ended their reigns, current stars are further securing their spots, and new stars are gradually making their way-in and stealing the show. It seems as if we’re currently experiencing the transition into a new era. It certainly has been a game-changing week for the WWE, and is definitely an exciting time to be a fan.

May I also take this opportunity to wish Warrior’s (James Hellwig’s) family and friends all the very best. Rest in peace Ultimate Warrior, we appreciate what you have done for this business. tafkagadotcom-rip-ultimate-warrior

Do you agree? Can you sense the transition? Let’s hear your thoughts below!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

Keeping ‘The Show-Off’ off the show: Dolph Ziggler’s zig-zagging career…

Dolph Ziggler is a talented and accomplished WWE Superstar, there’s no doubt about it. From his days as Kerwin White’s (Chavo Guerrero’s) sidekick and being a member of the Spirit Squad, all the way to his ‘perfection’ era and present day, Ziggler has proven his worth with five-star performances no matter what role he’s been delegated. He can sell like no other, and possesses a superior athletic ability. For years, most WWE fans have recognised this, only to watch his run of success become short-lived time and time again. There’s been a lot of speculation as to why his career encounters frequent fluctuations, and this article will try to identify the reasons as to why ‘The Show Off’ isn’t where he should be (excluding injuries).

Promos 

Dolph Ziggler’s YouTube show: ‘WWE Download’

Anyone who’s followed Ziggler’s career closely has realised that he can cut a good promo or two. Dolph Ziggler used to steal the show on WWE’s YouTube channel, as we got to see his true character on a weekly basis. He was arrogant, brash, cocky, witty, and funny. He was a heel that most loved to watch. It’s just too bad that this persona wasn’t exhibited as much on RAW or SmackDown. Even to this day, Ziggler cuts great promos outside the ring, whether this be via backstage segments or interviews with sports journalists. However, when given the opportunity to cut a promo on television – which is rare – he just doesn’t bring his all. The promos are quite generic, and no way near as passionate, clever, or witty as they are elsewhere. It’s a big shame really, but hopefully WWE will allow him more mic time for him to really show the world what he’s got up his sleeve.

Consistency of moves

Dolph Ziggler’s head-standing headlock is hardly seen anymore

Wrestling fans always look forward to the performing Superstars’ signature/finishing moves. Take The Rock’s ‘People’s Elbow’ for instance. When Rock set his opponent up for this move, the fans went crazy. The camera would pan-out, and it would be obvious what was coming next. With Ziggler, it’s a different story. Sure, the ‘Zig-Zag’ (his finishing move) is like every finishing move. It can come out of nowhere and finish the opponent off. That’s cool. However, Ziggler possesses other moves that fans love to watch, but encounter infrequently. Take the flurry of ten elbow-drops. Ziggler displays an awesome level of athleticism and energy as he bounces back up from every elbow-drop delivered. He also finishes the move with one last mega elbow-drop. Now this move has all the makings to be a signature move, but it is so inconsistently performed. Sometimes, Ziggler will do it right in the beginning of the match, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the end, and sometimes, not at all! It’s not consistent, and doesn’t make sense at times. You would never see Cesaro’s ‘Cesaro Swing’ right in the beginning of a match.

And what about Dolph’s head-standing headlock? This move was an awesome display of athleticism, balance, and cockiness. Why has he stopped doing it? One thing is for sure, performing these moves on a more consistent and frequent basis will help Ziggler develop an arsenal of moves that fans can instantly recognise and engage with, further securing Ziggler’s rise to main-event status.

Merch 

These tees look great on Ziggler, but would you wear them in public?

One way to describe Dolph’s WWE merchandise is, “different”. His t-shirts are cool somewhat, yes, but one of his t-shirts describes the problem at hand in one line: ‘You Wish You Could Pull This Off’. Exactly. Ziggler’s blasts of pink and turquoise gear make it hard for ‘Dolphins’ (Ziggler fans) to wear. These unorthodox and vivid colours only appeal to a certain demographic, resulting in a poor turnover for his products. Heck, as a huge Ziggler fan, I just about bought one of his t-shirts as it was the black version of the ‘It’s Not Showing Off If You Back It Up’ tee. If black wasn’t available, my WWE t-shirt collection would be Ziggler-less. 

How does this affect his push to stardom, you ask? WWE are known to push and stick with Superstars who sell a lot of merchandise, it’s plain and simple. It’s one of the many reasons as to why John Cena and CM Punk are/were consistently in top-flight positions in the company. Cena sells merchandise by crazy amounts – why do you think WWE release a t-shirt for him every other month? It’s hard to blame them, as business wise, it makes a lot of sense. In the great words of Triple H, “it’s best for business”.

Size

There is no doubt that Vince McMahon likes big guys (perceive that how you want to). In an era where performance-enhancing drugs are strictly prohibited, extracting wrestlers with Ultimate Warrior-esque bodies is one tough job. One can only get so big naturally, and this makes it harder for wrestlers to stand-out. While Ziggler has a very impressive physique, he is belittled in size and mass by the majority of the WWE locker room, making his climb to success even rockier.

We shouldn’t overlook the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, two mega-stars in the WWE with less than average physiques. You may be thinking, if they can do it, why can’t Ziggler? Well let’s not forget, Daniel Bryan’s whole gimmick is based on the small underdog who shouldn’t be where he is, and the fans love it. He’s the complete opposite of what WWE usually look for, and this works well for Bryan. Of course, let’s not say his amazing in-ring ability hasn’t got him to where he is as well. As for CM Punk, well, he was just absolutely incredible on the mic, and brought an aura of realness with him. Fans could relate to what he was saying, and be entertained at the same time. And, like Bryan, his superior in-ring work topped this all off. He didn’t seem to be concerned with his aesthetics, and handled all his business on the mic and in the ring. It showed in his persona, and it worked. With ‘The Show-Off’, it’s a different story.

RAW_1012_Photo_071

Dolph is bigger than the average male, but dwarfed by most of the WWE roster.

Who knows, maybe this factor is irrelevant in today’s industry, but it’s definitely plausible as even Ziggler himself has claimed that he’s constantly been told “you’re too small”. Hey, do you think Roman Reigns would be as over as he is if he was the size of someone like Dean Ambrose or Seth Rollins? Do you think Big E Langston would be the Intercontinental Champion if he was 50lbs lighter?

The factors mentioned above are both in Ziggler’s and the WWE’s control. However, this last factor is something WWE needs to do to help push Ziggler all the way.

Feuds

Any pro wrestling fan knows that a key ingredient to building a Superstar is a good feud. The Rock wouldn’t have been where he was without his legendary rivalries with DX, Triple H, and most notably, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hell, he was pushed even further when feuding with Hulk Hogan and the nWo. Most recently, he feuded with John Cena and CM Punk, which helped further solidify their statuses as WWE legends. Cena is now feuding with Bray Wyatt, which, in turn, will help push Bray’s career massively. It’s an ongoing cycle, and it works.

We thought we were getting something similar when Ziggler feuded with Cena last year – only to be disheartened once again. The story between the two fizzled away fairly quickly. Prior to this, Ziggler also had a temporary rivalry with Chris Jericho. Although Ziggler ‘terminated’ Y2J’s career and then eliminated him in the Royal Rumble upon his return, it was again short-lived. Had WWE built this feud up even more, it could’ve been something special.

Currently, Ziggler is on a slight winning streak, but is in pointless feuds with the likes of Damien Sandow and Alberto Del Rio. The buildup for these feuds have been poor, leading to a lack of real motivation as to why fans should tune-in to these feuds and want Ziggler to triumph over his opposition. We should thank our lucky stars for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WMXXX, for if it wasn’t for this, poor Dolph would’ve ended up competing in a meaningless singles match in a meaningless rivalry. Some ‘WrestleMania moment’, right? At least this Battle Royal will allow Dolph to show what he’s got under a bigger spotlight.

If Dolph Ziggler can tackle at least some of these issues, he would have a better chance at securing his spot in top-flight competition. It’s then up to the WWE to put him in an intense and engaging rivalry, and if this is done right, we could finally have our next, long-awaited, main event player.

What do you think? Do you agree that these factors are contributing to Ziggler’s fluctuating career? Have your say in the comment section below!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

From bad-ass, to candy-ass? The degradation of The Rock’s ‘electrifying’ character…

The Rock Attitude Era

‘The Brahma Bull’ in the prime of his career, before things went downhill for many of ‘the millions’.

Before this article begins, let me just state that on a personal note, it was difficult enough for me to even consider writing this article, let alone actually writing it. Like many, I am an avid Rock fan, and he was, and to some extent still is, a hero of mine. But as I feel passionate about the demise of his once-beloved persona, I felt that writing this article was the right thing to do. 

With his unmatched swagger, dominating persona, superior athleticism and countless catchphrases, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a man who heavily contributed to revolutionising the world of professional wrestling during the ‘Attitude era’. Debuting in the late 90s, the third-generation Superstar quickly made a name for himself in the WWE (WWF at the time), and was very much adored even when playing the role of a ‘heel’ (bad guy). It was extremely hard not to like ‘The Great One’, but it became significantly easier towards the end of his full-time wrestling career – when Hollywood came knocking on the door.

When The Rock returned from shooting ‘The Mummy Returns’ in 2001, things didn’t change much. Whilst looking physically leaner, his overall character remained, which was great to see. He was still brash, cocky, funny, and overall a larger-than-life stud. It seemed a taste of Hollywood didn’t change him too much. The big change however, came around the time of challenging Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Our beloved Rocky changed – the bass in his voice  lowered, he spoke more quickly and abruptly, lost the $500 shirts and $1000 rolexes, cut his hair, and started to lose his wrestling shape. His catchphrases sounded less meaningful, and more like mantras. It felt as if he had to get ‘get them out of the way’, so to speak.

Now right off the bat, these factors may sound somewhat silly and irrelevant to the casual fan. But those who knew The Rock’s career in the 90s immediately noticed the significant change. He was less of a badass, and inadvertently brought a bit of his early Hollywood career with him. Just look at Chris Jericho’s WWE debut, and then compare The Rock in this segment with him in his ‘Great Balls of Fire’ promo. The contrast is stark, and these are just two segments out of hundreds that can be compared.

Several departures and returns later, he, for the second time running, smartly used the fans’ gradual dislike towards him to his own advantage by creating a new Hollywood heel persona in 2003.

Out-of-shape and under a new ‘Hollywood’ persona, The Rock wrestles Austin in their third and final WrestleMania clash.

While this character wasn’t your usual Rock, it was actually quite refreshing and helped revamp his previously dying persona. It was an entertaining gimmick which made for a great heel, but unfortunately did not last long when he left once again after losing to Bill Goldberg at Backlash. The Rock gradually turned face again by returning several times in non-wrestling roles. He then returned once more to team with Mick Foley – reuniting ‘The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection’ – and feuded with Evolution.

Face Rock was back, but in the eyes of many he still wasn’t all quite there. A large chunk of what we loved about him was missing. The Rock appeared four more times after this in minor roles, but then did not appear again until 2011 (excluding a couple of satellite vignettes and the 2008 Hall of Fame induction speech of his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia).

The Rock’s 2011 return

In 2011, The Rock made a triumphant return as the special guest host of WrestleMania XXVII. Everyone was eager to see their childhood hero make a comeback, but to many the excitement was short-lived. Rocky looked great, he was back in shape, wore an ‘I BRING IT’ tank-top, and completely shaved off all his hair. He even rocked (pardon the pun) a pair of sunglasses. It was amazing to hear him utter the words ‘FINALLY, THE ROCK, HAS COME BACK…HOME…’. His first return promo was generally awesome, but the hardcore fans already began to notice the cracks in his persona.

Any avid wrestling fan knows that The Rock always speaks in third-person, but the constant use of ‘I’ really diminished the effect of the promo. Every ‘I’ spoken felt like a small stab to the Rocky fans who tuned-in. It just wasn’t natural. He also said something along the lines of “Let me take a moment as Dwayne…”, and gave a personal mini-speech explaining how glad he was to be back. While it’s understandable as to why he did this, this again tarnished his return. He’s a great and inspiring individual, but as wrestling fans, we only want The Rock. If we wanted Dwayne, we’d watch his movies and interviews. You don’t see The Undertaker returning and saying “Let me take a moment as Mark Calaway…”! However, overall, the promo was brilliant and the constant digs at John Cena really made everyone erupt.

The Rock and John Cena went back and forth, verbally, physically, and even remotely (well, in Rocky’s case). The insults from both ends were priceless, and were sprinkled from WrestleMania XXVII all the way through to the next two WrestleManias. However, further down the line, it almost felt as if Rock became everything he despised about Cena – a Captain America-like hero.

The majority of hardcore wrestling fans (who, for obvious reasons, were on ‘Team Bring It’) seemed to be in denial about being more entertained by Cena’s content, and the momentum gradually shifted from ‘The Brahma Bull’ to Mr ‘Fruity Pebbles’. The Rock began to tell stories of his past relating to every town/city that RAW/SmackDown was in, which, although entertaining at some points, grew very boring and uninteresting. Notes on Rocky’s wrist were even spotted during a promo, which was called-out by the ‘Dr of Thuganomics’ himself. ‘Story-time with The Rock’ was no longer cool.

The Rock cuts a shaky promo on CM Punk

Throughout his two-to-three year return, ‘The Great One’ feuded with several other Superstars (including CM Punk), which led to more promo segments. Unlike the past, the ‘millions’ often feared for Rocky during his verbal bout with the current ‘jabroni’ he squared-off with. Being on the receiving end of a verbal dig, stuttering upon his own words, or repeating the same lines over and over again, became a common occurrence for The Rock. It was actually nerve-racking to watch him cut promos – they most definitely were not as organic or as fluid as they used to be.

From all that’s been said, it should be noted that the current ‘PG era’ definitely played a part of The Rock’s watered-down content during his return. But even with this in mind, there was a factor of brilliance that was sincerely missed after Hollywood came calling. In terms of in-ring ability, Rock certainly hadn’t lost it (although his second bout with Cena had one of the laziest and most unimaginative climaxes to a main event that pro wrestling has ever witnessed). There were signs of rustiness, but overall he maintained if not improved his smooth in-ring work.

Having said all this, there is no doubt that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has continued to inspire and achieve greatness. His charisma, drive, and passion has paved the way for WWE Superstars and people alike, and despite knowing that we’ll never get ‘Attitude era’ Rock again, he’ll forever remain our ‘People’s Champion’.

What do you think? Do you agree that Rocky’s character has become stale, or do you like the evolution that his persona has taken? Leave a comment!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

Mid-carder for life?

Cody Rhodes & Kofi Kingston - will they ever be given a push?It’s tough to define the term ‘mid-carder’ in the modern world of professional wrestling. Historically, mid-carders are second-tier performers who wrestle in the middle of programmes, usually competing for the secondary title of the company. Mid-carders often tend to eventually secure a spot in the top-flight division, and end up creating a legacy of their own that cements itself in the history of the business.

Take The Rock and Chris Jericho for example. Both were destined for glory when entering the WWE (WWF at the time), as Rock was a third-generation wrestler and Y2J came into the organisation as an already-established star from the WCW. Both went on to become Intercontinental Champion – the ultimate prize for mid-carders – which then sky-rocketed their careers into the top tier, leading to them both becoming WWE Champions. But as the years of the industry’s existence have increased, so too have the number of ‘smart marks’ (wrestling fans who are aware of how the industry works and what occurs behind the scenes), meaning the term ‘mid-carder’ is being seen in a whole new light.

As previously stated, mid-carders were seen as promising Superstars who would one day climb the ladder to greatness and belong in the upper-echelon of the current roster. Nowadays, it’s a completely different story. Mid-carders are simply seen as ‘gap-fillers’, and are even used to ‘job’ to a current upper-tier Superstar just to promote them further for their upcoming match in the next pay-per-view. The athletic and talented Kofi Kingston, and third-generation Superstar Cody Rhodes, are just a couple of examples. However, their lack of success can be attributed to a number of factors.

The decline of the World Heavyweight Championship would be an ideal place to start. This prestigious belt (once the title of titles of the WCW) has been held by some of the greatest competitors to have ever stepped foot in the squared circle. Possessors of this title include Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Undertaker, The Rock, and many more established names that have graced the business. When the WWE acquired WCW, the belt’s degree of reputation and importance was gracefully maintained, if not heightened. Deserved names were given the belt, and so there were two ultimate prized possessions that the roster would strive to achieve.

Dolph Ziggler becomes World Heavyweight Champion after cashing-in his 'Money in the Bank' briefcase.

Dolph Ziggler cashes-in for the gold – but is he quite ‘the man’?

However, as the years have rolled on, the belt’s relevancy has decreased, and so the second-tier – the main habitat for mid-carders – has also become the nesting ground for Superstars competing for the World Heavyweight Championship. This has made current mid-carder wrestlers even more unlikely to excel, meaning that any progression of one day becoming ‘the man’ is at best limited. The belt’s aura has also diminished, as it is carelessly thrown around from Superstar to Superstar. In the past, title reigns lasted for quite some time, which made the belt appear to be a worthy prize to possess and so too made the holder of the belt the current alpha-male.

Speaking of belts being thrown on Superstars, the ‘Money in the Bank’ briefcase should not be a forgotten factor. With the exception of Edge, most wrestlers who have won the WWE/World Heavyweight Championship by ‘cashing-in’ haven’t exactly had an awe-inspiring or memorable reign as champion. Think about Dolph Ziggler’s first reign, as well as the title runs of Jack Swagger, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and most recently, Alberto Del Rio. These rising stars were given the ball to run with, but they never quite made it to the finish line at the time. They all held the belt, but were they ever branded and marketed as top-flight competitors?

Currently, Ziggler holds the belt for the second time in his career, whilst jobbing to anyone he encounters on an almost weekly basis. Is this an indication that despite what belt is thrown on a deserved Superstar belonging to this echelon, they’ll never quite make it to John Cena’s or CM Punk’s level? Do new and future Superstars have to acquire traits or do something at the extreme end of the scale – such as possessing Ryback’s pure size or cutting a highly controversial promo like CM Punk – just to fit into the main-event mould, despite already being exceptionally talented both in the ring and on the microphone?

Another factor to consider would be the demise of tag-teams and the removal of the Hardcore division. Like the Intercontinental division, the Tag-Team and Hardcore divisions showcased matches that people were equally as excited for as the main event. These matches produced some memorable and creative content to say the least, such as the TLC match at WrestleMania 17. But what’s important here is not just the content of the matches, but the Superstars that these matches produced. Edge and Jeff Hardy, both one-half of established tag-teams, were participants of the match just mentioned, whom went on to lead successful careers as single competitors, acquiring both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. It could be said that the decline/removal of these divisions mean there are less opportunities for mid-carders to showcase what they have to perform in the upper-tier.

Past and present hierarchical title/division structure

Has the difference in title/division structure impacted the output of flourishing stars?

Let’s face it, the Tag-Team Championships have lost their relevancy, and no-one really cares as to who the next tag-team champions will be. The lack of pure tag-teams have lead to an influx of mid-carders floating around and ending up in pointless tag-teams, such as Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. This heightens the chances of mid-carders such as these forever remaining in this category of wrestlers. On the subject of today’s meaningless titles, let’s not even dare delve into the subject of the United States Championship, a title that really doesn’t do the holder any justice in establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Take Antonio Cesaro in this instance. What has his reign as US Champion really done for him? He’s a great all-round competitor in the ring, but it seems as though he has been stuck in square one – he never went back to it from a heightened position. Let’s hope current US Champion Dean Ambrose can restore some dignity and prestige to the title belt (which, by the way, he defeated Kofi Kingston for).

All in all, it is clear to see that the landscape of the WWE today has dramatically changed in structure compared to the early 2000s and beyond, which has both directly and indirectly affected the outlook of mid-card wrestlers. WWE have many options to help stabilise the mid-card group, which would lead to the term ‘mid-card’ being perceived as a positive place to be once again. The options include making the Tag-Team division relevant yet again (which would, in-turn, lead to a further influx of noticeable mid-carders who are worthy for a push in the upper-echelon), pushing the Superstar who holds the World Heavyweight Championship as much as the holder of the WWE Championship – letting pure mid-carders shine in the second-tier again – and just generally giving mid-card performers more opportunities to be pushed (both with and without title belts), rather than focusing all storyline attention on the higher cluster of Superstars.

Do you agree with these views? Have your say by commenting below!

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