While 2012 has been a decent year for the WWE, it is also fairly obvious that there are several issues plaguing the company at the moment. Ratings are at an all time low, buyrates are the lowest they’ve been in years, attendance records at events and tapings are also down and lastly it is the general consensus among most that the WWE product has stagnated over the past couple of years. Comparing today’s WWE to the Attitude Era and the Ruthless Aggression Era I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one fundamental problem that is at the root of the issues the company is facing today and that is the fact that the company simply isn’t doing enough to create new stars the way it did in earlier eras like the Attitude Era and the Ruthless Aggression Era.
In my mind, the reason behind the success of the Attitude Era was the characters they created. Realistic, interesting characters with credible backstories, unique traits (which distinguished them from others) and then storylines which incorporated these in a manner which made people care about them. This to me is the reason why gimmicks like Kane, and the Undertaker (while obviously not real) still evoke a certain emotion in fans, or why Stone Cold, The Rock, Mankind and DX were as popular as they were. In today’s WWE, all the faces act in the same generic fashion – smiling,joking, kissing babies and waving to the fans and similarly all the heels also act in the same manner- scowling, insulting the crowd etc. There is nothing distinguishing a heel Wade Barett from a heel drew Macintyre or a face Sheamus from a face Kofi Kingston. Stone Cold as face or heel, never went around kissing babies and waving at fans- he remained exactly the same and only the fan reaction to him changed depending on the storyline. The simple reason for that is that was his character. People knew that and loved him for it. Its common sense that if people can differentiate between characters and if they don’t know what the difference between Sheamus and Kofi is in terms of character then they are not going to be emotionally vested in the storylines because they simply won’t care enough. This is why the crowds at Tapings and Events are usually dead. Because the characters being played aren’t clearly fleshed out making it difficult for them to identify with leave alone care about any of them. This is the one and only difference between the present day WWE and the earlier Golden Age of the WWE. Once this problem is taken care of, I’m pretty sure the WWE will not only be as good as the earlier days but will far surpass it because this roster may be lacking in character depth but it sure as hell isn’t as far as talent is concerned.
Today’s roster is as skilled as any roster in the past has ever been in terms of wrestling if not more and I believe that there is a lot that can be done to flesh out credible, interesting characters out of the caricatures we’ve been watching. For instance, Cody Rhodes could go back to his old ‘Dashing’ gimmick and Daniel Bryan once the Team Hell No shtick has run its course could become like a modern day Hitman and acting as perfect foil to him would be Dolph Ziggler who has sort of fleshed out a character for himself. I see him as the modern day Shawn Michaels and one of my favourite fantasy booking scenarios is a Dolph Ziggler v. Daniel Bryan Iron Man Match at WrestleMania 30 which would sort of be like a modern day version of the classic Bret-Shawn saga. Kofi Kingston has the talent to make it big, but desperately needs something new to do other than jump around the ring in his greenish yellow gear. The bare knuckle fighter gimmick suits Wade Barett but I envision him as a combination of William Regal and Triple H as a sort of modern day English ‘Cerebral Assassin’ if you will. Orton needs to go back to his Viper gimmick and someone like Cody for instance could get something like Orton’s previous Legend Killer gimmick.
These are just my ideas and there are endless such possibilities. But the point is that the WWE needs to put some serious thought into the characters it creates and stop the current assembly line method of creating stars it has resorted to in recent years. Another thing I'd like to add here is that the wrestlers themselves should be given maximum leeway in creating their in-ring personas and as far as possible should be allowed to write their own promos and contribute to the storylines as this would only enhance the overall product. In my opinion, this is what the WWE needs to do right now the whole year.
John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, The Rock- These guys aren't going to be around forever and its time the WWE put the requisite time, effort and resources into creating the characters and stars who are going to take the Company forward in the future.