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WWE then and now: For all the 'change' we're seeing, things seem awfully familiar

"I do and say whatever I want to whomever I please." - CM Punk, 8/15/2011

Goodness, why do I feel like I've heard that before?

Oh, I know! It's because I have. I heard it week in and week out when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was saying basically the same thing a decade ago. And like Punk has done recently, "The Bionic Redneck" first broke through wrestling's glass ceiling by essentially harnessing all the anger and frustration he had from not being used properly for years and focusing it into a new character.

I'm not here to rip on the WWE for basically ripping themselves off. No, I want to congratulate them. They've finally figured it out.

At the level that the WWE is at, they have found out that wrestlers don't sell, personalities do. Characters -- no, archtypes are what reel a viewer in. 

Almost anyone can relate to hating their boss so when Austin gave Vince McMahon a Stunner, you cheered. You cheered long and hard because chances are you wanted to do that to your own boss so badly.

Davey Richards is one of the best pure wrestlers on the planet but if no one gives a damn about him, who cares? But on the flip side, you can't just grab some scrubs off the street and say, "Okay, you're the rebel, you're the arrogant Adonis, and you're the brutal tactician."

It's not that easy. You need a performer as good as Austin was -- or as Punk is -- to pull it off. But they're not only doing it with Chicago's finest. It seems like they're going to try and recreate a few more stars from the Attitude Era.

Which ones? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Obviously, Vince McMahon wants John Cena to be The Rock so bad. So bad that it hurts -- him and the viewers both as we've been subjected to years upon years of second-rated, half-assed Rock-esque promos delivered by Cena.

It never became more obvious as when the two entered into a program earlier this year. "The Great One" seemed like he was walking on water while Cena did everything he could not to drown.

There will never be another Dwayne Johnson. He's was such a good wrestler that he transcended the sport and left the business. The only other person to come close to that was Hulk Hogan and to be honest, The Rock has forgotten more about charisma than Hogan will ever know.

But the archtype of the cocky, full-of-himself wrestler with good looks and a great body isn't lost simply because "The Brahma Bull" played it to utter perfection.

The reason Cena rose through the ranks so quickly was because he had an edge to him. The rapping, the throwback jerseys, the swagger was what fans wanted. They want someone to live out their wildest dreams: being the envy of every guy and the desire of each woman.

But he was slowly morphed from a potential replacement for The Rock to the "Hulkster"-prototype. And while every male over the age of 13 grew tired of his shtick, the bigger sin was that it was bad for business. Everyone -- kids, women, and men alike -- loved The Rock but a big chunk of the audience can't stand Cena. Why turn them away?

Here's the solution: give Cena some edge back. We saw a little bit of that at the end of RAW this past Monday. He doesn't have to start flipping people off and chugging beers at ringside but a little more risque behavior isn't going to turn the kiddies away.

The WWE need look no further than Triple H's weight room to find a new "Cerebral Assassin." Why not his workout pal Sheamus? He's definitely got the build and now that's he's trimmed down that ridiculous haircut, it's a bit easier to take him seriously.

He's been improving in the ring consistently since his WWE Title push and he isn't so awful that he can't be carried to a really good match in the meantime.

At a billed 6'6" and nearly 300 pounds, he's already a physical threat. A couple of years from now, the company can develop his character to expand that to the mental game as well; always staying two steps ahead of his foes to gain the upper hand.

If that doesn't work out, Wade Barrett is always waiting in the wings.

Oh, and as for Mick Foley? Just forget about that one.

No one is that insane to put their body through that.

Well, maybe John Morrison.

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