Throughout the past few years, the WWE has shown an over-reliance on older wrestlers coming to work part-time main event feuds. Guys such as The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and the Undertaker routinely check in and out of the WWE, often being placed in the biggest matches. The over utilization of these performers is something that needs to change in order for the WWE to move past a bygone era and build towards the future.
Don't get me wrong, I love the appearances by these legends as much as the next guy, and I always look forward to the their upcoming matches with great anticipation, but in the long run, the time invested in these veterans could all be better served if they went to other talents, ones who have a much more substantial future then the veterans.
One of the biggest problems the WWE faces is that they really lack new stars, guys that can be thrown into the main event at any time. It hurts that in the last 3-5 years, they have lost a huge chunk of main event wrestlers, some retired, some hung on as part-time wrestlers. Batista, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Edge, Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker are all gone for the most part. That left the depth chart pretty weak, so it makes sense to utilize the older stars as best as they could, even with a part-time schedule.
The problem is though that these veterans are getting so much air time and so much of the top billing, that many of the younger stars are being pushed to the wayside. Wrestlemania 29 had three really big matches and out of those matches, 4 out of the 6 competitors were part-time talents. The year before that, the ratio was the exact same, 4 out of 6.
The two guys who worked full time and were in those matches, CM Punk and John Cena are really the only true main-eventers in the WWE who work a full schedule. Certain guys like Big Show, Sheamus and Randy Orton work some main event feuds here and there, but they work just as many lower card matches. Anything less then top-billing for Cena or Punk feels out of the ordinary, and it shows in their match placements.
A lot of people feel that the reason the WWE has not established a lot of new big stars is simply because they just haven't found the right guys. While it is true that not every wrestler is destined for greatness, it is also true that the WWE has been extremely reluctant to push fresh faces to the top. Two guys who come to mind are Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett. Both wrestlers have shown some flashes of really great work and potential, however it seems that they are really being held back at times, and the WWE seems hesitant to give them the ball and run with it.
Instead of guys like Barrett or Bryan feuding with the top dogs in the company, Cena and Punk, they are pushed down lower into the mid-card while Punk and Cena take on the part-timers. While matches such as Cena vs Lesnar and Punk vs The Undertaker are certainly entertaining, they really supply no long-term reward for the WWE down the road. Since one of those competitors is not going to be around for a very long time, little can be built off of those feuds. After the dust has settled and the feud has commenced, the feud can only help two people, Cena and Punk. If Punk or Cena faced off against Bryan at a large ppv (and I believe it could easily be done well if the WWE gives Bryan the chance) then the feud and the match would benefit two parties, instead of just one.
Earlier today, there was a report about Stone Cold Steve Austin potentially coming back for another match, something that has been rumored about for years. Sure, Austin's return for a big match would do good business and would be a great moment, but it would just be another brick in the house that the WWE has built for itself. A house where short-term box offices come before long-term foundations. The same could be said about Goldberg coming back for a big match. Both men are well into their 40s, so it isn't like they can supply their provider with good business for years to come, it would be more likely a one-and-done type deal. It just is not a sound business strategy for a company that has been around for 50 years, and would like to be around for 50 more.
It also probably hurts guys in the lower-card's confidence when the WWE brings in past stars for the big roles. To draw an analogy from the gridiron, two years ago Colts quarterback Peyton Manning went down with a season ending injury. The Colts had young backup Curtis Painter behind Manning in the depth chart, yet they elected to sign veteran Kerry Collins instead to replace Manning. This caused a big riff in the sports world, because what is the point of even having Painter on the roster if the team was not confident in his ability to replace Manning? Painter did eventually get the starting job, but he played poorly, perhaps because the Colts had shown that they had zero faith in him at the beginning?
I know that comparison may be a stretch, but the confidence in guys like Bryan, Barrett, Ziggler and others must take somewhat of a hit when the WWE basically says "We have no one to work with Punk or Cena for Wrestlemania, never mind the rest of the roster, we better bring back the Rock or Lesnar to work with them because the rest of the roster can't get it done."
The WWE has shown a little faith in a few younger stars, especially Ryback. While other guys like Sheamus and Ziggler had been in the upper-mid card/main event for longer than him, Ryback blew the doors off of both of them in route to feuding with Punk over the WWE Championship and now John Cena over that same prize. Will Ryback be the next big star for the WWE? So far the numbers and the support for Ryback indicate that it is far from a resounding yes, but that is for another column. In the meantime, the WWE is crossing it's fingers hoping that Ryback can draw big money. Of course, if he doesn't they can always bring back a part-time guys to work with Cena :D.