The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
A frequent criticism of the WWE is that they do not put enough emphasis on their Mid-Card performers. Even though Raw lasts 3 hours now, the guys on the middle of the card are still very much an afterthought on most of the shows. If you are not in the main-event scene in the WWE, you might as well forget about getting an actual storyline to work with. Instead, a Mid-Carders day is spent doing jobs to more established talent or wrestling meaningless matches during the shows dullest points.
What is weird is that the WWE has an incredibly large roster filled with a lot of great talent just waiting to be exploited, however, only about 10 performers on the roster get anything as much as promo time, let alone a storyline from creative. In NXT, the WWE has established the deepest assemblage of wrestling talent available today, however, these great talents are not being properly featured on the WWE’s main roster, mainly because the WWE is either unwilling or unable to dedicate time to featuring them.
The WWE main roster is really broken down into a very simple hierarchy that indicates how much each talent is going to be featured on a regular basis. I will try and place talent in one of three groups; Main Eventers, Pseudo-Main Eventers and the Mid-Card. For sanity’s sake, I will only use full-time members, as well as only guys who have been on the roster for at least a few months (judging new talent is too difficult because nobody knows exactly where they fit).
Main Eventers: John Cena, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.
Pseudo Main Eventers: Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry, The Shield, Big Show, Cody Rhodes, Rob Van Dam, Christian, Kane and Ryback.
Mid-Carders: Wade Barrett, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Fandango, Prime Time Players, Curtis Axel, Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara, The Real Americans and Big E Langston.
There is technically a fourth group, called Jobbers, but realistically they are the same as Mid-Carders. Mid-Carders are basically just Jobbers who win sometimes. With the exception of a few, Mid-Carders don’t get any promo time or any type of a storyline.
The Mid-Card used to be held up by two prestigious titles that have very long histories. I’m talking of course about the Intercontinental Championship, and the United States Championship.
Not very long ago, probably around 2007, those titles were integral parts to both Raw and Smackdown. The champions where given plenty of interview time and storylines to work with, and the Mid-Card actually became an important place to be. Being stuck in the Mid-Card was not necessarily a bad thing, because things could always be worse as a Jobber. Now that being a Jobber and a Mid-Carder is essentially the same thing, being “stuck” in the Mid-Card is like being locked away at Alcatraz.
On the surface, it seems that kick-starting the Mid-Card would be a pretty simple endeavor. After all, the WWE was able to prominently feature the Mid-Card when it only had one 2-hour show on television. Now with several shows on cable TV, finding time for the Mid-Card should be a piece of cake.
A major difference however, between then and now is that the WWE’s booking philosophy has changed significantly. The WWE seems to be much more interested in pushing the hell out of a few major storylines, and basically leaving everything else untouched. This is why on a typical Raw you will see a majority of the on-screen time go to only a couple of different storylines. Raw will have several segments dedicated to Daniel Byran and Randy Orton, a few for Triple H and a couple more for CM Punk and Paul Heyman. When those men are not in the ring or being interviewed, their most recent actions are being replayed and recapped by the announcers, discussed by other talents, being tweeted about, etc.
This booking idea must come from the philosophy that Mid-Carders do not draw people to the TV screen, or to the pay-per-view box office. A match over the Intercontinental title will not sell ppvs, but a match between two former world champions will. Therefore, it is best to dedicate most of the time to two or three very important storylines then to several minor storylines. Basically, quantity does not equal quality. This same booking method has affected the tag-team division in the exact same way.
In my opinion, fixing the Mid-Card starts with those two previously mentioned titles. I don’t think the issue is from a lack of talent, instead it is of a lack of prominence. Curtis Axel is currently the Intercontinental Champion, and he is in a heated feud with CM Punk. On paper, that sounds great for the IC title, however the Intercontinental Championship is a mere afterthought in the feud. The storyline is built around Heyman and Punk, Axel is just along for the ride. The IC title is hardly ever mentioned during the segments dedicated to Axel, which is terrible for the title’s reputation and prestige.
If the WWE cared to actually put some creative effort into their Mid-Card, I’m pretty confident their fan base would appreciate it. Like a lot of people, I grew up in a time when being the IC or US Champion was a pretty big deal, and seeing a lot of the young and talented guys battle over it would be a great move in my opinion. Instead of showing 300 recaps of what Triple H said, how about setting up a small storyline between Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler, or Curtis Axel and Fandango? It just seems like a safe, low risk move to make if you are the WWE.
I understand that the WWE really wants to make the big things seem very big, but if you go back to the WWE’s most successful period, the Mid-Card flourished. One of my favorite rivalries of all-time is between The Rock and Ken Shamrock, over the IC title. Did their feud take anything away from Steve Austin and Vince McMahon? Of course not. Maybe by showcasing more of the major storylines is a way for compensating for a less successful booking period, but I still think that putting more effort into the Mid-Card could only help the WWE.