WWE | Pro Wrestling

The Return of the WWE Vignette Helps John Cena’s Return to Action

For years, one of the lost art forms of professional wrestling has been the use of the vignette to tell a story, prepare a match and sell a rivalry.

It was a popular way of promotion back in the 1970s and 1980s – especially in the NWA and other wrestling promotions like Mid-South Championship Wrestling, the Universal Wrestling Federation and World Class Championship Wrestling. Wrestlers like Dutch Mantel, Tommy Rich, Eddie Gilbert and Gino Hernandez would not have reached their height of success without the use of the microphone or video to highlight their ability.

Wrestling got too big for its britches a while back and shied away from the art of a good interview. Larger than life wrestlers did not need the attention – promoters like Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman in ECW created the build for the athletes. It was a crucial part of the industry that was lost and forgotten for some time.

What happen to a business where wrestling mattered?

TNA has taken some of the thrill of 1970s and 80s concepts and used them effectively, just not enough. Their backstage interviews and “spy” footage is a page out of the old NWA and most recently the nWo, thus adding a sense of Kayfabe to the business. It allows us older guys to remember how it was when Eddie Graham, Fritz Von Erich and Verne Gagne ruled the airwaves.

The WWE is trying recreate that a bit now with how they conduct themselves in this new environment of disorderly control. The “Fireside Chats” between Triple H and Michael Cole are great for an “out of the box” look to a wrestling program, almost like a 20/20 segment. The company is also trying to use the same “throwback” angle with John Cena and his rehabilitation from elbow surgery. While it appears to be a bit stilted and odd, it works.

The build is a nice way of the WWE bringing back its cash cow. The embattlement of Cena with his injury and the preparation for Hell in a Cell and the war with Alberto Del Rio reminds me of Steamboat and Flair in 1989.

Do not misunderstand what I said – nothing in terms of matches could be Steamboat/Flair (with the exception of Steamboat/Savage) EVER.

If the WWE continues to try and build its tag team division, create more mid card successes like Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler (PLEASE) and uses Cena to strengthen the Blue Banner of SmackDown, then the company is moving forward in the right direction. Does it mean the product and its ratings will jump through the roof? Probably not. But taking a page from a dialect that was successful for almost 100 years and using it in an effective manor can’t hurt the product that is sinking like sugar in water.

I would be interested to see if the WWE will use the same tactics in the return of a repackaged Wade Barrett (which it did before he returned from injury), Rey Mysterio, Kane, Mark Henry and the Undertaker. Fans would become an even greater part of the package because – whether we like it or not – the surprise for a 15 year old now is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Social media killed that for us.

Creating a bit of drama for the return of John Cena like the WWE tried to do with the return of CM Punk (which it did miserably) in this sense is a good thing. Cena isn’t as much the savior in this sense as he is the wounded warrior making his return. And in case anyone has forgotten, all that does is command ratings – something this company needs dearly.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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