A funny thing happened on the October 11 edition of WWE Friday Night SmackDown. During the main event between the Wyatt Family and the Rhodes brothers, JBL called the high knee executed by Cody the “Harley Race” knee. But then Michael Cole corrected him by saying it was the “Triple H” knee. It was a very quick moment and to be honest the causal fan may have just kept right on watching without skipping a beat.
Well, that and no sleep.
Truth be told, the moment was likely a non-issue. It was probably just Cole’s way of referencing WWE’s Chief Operating Officer. Inserting Hunter’s name into the match was a nod to the storyline that saw him firing Cody Rhodes in the first place.
Or perhaps it was a very small example of a larger trend that has been happening in the company for quite some time now. Is it possible that the powers that be in WWE are encouraging their Superstars to “borrow” the moves of past performers so they can make them their own?
And has it been happening longer than we even realize?
On the surface, it seems to be a logical move. After all, most of the younger crowd watching WWE programming likely has no idea who Harley was or what he meant to the industry. But, they have seen Triple H’s high knee and of course know all about him.
So when the moves are called on TV, why not attribute them to current Superstars? It keeps the product fresh and makes it appear as though the borrowed move-sets have been “perfected” by the guys entertaining fans right now. Where’s the harm in that?
Maybe there is none. But it is beginning to bother me.
Randy Orton’s Garvin Stomp was taken from Ronnie Garvin. And when Randy began using it, the commentary sourced Ron as the innovator of it. But these days, you’re more than likely going to hear the move referred to as the Orton Stomp.
The Wyatt Family’s Luke Harper throws a pretty mean clothesline and for any fan who knows JBL, they know exactly where it came from. It may not be the exact move but it is a variation on the Clothesline from Hell. Right now, the move is still associated with John but how long will it be before that stops happening?
The Spear is one of the most high-impact moves that we have ever seen in a WWE ring. It has been used countless times by countless Superstars but it used to be largely associated with Goldberg. Then Edge used it and it became a signature move for him. But now that Edge has retired, the Spear has made a comeback thanks to Christian, Kaitlyn and Roman Reigns. How long before the move is used exclusively in WWE by Reigns and no longer attributed to Edge?
However there is one instance in which I understand why a move-set no longer referenced to the man who made it famous.
Daniel Bryan uses the Flying Headbutt and the Yes-Lock in his repertoire. He has used them so much that at this point the shock of it has likely worn off for many fans. Because when he first began using both moves, the obvious link to Chris Benoit was established and it was all the talk among fans.
But not on WWE programming. For the company, Daniel Bryan is now the master of both the Flying Headbutt and the Yes-Lock. These moves belong to him and that’s it.
In this case, it makes sense that WWE would want to reissue signature moves for a current Superstar without referencing their former owner. Love it or hate it, the end result cannot be denied. Because in time, WWE fans may only think of Bryan when they see the Crossface. And that was likely the company’s intention to begin with.
But in most cases, the trend of reintroducing older moves into the modern era has no ominous undertones. It’s being done more and more and I believe that even though there may be no malice behind it, that it could eventually damage the integrity of the sport’s history for the masses.
The fact is that the more this trend continues, the more likely the link to the past becomes more strained. And I fear that over time it could all but disappear.
Don’t misunderstand me here; this is not to overly criticize WWE. The truth is that they have done a very good job of covering past eras, not only during their annual Hall of Fame ceremony but also in their DVD library.
WCW, AWA, ECW, World Class and Jim Crockett Promotions have all been given the DVD treatment and for the most part all of them were very well done. In fact, the company recently released the Legends of Mid-South disc, once again digging into the industry’s past. So the effort on WWE’s part has definitely been there.
And let’s be real about this for a moment. How many moves in the business are 100% original to their respective creators? The first time I saw CM Punk use the GTS, I immediately thought “man, that’s impressive.” But then I thought “wait, have I seen that somewhere before?”
But does it still bother me? Yes. And it probably always will.
Tom Clark is a WWE Featured Columnist & Consultant for Bleacher Report and a Contributor for JBL’s Layfield Report
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomclarkbr