The Miz is the latest failed attempt by the WWE to elevate a superstar by giving them a WWE belt. Vince McMahon is often called a wrestling genius, yet a look at recent attempts to elevate new talent tells a different story. One has to wonder if the WWE will create a new megastar ever again?
I have been critical of The Miz and the WWE’s decision to give him the title since day one. Judging by The Miz’s reaction at the Royal Rumble and declining business, it is fair to say that he has bombed as WWE champion. The Internet wrestling fan base loves him because of his witty lines and long promos. Unfortunately the key to being a successful world champion is drawing money and by that criteria The Miz is a dud.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine and we started reflecting on all of the recent attempts to elevate WWE superstars. In the WWE, getting the WWE championship is like being handed the keys to the car or getting the starting quarterback position for an NFL team. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. With the keys come the responsibilities and at the end of the day if the company is doing poor business during your run, you are the scapegoat (unless your name is John Cena or Randy Orton). An in depth look at the last few WWE stars to get elevated have two common denominators. One is that they all failed. Two is that they were all booked to fail.
Every single one of these guys had similar patterns. For one, none of them were protected or booked prior to winning the titles to be taken seriously as champion. Take a look back at successful WWE champions from Bruno Sammartino to Bob Backlund to Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart to Steve Austin to The Rock to Triple H to Kurt Angle. All of those guys were given monster pushes prior to becoming WWE champion. It just seemed natural for Steve Austin or Bret Hart to win the WWE title. All of those guys and past champions rarely lost prior to winning the titles, beat big names on the way to the top, and were slowly integrated into the main-event to the point that most fans expected it. Can anyone objectively say that about anyone the WWE has elevated since Jeff Hardy and that was a lot of luck?
The Miz for example never beat anyone of significance before becoming WWE champion. As a matter of a fact he lost to an immobile Bret Hart on RAW not that long ago. Jack Swagger was losing to guys like Evan Bourne just a few months before he won the WWE world heavyweight title. CM Punk was losing matches to MVP just a few months before his title reign. Sheamus was just a bit player on ECW before winning the title. The problem here is a lack of long term planning.
A few ex-WWE writers have talked in interviews since leaving WWE creative about the fact that Vince McMahon is always changing his mind about direction. That may be fine if he is doing it a year in advance. But this lack of stability has resulted in the inability to cultivate any young wrestler over the course of a year or two from a new face, to budding young star, to breakout star, to a winner of a big feud, to contender, to world champion. This in a nutshell may be the root of the problem when it comes to these unsuccessful champions. The Miz would have been taken a lot more seriously if he actually won a match against John Cena in their 2009 feud rather than losing every single one. The lack of foresight hurt him big time and has hurt everyone else.
The other big factor in this equation here is Vince McMahon and creative’s to fully commit to anyone. Take a look at three of the four above mentioned WWE wrestlers. With the exception of Sheamus, every one of those guys won their titles in fluke fashion cashing in Money in the Bank at inopportune times. Hey that is fine, because the rematches should draw big money. However when the champions continue to “just slip past” their opponents the fans can see right through it. Sheamus, Jack Swagger, The Miz, nor CM Punk beat anyone in decisive fashion during their title reigns. Don’t tell me the Royal Rumble was a “win” for The Miz and don’t tell me those fluke wins over JBL did anything for Punk during his reign. Why in the world would the WWE even bother putting these guys in the top spot if they won’t fully commit to them?
The big irony here is that the success of the WWE through Vince McMahon Sr. and Jr. was achieved by doing the complete opposite with their champions. Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and The Rock beat everyone. Hogan and Sammartino were the most successful WWE champions of all time and they beat everyone in the end and did it decisively. What happened Vince? Where did you lose your way? If anyone in pro wrestling should know how to book a successful world champion it is Vince McMahon and yet he hasn’t done it in years.
As I said before, it is an easy situation to fix. The WWE can start planning their next breakout champion right now and work on him for the next year or two. It worked for John Cena, it worked for Batista, it worked for Randy Orton, and it worked for Jeff Hardy. Unfortunately four in four years with two gone aren’t going to cut it in 2011 when business is down and fans are turning to other alternatives for their entertainment.