While it isn’t shocking that Flair and others knew back then that Austin had a snap to his work and a charisma that was right for the business, the fact that Flair, a man who has had few peers in his career would single out Austin when he could have talked about Sting, Barry Windham, or his best friend Arn Anderson tells you how special a wrestler and performer Austin was back then and would become in time.
Austin was and still is rarity – a tough SOB with a shtick that made him one of the best “independent” wrestlers of his generation. The beer drinking, foil-mouth spewing, hard-working fixture in the WWE was an easy sell to the fans once the company figured out how to market him. And we all know everyone can identify with wanting to get over on the boss and kick his ass from time to time.
The WWE in a way lost part of its charm and its message when Austin finally had to hang up his boots. No one has come in and “taken” his place in the hierarchy of status as a lone wolf or “anti-hero” as he has been called over the years.
When CM Punk dropped his infamous pipe bomb on the WWE Universe and exposed the company for its misgivings, I really thought he would stand alone and become an Austin or a Bruiser Brody or Stan Hansen – wrestlers who did not need managers, were free and independent thinkers and could take over a territory with their ability and mic skills.
In a way, Punk sold out with his commitment to Paul Heyman, but in return it become one of the greatest marriages of all time in the business. The give and take between the two was reminiscent of Flair and Steamboat, Piper and Valentine and the Funks and Harley Race. There were a few wrinkles – but yes it was that damn good.
The WWE cannot recapture that kind of drama and while it looks to others to bridge that gap, it must write an entirely new set of standards. I asked last night who would be able to take Punk’s place in the company as the rabid wrestler and mic man that he is.
While I see The Miz as a rightful candidate and a performer who has few peers, he is not the right man for the job. Honestly, if the WWE is going to find someone who carries the next generation of stars to the battlefields, it should be Dean Ambrose.
The WWE did one of the greatest things it could think of when it joined the mindful mastery of Punk with the brooding tempers of The Shield.
Now, that is gone and while it would appear the eventual divorce of the unholy trinity is on hold, it eventually needs to happen. Ambrose needs to step into a new role as the Punk-Brody-Hansen-Anderson wrestler we know he can become. We, meaning the fans – not the writers who cover the business. Ambrose is the natural fit and the wrestler we can get behind and hate or love or both at the same time.
Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71
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