WWE critics are hopeful that some good comes out of Seth Rollins’ injury. Optimistic fans believe that the injury will force the WWE to shake things up and rethink current booking patterns. Unfortunately, a look at history suggests that any optimism should be tempered going forward.
Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, especially a guy that has worked as Seth Rollins has to achieve his success. However, a silver lining in this for wrestling fans is the hope that the WWE would be forced to shake things up, push some new stars, and scale back the 50-50 booking. All great ideas, unfortunately, the man in charge generally reacts much differently.
Let’s go back eight years to 2007, almost eight years to the day, when John Cena suffered a major injury, ending his WWE championship title reign. Even eight years ago, fans were screaming for changes, bored with the usual suspects; Cena, Triple H, Batista, and Randy Orton on top. They were hoping for a major change, specifically a returning Chris Jericho or Jeff Hardy to win the title, shaking things up with a brand new guy in the top spot. Those fans were greatly disappointed.
How did Vince McMahon react to the situation? He went with his trusted hand of Triple H and Randy Orton. Not only did Vince not think out of the box, he boxed himself in even more. Even as Jeff Hardy gained momentum, it wouldn’t be until over a year later that things would be shaken up and Hardy would hold the title, for slightly more than a month mind you. Between Cena going down and Hardy’s title win, the title was changed five times with Hunter and Orton feuding over the title for six months before it went to Edge, who was not necessarily new, but opened the door for some change.
Batista went down about a year and a half later as champion in June 2009. If you thought it was bad in 2007, 2008 was even more repetitive in regards to booking. How did Vince react to the injury and the stale product? Vince went to John Cena and Randy Orton, who feuded over the title for four of the longest months of any feud the last decade. It wasn’t until December that Vince shook things up and elevated Sheamus to a top spot to feud with Cena over the title.
Daniel Bryan was finally the break that fans were waiting for in a stale WWE product in 2014. The plan going into the year was for Orton and Batista to feud for the title, but circumstances and unprecedented momentum saw Bryan get the title. Bryan was forced to vacate the title a few months later due to injury. Vince would surely seize the opportunity for change that Bryan brought with him and continue with a fresh face at the top right?
Wrong! Vince went to his favorite insurance policy, John Cena and put the title on Cena at Money in the Bank. This was the MITB match that also featured Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, and Roman Reigns, all guys who weren’t yet tainted by the bad creative that was about to come their way. All were potential fan favorites for no other reason than to continue breathing fresh life into the WWE world title. Rather that seize the moment, Vince went with his pat hand, squandering opportunities that would have deviated from the status quo.
This brings us to 2015. Quite honestly, I would argue that the talent roster is fresher today than it was in 2007, 2009, and 2014. The problem is that the all of that talent have been marginalized, more so than the rosters supporting the champions in previous years. It would have been much easier, even going back to 2014 to elevate guys before they were tarnished by the current “Even-Steven” booking.
There is a definite pattern here. It appears to me what Vince likes to do is go with his established guy and buy some time to regroup and plan for the future. Quite frankly it’s admirable in that Vince never overreacts to these situations and instead, goes with a pat hand, and takes a few months to plan for the future or just sit back and analyze the situation as it plays out. It’s not fun for fans who are already bored with a stale product, but for a businessman, it is quite shrewd and more responsible to taking time to lay out the storylines and push the guys he wants, rather than “shake things up” and react to the moment as opposed to planning for the future.
So yes you may get your Roman Reigns as WWE champion, but I would expect him to be in feuds with Big Show or Kane before headlining against guys like Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, or Cesaro. Those feuds may come down the line, but a look at past history shows that you should prepare for more of the same because the change you want may not be in line with the change the CEO wants.