Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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WWE Old School RAW a Recipe for the Future

Roddy PiperThis past Monday night, the WWE celebrated its past through a special Old School edition of RAW. Several former stars appeared on the show, from the ridiculous (the Brooklyn Brawler and Harvey Wippleman) to the sublime (Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mean Gene Okerlund).

On the surface, it was a celebration of unmitigated nostalgia with several older stars coming back for one more moment in the sun. Granted, there was some of that shine going on, but if you looked at the events that went down, you’d have seen that it wasn’t a show that was solely dedicated to looking at the past.

Just look at how some of these Legends were used. Brawler came out and challenged anyone in the back, only to put Ezekiel Jackson over in convincing fashion. Ted DiBiase, Sr.’s scheme to get his Million Dollar Championship back was to give it back to his son, who refused it and boldly proclaimed he was going out to make his own name in the company and get a belt he earned himself.

Daniel Bryan and Jack Swagger wrestled a showcase match with the greatest wrestling announcer alive, Jim Ross calling the action. Tito Santana and Chavo Classic put Alberto del Rio over by fawning over him and praising him, while Sgt. Slaughter did the same by antagonizing, wrestling, bumping for and putting him over. Yes, the new generation of WWE superstars was on parade last night, and it wasn’t an accident.

[adinserter block=”2″]The WWE is in a ratings and PPV buys slump right now. Despite posting record revenues and profits, business isn’t as up as they’d like it. They also have a problem in putting an epic matchup on the marquee for WrestleMania this year. All of that can be traced to a lack of starpower at the top of the card. Outside of John Cena, Randy Orton and possibly Edge there are no established draws who are healthy right now and who can carry a WrestleMania main event as opposed to any other PPV. It’s gotten so bad that they’ve reached out to an obviously-under-UFC-contract Brock Lesnar and to former employees Batista (who won’t be returning) and Chris Jericho (who will return eventually but probably wasn’t planning on coming back as soon as WrestleMania). Goldberg is even a name that’s been floated around, and if they do contact him, you can expect him to be on a plane to Atlanta for the big event because he’s raring to go if it means a WrestleMania stage.

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Because of all the injuries and retirements, they need to build new stars. I wouldn’t think they’d expect to build one by this year’s big event, but they can’t keep going on like this and see their biggest cash cow run dry of that green milk it produces. Monday night’s proceedings proved that beyond the shadow of any doubt. Look at the people who got rubs – DiBiase, del Rio, Bryan, Swagger, Jackson. All of them have immense potentials, high ceilings that reach as far as where Cena and Orton reside. Hell, Swagger has already realized part of his potential in that he’s gotten a World Championship on his résumé. In the future, these guys, along with The Miz, Sheamus and Wade Barrett are your potential WrestleMania headliners. Therefore, it makes sense that you put them over and use guys who will always be over no matter what to give them each a rub.

[adinserter block=”1″]The key will be the follow-up for each man featured. This is where the WWE has failed in the past to capitalize on momentum and truly create a new star. Proper attention needs to be paid to each of the guys who got a momentum boost from working with the older stars, or else it’ll just fade into memory. The WWE, before it got the “F” out, used to be so good at building up wrestlers. It used to have a vibrant mid-card, featuring colorful personalities like Mr. Perfect and Junkyard Dog and Santana and Tatanka and several others, all of whom got their own feuds, stories and promo time. Now, the mid-card is nebulous, with only one or two guys on either brand getting any kind of meaningful screen time and every other second on the show dedicated to the main event wrestlers, lame comedy or shilling WWE-related products.

If the WWE wants to truly build new stars, they need to change the formula and look at what worked for them before they bought out WCW, doubled their roster size and started to pat themselves on their backs more vigorously than normal. However, what they did on Monday was a very, very good start. These old guys know a thing or two about the business. They know how to work a crowd, cut a promo and as referenced by their performances by and large on RAW, they know how to put younger guys over. I don’t care who you are, if you can do that, you’re worth more than your weight in gold, and any time you appear on the show, it’s going to be a good one.

Just like Old School RAW was a good one.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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