Who's next to lead WWE?
By Rennie Detore
Sunday, November 14, 2004
If Randy Orton thought being the youngest WWE champion was difficult,
wait until he has to carry the entire company on his 25-year-old
shoulders in a few years. That seemingly is the direction WWE is
heading with its lack of creating new superstars at a standstill.
Before everyone starts screaming the name John Cena, look at how his
career has progressed since getting called up from Ohio Valley
Wrestling in June 2002. He debuted with a stellar performance against
Kurt Angle, which propelled him as a decent babyface, albeit one
without much of an identity. His neon orange and purple wrestling
tights didn't exactly help him connect with the male wrestling
Then, he turned into a rapper and reignited the throwback look,
sporting jerseys for every city he wrestles in during "Smackdown."
Somewhere between the orange outfit and the jerseys, Cena lost his
Now, Cena is set to begin filming a movie, "The Marine." WWE explained
his absence by saying he was injured in a fight at a nightclub. Rumor
has it that he'll be putting out a rap CD some time in January. There
still is no word on when he'll be taught how to be a main-event
Cena did, however, shift his schedule around so he'd be able to
wrestle at "Survivor Series" tonight.
Cena's brief flashes of seriousness came in his first, and only, match
with U.S. Champion Carlito Cool on "Smackdown" a few weeks ago. So,
what does WWE do? They ship him off to film some B-rate movie.
That's not exactly the kind of blueprint a wrestler on the cusp of
main-event stardom follows. WWE, however, has lost sight of the
significance of teaching Cena how to draw money and instead wants him
to quickly flop in a low-end action movie.
But alas, because Carlito and Cena will no doubt hook up tonight at
"Survivor Series," perhaps fans can see that intense side of Cena.
Even still, Cena won't be sticking around long enough for that fervor
to matter, because it's no doubt back to the set of "The Marine" upon
the conclusion of "Survivor Series."
That passionate and powerful aspect of Cena's character has been
missing and will continue to prevent him from becoming a legitimate
superstar if it continues to be downplayed. Once Cena's personality
wears thin, WWE's audience will have little or no connection left with
There are no memorable Cena matches to recall. There are no
career-defining feuds to remember.
WWE is so interested in making Cena a marketable out-of-the-ring
character that they've forgotten how to make him an equally compelling
one inside of the ring.
The Rock didn't just ascend to television and movie roles immediately.
He developed a hip, identifiable persona as a wrestler first. He also
had his share of main-event success, be it match quality or drawing
money. The out-of-the-ring part of The Rock's success came naturally.
With Cena, WWE is trying to start at the finish line and work
Cena isn't the only glaring flaw in WWE's system for creating a new
batch of Mick Foleys or "Stone Cold" Steve Austins.
WWE really has little to remain optimistic about the future. Most of
its main-event stars are in their mid-to-late 30s, and its current
crop of would-be money makers are average at best.
Edge and Sheldon Benjamin are promising, but Gene Snitsky is easily
the worst WWE heel in years. He can't cut promos, and he can't
wrestle, which sounds a lot like Tyson Tomko.
Eugene is too much of a one-dimensional character, Batista needs to
stop flexing and learn to wrestle, and the charismatically challenged
Maven only gets pushed once every six months.
On "Smackdown," it's too soon to tell with Carlito, and Rene Dupree is
the definition of the word "bust," but Charlie Haas, a Division I
champion from Seton Hall, is being wasted.
Mark Jindrak and Luther Reigns seem like Kurt Angle lackeys, Paul
London has almost been forgotten, and Shannon Moore gets squashed by
guys like Heidenreich, who would be "Smackdown's" version of Snitsky
if he didn't have Paul Heyman.
Kurt Angle, with a neck injury that could resurface tomorrow, can't
wrestle forever. Neither can Triple H, although I suspect he'd like to
be frozen for 20 years and return to make life miserable for a legion
of new wrestling fans.
The Big Show, Booker T, JBL, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit are
Relying on name value and not seriously creating new superstars is
something WCW did. And, we all know how that story ended -- WCW went
out of business in April 2001.
If Vince McMahon follows that same path, he doesn't have to worry
about Orton, Cena or anyone else carrying his company into the future,
because it won't have one.