It is never too long after WrestleMania that people start speculating about the next one. In fact this year the speculation began during the show after the segment between The Rock, Ronda Rousey and The Authority. Despite there being a minimum of 11 other PPV events in the year, the magnitude of the event is such that it is talked about and debated around the world 12 months a year.
What has been disappointing so far in all the talk about next years WrestleMania is that it has been all about the part-time roster and who is likely to show up. Rumoured matches so far have all been combinations of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Sting, Brock Lesnar and Triple H. There is no doubting that these are some of the biggest names in the history of wrestling, but is this healthy for the future of WWE?
WWE has used part time wrestlers for a few years now but the subject is still a controversial one as part time performers are still seemingly being prioritised. In 2014 the WWE made it quite clear who they felt the real stars in the company were when they put The Rock on the cover of WWE 2014 despite him not having wrestled in 6 months, having Batista win the Royal Rumble a week after his return and then finally putting the WWE title belt on Brock Lesnar.
The current roster have not openly complained and Dolph Ziggler made the following comments last year:
"Eight years ago, it would have made me really mad with Rock coming back and guys who come back just for WrestleMania. It’s a two part story. It makes me so mad that we can’t do a show without those guys. But here’s the business side: we need those guys to get eyes on a show that normally wouldn’t get them so you can see these up and coming guys so one day down the line in twenty years when I’m doing something else and they say, ‘Hey we need you to get on this card so we can highlight these twenty other guys who are up and coming.’ It’s a circle of life and a circle of business. If they weren’t making money, they wouldn’t keep doing it.”
A cynic could argue that as an employee of WWE Ziggler is unlikely to give his true feelings if they are anti-part time and that he is probably towing the company line and repeating Vince's views on the subject. I certainly wondered how much of John Cena's promos during his feud with Brock Lesnar, when he repeatedly described Lesnar as a mercenary with no love for the business, was John Cena the man or John Cena the performer. One former WWE champion no longer employed by Mr McMahon gave a very different view on the subject.
In the now infamous Colt Cabana podcast, CM Punk revealed his frustrations in playing second fiddle to the part time roster:
"I was like 'explain to me how losing to a 45-year-old man that wrestles once a year is going to make me the hottest heel in the world? No disrespect. Explain to me how that works. Because I'm the one that's still going to be here the next day, you know? Rock beats me, Rock leaves. Undertaker beats me, Undertaker leaves.' And I wrestled that f***ing match with 'Taker with the biggest chip on my shoulder because I knew the match was going to be better than Brock and Triple H.....
So he (Vince) goes 'you vs. Brock, SummerSlam.' And I went 'great, who's going over?' And he goes 'well, Brock.' And I went 'great! Who's going to be at work on Monday?' And there's just silence on the end of the phone and he goes 'well, I mean, you.' And I went 'why?' I said 'do I get my rematch at the next PPV?' He goes 'uh, no.' I said 'when is Brock coming back?' He said 'Probably the Royal Rumble.' And I went 'f***ing hell.' So I've gotta put over The Rock and he goes away, I've gotta put over 'Taker and he goes away, and now I'm putting over Brock and he goes away. My stock is dropping rapidly in the eyes of the casual viewer, who is who they care about. So if I'm to maintain my main event status, I'm not going to be able to do it by producing excellent matches on house shows and TV all the time."
CM Punk went on to say that the result of only bringing out the "real" superstars at WrestleMania would result in people only buying WrestleMania and not bothering with the "B-list" roster the rest of the year. His views may be a little extreme but since 'Mania, viewing figures have been dropping and last month Raw got its worst audience in two years. You only need to look at WCW to see how a complacent company relying on established stars can take a turn for the worst and WWE need to promote the guys on TV every week and working the house shows.
Instead of WWE filling the card with part-time wrestlers fighting each other Vince McMahon needs to come up with a fresh approach. WWE need invest in developing three new main event stars over the next year to defeat The Rock, Triple H and the Undertaker at “the grandaddy of them all” to symbolically usher in a new WWE era. Imagine a family feud that begins due to a heel Rock's jealousy of Roman Reigns, saying he can never be as good as him which climaxes with Reigns defeating his cousin at WrestleMania. Kevin Owens turning on his NXT mentor Triple H and defeating him in a physical battle. Dean Ambrose defeating The Undertaker and retiring him. It would be an event full of talking points and would help in moving the company on and not having to rely on the part-timers in the future.
Although he is 100% definitely full-time, WWE have got the balance exactly right with the John Cena and Kevin Owens, using an established star with a new face in a high profile feud which promotes the new guy as being more dominant than the veteran. If the company does not want to become an event people only watch once a year and wants to make a new set of difference-making stars they need to follow this approach. Otherwise we will still be talking about the same thing in 5 years time as we wait for Triple H vs Kevin Nash and The Rock vs Brock Lesnar for the third consecutive year. WWE have had it good for a while but there are plenty of alternatives around now and it's time for the company to up it's game, and that means making full-time workers top of the bill.