Do Fans Have Unrealistic Expectations of WWE’s Veteran Wrestlers? – by Mike Sanchez

It can’t have escaped any WWE fan’s attention that lately the product has been pushing matches featuring WWE legends or veterans, depending on which way you look at it. The recent Super Showdown in Australia featured Triple H and the Undertaker in a match that saw extra involvement from Shawn Michaels and the Mayor of Knox County and part-time devil’s favorite demon, Kane. The match itself was enjoyable enough for me, as I appreciate every chance to watch The Undertaker’s epic entrance at any opportunity. I liked it for what it was; a standard brawl with signature spots from all involved that drew cheers from an appreciative live audience that probably 99% have never seen any of the four men in live competition before.

The match predictably led to a continuation at the upcoming Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, and no doubt there’ll also be another match-up involving one, if not all, of these men at WrestleMania next year. I read many reviews of the show and saw the comments on Twitter form the internet wrestling fandom and couldn’t help but notice how many people were moaning or griping about the standard of the match and the fact that it wasn’t all that good. Seriously? What do people expect?

Let’s take a step back here; according to the fountain of all knowledge that is Wikipedia, the ages of the aforementioned men are as follows:

  • Undertaker – 53 (will be 54 come Wrestlemania) – listed as ‘Professional wrestler’ on Google.
  • Shawn Michaels – 53 – listed as ‘American actor’.
  • Triple H – 49, listed as ‘American Business Professional’.
  • Kane – 51, listed as ‘professional wrestler’ before mayor.

These are not young guys and as vastly talented and experienced as they are, you’re not going to get a high-flying, five star classic when they have a match nowadays – it simply isn’t going to happen. Sure, they’re professional enough to not phone in a performance, and will appreciate the support from the fan base, but they’re guys who’ve been busting their asses, taken multiple beatings and had multiple surgeries all their adult lives. Now that they’re each semi-retired, they aren’t going to magically heal in their homes and ranches, ready for an inevitable comeback to capture the glory days of their youth, no, they’re going to get into the best shape they can for their respective ages and limitations and do the best they can.

I cannot understand how some fans can bemoan this very evident and relevant fact – they aren’t the same guys from the Attitude Era. They have families, wives and children. They have serious ongoing issues with their bodies from years of bumps, falls and chair shots. This isn’t the year 2000 when WWE (or WWF) was the hottest thing on TV not called Friends.

The same fans were calling out Sting for not doing his crow shtick from the rafters when he finally arrived in WWE – the guy was 54 or 55 when he debuted in WWE. What the hell did some people expect? He clambers up the rafters and drops down on a wire? He stood in the lighting rigs looking down on the ring? No, of course he was going to be in WWE for a cup of coffee – he was always going to work a handful of matches until he finally called it quits. Was his untimely injury unfortunate, especially given a recent interview where he wanted to do a Wrestlemania program with the Undertaker? Yeah, of course, but let’s not kid ourselves that it would’ve been some epic showstopper that would put the Bret Hart and Steve Austin feud to shame. No way.

This is why I have some reservations about what reception the women’s only Evolution PPV will likely get. Am I looking forward to it? Damn right I am. I’m a huge fan of the women’s division, but do I expect the same level of match from Trish Stratus, Lita, Mickie James, and likely a few other surprises, then I will get from Charlotte vs Becky Lynch? No, of course not. It would be unreasonable to think so. I’m not putting down Trish and the others, but fans should have reasonable expectations for what WWE give us and not gripe when our inflated expectations aren’t met. Want a quick example? Combined age of Becky Lynch & Charlotte – 63 (31 and 32), Trish & Lita – 84 (41 and 43). That extra decade makes a difference, and though both Trish & Lita look amazing, they’re not going to be on the same level as Becky or Charlotte. Hell, I’m in my mid-30s and know I couldn’t do half as well in sports as I could in my mid-20s.

Many teams and sports have their legends and it’s always good to look back at how good they once were. That doesn’t mean we want to see them return and get back on the field, does it? Where I live, in Liverpool UK, there are two football/soccer teams that have huge fan bases; Everton & Liverpool. Both have a long list of legendary players, but if they were put back into the teams now, would fans really expect them to roll back the years and put on match-winning performances? Would the 46-year-old Duncan Ferguson score flying headers against the Premier League’s best defenders for Everton? Would the 56-year-old Ian Rush bag a hatful of goals for Liverpool in the modern era? Of course not, so why expect any legend or veteran to do the same now, regardless of their sport?

What should we expect and how should we react when the veterans are given matches? Simply put, appreciate it for what it is; stars who gave their all for our entertainment and want to stand in the spotlight one last time. I absolutely love the Undertaker and have done since I was a kid. Everything about him is WWE for me. I don’t expect, nor want to see him on TV every week. He’s more than deserved his retirement and every time he returns, I feel that nostalgia inside me once more. That same wonder and slight apprehension I had when I was a kid. I know he’s not going to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Heavyweight Title and I don’t want him to. I’m just appreciative of what he’s done for the business and hope he puts on a match that I enjoy and doesn’t injure himself. The same can be said for Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Trish and many more. I don’t want them to feel like they have to perform for us, but that they want to do it and we’re appreciative of that. If they’re given the opportunity to make millions of dollars to travel across the globe and put on a match one night of the year, who could ever begrudge them that?

Fans need to remember that it’s the choice of the superstars to continue to wrestle big matches and they’ve earned that right and opportunity to do what they want. It simply shows how popular they are and how their body of work has had a lasting impact to not only be invited to work huge shows around the world, but to also rekindle the magic they once cast over fans like us. Perhaps we, the fans, should cut them some slack and just appreciate and enjoy them while they’re still able to climb in the ring. They’ve given us some great memories and we should forever be grateful for that.