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Is WWE Aging Gracefully? by Matt Corton

Lots of things age well. Really well. Wine. Good music. A good cheese. But they only age well up to a point. You wouldn’t want to keep vintage champagne for more than 10 years as you’ll be drinking flat vinegar.

It’s the same with wrestling. I know; who knew I was going there, right?

The thing is, the age at which something becomes aged changes. Footballers here in the UK used be well past their prime at 32, now many of them are going on to their late 30s. The same is true of other sportsmen – the more we understand the body and how it works, the better care we take of it, the more likely it is to last longer, even if we put it through hell.

Talking of hell and things being aged, I think Kane had a pretty decent showing on SmackDown this week. It’s no secret to those reading my columns that I have a soft spot for the Big Red Machine, and that I wish his career had taken a more believable path without so many high profile losses (a mistake they are repeating with Bray Wyatt).

I see a lot of comments from a lot of people who watch wrestling, whether it be about part-timers, or ‘old hands’ or high profile stars from other companies coming into WWE at the expense of building talent up to main event status, but as the age profile of the wrestler changes, as the number of bumps on their bump cards increases just like athleticism and resilience increases with every generation, this is only going to get more and more common.

For all the part-timers and returning and older debuting stars, I’ve seen three new things I never thought I’d see in WWE this year.

john-cena-aj-styles-smackdown

I’ve seen AJ Styles hold a major WWE championship.

I’ve seen Heath Slater used properly, perhaps for the first time since Nexus (I hated 3MB).

I’ve seen Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn, which was frankly, purely awesome.

The trick is making sure that as things age, you keep them there only until their expiry date and not before. AJ Styles is a debuting WWE Champion at 39. He’s the same age as John Cena, whose career is starting to wind down. Same age as Brock Lesnar, who looks like he can go on for years and years to come yet. Kane and Goldberg are 49 (apologies for artificially aging Goldberg in my last article), Mark Henry and Chris Jericho 45 and Big Show 44.

Jericho at 45 is doing his best work for a very, very long time. John Cena is going to be in the top ten matches of the year every single year until he retires. Kane still has a unique place on the roster, if he has slowed down significantly in recent years.

Each of those three, plus 47-year-old Triple H (I’m guessing) will be in matches at Wrestlemania this year. Big Show will also likely take part against 44-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. The elder statesman, 51-year-old Undertaker may well have his last match there. That’s six featured athletes at ‘Mania who will be at least in their mid-40s.

I personally think that’s absolutely freaking great.

Wrestling has, for me, never been about watching a young man come good. It’s always been about watching the best stories brought to life by characters who are larger than that life featuring believable, tough wrestling.

If those stories involve bringing a new guy through, as the story of the Shield and their break up did, then fantastic. It those stories involve bringing in a 39-year-old to take one of the major belts, who has no history in WWE, then that’s fantastic as well.

What’s important is how they tell the stories and how the matches entertain us.

Could they build some of the newer talent better, regardless of age? Absolutely. Could they take a punt on people a little bit quicker than they do, rather than sending them off to TNA to succeed like Ethan Carter III and Drew Galloway? Absolutely. Do they sometimes fail to realise the money they have in their locker and go for the short-term fix rather than the longer-term gain? Absolutely, but it’s worth bearing in mind that in this day and age balance sheets can run on a very short-term basis.

Shinsuke Nakamura Sami Zayn

If you look at the things I’ve seen this year that I never thought I’d see, they’re all absolutely fantastic and among the three best moments of WWE’s recent history, and not just this year. Two of them – Shinsuke vs. Zayn and AJ Styles’ run to the top, involve the company putting on fantastic matches while they’ve told great stories.

And those stories are great because they took their time with them – the stories got a chance to breathe, grow and age gracefully.

That’s why I’m a bit confused, because the WWE is something of a paradox right now. The best storyline going into Hell in a Cell is by far and away Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte. This feud has been back and forth, both parties have taken the title from the other and they’ve put on stellar matches. They’ve had many matches now and it still hasn’t got old. They could revisit this feud next year and I’d happily watch another series of matches between them, they’re that good.

More than that, and because of that, it’s the ONLY feud WWE has right now that should be ending in a Hell in a Cell match.

Right?

Only, Rusev vs. Reigns has been more or less the same. Both parties have scored victories (although Roman has looked far more dominant than either Sasha or Charlotte) and both have been humbled. Both have had as good matches as I think they could have had together. It’s as much of a slow-burn feud, given time to age and grow as the women’s championship feud.

The sad thing is though, that this one has gone a bit stale. This is most definitely a feud that should not be ending in Hell in a Cell, because it should have ended already. I’m not bothered by it, most of the crowd aren’t bothered by it and at this stage rather than building either party up as a bigger star, elevating the belt or giving a really satisfying conclusion to a stellar feud, it’s just a match we’ve seen before and it’s a match I don’t believe Rusev can win because of how badly he’s been buried at the feet of Roman.

There’s just no reason for KO vs. Rollins to be in the cell. None at all. This isn’t a heated feud, Chris Jericho has taken the most credit and benefit from the whole thing and he’s not even in the match officially. The match will be great. The feud between them – specifically the two of them – has not been.

Not everything ages well. Not everything is worth going to hell.

So, just for the hell of it, here’s a few new things I want to see in WWE before I’m the one who gets old.

I want to see Cesaro put Brock Lesnar in the Swing.

I want to see the tag team championships of either brand be a serious event on a card with no jokes anywhere in sight.

I want to see Motor City Machine Guns vs. Beer Money in a WWE ring, at Wrestlemania, just once, before its aged too much to be good.

I want to be entertained by Monday Night Raw from start to finish.

What do you guys want?