A belated Happy New Year to all the TJR Wrestling faithful. I hope you all had a joyous holiday period and have a prosperous 2020. Wow, just typing that makes me feel old. As I’ve previously said on here, 2020 heralds a change to WWE programming over here in the UK. The long-standing partnership between WWF/WWE and Sky Sports (that was in place for 30 years) ended in the last couple of weeks and a new deal with BT Sports began. The plus for UK BT Sports subscribers is that NXT was part of the deal and viewers will get all three brands to enjoy. At the moment, I haven’t purchased a subscription, so I am catching up on all things WWE using other ‘media services’ and WWE’s YouTube channel – which is pretty good, to be fair. Sky Sports currently have around 9.5 million UK subscribers whereas BT Sport boasts a growing number of around 8 million. I may concede defeat and become a subscriber, but it’ll be another monthly cost for me, so we’ll see how that pans out.
Anyway, through my other sources of information, I’ve caught up on all things Raw and Smackdown and watched the returns of several superstars. I know it’s Royal Rumble season, so I was surprised to see so many when the PPV is so close, but more faces on the screen mean more opportunities for new storylines, new feuds and new matches. The internet and wrestling community wasn’t set alight by the returns, in fact perhaps ‘underwhelmed’ would be a more apt description, but are we being unfair on the returning stars? Could they bring a new dynamic to proceedings and are we too harsh on men who have sacrificed much to carve out a career in such a difficult industry? Let’s take a look:
The Usos – Though not long-term absentees, their reintroduction could come at a real opportune moment. It appears that WWE is beginning to play with the idea of alliances or stables again; Rollins & AOP, Corbin, Ziggler & Roode, The OC, Samoa Joe & Kevin Owens etc. The Usos are naturally aligning with the Samoan brother and real-life cousin, Roman Reigns. Reigns has steadily climbed the ladder back to the top and his rise has been warmly received by a lot of the WWE Universe. Reigns has had very real struggles and come back fighting.
With The Shield reunion not happening anytime soon, Reigns needs friends to support him in his quest for gold and the Usos are a great choice. Samoan stables are nothing new, but can be used very effectively if done right. Hopefully, they can be an important part of Reigns’ ascension to the top and create a stable that has been needed for some time.
John Morrison – I’m more invested in what Morrison brings for The Miz rather than what this does for Morrison. There’s no doubt he’s a superb talent. He looks incredible at age 40, is an amazing athlete, and though his promos aren’t earth-shattering, he can do a good job. I really thought he’d be saved for the Rumble, but it wouldn’t exactly have been a surprise, would it? Everyone knew he had re-signed with WWE.
Morrison had success in his early WWE career; multi-time Tag Team Champion, a three-time Intercontinental Champion, but never made that step up to main event level for whatever reason (I don’t count the ECW Championship as a top title, sorry). Has he been brought back to fight at the top of the card? Possibly not, but you never know. I think he’ll bring freshness to Smackdown Live, especially in his matches and with any luck, can align with Miz to elevate his partner. Miz is criminally underused on TV and should be much higher on the card than he currently is. Only time will tell.
Sheamus – I have an unconscious bias against Sheamus as he’s a self-confessed fan of Liverpool FC, so I have a natural tendency to dislike him, lol. No, seriously, I’m happy he’s back in WWE because I’m a fan of his YouTube series where he trains with a variety of WWE superstars, learning their own preferences and techniques when it comes to training methods. It shows a more personal side of him and his dedication and hard work is evident to anyone who watches. The problem is, this isn’t reflected in any way for his on-screen persona. He’s pigeonholed into a one-dimensional character; a big bully with a big kick. It’s a safe option for WWE and easy to portray. Trouble is, he’s been doing the same shtick for over ten years. Certain gimmicks have longevity, but this does not.
Every fan knows what to expect from him. He beats up smaller opponents, berates the crowd, and acts threatening and intimidating. Rise and repeat. His brief dalliance with the always excellent Cesaro was a welcome deviation where both men were showcased as faces for a small period of time but then reverted right back to being bad guys. I like Sheamus, I really do, despite his soccer allegiance, but a change may be required if he wants to reinvigorate himself and be something new for the audience.
Big Show – The more I think about it, the more I strongly believe Big Show doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Show has been on our screens for almost twenty five years. After his WCW stint, he arrived in WWE at the height of the Attitude Era in 1999, signing a ten year contract. His impact was huge, taking part in The Corporation stable, before making his mark as a solo performer. The list of his accomplishments and championships would grace any Hall of Fame candidate and is quite frankly astonishing; WCW Champion (x2), WCW Tag Champion (x3), WWE Champion (x2), WWE Heavyweight Champion (x2), US Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Tag Champion (x8). He was the 24th Grand Slam WWE Champion. Show should be treated with reverence and respect as one of the most successful ‘big men’ of professional wrestling.
But like Sheamus, he’s been labored with terrible gimmicks at times that have faded the star quality he should be remembered for. He’s made more turns in his career than Lewis Hamilton, so maybe now he can stay in one role. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy for us to complain about what could or should have been done with his character, but in what could be his final run in the company before retirement, maybe WWE should just leave him as the wise veteran who still has something to offer and be a good guy the crowd can rally behind and support as he gives his all in an industry that hasn’t been kind to the giants in history. One final swansong for the Big Show? Have him enjoy himself out there and be the gentle giant to the fans, but a danger in the ring.
In closing, do these returns excite me? No, not really. They wouldn’t have had me leaping from my sofa if they’d all returned at the Royal Rumble either. It’s good to see people return from injury and get back to doing the job they love, but nobody mentioned above will make me want to tune in week after week. Perhaps the veterans in the group will be catalysts for the younger generation and elevate them, perhaps not. Whatever happens, I wish them all well in their careers. Perhaps I’ll be wrong and they’ll do something new or unexpected. If so, it’ll only be good for WWE going forward. Fingers crossed.