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Returning Legends – A Good Thing for WWE? by Mike Sanchez

Think back to the last time you were listening to the radio and a song came on that you hadn’t heard in years. As soon as the first few bars are played or the first lyric is sung, your mind experiences a flashback. Your brain instantly recognises the song and tries to tie it to a faded, distant memory buried deep in the recesses of your subconscious. For some, it’s a good memory; a carefree time of youth or a briefly forgotten lost love. For others, it might be the opposite; a difficult time of your life or a briefly forgotten lost love – not all forgotten loves bring a smile to our faces.

Our brains will add to the lost memory by reminding us how we felt at that moment – again, it could be positive or negative, depending on the experience. The past coming back, if just for three minutes of a song can make our day or remind us that there was a different time to the here and now. A time when we didn’t have the cares and worries we burden ourselves with today. A time when that song conjures up an entire scene in our minds, with sounds and smells. It can be lovely when we temporarily forget the here and now and are treated to a brief reminisce of a time no longer real except within us.

Such experiences can be felt by the long-time wrestling fan. When an old hero long-forgotten, makes their surprise return. Such was the feeling I had when it was confirmed Goldberg would be on Raw. Then again, those feelings didn’t flood back into my body with the announcement, no; they came when the video started of him walking through the back. The music stirring, rising as he marched forward. The thumping drumbeat and finally the crack of the pyro. He was back. He was here once again. The feelings inside me took hold. I was treated to memories of his WWE debut, his Wrestlemania match with Brock Lesnar, his Halloween Havoc entrance in WCW, his lengthy undefeated streak. I experienced a brief moment where the veil of the past was lifted and I saw through time itself, experiencing what I’d felt all those years ago.

Then the veils were pulled over again and I was back in 2016, watching the TV. The feelings flowed away as I settled back into reality. As Goldberg spoke, I smiled, happy at my brief mental trip down memory lane. It was then that I wondered; am I setting myself up for disappointment? He’s not the same as he was back then. Hell, the Wrestlemania match with Lesnar wasn’t as good as expected. Am to expect a stellar rematch over ten years later? What’s the point anyway? Is he deserving of a return to WWE, especially as the talent is quite good at the moment? Should an established star have to step back to allow him another moment in the spotlight? Then I thought some more and decided yes. Yes they do.

Like it or not, WWE is a business. It has costs, overheads, merchandise and stockholders. It’s not the empire of one family as it once was, despite what the on-screen characters would have you believe. Yes, the McMahons have a controlling stake, but the overall picture is that the product must do one thing over anything else – make money.

Goldberg, despite his age, is a draw. Brock Lesnar despite his limited schedule is a draw. Those men being on a show will guarantee ticket sales and butts on seats – be that in the arena or watching at home on the WWE Network. It will create a media buzz and interest. So looking at it purely from a financial viewpoint, it’s without doubt that returning stars should be encouraged.

For the fan it’s also a positive. These are the heroes of the past come back once again. It gives the opportunity to relive a happy time of their lives. It gives the chance to educate the younger generation about this particular star and how good they were back in the day. My daughter didn’t get the fuss when we were watching Raw. I tried to explain how big a deal Goldberg was, but her nonplussed expression told me to give up. I didn’t realise she wasn’t even born when he was last on TV. Now that’s a way to make you feel old.

For the talent that are on the shows week in and week out, I empathise that it must be difficult to be told you’ve been bumped down or even off the card to accommodate the returning star. You might be on the hottest streak of your career, enjoying stellar matches with a guy or girl you have great chemistry with. You’ve been building to a big blow-off and then…. you’re off the PPV.

As cruel as that may seem, we must remember the first point made here; it’s about money. I doubt it would be wise to moan to the office about it, because who knows, ten years down the line it might be them who are the returning hero and another young talent has to step back and allow them to return to the spotlight once again.

For example, I’m a fan of Luke Harper. I think the guy is seriously talented and works hard. I dig his character and he fully deserves a spot on the roster. But if I was booking the Royal Rumble and it came down to him or a returning Kurt Angle to take the #30 spot, there’s only one winner. Sorry Luke. Perhaps that’s the fanboy in me wishing for a quick flash of nostalgia and maybe I want to ‘mark out’ for a moment (and I would definitely mark out for that), but it makes sense both as a business decision and to the fans. Sadly, the talent don’t come high on the list for these scenarios, even if they are very rare.

The quality of said matches isn’t guaranteed, but considering returning legends have a fair few miles on their clocks, the expectations shouldn’t be great. That being said, our minds remind us of how great they once were and there’s a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe they’ll recapture their youth in the squared circle. Maybe we’ll get to relive the past glory once more. Or maybe it’ll be garbage and we’ll feel angry with ourselves for getting our hopes up.

Whatever happens, the legend won’t be there for long. They won’t be on the house shows and doubtful if they’ll appear on our TVs weekly. That’s where the current roster takes the spot and grinds out matches, travel across the globe and create new memories for us. New memories in what we’re seeing right now. Right before our eyes could be the next legend. The next star who may wish to return in years to come for one more match. And when they do, the cycle will begin all over again.

What do you think? Should legends be pushed to the top of the talent pyramid? Do they guarantee money or is nothing guaranteed in wrestling? Would you also mark out for Kurt Angle? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.