Firstly, let me say it’s great to be back after a short absence. I needed some time away to refocus and thanks to John for his patience and understanding. I promise to try and make more commitment and effort to my writing in the future. In my absence, I wasn’t able to watch any WWE programming. The last show I saw before my vacation was Summerslam, and I have to say I was happy with the show and enjoyed the ending. Yes, I’ve gone on record as being a Roman Reigns guy, but though I don’t enjoy everything he or the booking of him did, I was just happy to see the title taken off Brock and onto anyone. The reuniting of the Hounds of Justice on Raw the following day was a bonus.
It got me thinking, as I’ve returned to writing with a fresh outlook and a determined perspective on what I want to do, can the same be said for some WWE stars? There have been calls in previous years for an off-season in WWE, usually around the Christmas/Holiday period, but WWE is a relentless juggernaut that cannot or will not stop once in motion. Wrestlers sacrifice so much to be who they are, not just their physical selves, but also their personals selves, the lives we don’t see under the bright lights in packed out arenas across the world. The commitment to being a wrestler (not just in WWE) is a mammoth one and perhaps we forget that on occasion. So with that being said, what breaks or hiatus’s do we see in WWE or what do they do to keep content fresh or keep momentum going not just for the product, but for their stars?
The Character Change
Sometimes called a ‘re-branding’, this is when a star’s appearance is changed up for various reasons; their gimmick isn’t working, they’re turning heel/face or they’re joining a group or faction. Changes such as this can be done with a larger goal in mind and plans put in place. For me, I prefer an absence prior to any such change – especially if it means their costume will be overhauled. We need to briefly forget about the star and have them make a dramatic return to have maximum impact. Recently, Becky Lynch (who is awesome) deviated slightly from her steampunk gear into something different. I’m not one to quibble over Ms. Lynch, but perhaps a reason for her change may have been better for her. Yes, her persona has changed and her ‘heel’ run against Charlotte is well-received, but maybe the audience needed to be told of the change within her rather than have her change her costume then go heel. It was all a bit rushed for me.
Chris Jericho is the master of this. He’s changed appearance many times and his persona changes with it almost immediately. From the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla in his WWE debut, to the suit-wearing heel and then scarf wearing, list-making legend we all know he is. Even now, his style and persona have changed both when appearing in New Japan and more recently at ALL IN. Jericho gets wrestling more than most and we see that with his changes in recent years. They make sense and resonate with the audiences.
The Enforced Absence
More often than not, attributed to a long-term injury, this gives the star an opportunity to recuperate and return to action at a later date. It also gives the opportunity for WWE to have a think about a couple of things; when they want this star to return and how they want them to be once they’re back. This is a prime opportunity to have a popular member of the roster make a big impact upon their return and perhaps even elevate them up the card. Dean Ambrose’s recent return to action saw a rejuvenated and revitalized member of the Shield make an instant impact. He’s obviously worked hard while he’s been away and looked incredible when he came to help out his team-mate Seth Rollins. The scruffy, disheveled look he once sported was gone and he looks tougher and meaner than ever. Some compared Ambrose to Rowdy Roddy Piper in both appearance and style. Since his return, he’s now become more powerful a brawler in-ring and I’ve heard some commentators on wrestling now compare him to a Steve Austin style in both his work and mannerisms. To be compared to either man is a testament to Ambrose’s hard work, but I really believe big things are in his future come 2019, especially if he can feud with Reigns and Rollins going forward. Seth brings out the best in many an opponent.
Time Away From the Company
Drew McIntyre/Galloway, The Hardy Boys, Christian and Kurt Angle are just some of the names who have left and returned to WWE in recent years. Their journey had taken them to other companies, other federations where they’ve been able to keep on doing what they want to, albeit under a different banner. These days, especially with the internet and wide access to a variety of shows, the wrestling fan can follow their favorites around the globe and still enjoy their work. For those who may not have reached the heights in WWE in their first stint in the company, some time abroad or with a different organisation can rejuvenate and elevate their passion and popularity so much so that a return to the giant WWE is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’. It’s a good thing that WWE hasn’t gone out to obliterate the competition, not just in the United States, but around the globe, as competition is healthy, and although NJPW or Impact aren’t going to rival WWE in the money stakes anytime soon, they’re good places for talent to show their skills and earn a good living away from the doldrums of the lower mid card in WWE. Case in point; Drew McIntyre has been great since his return. He looks and sounds seasoned and his foray into other areas can only mean good things going forward.
Then again, perhaps the goal when leaving WWE isn’t to return one day in the future more experienced, in the hope of a bigger push, but to rediscover the love of wrestling and performing around the world. For one example of a star burning brightly without the need for the WWE is Cody Rhodes. I’m happy for the former ‘Dashing’ star and all of his success in recent years. Perhaps he doesn’t want or need to ever return to the WWE. Perhaps sometimes, the break from the giant can see you blossom elsewhere and become something more. Maybe others can see and learn from Cody’s example and be a brighter star without the illumination of the WWE behind them.