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WWE: Is There A Right Way And Wrong Way To Push Talent? – by Mike Sanchez

I’ll ‘dive’ right into this one by saying; the post-Wrestlemania slump seems to have taken hold of WWE at the moment. The talent have been on a whistle-stop tour of Europe in recent weeks, and we Europeans are always grateful to see the stars of WWE when we can. I missed the recent Liverpool show, but heard good things about it. With the majority of the roster flying across oceans and continents, there hasn’t been much to talk about in WWE this week. Raw is plodding along and Smackdown Live is doing ok – hey, at least they have a World Champion on their product.

There was some bad news confirming that Braun Strowman will definitely be missing action while he heals up from an elbow issue. Reports vary that he’ll be gone for 2-6 months, but it seems the former rather than the latter, which is both good news for him and for us. We may have to wait a little longer for his feud with Roman Reigns to reach the next chapter. The Strowman push is momentarily paused. Speaking of pushes, do they matter, or more specifically does the way a push is presented matter? I think it does, and if we look at the WWE landscape at present, it’s fair to say some stars are being pushed, but in doing that, is WWE building credible guys or does a push need to be more than just winning matches?

What Is A Push?

A ‘push’ in wrestling terms is basically climbing the ladder of sports entertainment. If at the top of the mountain was the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, then the guy at the bottom needs help to get there. With the bosses, writing staff and colleagues behind him, he’ll be ‘pushed’ right to the top of the mountain, that’s if he does what he’s told. One could also interpret it as being pushed up the card, rather than a mountain. On both of these, the title matches and main events are at the top of each.

Are There Different Types Of Push?

You’re damn right, there are. I’ll give some examples here on the different pushes and my perception on if they’ve been effective or not.

Braun Strowman – Strowman landed on the WWE main roster as part of the Wyatt family and took up the familiar old role of the strongman or power team-member in the stable. Not much different to how Roman Reigns started in The Shield. Strowman was probably one of the best beneficiaries of the fracturing of the Wyatts and the Superstar Shake Up. He’s been consistently pushed since his debut. Very rarely loses, dominates opponents and climbs the WWE ladder slowly but steadily. He’s now nearing the top of the Raw ladder and is facing the polarising Reigns. The push of Strowman wouldn’t be critically damaged if he lost the Reigns feud, but it would stand him in good stead if he defeats Roman. If WWE are looking for a Brock Lesnar opponent, I’d prefer Strowman over Reigns at present – and that’s coming from a Roman Reigns fan.

Jinder Mahal – I won’t hinder Jinder here, but his build in comparison with Strowman’s is night and day. See, when we think about Strowman, we remember his dominance, his toughness and him beating opponent after opponent. The same sadly can’t be said for Mahal. Used in factions, tag teams and solo in recent years, he hasn’t been nearly as dominant. A perennial loser in WWE, his stratospheric rise to the top of Smackdown isn’t real to us. We don’t see him as a legit challenger, and that’s not the guy’s fault, just the bad booking he’s had over the years. It’s especially hard to believe he can have this rise to the top now, particularly when you consider AJ Styles, Kevin Owens etc. are on the roster. His push doesn’t seem natural, and it’s not connecting with the fans. Heel or not.

Daniel Bryan – Now here was a push that should never have happened, and it wouldn’t, had it not been for sheer talent, determination and the fever of a WWE Universe. WWE will likely say it was their decision to have Bryan pushed, but we all know we elevated the B+ player, maybe not all the way, but enough for him to do the rest. Bryan’s push was believable, real and had a connection because it was organic. It was a natural progression of a guy who was way over with the fan base. WWE had no choice but to push him to the moon. Must be a difficult position to find yourself in: do we keep this guy who we don’t think is champion material in the mid-card, or do we listen to the people, elevate him and make millions of dollars? Hmmm, tough one, isn’t it? If WWE always left their ego at the door and assessed talent on crowd reaction, rather than shove their ‘we-know-better-than-you’ opinion down our throats, who knows what stars could’ve been born?

Fandango/Breezango – Bit of a mixed bag, this one. You have to remember that Fandango was the beneficiary of a brief stellar push when he debuted. There aren’t many who can boast a Wrestlemania victory over Chris Jericho. Since then he’s been on a slow downward spiral into bit-part player. Tyler Breeze came to the main roster with a glowing reputation from NXT. Highly thought of there, his style and work rate haven’t dipped since he arrived. The pairing of these two men has been quite long-winded, but an upturn infortunes coupled with a rebranding and new look – something the other three on this list haven’t really had – has propelled them into the Smackdown Tag Title mix. Does this change give them a new edge going forward, or will they both be known to the fans as habitual losers on TV? Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful for this pairing.

Perhaps wins and losses do matter when it comes to WWE. Sure, not every wrestler is going to win every match – that’s why we have swerves and screwy finishes. They’re there to protect and elevate the individuals. But at the same time it’s important to look to the future in WWE, especially from the writer’s perspective. You just don’t know when there could be a plague of injuries to the main event guys and the mid-card has to step in. They need to be at least somewhat capable of climbing the ladder. There’s no doubt WWE has seriously talented stars with incredible athletic ability. Perhaps some shouldn’t be used as fodder for other stars. The days of the unknown ‘jobber’ are gone, mainly due to the massive talent pool, but maybe everyone shouldn’t be squashed week in week out just for kicks. Who knows when they’ll be called upon to hold a title – whether that is as a result of injuries to others or simply making a connection with the crowd?

What do you think? Is there a right and wrong way to push talent? Do wins and losses matter, or is the manner of the win or loss more important? Are there any superstars who need a push or re-brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.