Editor’s note: We are excited to welcome Dan Murphy to the staff of OWW. Dan is a Senior Writer with Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which started in 1997. He is also an award winning author who has written and published several books, notably “Bodyslams in Buffalo: The Complete History of Pro Wrestling in WNY” as well as over 1,000 articles on pro wrestling. He is heavily involved in both the annual PWI 500 and PWI Female 50 rankings.
Five ‘Old-Timers’ Who Could Reinvigorate WWE TV
By Dan Murphy, OWW columnist
I’m going to admit something that may seem a bit odd, considering this column is posted on a pro wrestling website.
I haven’t watched Raw for four, maybe five weeks now. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I sat down and watched an episode of SmackDown (2011, maybe?)
Oh, I’m still following wrestling. I’m reading the online recaps and lurking in the shadows on message boards. I’m reading the dirt sheets and talking to my contacts in the wrestling world on a daily basis.
I’m just not watching.
Part of the reason is that it’s summertime, and I’m trying to spend as much time outdoors as I can to enjoy the weather. Another part of the reason is that I still think that the three-hour raw format is far too long. And I’ve actually found myself swept up in the World Cup excitement.
I’m high on WWE’s youth movement. I love seeing Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and the Wyatts getting pushed (especially Luke Harper, who I’ve known for more than a decade; I still pop whenever I see him on TV). But, as far as I’m concerned, WWE is not “must see TV’ anymore.
This is a challenging time for the company. WWE hasn’t been able to attract the number of subscribers it has needed to show a profit on the Network, resulting in a sharp drop of stock value and widespread budget cuts. The young stars are providing the action, but wrestling can utilize some of its veterans to help provide more of that spark of excitement that could help viewers like me make sure they carve out the time to tune in … after all, watching wrestling is supposed to be fun, not a chore. Here are five people who could make wrestling sizzle again:
Cornette isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some consider him to be too old-fashioned, a dinosaur in the modern era. The people who think that are wrong. Cornette has one of the best wrestling minds you will ever find. The man knows how to build storylines and engage the audience. He knows how to get people over. He knows how to groom young stars. When Cornette oversaw Ohio Valley Wrestling as WWE’s developmental system, he helped launch John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar and many more top WWE stars … not too shabby for a dinosaur. You think CM Punk can cut a good “pipe bomb?” Punk couldn’t match JC on his best day. If WWE could find a way to utilize Cornette as a manager, commentator, or with a prominent spot back on the Creative team, the quality of the television product would improve overnight.
Yes, Heyman is already a featured member of the WWE roster, and he does a terrific job in that capacity. But Heyman’s greatest skills are behind the scenes, as a writer. Heyman has said he wants no part in the Creative side of the business and that he is content with being “on-air talent,” but if the right offer was made, Heyman might change his mind. Heyman turned a small independent promotion with a largely unknown cast of characters into one of the most influential and beloved promotions of all time. He did that by maximizing his wrestlers’ strengths and hiding their weaknesses, and by pushing the envelope with storylines. He couldn’t use the same formula in today’s PG-rated WWE, but Heyman is a creative guy, and he could find new ways to push the envelope without resorting to blood, guts, and T&A.
Imagine this: “The Dead Man” on a final ride for redemption. Now that The Streak is over, Undertaker goes on a quest for one last run as WWE Champion … but this time, he’s seen as the underdog. It would be like Terry Funk’s run to the ECW title in 1997. Fans would finally see a new dimension to the Undertaker persona – a human being nearing the end of his career and fighting age and injury for one final push to glory. That would make some compelling television.
Regal is one of the most underrated utility performers in the game. Whether used as an in-ring performer, an announcer, an authority figure, or even a manager, Regal has a unique charisma all his own. He can still go as a wrestler, and his catch-as-catch-can style and mannerisms can help him stand out from the pack, while providing a different foil for opponents like Rollins, Bryan, and Wade Barrett. He is another one of wrestling’s great minds, and he can set an example for younger stars if he has the right platform.
Hear me out on this one. I want “grumpy” Bret back. I want the guy who rated Triple-H a 4 out of 10; the guy who launched the “Bret Hart is not impressed meme.” Bret doesn’t have to kiss anyone’s butt at this stage of his life, and he’s willing to speak his mind. For perhaps the first time in his career, his promos are actually entertaining. Position him as an out-of-touch heel or loose cannon, but let him come out and speak his mind and see where it goes. Hart could shake things up just enough to ruffle some feathers, and we could see what develops. I know I’d be watching.
— Dan Murphy