They say "nothing lasts forever" and that's certainly the case with Shawn Michaels' retirement. That's right the worst kept secret in professional wrestling was confirmed on Raw this past Monday when the show opened with the reformation of D-Generation X complete with new t-shirts to lay down a challenge to The Undertaker and Kane.
Hello everyone. You've landed on Planet Kayfabe and I'm glad you could join me once again this time to discuss what I call "The Nostalgia Era" Do you remember when Triple H tried getting this over as the "Reality Era" and it went over like a wet fart on a first date? No. It's the Nostalgia Era. This decade of the 2010's has been dominated by nostalgia. Ironically enough, this decade began with the retirement of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 26. Since then the man who retired him, The Undertaker, has kept his prime spot on the Wrestlemania card every year. Part-timers/stars of a past era have even main evented the promotion's flagship event. Brock Lesnar (sure, the younger of the past legends) has not only main evented the event, but also held their world championship twice while making part-time appearances. The Rock main evented two straight WrestleMania cards and he another held the top prize under a very limited schedule. Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble before main eventing Wrestlemania 30. Triple H, semi-retired wrestler/full time company executive became a 14 time world champion and main evented Wrestlemania 32 to put over Roman Reigns. At Fastlane in 2017 Goldberg who came back to WWE the previous fall, would capture the Universal Championship from Kevin Owens after defeating him in 22 seconds. At WrestleMania 33 he would have his last match putting over fellow aging part-timer Brock Lesnar and the show would close with The Undertaker, still going at it, in a sad loss to Roman Reigns. This year's main event Lesnar was still the title holder and went over Roman Reigns clean in the middle pinning him in his own blood.
Between all those main events and title matches Triple H has kept a spot on the card every year. Sting finally signed with WWE and had a match at Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon came back in 2016 and has had a match at each of the Wrestlemania events since he has returned. The Hardy Boyz, albiet as full-timers but still mainly nostalgia, returned at Wrestlemania 33 to win the Raw Tag-Team Championships. Even Bret "The Hitman" Hart came back to have a match at Wrestlemania 26 and even became a US Champion without even being able to take a bump. The New Age Outlaws became tag-team champions once again. The "Summer of Punk" took a backseat when Kevin Nash returned to work a final program with Triple H. Of course there's also this past week in Australia. A big special event headlined by Triple H and Undertaker with Shawn Michaels and Kane at ringside. This has without a doubt been an era of nostalgia heavy fan service for the old standby's. This makes sense since this decade, especially since Raw moved to 3 hours, the fan base has only gotten older and every year their demos with younger fans and young adults get worse and the 50+ demo is doing just fine.
Kevin Nash recently did an interview with SportingNews.com where he said:
"No one cares about the young guys. When I watched SummerSlam that (Undertaker and Tripe H) package caught my eye and made me want to see that match. I donít know if I want to see Roman Reigns versus Undertaker again. What more of a rub can you give than that? Heís [been] given rubs before and they just arenít getting over."
There's Kevin Nash for ya. You're always going to get his pure thoughts. Like it or not he's not wrong. The bit about Roman at the end is true as well. While the company is instructed to put over Roman in interviews as the 2nd coming of Hulkamania and the hardest worker in sports and entertainment the weekly WWE viewers know that is not the case. They have tried everything they can to get this one guy over and after half a decade it is just not working. If he was going to be Hogan or Austin and blow up the promotion it would have happened by now. Instead legend after legend has put him over and he's main evented Wrestlemania after Wrestlemania and been given every belt in the company to carry around and it just hasn't happened. He's not over the way they want him to be. He's not capturing the imagination of the younger fans. He's not hip or cool to the teenage fans which is a demo pretty much that just doesn'te exist in WWE these days.
This isn't really about Roman Reigns or younger wrestlers not being able to draw. Sure they can -- actually they *could* It's just the business isn't set up right now to have stars. They've set themselves up to have a healthy base of hardcores and the nostalgia acts come in to act as a Band-Aid to stop a ratings bleed or pop house for a major PPV.
Nash went on to say the guys today wont work like the older guys because their style wont allow them to wrestle that long which I think is kinda bullshit. That part I don't agree with. Every older generation thinks the younger generations lacks psychology and does too many high spots. Plus, who are we talking about here? He called out Rollins and Balor by name. Should they do less dives like -- who? Shawn Michaels? Who did Moonsaults to the outside of the ring? Even The Undertaker was doing that Suicide Dive WELL in into his late 40's. Also... Say what you want about the current work style, but while some of them may not be able to work in their 50's at least they will still be alive to to talk about their careers, so, not all the choices of the current guys have been bad ones in comparison to the past.
The main problem with WWE is that it is more a self-fulfilling prophecy that the young guys can't draw and I feel like every older generation says this. Hulk Hogan in 2000 said in a radio interview that no one in WCW under 40 can draw, that's why they have to keep him and his buddies on top... This despite Goldberg being a draw until they killed him. Today it is different because in the Nostalgia Era the stars of yesteryear are portrayed as the big stars, the REAL stars, and the full-time workers are just little Chess pieces that the WWE can push and pull at will.
Whose fault is that? Is it the younger talent? No. WWE and Vince McMahon used to be a business entirely devoid of sentimentality. Once someone got old they were done with them and moved on to younger stars. This company let titans who built this company in the 80's walk out the door in the early/mid 90's to their biggest competition in the name of pushing younger stars. Yes, it hurt them in the short term, but in the end when the chickens came home to roost in the late 90's the WWF had a younger, more exciting product that was in touch with the current generation and WCW held the stigma as being a retirement home. However that has entirely changed now. If they booked the Attitude Era like they book today they would have had Bob Backlund and The Ultimate Warrior main event Wrestlemania 15 while Rock and Austin were doing some forgettable midcard shit.
It is true that WWE always used nostalgia though. I always hear people defend WWE's reliance on nostalgia these days by saying they always used it. They did, but it was in small doses and the old-timers were not given featured spots. Even after his commissioner days, Sgt. Slaughter, a former world champion and one of the most popular superstars of the 80's would make appearances but he wasn't main eventing major PPV's or going over quality young midcarders. It was typically for a heel to get heat by beating the old guy down while commentary would at least save him and those like him some dignity by getting over that if he was in his prime the outcome would perhaps be different. Now we have The Revival getting buried by D-X on a nostalgia show. The Rock beating Rowan in a 5 second match at Wrestlemania. I'm aware some are sick of hearing about it by now but these days the stars of the past are the big stars and are brought in and given large sums of money to work marquee matches at big events. As for the rest of the guys on the card working year round? They're a bunch of suckers I guess who will just be thrown in some 6 man ladder match or some tag team bullshit destined to never get over.
This isn't all bad. The reach of the Attitude Era boom is still felt today. When a big Attitude Era star or a guy like Hulk Hogan returns to WWE it is major news. When Goldberg wrestled Brock Lesnar it generated more buzz than anyone else, Roman Reigns included, would have gotten. I mean, shit, Roman wrestled Brock last year and it was about as dead a Wrestlemania main event you could ask for. The reason why WWE continues to rely on these past names is because people still care about them... I mean somewhat. Last week's Raw headlined with the reunion of DX did not do a great rating. The problem is with all this nostalgia all they are really doing is luring in a few lapsed fans to sample WWE again. That's pretty much what popped the 25th anniversary of Raw. A bunch of balding, grey haired dudes between the ages of 45-55 are not capuring the younger audience.
Going back to what I said earlier about the business not being set up to have a singular star blow up the promotion and draw or really have any superstars become standouts is because it is more about branding today. Everything is scripted and micromanaged and homogenized these days and it's the age of no direct competition and WWE Network subscriptions instead of having to pop a traditional PPV buy rate. What does this mean? It means the table is already set for the current talent.
I got into this in a previous column but there's a reason why this past month guys like Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and Triple H cut the best WWE promos we've heard all year. It's because in their era in order to keep a top spot, eat and pay bills they had to draw fans into the arena and get a good payoff. Roman Reigns doesn't need to worry about that. He can cut a shitty promo to a half empty arena on a TV show setting record low ratings and it's like -- so what. The check is in the mail. The Network still has subscribers. He's making a good living. He just has to go out there, read his silly little script and not rock the boat. As long as he stays a good little soldier he'll take this push with a smile. These guys can't draw not because to Kevin Nash they are all vanilla midgets it's because they don't know how. They also aren't taught how. The WWE Performance Center, for all its pluses is really just a WWE Superstar assembly line where everyone learns the same things from the same people and everyone works and talks the same way. No script is going to show them how to develop a personality and actual hype fans into wanting to watch a big match. Stock is up (even though it dipped a little this week), Wrestlemania will always draw on name value. None of what they say matters. I'm sure they'd love to have the freedom to go out there, actually develop their own persona and try to get over but as we've also seen in the 2010's when someone goes off WWE's scripted plantation and try to develop a fan base on their own they are hammered down and crushed on TV until fans stop caring. That'll teach anyone who tries to show they are a hard worker taking pride in their profession.
Like I said at the top, nothing lasts forever and even though it is 2018 and we can still enjoy the stars of the past their bodies can only take so much. Either their bodies will no longer be able to work or they will die. So what happens then? Who will be the nostalgic stars they bring back in 2028? John Cena in his 50's? Possibly the most over-exposed wrestler ever? Randy Orton? Great worker but not a huge star. Batista pushing 60? In 10 years all the Shield guys will be in their early-mid 40's... I guess they could reunite for probably the 18th time by then. Who knows. Maybe At Wrestlemania 45 The Miz will finally main event his second Wrestlemania. This is exactly why they didn't rest on the stars of the past before. Without creating new stars and allowing them to stand out there wont be a big star 10-15 years from now that will come back to make a huge splash like Goldberg or The Rock did outside of the super-hardcore fans who are watching right now. WWE in the monopoly era has set themselves up with a healthy base and brand loyalty and hold all the leverage over the workers but in not allowing them to stand out they aren't really capturing the generation and it shows in the ratings. Kids aren't really into WWE. Teenagers you can forget about. It's basically all older fans. The average age of the WWE fan base is more than doubled what it was in the Attitude Era so what do they do? Bring back those old Attitude Era stars to make us old fans happy and to bring back old lapsed fans. It's a Band-Aid that has worked for them, but going into the 2020's they better figure something out and allow the younger guys to get a personal grasp on their character's persona and reach their full potential because you can only re-live the year 1997 so many times and in this era, nostalgia isn't just the fun little side show to please the older fans. It is the show and the driving draw for big events.
There's my thoughts on what I call the Era of Nostalgia. When I think of the 80's I will think of Hogan, Andre and Macho Man. When I think of the 90's I will think of Austin, Undertaker, Goldberg, Triple H and Rock. When I think of the 2000's I will think of Cena, Lesnar and Batista. When I think of the 2010's I will think of Rock, Goldberg, Sting, Batista, Lesnar, Triple H, Bret Hart... Oh and CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and the massive push-back against Roman Reigns because this company looks down at their consumers instead of listening to them. What can I say though? As a fan of the 90's I am excited to see DX back together again, but that's kind of a problem. They shouldn't be trying to pop me they should be trying to pop people half my age.
I hope you enjoyed this column. I wrote this while all the news about the WWE/Saudi relationship was really picking up. I've expressed my feelings about it on Twitter over @PlanetKayfabe but I will write a full-length column about the situation depending on what happens if WWE cancels the show or not. Either way I'm going to write about it but WWE's decision on the matter will vastly change the direction my writing goes. They say they are "monitoring the situation". That's not enough. Also, such a generic statement tells me they are "monitoring" it as in they are waiting to see if sponsors react and if the public is still angry about it come the time of the show. They're just going to stick their finger in the air and react depending on where the wind blows instead of just taking a stand now. What's there to monitor? Does anyone there watch the news? This stuff didn't come out of the blue. They knew exactly what type of government they were dealing with.
Thanks again for reading. I will see you back here next time. For Planet Kayfabe, I'm KC and I'll see you back here on NoDQ. Take care. God bless.