By Jeffrey Lutz
When WWE NXT wrestlers Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns debuted on the main roster at Survivor Series, some may have seen shades of Evolution - a stable of hand-picked performers who would transition the company from a stale present to an exciting future.
I saw Legacy, a group of loosely connected, randomly thrown-together superstars that was ultimately only as strong as its weakest link. WWE should have learned from the collective failures of Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase and Manu as part of Legacy and come to the conclusion that prospects should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own without having their fates decided by the popularity of someone else.
This isn't a criticism of the individuals. Ambrose and Rollins have developed a cult following and all the speculation is that they will be big hits in WWE. Reigns is, on paper, an odd fit, but he has an impressive pedigree that plays into Vince McMahon's obsession with second- and third-generation wrestlers. Those who were excited about the trio's debut can't complain about them being inserted into a main-event program, but none of the storyline's principal characters are well-served by it. Like much of the WWE booking decisions with intriguing beginnings, this could ultimately expose more flaws and negative possibilities than positive ones.
C.M. Punk does not need to be a leader of a faction. Been there, done that. His character should have no attachment to Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns -- and even Brad Maddox -- other than selfishly using them to extend his title reign. One of the problems with Legacy was that its leader, Randy Orton, was more loner than leader, and Punk's character has evolved into a similarly self-serving persona. If Punk becomes the leader of his third stable, he'll suffer the same fate as other versatile performers who are written not to showcase their best traits, only the ones nobody else possesses.
Hopefully Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns have a brief association with Punk that leads to at least one babyface turn and a scattering of the group. It's too late to debut them as babyfaces, of course, because that doesn't happen anymore. Other than Brodus Clay and Sin Cara, I am struggling to remember a new character entering WWE as a babyface over the last few years, and I have no recent recollection of a new babyface having staying power. The entire first season of NXT debuted as heels, and so did Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Titus O'Neil, and several others. Even Clay was heelish on NXT and in his introductory vignettes before the Funkasaurus shocker.
Many casual fans probably aren't too aware of Ambrose and Rollins, but there are surely some who have followed them through the independent circuit and Ring of Honor and want to actually cheer for them. Today's environment doesn't lend itself to new babyface characters for two reasons - John Cena dominates the main-event scene and, since the end of the Monday Night Wars, wrestlers have no place to build broad popularity away from WWE.
That forces wrestlers into stables and heel characters for which they may not be suited. I admire Triple H for holding off on debuting new characters until a storyline is planned for them, but WWE is over-thinking this. Being a standout wrestler with superior microphone skills, like Ambrose is by all accounts, allows for endless storyline possibilities that don't limit new performers but enhance them. WWE is always at its best when it adjusts to its personnel rather than forcing wrestlers into characters that are bad fits from the start.
I want to think that the cream will rise to the top, but the positioning of WWE's most promising younger performers negates that theory. Wade Barrett finds himself in yet another Intercontinental championship feud, Daniel Bryan has been reduced to a upper-mid-card comedy act, and Dolph Ziggler's incremental progress isn't enough for those who see him as a certain breakout star. They're certainly not getting any younger.
I want to think that the immediate impact made by Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns will lead to them controlling their own future and becoming future headliners. WWE's track record and its recent history of stop-and-start pushes, non-existent character development and stables featuring little continuity cause me to fear that it won't happen for them and that it won't be their fault. If one of them fails, they all fail, and they might never be given the chance to recover.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Lutz's Blog: WWE newcomers Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own
Nov 26, 2012 - 01:18 PM
Nov 26, 2012 - 01:18 PM
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