Out of all the problems plaguing WWE in the latter stages of 2002, the most glaring problem in the promotion is the lack of talent and depth at the main event level. One doesn’t have to look further than the double main event of Survivor Series ’02 to see that WWE just doesn’t have the compelling main event division it had just a year ago.
If anyone thinks that HHH vs. Kane and Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show is a double main event worthy of one of WWE’s premiere PPVs, then they are going to be shocked and appalled when the buyrate comes in.
The logical thing for WWE to do would be to choose two guys on each roster, and push them to the sky, much like they did for Brock Lesnar. Even if only two out of the four stick at the main event level, that adds two main events to the three (HHH, Undertaker, Brock) on the roster at the current time.
But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon, as potential guys like RVD and Booker T are wasted on Raw, and the Angle/Benoit/Edge/Rey/Guerrero workrate machine doesn’t seem to be elevating anyone in particular.
WWE does have several bona fide main eventers off the active roster at the current time. The Rock, Hulk Hogan and even Kevin Nash are currently out of action for various reasons. While Nash might not be a proven commodity to Vince McMahon, both the Rock and Hulk Hogan are, and there is no reason WWE can’t use the starpower of both of those wrestlers to further the career of current upper midcarders who need that final push.
Imagine this scenario: starting this Thursday, and for every Smackdown between now and January (when the Rock could return), Eddie Guerrero grabs a mic and challenges the Rock to a match. Week after week, Eddie just won’t shut up about the Rock, calling him out for running out to Hollywood, etc. Perhaps a match could be made for the December PPV between Eddie and Rikishi, who would in the Rock’s absence, stick up for his Samoan breathren.
Perhaps WWE thinks the Rock will return as a heel. If so, they could instead use a face to call out the Rock, for being a sell out and not having his heart in wrestling.
Either way, by the time the Rock does come back to WWE, whether it’s in January or February, he will step directly into a hot program leading up to Wrestlemania. The Rock would presumably win the final confrontation, but in the process, a new main eventer would have already gotten the rub from a months-long program with the Rock.
Hulk Hogan is also on the sidelines, playing out an injury angle at the hands of Brock Lesnar. That aside, Hogan, too, could be used in a long distance angle eventually leading to a big money match. WWE could sign Scott Steiner, and have him crash Raw, calling out Hogan to come back and face him. In the meantime, Steiner could be built up on Raw by beating some mid carders in PPV matches, until Hogan finally comes back to face Steiner.
If they don’t want to use Steiner, they could easily use another WWE wrestler to do call out Hogan to come back and be a man and face Brock again. Then, with that guy in his corner, let’s say Edge, he comes back for a big match vs. Brock, and during the match, Edge could turn on Hogan, and set up a huge money match for a PPV.
When the success of Steve Austin is analyzed, many point to his defeat of Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 14, or his bloody loss to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13 as the major turning point. However, in the summer after WM12 and before WM13, Austin spent months calling out Bret Hart, continuing to rise the ranks until Bret came “back to attack” and meet Austin one on one at Survivor Series 96. Even though Austin lost that match, he was firmly entrenched in the main event picture from that point forward.
There is no reason WWE couldn’t replicate the success of that angle with either the Rock or Hogan in the next few months, or even both. Unlike the Hart/Austin angle from 1996, where there was a legitimate risk of Hart leaving the promotion, The Rock is guaranteed to come back and fight the young upstart in 2003, and Hogan is virtually locked in to return to WWE for at least a few more matches.
If WWE is going to succeed, they have to use their main event talent in every conceivable manner, including giving new wrestlers the rub when established top guys are out of action. An old school challenge could be just the ticket to give a floundering WWE upper midcarder the final push to the top he needs.