The Common Denominator – Superstars Then and Now: A Comparison (John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Damien Sandow, Ryback, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Lex Luger)

First things first, if I actually have any “loyal readers,” my apologies for the erratic schedule of my recent postings. I have three kids, and everything in the world is going on with them this time of the year, so things have been hectic. Once May is over, things should calm down significantly.

A funny thing (to me anyway)…I play on an adult co-ed volleyball team in a community church lead. In fact, I am the de facto “commissioner” in that I made the teams and the schedule and oversee the operation. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is that there’s this guy who plays on my team. He’s in his mid-30s, and he’s autistic (or something like it) and while he’s very enthusiastic, he’s not very “volleybally,” shall we say. Even though with the level of competition, he probably shouldn’t be out there, but how do you tell a guy like that no? I have nicknamed him “The Big Diesel” and he likes that. So while he’s not a superstar (he’s almost a mobile as the Great Khali wearing lead boots), he is a huge wrestling fan.

This was never more apparent than last week when he found his way to the volleyball league’s Facebook page. Now, while I encourage friendly trash-talk, I was not expecting any from this guy. I was definitely not expecting (and I quote), “Listen up you jabronies…The FUN Team (that’s our team) is going to layeth the smacketh down on all of you other teams and that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so. And if you got a problem with that, we got 2 words for you…SUUUUUUUUUUCK IT!!!”

I politely commented that it’s probably not a good idea to tell people to “suck it” in Church League. No one was (to my knowledge) offended, but just the same. However, just a couple of days later, he posted (and again, I quote), “To all of you other teams…the FUN Team is going to take that volleyball and shine it up real good. Then we’re going to turn that thing sideways and stick it straight up your candy behinds. And that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so. And if you got a problem with that, we got 2 words for you…SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK IT!”

Now, granted he did avoid using the terms “sumbitch” (how do you even turn a volleyball sideways?) and “candy ass,” but he added extra U’s to “suck it,” so it’s kind of a wash. I find all of this hilarious, but I’m expecting someone to complain any time now.

So anyway, we seem to be in an interesting time in the WWE. Not interesting in that something captivating is going on, but interesting in that we seem to be at a point where something captivating NEEDS to be going on. We in the middle of a seemingly annual lull between Wrestlemania and SummerSlam usually chock full of…well, a lot of filler usually. Is there going to be a draft this year? Is it even necessary with the current “Super Show” format? I assume we’ll have Money in the Bank sometime before SummerSlam, but really that’s about all I see on the horizon.

One thing I do like is the influx of new talent, especially on Smackdown. There exists now an opportunity to see what guys like Ryback and Sandow and Cesaro and O’Neil/Young bring to the table. Along with the part-time return of Brock, the arrival/return of Lord Tensai, and the possible elevation of Brodus Clay, things could get a much-needed shake-up in the next few months. Throw in the pending returns of guys like Mysterio and Sin Cara and there’s a chance for some fresh match-ups.

So, what do we have now? As a reminder, the premise of this column is to take a look at today’s scene and draw some kind of comparison with the pro wrestling scene from days gone by. This week I’d like to do that with a handful of wrestlers and offer a critique from my oh-so-expert point of view.

John Cena – So the easy comparison would be to say he’s today’s Hulk Hogan, and in full-blown “Super Cena” mode that’s probably pretty close. But for me, Cena is more like a modern-day Sting…like mid-90s pre-Crow Sting. Back then, there were few stars in WCW more popular than the Stinger. In fact, Sting was probably the top face in WCW even after Hogan arrived in 1994 (but before going all NWO). There were a couple of things that you could count on Sting for: the kids were going to love him, he was going to do the right thing, and he was going to get betrayed by a close friend (usually Lex Luger). When Sting disappeared for several months, he returned with a new look and an air of mystery, eventually reaffirming his good-guy status and (sort of) vanquishing the now-evil Hogan. His popularity skyrocketed and helped WCW rise in the ratings, paving the way for Goldberg’s rise to the top which could have (but of course didn’t) been the final step in establishing the organization’s spot as the number one promotion (rather than the WWF) in the country.

Randy Orton – I would love to see Orton play Lex Luger to Cena’s Sting. Orton has moved between face and heel in very Luger-esque fashion over his career. In fact, he was pretty much the Lex Luger of Evolution during his first rise to prominence in the WWE. To me Orton works better as a “cool heel” rather than a face. I say start now with forming a close bond between Cena and Orton that would see Orton slowly build toward a heel turn that everyone but Cena would see coming and then give them a big feud (hopefully over the title). What’s missing in this equation, though, is a foil. A pairing of this caliber needs a worthy enemy (or enemies). Sting and Luger had the Horsemen (and later the NWO before that whole thing became a giant mess). Which leads me to…

Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Ryback and Damien Sandow – These are my new Horsemen. You don’t have to call them that (at least not unless you can get Flair from TNA to act as a mouthpiece), but call them something. And you must (and I can’t stress this enough) give them credibility. I’m going to earmark Sandow for the Flair role here (I would have said Ziggler, but as much as I like the guy, I think that ship has sailed). If the guys has ring skills, turn him loose. Give him the title over Punk at Survivor Series, then move Punk to Smackdown. As some point, put the tag belts on Ziggler/Swagger in the obvious Arn/Tully role, and Ryback gets to be the muscle. Put the IC title on him (or U.S., doesn’t matter). I’ve written about stables before, and I have heard that the WWE brass aren’t keen on the idea, but I fail to see a downside to this. If they’ve already got plans for Ryback (who is an easy analog for Goldberg, of course) then plug Cody Rhodes into that spot and eventually turn him face after he earns a title shot against Sandow.

CM Punk – Punk is the new Shawn Michaels. Not the new old Shawn Michaels (of mid-90s fame), but the new new Shawn Michaels (post-return of the early 2000s). The guy is now in the realm of perpetually over. He’s probably the best worker in the WWE today, and probably best on the mic (all respect to guys like Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho). He instantly brings that awesome combination of intensity and comedy to any feud and has the moves in the ring to have a decent match with anyone. Win or lose, everyone likes to watch Punk perform. I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be a full time guy, but he’s money for as long as he’s around. You know what, put him and Jericho in a mutual admiration society “cool heel” DX-type pairing. They could feud with anyone and it would draw. Since we’re already on the subject, that would make Jericho the new HHH by default, which isn’t really a bad thing. Jericho being someone else who theoretically has a limited shelf-life at this point. Eventually the pair could put over some new talent then break up and have a big blow-off finale.

Brock Lesnar – I don’t know if this is exactly spot-on, but I’m proclaiming Brock the new Andre the Giant. Before being nailed down by the WWF, Andre was a touring limited attraction, never wearing out his welcome in one place. This is perfect for Brock’s new limited appearance contract. They’ve got him for what, 35 or so more appearances over the next 10 months. So let’s make ‘em count. Obviously, he’s a selling point, so he should be at all of the pay-per-views. So, we’re down to 25. If Raw and Smackdown are taped on the same night (which happens a couple of times a year, or at least it used to) does that count as one or two appearances? Anyway that’s two or three shows per month, and of those, at least 18 or so should just be appearances or run-ins or beatdowns. Make it important when he wrestles. I think I argued just the opposite a few weeks ago, but I think I have a better grasp on what the WWE wants to do with Brock now. Cena got his win over Brock, now don’t have him lose again until his last match, whether it’s against Undertaker at Wrestlemania or whenever.

Daniel Bryan – I guess the quick go-to comparison here is Chris Benoit, minus hopefully the darker side of Benoit’s ultimate fate. I’m going to go a different direction and go with Owen Hart. Like Owen, Bryan is a smaller guy who got by and got over on sheer talent. That he has (and like Owen did) developed a personality to go along with that skill is just gravy. Like The Rocket, Bryan has the justified heel role down pat. Seeing DB clutch the belt and chant “Yes!” made me thank of Owen and his Slammy Awards. That makes me smile. While Owen never got a chance to run with the big belt, Bryan did, and I don’t know if he’ll ever get it back, but I think the fact that the fans cheer him no matter how much the powers that be want them to boo him goes a long way toward proving that Bryan has the chops to hang with the big boys. Hopefully, he’ll get a face turn down the road, like Owen got from time to time, to really acknowledge the fans’ support.

Brodus Clay – Ah, the subject of my first column. Now that he’s been on the scene for a while what have we got? Now, I love the guy, mostly because my kids love him (and his theme song), but I don’t think he’s nearly as over as the higher-ups thought he’d be by now. Even as far as the Miz seems to have fallen, I was shocked that Clay went over clean against the former WWE champ a couple of weeks ago. If he’s got something in the arsenal he hasn’t unleashed, he needs to go ahead and get to it. I’d like to see him as more of a Bam Bam Bigelow with a little of The Godfather thrown in, but he seems to be leaning toward the Shockmaster with a little of Ernest “The Cat” Miller on the side.

Since I mentioned the Sting-Luger-Flair dynamic, here’s an awesome 3-way from Starrcade 1995 where Luger played heel against Sting and face against Flair…in the same match.

And here’s part 2…

I could keep doing this, but like Jeff Goldblum’s character said in “The Big Chill,”…”Never write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap.” Thanks for reading.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,