How To Know When A Wrestler Is Great
by VINCE RUSSO
When it comes to sports-entertainment today, we think nothing of throwing around our “opinion” of a wrestler being “over” or “great” even. I have come to the realization over the past 40 years, that in today’s era of wrestling, the majority of the fans don’t even understand what the terms “over” and “great” mean. In today’s game, certain fans equate “over” or “great”, to the “pop” a certain wrestler gets when he walks out in front of a college crowd of drunk students who are so happy to be in the arena simply because it allows them from not doing their homework for a night. They can substitute the excuse of “my dog ate my homework” for “we went to see rasslin’ last night.” THAT is not “over” or “great” by any stretch of your glorious imagination. That is you wanting someone to be “over” or “great” so you in your own feeble mind can somehow take credit for his, or her, success.
The proper definition of both the words “over” and “great”, when it comes to professional wrestling, can partially be defined as not being able to replace that performer on your roster without taking a punishing blow to your entire company. It means that that individual has a certain star power that very few would even come close to achieving, and losing his/her presence would cause a loss in revenue across the board. In today’s wrestling world, when it comes to the WWE, that person would clearly be John Cena. You can go on, and on, and on, all you want with your stupefied “Cena Sucks” chants, that can be translated to, “we can’t believe that the guy is STILL the most over performer in the company after all these freakin’ years!”
John Cena is “great”, and much to the credit of the WWE Machine, they helped make him “great” Early on they harnessed his young and unique talent by crafting his character and creating storylines that the audience both embraced and got into. John’s talent simply did the rest. You can’t deny the “IT FACTOR” when it comes to entertainment, and John Cena was soaked with it. I was actually consulting when Cena first started in the WWE, and my suggestion was to push him to the moon immediately. I remember pitching him getting into it with the “Mr. McMahon” character out the shoot—because I could see that John Cena was THAT GOOD. Today, 13, 14 years later—he is now iconic. If suddenly John Cena walked away for whatever reason—it would cripple the WWE at its core. Of course other greats have walked away, and it has indeed hurt business, but in many of those situations there were others, who remained active that were also “over” and “great”, so they helped picked up the slack. But, don’t fool yourselves—that was all by design. When you had a “Rock”, or a “Stone Cold” you built that roster around them with greatness to make them even stronger. Those guys would have not been as “over”, or “great” as they were without the Mick Foley’s, DX’s, New Age Outlaws, Goldust, etc., etc., etc.. It’s just like in baseball, when a team has a Bryce Harper, they build the rest of the team around him. Unfortunately, that has not happened in the WWE’s case for a long, long, time.
Who has the WWE assisted in the road to “greatness” over the past 15 years? I’m talking about guys who weren’t a part of the Attitude Era. To me, the three that come to mind are Cena, Angle and Lesnar. Outside of that, we could we really define as “great”, or “over”, especially looking at the ratings and the devastating decrease in viewership over the years. Somehow, some way, the WWE has forgotten how to do what they use to do best—CREATE STARS that are both “OVER” and “GREAT”. Say what you will about today’s roster, chockfull of GREAT athletes who work their backsides off week in, and week out in the ring, but have their stories, or characters, really brought them to a level of truly being “over”, or “great”? For as good as Seth Rollins is—would his impact on revenue be the same as John Cena’s if he decided to walk away tomorrow? If you answered yes, that’s simply because you want to “think” and “believe” that. In reality—there is no comparison to Cena and Rollins, and as I’ve said a million times before—that is NOT on Rollins, he doesn’t write the show.
So you have to look back on how exactly did Cena, Angle and Lesnar get over? What was so different a decade ago that is just not there now? No doubt, one would have to believe at the rip age of 60, that Vince McMahon was much more on “his game” than he is today at 70. Vince once knew how to get guys over HUGE. My God, look at the early WrestleMania years–everybody was larger than life—everybody was over. Are we going to hear “It’s a different time?” If that were the case then how on earth did Ronda Rousey get over to the heights she is today? Or, the “Rock” as a movie star? For crying out loud Chris Jenner got a family of talentless siblings over with just a collection of huge lips and huger backsides! You can STILL get over in 2015, but you have to have the team in place to help you get “over”, or become “great” . . . the WWE has shown us . . . that they are just lacking in that department.
So my point? It can STILL be done, and the talent is there to organically still get guys “over” on their way to achieving “greatness”, but there has to be a strong effort and concerted focus to do so. Whether it be a Rollins, an Ambrose, or a Reigns, they have to be treated with the same precision of a Cena. an Angle, or a Lesnar. Their raw talents alone will only take them so far—and not far enough to either get “over”, or be “great”.
Tags: John Cena, Vince Russo Blog