***NOW THIS IS TOPIC from elsewhere I thought would be a good debate on here none of it is my commentary, but maybe I will open up about it if the topic takes off here*******
Seeing a lot of familiar faces among the new debuting wrestlers in the WWE recently—Moxley, Black, Claudio—I was reminded of an observation I had a while back that many of the newer guys to WWE TV over the past couple years are a bit older than in the past. I remember seeing comments on some wrestling boards about how Cena should “pass the torch” to Punk, and I wondered if folks recognized that the two guys are basically the same age.
When I first really got into wrestling, young folks were being pushed hard—Randy Orton held his first World Championship at 24, and Brock Lesnar held his first WWE Championship at 25. (I believe both hold the “youngest” record for their respective titles.) Obviously, Lesnar didn’t work out as a long-term bet (though having him back for a bit at an elevated stature certainly is nice), but I would argue that the Orton experiment worked—despite many bumps in the road (learning curve, Wellness Policy, injuries, etc) he’s been serving as a main event talent for the better part of a decade.
I couldn’t find the age data for the roster in one place, so I did a quick Wikipedia scan of the male talent, including semi-active guys. My thoughts, qualitative and quantitative, are below the ages—I’d be curious to hear your own.
Big E Langston
Ted DiBiase Jr
Alberto Del Rio
The Great Khali
1) Numerical Observations:
--The average age of the WWE male roster is 31.9—not exactly a roster full of spring chickens. (And before you complain about outlier semi-active talent, the median age is 31.)
--The youngest WWE talent by a full year is Trent Barreta at 25, who is basically NXT talent at the moment. Not a single wrestler is as young as Randy Orton was when he won his first World Championship. I suspect this is indicative of a growing emphasis on seasoning, but it cuts down the pool of young people the audience can invest in early.
---The Undertaker is unsurprisingly the oldest talent, but can we just have a round of applause for Kane, who is still putting on good-to-great matches at 45 while working a regular schedule?
2) Stability of the Main Event Scene
Right now, I would break down the main eventers in WWE this way (and I’m being generous with who I’m including):
Semi-Active but Marquee: Brock Lesnar (35), The Rock (40), Triple H (43), Undertaker (47)
Company Faces: Randy Orton (32), CM Punk (34), kinda Sheamus (34), John Cena (35), and probably Big Show (40)
Past Champions Remaining Plausible: Alberto Del Rio, (35), Mark Henry (41), and probably Kane (45).
Past Champions on the Cusp of Being Plausible: Daniel Bryan (31), The Miz (32), Rey Mysterio (38) and Christian (39). I'm also tagging Ryback (31) at about this level--I'm not sure how permanent his current push is, but he did beat Del Rio clean, so he can't be much lower.
Maybe In Progress: Dolph Ziggler (32).
(Re: past champs not included, I think Swagger needs a lot of rehab to be a main event threat again and I think Khali is done as a credible threat. I also think Wade Barrett is below here for now.)
So of the main event talents I feel confident listing—no one is under 32, and only two (Orton and Punk) are under 35. Besides wear and tear, that leads to increasing injury threat—of the current guys alone, see Mysterio, Christian, Henry. That means despite the relatively recent elevation of a lot of these guys (Sheamus was made in 2010 with stumbles, Alberto Del Rio was made in 2011, CM Punk didn’t become The Man until 2011, Henry wasn’t a plausible anything until 2011…), there needs to be real preparation for a changing of the guard ASAP.
some historic figures (ages are a bit approximate as I just went from year of birth and career histories on wiki):
Edge debuted (in wwe) at 24, won KoTR at 28, and a WC by 32
Taker debuted (in wwf) at 25, WC by 26
Hall debuted (in wwf) at 34, main event matches by 35, IC champ at 35, NWO launch at 38
Nash debuted (in wwf) at 34, main event matches by 35, IC champ at 35, WC by 36, NWO launch at 37
HHH debuted (in wwf) at 26, IC champ at 27, WC at 30
Hogan debuted and re-debuted (in wwf) at 24 and 30 respectively, WC at 30
Michaels debuted (in wwf) at 22 (fired 2 weeks later), redebuts at 23, IC champ at 27, main events at 27, WC at 31.
Rey entered the main event picture at 32, Eddie got his first world title at 37
I think what the basic total randomness of this list shows is you can push seriously over talent very quickly if you have to. You can also build talent in company to an eventual crescendo. The interesting thing about the list above is that many of the "debuts" were of course jumps from other companies (ie taker, nash from wcw, hall from AWA(?), Hogan returning from Japan). It strikes me this is what WWE's recruitment policy has reverted to - they are looking to sign (nearly) finished products for (nearly) instant results as opposed to building people up from ground level on wwe tv.
Cesaro, Del Rio, Punk, Bryan and Sin Cara for example have all come in as "proven" talents in promotions - not unlike those on the list above. The difference perhaps is that the promotions are seen as being on a lesser level than the WCWs, NWAs and so on of years gone by. WWE's dominance allows them the luxury of bringing in "new" talent which is both highly skilled and relatively unfamiliar to its main audience. As such I think WWE could, in a shortage of main eventers at the Cena, Orton level instantly elevate a number of people on its roster with a degree of success: Cesaro and Barrett are both ready and able, the shield are likely to prove similar and Bryan, Kane and Christian (hell even Regal if he's healthy) are the sort of talents that can be rebooted quickly into the main event by "an attitude change".
To the extent I have a concern regarding the age of the roster it's in the midcard - for me the midcard should be a mix of younger talent moving upward and older talent either moving slowly downward, awaiting a main event position opening up or being used to elevate people (and also performing a useful backstage function like training, booking etc).
People like Yoshi, Striker, Zeke, and mcgillicutty strike me as being of little hope for the longer term and they aren't doing much right now. On the basis that they're just jobbers I'd be inclined to go back to the days of the local (or foreign) jobbers and use their spots to assess potential new talent a bit more. This would also create an illusion of more depth in the roster and reinforce the fan's impression that wwe is "the show" everyone's trying to get too.
The following are the 3 youngest champions in WWE history: 3. Rock 2. Brock 1. Orton.
When looking around otherwise, there really aren't any tremendously young champions in WWE's history. Usually its guys much more accomplished that had gotten to the top (I think an adage has been used here that it takes 7 years to make a champions - Bruno won his at 27). For the most part, top stars will probably be between 27-33 when they are in their peak...and that is because...
2. Careers are longer now
It's not necessarily that people are staying healthier, but guys are able to spend more time at the top and more time in their prime. Show, Cena, Kane, HHH, Mysterio, Mark Henry, Christian, part-timers (Taker, Jericho, Rock, and Brock), and TNA guys (Hardy, Angle). These were all guys who were on the up and up in 2002. Imagine if the guys who made up Wrestlemania I were still the guys making up a decent portion of Wrestlemania X.
And while its not the base they had in 2000, they still are lucky to have these guys around to use.
Problem is, instead of using these known entities in ways that can be entertaining and help build newer stars for this generation, they use them in lame ways; keep them on top, never let anyone get over them, and make once enjoyable stars boring because they've been in the same position doing the same thing for decades.
But also, using this knowledge, we have to adjust what we think is "young" and "old" for WWE. With medicine, the lack of steroids, better money, and general better care of its workers, wrestling can expect stars to stick around longer. While 35-40 may seem old, it really isn't anymore. These guys will slow down a bit, but a lot of the successful ones will probably be able to go to 45-50 now, so I don't think we have to worry about guys like Sheamus and Cena, nor really Cesaro and Barrett...because they will have longer primes to work with than those 20 years ago.
Historically, this is the first time the WWE has to consider generation of stars from within.
Here's why I think it matters.
I first started watching in the 70's. A guy like Bobby Duncum ( insert your favorite old heel) comes in already baked. He destroyed jobbers on TV, frankie Williams, Tom Stone. In house shows he spends time gaining a name by beating mid faces; Garea, Dean Ho, Sanchez.
Then a feud with an upper mid (main eventer in secondary markets) say Strongbow. That takes six months, maybe 10 depending on fan reaction and how the prior heel is doing. Two, three or four MSG main events? Then Duncumassumes #1. Once his star falls, he jobs out to upper face and might even be upset on TV by mid face in a tag match. Then he leaves territory.
That cycle kept everyone fresh. You could bring in a Koloff or SSBG and have them serve as champ for a little bit to pass the title to the next ready face. Simple formula.
Works right up through say One Man Gang, Big Bossman time frame, with a smallhitch. Now the E, being national changed formulas and bought the names long term. Keep the "major talent " away from the other organizations. This era saw more heel/face flip flopping, trying to keep things fresh. I stopped watching around this period, so I'm fuzzy on next.
At some point, there was the big two (WCW). The E got lucky with Austin. When they brought him on, nowhere was the ring master a beer swilling anti-establishment guy. He made himself on the backside of 30. Somewhere around here Edge comes in, having been groomed elsewhere and was an IC champ within 2 years in his late 20's. either example still has that maturation outside of the E fan base.
Insert any other WC into the Edge/SSA role and you get to current (including Terra Ryzin). I think the Smackdown/Raw separation may have been intended to continue this format.
Cena, groomed as Prototype, is the first homegrown talent ever to take and hold top position. He had about a year experience before being signed to a developmental contract. His 10 years in the E has him long of tooth at 35; primarily because he is always on E programming. In contract think about Chris Jerico, developed to some extent outside of WWE. He debuted around 2000. What kept him fresh? He was out of the E as often as active. Almost like a 1970's star.
Today the E is faced with getting pretty raw talent (no pun intended) and developing them in front of their fans, or getting minor league vets (Barrett, Sheamus, Del Rio) who has some miles on their bodies and building fan reaction. Either way, it's a pretty new process for them.
They clearly haven't worked out the build heat/protect talent ratio yet in the new reality.
This is something I tried touching on back 2 years ago when del Rio debuted, and instantly seemed to have a different kind of trajectory than any deubuting star since Carlito. My notion was that age and experience were big factors... and not just for pragmatic reasons like wanting to push a guy before he was too old. But also just because wrestling isn't legit sports, where being in your physical prime gives you an advantage over older guys. It's entertainment -- athletic entertainment, to be sure, but still entertainment -- where gravitas counts.
Gravitas does not come from hiring kids out of high school (or after they've been freshly dishonorably discharged from the military at age 20), and trying to get them onto TV as soon as possible in order to milk them for a 20 year career... and for a while, that did seem to be WWE's strategy. I think it's a big part of the reason why they went so long without making enough true top-level superstars to fill the void that started developing in 2004. And now, things are demonstrably different. Which is good.
As people are facing each other all the time it makes balance an issue to avoid one person going over at the expense of ruining another. Additionally, in my view, as WWE is marketting to a younger audience having too many heels go over in a ppv is being avoided to the detriment of the obvious conclusion to feuds. All feuds are prolonged back and forths instead of any of them being either epic feuds or minor skirmishes.
The issue with this is it prevents a steady build of a heel wrestler over time in my view and goes to how you build a, say, 28 year old midcard. In the old days he'd smack around a few jobbers, jump the relevant face and injure him kayfabe and we're off to the races.
Now he swaps several series of matches in the lower midcard and hence has to consolidate and rebuild himself as someone unbeatable somehow. Re-establishment of a monster is, as Albert has shown, harder than establishment of a blank slate.
As a result getting a quality new face to the company to join is a great resource which could and should be used more wisely.