WWE Shifting Company Towards A Character-Driven Era Not The Worst Idea – TheSportster

Some fans will hate it, but there’s reason to support the idea of WWE moving to a character-driven, gimmick-heavy era again.
Dave LaGreca and Bully Ray seem to think WWE is shifting gears and characters like Nikki A.S.H, Alexa Bliss and the new vision of Karrion Kross potentially represent a reimagining of the way the company presents their Superstars. While it’s not a completely foreign concept to older WWE fans, it’s a direction the sports entertainment brand hasn’t gone in quite a while.
Sure, there have been glimpses of extremely gimmick-heavy characters in recent years; The Fiend may be the most popular among them. But, it’s been some time since names like The Undertaker, Kane, Goldust, Mankind and the like were the norm and not the exception. If WWE chooses to head back in that direction, it will certainly alienate a portion of the fan base who feel like they’ve grown out of that era of wrestling. At same time, there’s an appeal to the idea.
If you look back to when WWE became a national, then international product, larger-than-life characters were a big deal. Whether the gimmicks highlighted the countries wrestlers were from, everyone had a job, or animals were paired with pretty much everyone who didn’t fit into the first two categories, there was something about almost every wrestler that made them stand out.

Fans and kids got behind what made each talent unique and every gimmick was marketable, even if it wasn’t beloved. In the Golden Era, it was Hulk Hogan, The Junkyard Dog, The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, among others. Huge personas ruled the day and flashy characters like the Macho Man Randy Savage, The Million Dollar Man, Demolition, Roddy Piper or The Honky Tonk Man were characters that helped launched WWE into a new type of global phenomenon.
Related: WWE Ushering In New Character-Driven, Gimmick-Heavy Era Again [Theory]
Whether it was Brother Love, The Undertaker, Big Boss Man, The Mountie or Mr. Perfect, it was the characters fans got behind and not necessarily the wrestlers who played them. Of course, for any character to work, WWE needs the right personality behind it and one could argue The Undertaker character doesn’t become as big as it did if anyone but Mark Calaway were playing him. Still, fans bought into the idea of a Deadman terrorizing the industry. It was The Undertaker they fell in love with or feared, not the person. Just ask Calway himself, who for years tried never to show his true side to fans and always stayed in character. When his thought-to-be-dead brother came along, fans were instantly hooked.

Whether it was the sale of action figures to kids, creating cartoons or selling magazine subscriptions, these characters created a river of revenue flowing directly into Vince McMahon’s pockets. It was a big deal when Zeus showed up from the movie No Holds Barred, and attacked Hogan. It was a extremely over with the crowd that a perceived mentally challenged Eugene was able to develop a huge following of fans because he was the underdog. Love him or hate him, The BoogeyMan continues to get a pop when he shows up from time to time.
Clearly, WWE crossed the line a few times and many of the gimmicks of yesterday wouldn’t fly today, but comic books and comic book films are all the rage again and WWE is wise to understand capitalizing on that trend has benefits.
WCW ushered in an era where wrestlers simply went by their names. AEW is doing it now too. WWE isn’t a fan of not having a trademark to sell, own and distribute, nor do they want to allow for any wrestler to take with them the intellectual property for an idea they heavily invest in, if and when that talent leaves. From a business standpoint, that makes a lot of sense, especially with so many choices for wrestlers in terms of employment.

There’s also often something missing when you try to make a real life person the marketable commodity. Not everyone is Stone Cold Steve Austin, CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. In fact, it’s rare that a person, being themselves, is the launching pad to become one of the most popular Superstars in the industry.
If we’re being honest, a lot of wrestlers are actually quite boring and few fans watch simply for the matches. It’s the combination of storytelling, a character and a good payoff inside the squared circle that hooks the average fan in.
While WWE has publicly said it pays little attention to what AEW is doing, any good company knows what its competition is offering. And, while WWE is the bigger brand and reaches far more households around the globe, there’s something to be said for offering something different.
AEW is clearly trying to reach that 18-49 demo. They’re an edgier product with more of a focus on the “smart” wrestling fan. WWE is looking at kids, families and building generations of fans who can grow and pass along their fandom through the years. If WWE goes with “characters” while AEW goes with “wrestlers”, it’s a good deviation that will appeal to a different audience, while also still engaging wrestling fans if done right.
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Jim Parsons is a Canadian-based entrepreneur and freelance writer. His resume includes regular contributions at http://thehockeywriters.com/author/jparsons/, theoilersnetwork.com and edmontonweddingdjs.net. Jim is a devoted husband, loving father of two and fan of the Edmonton Oilers — not necessarily in that order.


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