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Active WWE wrestlers who were stars during the boom


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I'm trying to create a list of guys who were names during the wrestling boom that are still active wrestlers in WWE.

 

(1) Undertaker (No way does he last much longer)

(2) Kane

(3) Rey Mysterio

(4) Edge

(5) HHH (He's been out forever, but I'm still counting him, even though he seems to be moving to a part-time position)

(6) William Regal

(7) Christian

(8) Chavo Guerrero

 

Has everyone else abandoned ship? Is there anyone I'm missing?

 

How did we get to a point where almost everyone in WWE has been wrestling for less than 10 years? I know there are some guys who have been around for a long time, but I'm referring to guys that were at the very least midcarders on a national stage during the boom period.

 

I guess you could really make the claim that either the Benoit murders or the Flair WM retirement was the end of an era of sorts, as pretty much all the most recognizable names in wrestling post-cable are gone. Crazy.

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Blame inflated boom era downsides for a lot of departures

They weren't inflated at the time.

 

 

It was an example of rising tides lifting all boats to be sure, but you had midcarders and jobbers taking home downsides never before seen (or since, really). A lot of people not at the top got accustomed to boom level guarantees and when those weren't rolling in anymore they decided it was time to move on.

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I'm not sure this amount of turnover is really all that surprising. Here's a list of active WWF wrestlers at the end of 2000 who were working in major promotions at least a decade earlier:

 

1. Chris Benoit

2. Ivory

3. Steve Austin

4. Steve Blackman

5. Faarooq

6. The Goodfather

7. Grand Master Sexay

8. Raven

9. William Regal

10. Rikishi

11. The Undertaker

12. Eddie Guerrero

13. Dean Malenko

14. Jerry Lawler

15. The Big Boss Man

 

It's not significantly more and far less were long term headliners still being pushed in that position.

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It's kind of interesting to look at how many work for TNA now...

 

Jeff Hardy

Jeff Jarrett

Hulk Hogan

Kevin Nash

Kurt Angle

Mick Foley

Rick Flair

Sting

 

And you have to think Matt Hardy will debut soon.

 

Also, if you count ECW in the boom, you've got

D-von

Bubba Ray

Tommy Dreamer

RVD

Stevie Richards

Taz (though he's not active)

 

Even if you don't count Taz and Hogan as active, there's still a couple more than in WWE.

 

Someone brought up a good point around here a while ago. Look how much the WWF changed from 1990 to 1997. Hell, even from 95 to 97. It was a totally different promotion. Look how little it's changed from say 2002 to now. This has been the longest period that there really hasn't been a shake-up of any kind in the modern era (80's til now).

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I'm not sure this amount of turnover is really all that surprising. Here's a list of active WWF wrestlers at the end of 2000 who were working in major promotions at least a decade earlier:

 

1. Chris Benoit

2. Ivory

3. Steve Austin

4. Steve Blackman

5. Faarooq

6. The Goodfather

7. Grand Master Sexay

8. Raven

9. William Regal

10. Rikishi

11. The Undertaker

12. Eddie Guerrero

13. Dean Malenko

14. Jerry Lawler

15. The Big Boss Man

 

It's not significantly more and far less were long term headliners still being pushed in that position.

The list was much larger if you include WCW wrestlers who were active in major promotions in 1990. Flair, Sting, Luger, Nash, the Steiners, Dustin Rhodes and Animal off the top of my head, and there are probably many others. The differences in the wrestling landscape between 2000 and now are enormous. There are far less places to work. There's no WCW to buy talent from that may have some national exposure already. WWE has a youth movement in place with no infrastructure to make it work, and the "push new guys" philosophy comes at the price of Hardy/Helms/Christian types who may not be the guys who can turn business around, but who would still be fresh faces on top that fans would accept because of familiarity.

 

This is more about the state of wrestling and the lack of active veterans than it is specifically the state of WWE. Wrestling sucks now, and I think it's because most wrestlers just aren't very good at it. And if they have potential to be good with time, they're given so little freedom to learn from mistakes that they'll likely not be much better 3-5 years from now. Even in 2000, many of your upper midcarders were guys who had a few years of national exposure in WCW or had worked internationally in front of large crowds.

 

It's also interesting that most of the guys who were gone from the WWF at this time 10 years ago were guys Vince got rid of because he felt they were washed up. That used to be his M.O. The old Vince would have cast aside Undertaker, Shawn and HHH a few years ago, feeling they were too old and had been around too long. Now, he seems lost at what to do without them around.

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Wrestling sucks now, and I think it's because most wrestlers just aren't very good at it. And if they have potential to be good with time, they're given so little freedom to learn from mistakes that they'll likely not be much better 3-5 years from now.

I really do think that it simply comes down to this. It's not just the lack of a good, strong compelling storyline. During the "boom" you had both the nWo and Austin/McMahon, plus some other stuff that people were interested in like D-Generation X or whatever. The big storyline that just happened was John Cena was "fired" by Nexus and yet he didn't miss a single show because what would WWE RAW be without John Cena on it?

 

I'm not sure if I would go so far as to say that the crop of talent today "sucks" but they are definitely a different breed for sure. There are a lot less charismatic people that can give you a great promo, and even if they could, it would be scripted and they would be told what to say. The days of practicing a promo in your bathroom mirror with a hairbrush have been replaced by working your 7 minute TV match and then going to play video games.

 

I like John Cena, as an example. I think he's a great man (can't deny his Make-A-Wish stuff) and when he is actually allowed to act natural, he can be pretty funny. However he is never going to be perceived in the same way that someone like Austin or The Rock were, which is unfair to him as they were so high up the ladder. But you put someone in that role, anyone, and they're going to be compared to them and in that regard, I think he has done pretty O.K. How long has he been carrying WWE now?

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Blame inflated boom era downsides for a lot of departures

They weren't inflated at the time.

 

 

It was an example of rising tides lifting all boats to be sure, but you had midcarders and jobbers taking home downsides never before seen (or since, really). A lot of people not at the top got accustomed to boom level guarantees and when those weren't rolling in anymore they decided it was time to move on.

 

 

right away Trish Stratus and Lita come to mind here. They both got huge downside guarentees with doing very little in the business (plus Lita sold a bunch of merchandise). No doubt business falling was a factor in the quitting pretty early on as they were used to those big payoffs

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This is more about the state of wrestling and the lack of active veterans than it is specifically the state of WWE. Wrestling sucks now, and I think it's because most wrestlers just aren't very good at it. And if they have potential to be good with time, they're given so little freedom to learn from mistakes that they'll likely not be much better 3-5 years from now. Even in 2000, many of your upper midcarders were guys who had a few years of national exposure in WCW or had worked internationally in front of large crowds.

Curious as to what you mean by "sucks" in the first line that is bolded. If you are talking storylines and promos I basically agree with a few exceptions. But I gave up watching wrestling for those reasons over a decade a go. If you mean in ring I think WWE especially is a thousand times better now than it was in 00.

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I do mean in terms of making people care about what's going on. I also mean in terms of creating an atmosphere where match results matter and people can't wait to watch TV each week because they want to see what happens next. Just the level of overall enthusiasm about wrestling seems to be in the shitter now. You can see it everywhere, from the bad promos to the lack of genuine heat for most matches.

 

We probably have different criteria for what better in-ring than 2000 means. Atmosphere in wrestling is very important to me, and I can't recall the last match I saw with a genuinely red hot crowd. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I'm curious what aspects you see as better, as I tend to respect your opinion and don't want to dismiss it without thought. If the matches are technically better than they were in 2000, that's fine and something I can potentially accept, as I really grew to hate staples of the times like stealing other guys' finishers, the standard Spanish announce table spot, overuse of low blows and run-ins, etc. I'm sure most matches now are more inherently logical and have better build, and we also get more clean finishes. But where are the heels that genuinely irk people and get under their skin? Where are the babyfaces that people are genuinely invested in and want to see win? I don't want to say it's completely gone, but it's diminished greatly.

 

In 2000, you may have an opening match guy like The Godfather who was terrible, but the crowd seemed to be more involved in his matches than most matches that happen on your average TV show now.

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Blame inflated boom era downsides for a lot of departures

They weren't inflated at the time.

 

 

It was an example of rising tides lifting all boats to be sure, but you had midcarders and jobbers taking home downsides never before seen (or since, really). A lot of people not at the top got accustomed to boom level guarantees and when those weren't rolling in anymore they decided it was time to move on.

 

Actually, Meltzer says the opposite in this month's WON: that while the headliners dont' make nearly as much as the headliners of 10 years ago (Cena makes millions, but nobody makes Austin/Rock money) that most of the midcarders actually make more now than they did during the boom because the video game does so well. It's just gotten to the point that the years upon years of no upward mobility has drained on a good deal of that midcard roster that Loss was speaking of, so folks are more prone to leave than they used to be, in spite of the decent money.

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But where are the heels that genuinely irk people and get under their skin? Where are the babyfaces that people are genuinely invested in and want to see win? I don't want to say it's completely gone, but it's diminished greatly.

Very true. Especially the heels. I think the Miz gets some genuine heat, and Cole, but not many others.

 

I was watching some World Class today, and was thinking about this. World Class had a whole roster of heels who could irritate the crap out of the crowd, but were also extremely giving to the faces. Steve Regal and Jack Victory make themsleves look like total asses to put the Fantastics over. The Midnight Express would also stooge like muthafuckas. Buddy Roberts may be the most unselfish wrestler ever. I mean, they had the Von Erichs who were as over as anyone ever, but the heels in that promotion helped a lot.

 

I just don't think you see that kind of generosity from heels today. Everyone wants to be that cool heel or tough heel or whatever.

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I think the Monday Night Wars combined with widespread internet fandom have changed the industry forever. Marquee matchups are run dozens of times a year because the sheer volume of tv hours is insanely high. Short title reigns are the norm (though a few years back we had some epic reigns, including a Cena run that might have gone over a year and a half had he not been injured) because the champions are expected to work on tv every week for the purpose of ratings/revenue. "Real" heat is gone/rare because the number of fans that are following the wrestling through the web is incredibly large (seriously, EVERY adult i know who is a fan at least occasionally checks the web for rumors/news bits. most of these people aren't tape trading, star rating type guys either).

 

I've said it before, but I have no clue why anyone would watch wrestling for storylines or angles at this point. I think the last long term, sustained storyline that blew me away was the US v. Canada angle in 97 and even that leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth when you consider there was no payoff due to Montreal. There have been plenty of good things since then, including things this decade. But almost nothing that delivers on it's initial promise (see Nexus, Straight Edge Society), and the few things that do don't have the same explosive effect because the net eliminates almost any surprise possibilities.

 

Anyway for the most part I agree about the nature of heels and faces and the attachment I have to them (though it is worth noting that my eight year old daughter reacts huge to Rey Jr. for example and extremely negatively to Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk, so how much of this has to do with becoming older and jaded shouldn't be dismissed). But in terms of match quality...you couldn't pay me to go back and watch 2000 WWF at this point. The rest of the decade has spoiled me and the idea of watching HHH "wrestling as bioepic" matches just doesn't compare. Hell a match like Punk v. Rey from the Over The Limit this year had the right atmosphere AND was technically better in every respect to any match the WWF ran from it's hottest point (99-01).

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WWE has a youth movement in place with no infrastructure to make it work, and the "push new guys" philosophy comes at the price of Hardy/Helms/Christian types who may not be the guys who can turn business around, but who would still be fresh faces on top that fans would accept because of familiarity.

I'm not sure I fully buy that argument. Take JBL's push in 2004, for example. They revamped his character, gave him the hard push and he cut some great promos, but it took him ages to be accepted by the fans as a guy who deserved to be in the mix on top, and even then he wasn't accepted to the level that fresher guys like Batista, Randy Orton and John Cena were. Matt Hardy's got that cult following that WWE should have capitalised on years ago, but that time has passed and he's now a broken down shell of his former self, both physically and mentally. The same applies to Shane Helms, except he's a guy I don't think the fans would have ever accepted as a serious headliner. I won't disagree with Christian, he deserves his shot and is someone Vince McMahon has a real blind spot about, but by and large I think WWE is wise to choose guys who aren't typecast as career midcarders and ground down by many years on the WWE treadmill to give their new main event pushes too.

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