It’s not going to be a surprise to anyone who’s been reading my post to learn I’m a big fan of professional wrestling. I’ve heard all the arguments against it. I know it’s all predetermined. I know it can be downright silly and sadistic. I also know wrestling was misogynistic just a few years back. I can’t help it. I just love the pomp and circumstance of pro wrestling!
Right now, the biggest thing in the world of wrestling is the upstart All Elite Wrestling company. All Elite Wrestling, or AEW for short, may not seem like much of a contender for best pro wrestling company now but who’s to say it can’t be as big as the current champ, the WWE? AEW does have its problems but I see it slowing improving from week to week and I have slowly become a fan of their weekly shows. On the other side of the coin, I have surprisingly lost some interest in WWE programming. It feels like nothing really is happening on their shows despite it having some really good stuff, such as this year’s Royal Rumble.
Unfortunately, just because they can have some good spots, that doesn’t mean I’m actually invested in the program. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve been feeling that way for a while now, which is part of the reason why I’m being drawn to AEW’s product. It’s not like I’m sick of WWE’s stuff. I just feel like something’s missing. After some soul searching, I think I know why.
The WWE currently doesn’t have a face of the company.
For the longest time, there was always a top draw in the WWE. It’s that one person who people buy ticket for just because he’ll be in the show. It’s that one larger than life character that crosses the threshold of what’s only popular in wrestling into mainstream popularity. Way back when, it was the likes of Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior. Soon after that, we had “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the many faces of Mick Foley. The most recent one is, without a doubt, John Cena. Love him or hate him, he is one of the biggest stars the WWE has ever produced and even non-wrestling fans knew about him before he started making crappy movies like Playing with Fire. Hey, even “The Rock” had to make The Tooth Fairy before he can become a part of the Fast and Furious squad!
I’m betting some hardcore wrestling fans are chomping at the bit now since I didn’t include names like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle and CM Punk. I have much respect for them and I’m a huge mark for them as well. However, while they were technically “the face of the WWE” at a time, they weren’t known by the mainstream audiences. Oh, they carried the company on their back but they never were popular enough that even non-wrestling fans knew about them.
You could say the same thing for AEW, in a sense. Right now, the only real “mainstream” guy they have on the roster is “Le Champion” Chris Jericho and even I wouldn’t say he’s all that well known outside the realm of wrestling! Who else do they have? Mostly other wrestling fan favorites like Kenny Omega, Code Rhodes, Christopher Daniels and the rest of SCU, PAC, Jon Moxley and, of course, the ultra-popular Orange Cassidy.
Mention any one of those names to a person who doesn’t watch wrestling and you’ll get a resounding “who?” for each and every one of them. I will give AEW a pass on this because it doesn’t seem like they’re not really interested in catering to the non-wrestling fan. AEW seems to be targeting the “marks” of wrestling. Essentially, they’re going after people who, at least, have a passing interest in wrestling. In fact, their product appears to be more for the “smarks” AKA the fans who know wrestling is fake but love it because of how entertaining is it because it is fake. Basically, AEW seems to believe there’s room for more wrestling than just the “seriousness” and “clean cut” that is WWE’s product. I mean, we can get behind a guy like Orange Cassidy, who basically is so lazy that he can’t kick or jump off the top rope in an exciting way!
The WWE is selling that wrestling deserves to be mainstream, which is why they also target children with their current family friendly product. However, in order to really drive that point home, they need someone who the kids can look up to. They need that person who can attract little boys and girls to their product. This is why the likes of Hulk Hogan and John Cena are like larger than life characters.
This does have a side effect: the face of the company becomes a focal point of the WWE. That person is what has the non-mainstream people come in so the WWE make that person wrapped up in the “main” storyline. Sure, there are side stories but what non-mainstream fans want to see is how their hero, the face of the company, triumphs over the odds. Right now, the WWE doesn’t have that focal point. They don’t have a face of the company to market. This is probably one of the reasons why the RAW and Smackdown programs seem directionless since there is nothing tying everything down.
It’s not like the WWE haven’t been trying. They tried to push Roman Reigns to the forefront but it was a colossal failure as it just didn’t feel organic and the fans felt they were being played. They tried to put Seth Rollins in the position but that didn’t work as well. You can say they also attempted to use the people on the roster that were ultra-hot with the WWE Universe and put those Superstars into that slot. You had the likes of Daniel Bryan and “The Man” Becky Lynch being thrust into the slot. They may have resonated with wrestling fans but they just didn’t click with non-wrestling fans for one reason or another. As much as I loved Becky Lynch’s epic rise, I knew non-wrestling fans wouldn’t understand why a girl would call herself “The Man.”
Without a face of the company, the WWE just seems to be floundering from storyline to storyline. There are no connections built up with its audience and that leads to a lackluster product. I know it’s not easy to brand someone as the face of the company and it actually sticks. The thing is, they have done it before. I honestly think someone like CM Punk and even Becky Lynch could be the face of the WWE but the WWE would have to do something that they can’t seem to do anymore. They can’t let their Superstars be creative.
The WWE has to have full control over what happens and, right now, they don’t know how to capture the imagination of the non-wrestling consumer. CM Punk could’ve been their next breakthrough star but they told him what to do instead of what he couldn’t do. The former stifled him but the latter would’ve left him some creativity to work with. Same thing with Becky Lynch. She was doing alright when she started adapting “The Man” gimmick but they had to “de-Man” her. They needed to control the story instead of letting the one who was writing the story from the start, Becky Lynch, continue it.
It does seem rather simple to make a new face but it’s much harder to execute. You still need that person on the roster that is creative enough to work within the restraints and is just charismatic enough to capture the imagination of both wrestling and non-wrestling fans. However, the WWE can’t really go out and choose who it is anymore. They have to let their current roster work on that and just support the one who rises to the top. That’s what happened with The Ultimate Warrior, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and, yes, even John Cena. If Stephanie McMahon didn’t hear John Cena rapping that one time, he wouldn’t have become the star he is now.
Is there someone in the WWE roster that can rise to the top? I don’t doubt there isn’t at least one wrestler they have on the payroll that has this crazy idea for a gimmick that just might work. I say the WWE let that person do what that crazy idea is because he or she just be the next face of the company.
Who do you think should become the face of the WWE now? Let me know in the comments section below!