Burning the Bandwagon: How WWE Booking Kills Midcard Stars

by Kyle Childers


In the real world, success and ability are, more often than not, directly related; if you’re good at your job then you can expect to see a reward for it while if you’re bad at it then you could be awoken from your early afternoon nap to the unpleasant sight of your boss telling you that the marshmallow you attempted to eat in your dream was company property.


…and that’s the story of why I no longer work in an office.

The WWE has the uncanny distinction of being one of the few professional arenas where this correlation doesn’t apply. In the WWE Universe, successes and failures are often determined by one’s ability to connect with the crowd.



Therein lays a distinct advantage the WWE holds over most other workplaces in that their entire business model is designed for them to decide who gets to the top of the card and who gets sacrificed to the Great Funkasaurus. Over the years, there have been plenty of examples of the WWE taking a talent from a no-name to a guaranteed box office draw just through sheer force of will and crowd manipulation.


You’ll cheer him sooner or later damn it!

The Rock, John Cena and Randy Orton all started out as homegrown blue-chippers with negative crowd reactions (not meaning boos, meaning the crowd somehow made less than no noise) to three of the highest pay-per-view draws of the last 15 years. But for every sustained push that makes a star, there are at least three pushes that failed simply because the WWE gave up on them. WWE’s track record of aborted pushes went from few but logical to abundant in just over the last five years with a few notable examples.


Really dodged a bullet on that one.

We could look at MVP who came in with a ton of momentum and a solid push as “the most valuable free agent in sports entertainment” and went on to become one of the longest reigning WWE United States Champions in history and held the distinction of having the longest televised loss streak in 2008. Of course, that losing streak did build to him defeating The Big Show in a last man standing match and then…nothing. Things turned out well for Mr. Porter in the end.


Gaijin ballin’.

Or we could look at Jack Swagger who came in strong with a title push on the ECW brand before he got switched to Raw where his push turned cold. This isn’t the end of Swagger’s tale though as WWE still saw potential in the guy they booked to hold the ECW World Heavyweight Championship for 104 days as they made him Mr. Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania XXVI and World Heavyweight Champion two days later. His reign saw him defeat the likes of Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Edge and drag Rey Mysterio around an arena by the ankle. It also saw Jack look like a total goof against guys like Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and The Big Show before losing the title three months later to Rey Mysterio. Since then, he’s had a forgettable run as the WWE United States Champion and was last seen on TV letting everyone know he was going home because he kept losing.


At least we’ll always have the memories.

Of course, no discussion of abandoned pushes is ever complete without Kofi Kingston. Kofi is another talent that came in with a fair amount of momentum only to see it squandered by WWE creative. I previously talked about his feud with Randy Orton where he pinned two former WWE Champions cleanly only to come out of the feud hot for a return to the WWE Intercontinental Championship, a territory where he’s mostly stayed since early 2010. Kofi is probably the best example of WWE yo-yo booking at work because he’s a person that fans desperately want to see move up the card but instead they’re treated to countless lesser title runs and a seemingly reserved spot in the yearly Money in the Bank matches.


This all sounds so familiar…

But what about the third option? We’ve had some examples of guys that WWE got behind and pushed to the moon, we’ve had examples of pushes being dropped either before the worker could gain momentum, dropped because that was the easy booking path, and dropped because the top of the card was full but what about times WWE seemed intent to push someone against the wishes of the fans? 2011 and 2012 were both big years for this as 2011 saw the start of Alberto Del Rio’s rise to the top of the card to great apathy all around and 2012 saw the debut of Prince Tensai Albert, The Hip Hop Hippo of Japan or something. WWE seemed okay with quietly de-pushing the initially unstoppable Tensai but Alberto Del Rio is still going “strong.”


His face tattoos translate to “Goodyear.”

Then there’s the very unique case of Zack Ryder, one of the only instances where WWE seemed to push someone specifically to fail. While Alberto Del Rio was arm-humping his way to the WWE Title, Ryder was using YouTube to build on the fanbase he had started to accumulate during his ECW run from a few dozen people nationally (rough estimate) to nearly a million followers on Twitter. Knowing better than to miss out on striking while the iron is hot, WWE decided to push Zack Ryder from Internet denizen to United States Champion in one of the top feel good moments of 2011 then it all went off a cliff…or off the stage.

All it took was a best friend, a trifling hussy and a masked maniac to move Ryder from future superstar main eventer to current WWE Superstars main eventer as Ryder was beaten, battered and betrayed for months in an angle where his role almost seemed designed to kill any good feelings the audience had for him.


“You were supposed to be mah friend!”

I’m sure you’re sitting there wondering why WWE would do this, why start to create to stars only to bust them back even farther down the card than when they started? I really don’t have an answer. That seems like the biggest copout conclusion this could possibly reach but it’s true. What would motivate a multimillion dollar company whose existence is based on their ability to make new superstars that will keep the cycle of ticket sales, pay-per-views sold and t-shirts printed moving into the next decade? I’ll leave that up to you in the comments section below because there’s not a single explanation that makes sense to me.

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: usdailyreview.com

Photo 2: dropkickradio.com

Photo 3: tribalwrestling.com

Photos 4-5: bleacherreport.com

Photo 6: .jasonrivera.com

Photos 7-8: en.wikipedia.org

Photo 9: blogspot.com

Categories: Smooth Runs

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3 replies

  1. Awesome piece, bro.

    But I think it all boils down to one thing. Money.

    A wrestling promoter doesn’t care about who he offends, because he isn’t concerned with advertising agencies complaining about his show or networks upset over the content in his product. He cares about making money, not meeting corporate codes and shareholders’ demands. He’s not worried about what the investors think about his plan for business, because his plan is the only one on the table. A wrestling promoter just wants to sell tickets and make money, whoever’s name he’s putting on the promotion posters and however big the print is on their names.

    Vince McMahon is no longer a wrestling promoter. He’s a corporate businessman. His money doesn’t hinge on getting the fans to pay to see his show. His money hinges on the commercials people pay to run during RAW, or the cute little plastic toys kids buy at the concession stands, or the revenues from the multiple things WWE does besides professional wrestling.

    Therefore, you can’t really just go “we need to push somebody new” when there’s so much money outside of the business tied up in the current guard of main eventers. Whether the fans want it or the wrestlers want it, somebody has to make a stand and say “we’re professional wrestlers, not paid actors for some damn RonCo infomercial!”

    • I would agree that Vince has surpassed being a wrestling promoter and is a businessman that is only concerned with money but with the business model they run on, where merchandise sales are decided by how over (or not over) the workers are. Sure, for the moment John Cena, CM Punk, and others are around to sell t-shirts and action figures but looking five years down the road, when Punk and Cena will both likely be gone, there’s going to need to be a new group that can still push those sales otherwise there will be a huge business drop-off.

      I will say I think they’re taking steps in the right direction by pushing the Shield, Ryback, and now Ziggler as legitimate competitors that the crowd can get behind.

  2. Hi to every , for the reason that I am really eager of reading this blog’s post to be updated regularly. It carries good material.

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