CALDWELL'S TAKE CALDWELL: Nash & Booker at WWE & TNA's crossroads - creative change needed in TNA, will WWE look to WrestleMania 28 rather than 27?
Jan 31, 2011 - 2:21:53 PM
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By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor
On Sunday night at the Royal Rumble, Kevin Nash and Booker T arrived at the crossroads for both WWE and TNA. WWE is in the middle of a "youth movement" without much juice heading to WrestleMania. TNA is about to start yet another angle centered on Attitude Era stars. You would think they fit in with TNA, but Nash and Booker opted for surprise returns at the Rumble.
WWE-specific motivations for Nash and Booker will likely be revealed in the next few weeks or months, especially if WWE utilizes them for WrestleMania, the Hall of Fame, or WCW-themed projects. Specific to TNA, it looks like a business decision for Nash and Booker leveraging TNA's desire to use them in a Main Event Mafia angle to score a Rumble payday and beyond.
On the Monday after the Rumble, TNA woke up to the task of re-writing an entire three months of TV without Nash and Booker. Sure, TNA could still push through with their Main Event Mafia angle, but the name on the marquee says "Main Event." The angle is designed to re-introduce the likes of Nash, Booker, Sting, etc. Otherwise, it will fall completely flat without big names.
That gets to the heart of TNA's creative woes. Not only did Vince Russo and Co. give away the angle at the previous set of TV tapings three weeks before the "they" reveal, but TNA is once again depending on nostalgia from the 1990s rather than building for the future.
The decision to write an angle featuring talent not under contract has opened up the Russo-led creative effort to a second wave of criticism beyond the "quality" of writing. Whether or not there was outside pressure to bring back big names is irrelevant. Giving away the angle three weeks in advance was detrimental to business.
If it wasn't already clear months and years ago, it's time for a change to TNA's creative department, starting with Russo. TNA needs new, fresh ideas to build up the strong roster they already have rather than depending on wrestlers not under contract to be the backbone of the latest angle motivated by short-term ratings pops.
On the flipside, Nash and Booker, at a combined age over 80-years-old, are walking into a Youth Movement in the middle of a significant business downturn for WWE. How significant will be revealed on February 10 when WWE announces fourth quarter 2010 and year-end results.
The bottom line is WWE failed to build for the future despite the flashing warning lights on the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, The Undertaker, and Chris Jericho not being available after WrestleMania 26. The writing was on the wall more than five years ago, but Vince McMahon continued to hold on to the coattails of the Attitude Era throughout the late 2000s.
Nash and Booker returning to WWE for that big Nostalgia Pop in the Royal Rumble was one of several mechanisms WWE used during the match to hold the audience's attention for nearly 70 minutes in the absence of established star power. There was New Nexus dominating, Hornswoggle's Comedy Hour, John Cena, John Morrison playing Spiderman, Miz's run-in, and Santino's hope spot at the end.
It culminated with Alberto Del Rio winning the Rumble before he and the audience were ready for that big of a commitment. But, without building for the future, WWE's hand was forced to elevate a new star well before Del Rio's time.
As for Nash and Booker, McMahon's traditional response in lean times is to return to what he knows. McMahon was forced to change in the mid-1990s only because WCW was squashing him. Without anyone challenging his business in 2011, McMahon's natural tendency will be to return to the comfort of established stars.
WWE already planted the seeds for a potential Nash vs. Big Show match at WrestleMania. Perhaps "King" Booker gets a run at "King" Sheamus?
In the middle of WWE's so-called "youth movement," could Nash and Booker be involved in two of the top programs at WrestleMania three weeks after TNA set up an angle centered on their return?
Or, will Nash and Booker take background roles as Hall of Fame inductees as WWE focuses on the WCW Era with WrestleMania in Atlanta?
Whatever decision WWE makes on how to utilize Nash and Booker during WrestleMania could say a lot about WWE's commitment to the Youth Movement. Will McMahon depend on who he knows and stunt the growth of his future stars? Or, will he make a sound business decision being comfortable with taking a loss on WrestleMania 27 and establish a one-year plan to build new top stars for WrestleMania 28?
Meanwhile, TNA could take the opposite approach by scrapping the latest Nostalgia Angle and center the promotion on current and future stars like A.J. Styles, Mr. Anderson, Samoa Joe, Beer Money, Matt Morgan, Magnus, Machineguns, Jay Lethal, The Pope, GenMe, Hernandez, and the Knockouts.
That will likely only happen when Vince Russo is removed from the head of creative because of his affinity for the stars he wants to write for and protect - Jarrett, Flair, Nash, Booker, Sting, Hogan, etc. Possibly his department's biggest blunder to-date on how they handled the new Main Event Mafia angle should be the last straw.
Or, will anything change at all? Will WWE utilize Nash and Booker in short-term roles and try to shoehorn them into a start/stop Youth Movement? Will TNA push through with a re-written Main Event Mafia angle sans "main eventers?"
In the year 2011, Nash and Booker are at the center of the crossroads for both WWE and TNA. Will TNA can Russo and find a new creative direction? Will WWE take a long-term approach rather than trying to patch up the holes in the dam with nostalgia?
Will the wrestling industry continue to waffle still holding on to the diminishing value of the 1990s? The industry needs a kick in the pants. Will anyone step up and deliver it?
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