By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Following on from my last article on Bray Wyatt vs Undertaker and the feeling I get of coming to terms with my own ageing underpinning the feud I’m also seeing a similar theme about getting older and themes of regret at many points throughout all of the stories going into Wrestlemania 31 in just over a month. Several of the major plot lines unfolding across WWE television feature older performers in angles that actively play on their advanced years. Not as explicitly as the Undertaker program but I gaze at these plots and I can see some threads that bear examination.
Sting is finally walking the halls of WWE, seemingly on a mission to avenge the death of WCW in 2001 by battling current WWE COO Triple H. I think this is perhaps the best use of Sting now he is a member of the roster and his brief and very “Crow-Sting” appearances have been extremely effective at selling me on the rivalry in a real business sense, but within the realms of storytelling and kayfabe, I can find a thread that Sting is a man looking to cement his legacy in wrestling and take some measure of revenge for the company he was so loyal to for so long. He has chosen this particular time to do so not completely through choice but because he simply has to before it’s too late. In 2015 Sting is in a race against time to leave his mark on wrestling’s biggest stage before his chance is lost to time & nostalgia. History is, after all, written by the winners.
John Cena has been the benchmark of WWE for nearly a decade & a half. With an iron resolve & a body to match there is no challenge that Cena couldn’t overcome through hard work & sheer force of will. That was until WWE Fast Lane and Rusev, the undefeated Bulgarian “super athlete”. Cena had faced bigger and meaner opponents in the past but this time John Cena found himself out witted and out muscled as he passed out trapped in the United States champions fearsome “Accolade” submission hold. For months John has had to contend with a series of fearsome challenges, his devastating loss to Brock Lesnar, his inability to regain the WWE World Heavyweight championship, the rise of a new generation of heroes and now possibly his own diminishing ability. Cena’s spirit may be willing, but his flesh is growing increasingly weak and John’s own stubbornness is driving him to seek a measure of redemption against Rusev, winning the United States Championship in the process and proving if only to himself that he is still the same John Cena that was the WWE measuring stick for so many years.
At first, Goldust was enamoured and emboldened by his younger brother Cody’s transformation into the bizarre & manic Stardust. He had an equal, someone to share his eccentricities and fight alongside and for a while it was all fun and games. But at time wore on it became increasingly difficult to see where Stardust ended and Cody Rhodes began again. Cody first donned the Stardust persona in response to his feeling inadequate after a series of losses and success soon came afterwards, so no doubt being Stardust felt extremely good to Cody and in many instances of fiction dealing with dual identities, Cody gave in totally to the Stardust aspect of himself, and now is pained at the merest mention of his former self, despite the protestations of his immediate family. It now falls to Goldust, the formerly troubled elder brother who faced similar challenges and now adopts the mantle of Goldust as a character only to face up to his responsibilities and stop his little brother from following the same bad path that he once trod.
Facing up to responsibilities, Wanting to leave a good legacy and facing the reality that your best days are perhaps behind you are all real mental anyone can face as we age and whether intentional or not, I can see aspects of what I’ve described here and in prior pieces in a lot of the build towards Wrestlemania. This could be a display of maturity within WWE plotting that we rarely see. The brushstrokes may be broad but there are subtleties that hold up to examination and make for a much richer set of stories and overarching theme for the big show. I said around this time last year that we are on the cusp of a new generation for WWE and said that it needed to occur in cooperation with the prior generation instead of in spite of it and I feel that this is what may be happening. It isn’t always perfect, WWE booking rarely is but in the midst of fan outcries and cancellation movements something is working this season, groundwork is being laid for a new set of superstars to take centre stage in a variety of roles all helped by the previous stars aiding their development. Sadly, rash thinking & knee jerk reactions could undo all this good work as it so often does but WWE itself is getting ever older and a change is as good as a rest but seeing off the last in dignified (and crucially financially viable) ways is extremely admirable and gives slightly older fans like me something that we can latch onto and feel like there is some part of WWE that is still “ours” in this PG era. Maybe WWE is finally growing up?