In the last decade, pro-wrestling has developed this unhealthy obsession with the past. There’s no doubt that nostalgia sells, but it can also affect the present and future negatively.
There’s no better example of pro-wrestling’s obsession with the past just by looking at the fact that Goldberg, 54, will be involved in a title match this weekend.
WWE in particular has gone to this well of nostalgia too many times. By doing this, it’s conditioning fans into thinking the current generation is not on a similar level to previous ones.
TNA suffered from this a lot, even at times where their product was great. WCW relying too much on the past was one of the major reasons for their demise.
It doesn’t help that a portion of fans has an unhealthy obsession with the return of the Attitude Era. This obsession leads to fans waiting for the return of The Rock or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and misses entirely some of the great stuff this generation is doing right now.
It also doesn’t help that every three months or more, WWE does a legends night on SmackDown or RAW to pop a rating. Thus putting the spotlight on the legends instead of on the current talent.
Let’s look at this in another context. The Lakers roster right now could use a big man. Now imagine if they brought back Shaquille O’Neal, 48, and instantly he was a starter. NBA analysts, fans, and executives would think The Lakers office lost their minds.
How about in a wrestling context? Imagine if in the midst of the Attitude Era Bob Backlund was WWF champion. Vince McMahon would’ve never done that. In fact, WWE would mock WCW and call them a retirement home.
NJPW and AEW are doing great work with their legends. NJPW uses Tenzan and Kojima to polish their young lions while also helping acts get over when needed.
AEW uses the power of association to get talent over. Team Taz, Tully Blanchard with FTR, and Jake Roberts with Lance Archer are great examples of this.
Using legends like this helps give the spotlight to the next generation while treating the legends with the respect they deserve. Meanwhile, you have Ric Flair involved in a weird storyline with Lacey Evans and Charlotte, with the latter calling him a creepy old man.
This idea of using legends all the time doesn’t help in the long term. It gives the impression to fans that for a wrestler to be relevant they need to be 20 years off their prime.
The biggest promotion in the world needs to lead the way on this. WWE needs to put the spotlight on the present and not the past.