February 11, 2006
WWE looking for an EdgeBrain trust oblivious to fan favourite gaining momentum right under their noses
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
When people look back at the dumbest decisions of 2006, there'll be plenty of material to draw from in the first six weeks of the year.
The Super Bowl officiating.
Stephen Harper's cabinet choices.
Britney Spears' makeshift baby seat.
And, of course, World Wrestling Entertainment's remarkable ability to drop the ball in the biggest way possible.
For years, Linda McMahon and other WWE execs have been blabbering on about how tough it is to create a bona fide superstar. According to the WWE brain trust, all they can do is give a revolving list of wrestlers a shot at the big time and hope one eventually ignites, a la Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan or The Rock.
So what happens when they finally stumble into a situation where a wrestler generates that magic spark with the audience? Why, they kill his momentum and bump him down the card, of course.
When Edge won the WWE title Jan. 8, it wasn't supposed to be the start of a push for the Toronto-born grappler.
Realizing John Cena was getting cold as champion, WWE bosses wanted him to lose the belt for a few weeks, hoping to create sympathy for the character. Edge was merely chosen as the transitional title holder.
But when Edge toppled Cena in an impromptu match at New Years Revolution, the live crowd went bananas -- even though Edge was supposed to be the bad guy.
WWE's web site boasted a massive 25 million page hits in the hours following the title switch. The day after, the ratings for Raw spiked from a regular 3.7 to 4.3 -- almost three quarters of a million more viewers than the previous few weeks. The viewership grew even more from there, starting the first sustained run of TV ratings above the 4.0 mark in years.
The internet was buzzing, fan interest was up, and Edge played his bad guy role so well his segments quickly became Monday night highlights.
So when it came time for Cena to get his win back, a pro-Edge faction on the WWE Creative Team argued the original plan needed to be changed to keep the belt on Edge while his character was hot.
The suggestion fell on deaf ears.
Edge lost the belt to Cena at the Royal Rumble, just three weeks after winning it. Edge has since been moved down the card and is booked below the main event level at Wrestlemania on April 2, challenging Mick Foley.
Why would WWE throw away a golden opportunity to ride the Edge momentum? In 1996, when Steve Austin first started to show signs of life, imagine if WWE bosses had said; "Sorry Steve, we realize you're drawing money, but the top spot is reserved for Marc Mero and Amhed Johnson. We just can't change those plans."
But Mero and Johnson weren't married to the boss' daughter, nor were they threatening his spot.
For the past year, WWE has planned to build towards Cena vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania, with 3 out of 5 winning the belt on the biggest show of the year. And it looks like Vince McMahon's son-in-law will get his moment of glory, no matter what the price.
As was the case with Chris Jericho and Randy Orton before him, Edge had his legs cut out from under him as soon as he showed signs of becoming the number one heel in wrestling, a spot Triple H seems to want to cling to indefinitely.
Whether Edge was really going to become the savior of sports entertainment, we'll never know.
But if ratings take a dip over the next few months, we can look forward to those fun investor conference calls where McMahon tells us how difficult it is to create a superstar.
Now, where's my violin?