WWE's Love for 'Past Over Future'
Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Surely not again? Goldberg is your new Universal Champion, and once more it is at the expense of current roster talent.
Almost booking themselves into a corner by pitting the 53 year-old against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt, the Super ShowDown main event only served to prove that WWE prioritise money over fan satisfaction. In reality, this could actually be a financial hinderance to the company as well given the Fiend’s merchandise sales.
Besting the previously unbeatable and indestructible Fiend in a matter of minutes, Goldberg’s title win is not even as shocking as it appears. In fact, it has happened before.
For many fans it is tough to remember Kevin Owens six month Universal Title run - prior to Wrestlemania 2017 - without the overshadowing of his squash match defeat to Goldberg. A prime example of WWE’s spontaneous and impulsive booking decisions triumphing over well-told, logical storytelling, the long-term angle of Owens versus estranged best-friend Chris Jericho was cast aside to convert a ‘Mania match between two part-timers into a title bout. Not only did Goldberg versus Brock Lesnar not need a title stipulation, the rest of the roster was negatively impacted by this.
Fast forward back to WWE’s latest foray into Saudi Arabia and the story remains the same. Like Owens, Wyatt scarcely got going against Goldberg, mustering only a couple of pathetic Mandible Claw attempts. Yes, Wyatt kicked out of multiple Spears- that appeared to be more like glorified double-leg takedowns - but he was eventually slain by just a single botched Jackhammer. And yes, this is the same Fiend that had been previously booked as unbeatable and impervious to pain.
A quick observation of internet comment threads suggests that the popular narrative is that WWE has once again used the past to screw the future. Having a 53-year-old part-timer, whose wrestling ability was limited in his prime let alone now, comfortably walk through the company's biggest merch-shifter was bound to be controversial, but will the fans decide that this sour note means enough is enough? The reaction has been almost completely negative - and understandably so – yet WWE do not seem overly fazed by this. Or at least they have not seemed fazed in the past.
It is almost laughable that Goldberg’s victory was not the only ‘past over present’ squash on this card. In fact, it seems reasonable to suggest that the result of the main event was deliberately used to gloss over the botched Chokeslam that saw The Undertaker pin AJ Styles in the opener.
As intriguing a contest as ‘Taker versus Styles is, having The Deadman amble down to the ring for five minutes whilst Styles stands aimlessly watching him was the perfect anti-climactic pre-cursor to what followed. Beaten by a sole Chokeslam, Styles not only appeared weak but also lost credibility under the “corrupt, blood-soaked” lights of Saudi Arabia.
Goldberg is a part-time Superstar in every sense of the term, and it looks as though WWE is now pushing him over current roster talent heading into this year’s Wrestlemania. It begs the question of how common this has been in recent years.
First stop of our analysis journey, Wrestlemania 32. First stop of our analysis of Wrestlemania 32, the main event. The culmination of a long feud between Roman Reigns and The Authority, the fact Triple H was the WWE Champion going into this event is a prime example of the past overshadowing the present. An average slog of a match, the duo laboured to minimal fan reaction for a near 30 minutes - at least Reigns won.
Further down the card, the ‘past screwed the present and future’ in a clear and transparent way. At the expense of full-time performers, veterans were brought back for cheap nostalgia pops. The League of Nations’ victory celebrations were short-lived when Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin appeared, hitting LON members with their respective finishers before immediately exiting to a raucous ovation. That said, the worst was yet to come.
Coming out for his seemingly inevitable ‘Mania moment, The Rock, armed with a ludicrous flamethrower, set a pathetically small “Rock” sign on fire, then took far too much time to announce the night’s attendance. Interrupted by the Wyatt Family, after a spot of verbal jousting, The Rock defeated Erick Rowan in six seconds - the shortest match in WrestleMania history – with no one able to explain why, other than for an all too common nostalgia pop.
That said, all the above somewhat hides the fact that 30 minutes of the same 'Mania card - the longest match of the night - was given to a monotonous Hell in a Cell bout between the ageing Undertaker and Shane McMahon.
Royal Rumble 2013 In a clear case of WWE's lack of belief in a superstar, CM Punk’s 434-day reign as WWE Champion was full of problems. The Chicagoan was regularly treated as a second-rate wrestler compared to the likes of John Cena, and often found himself shunted down the card as a result. Rarely placed in the main event despite being the company's 'Top Champion', he was never treated as the 'Face of the Company' - much to the audience's chagrin. This was never more apparent than when he was placed in a feud with The Rock.
The feud took place in the aftermath of The Rock’s “Once in a Lifetime” bout with Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII in an effort to add a little juice to their rematch - yes, that would make it "Twice in a Lifetime" - the following year. WWE sacrificed Punk’s lengthy run so that Rock vs. Cena II could be for the WWE Championship.
Much like Goldberg vs Lesnar this bout never needed the top belt, however in this case the company decided to anger their next potential mega star. The industry still feels the repercussions to this day.
Wrestling’s biggest crossover star wrestled Punk at the 2013 Royal Rumble, and defeated him handily. 434 days were forgotten in a blind moment of reckless spontaneity and complete lack of foresight.
WWE’s plans became painfully obvious as soon as they booked Rock vs. Punk in the first place and ultimately,, Punk’s loss to Rock only added to his immense frustration during his run’s dying days. It has been no secret that this played a major role in CM Punk's departure from the company in 2014,and thus resembles a clear example of the past killing WWE's present and future. Money in the Bank 2019
Focused less on a nostalgia pop this time, the MITB pay-per-view provided a prime example for WWE to catapult their next superstar in the proverbial stratosphere. In a Money in the Bank match that pitted contemporary talents Mustafa Ali, Andrade, Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor and Ricochet - as well as stalwart Randy Orton - against each other, WWE seemed destined to 'take a punt' on a new face. So, who was given the opportunity to take the company into the future? Oh yeah, it was Brock Lesnar.
The fact that Lesnar was not in the match in the first place was almost laughable, but the choice to give this opportunity to a part-time star who is already at main-event level was typical WWE. Lesnar has become the go-to option for WWE in the modern era, with Vince McMahon constantly turning to him due to the company's lack of star power. But I wonder why there are seemingly no modern stars...
In typically sarcastic fashion, estranged WWE and current AEW performer Chris Jericho tweeted:
"Awesome to see @BrockLesnar win the #MoneyInTheBank match...even though he wasn’t officially entered! Brock is the future of the biz and this perfect example of genius booking shows why @WWE will remain on top FOREVER! #GoBrockGo"
In a loosely held together narrative, Lesnar supposedly took Sami Zayn's spot in the match after he was attacked earlier in the night. Truth be told, there was a case to be made for just about every star in this match to win it. Featuring a fantastic mix of rising talent on both the babyface and the heel side - at a time when WWE's fan base values stellar in-ring work more than perhaps ever before - the match had fans genuinely excited.
A tool to elevate stars who are talented, over with the crowd and yet to be solidified as main eventers, the MITB match is a once in a year opportunity to give a superstar the ball and let them run with it. Someone like Lesnar, arguably the most pushed star in WWE, didn't need it. Not in the slightest.
Raw 19th January 2015
Though not universally beloved, The Ascension were a duo that saw great success in the company's developmental brand, NXT. A 364 day reign with the NXT Tag Team titles suggested the company had plans for the gothic, Road Warrior-esque tandem. During their first three weeks on WWE's flagship Monday Night Raw programme, Viktor and Konnor were given easy squash victories, before comparing themselves to classic team of the past, such as The Road Warriors, Demolition and The Powers of Pain. When the 19th January episode came around, the WWE decided to give up on the duo in favour of a cheap nostalgia pop. Confronting the near-elderly NWO (Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and X-Pac), The Ascension were interrupted and laid out by yet more old-timers as The New Age Outlaws and The Acolyte Protection Agency entered the fray. Not content with just burying the former NXT tag champs on commentary, JBL hit an extremely stiff looking Clothesline from Hell on Viktor, before smirking at him in dersion. The company may have not seen The Ascension as the stars they were in NXT, but to give up on them this early was just 'criminal booking'. Culminating in a defeat to the New Age Outlaws at the 2015 Royal Rumble PPV, in the space of a month WWE had taken their developmental brand's top tag-team and turned them into a joke. But, the fans were crying out for another New Age Outlaws run right..... right?
And Many More!
To say there are more examples of WWE's past burying or triumphing over the company's current or future crop of stars is an understatement. From DX shipping the Spirit Squad back to Ohio Valley Wrestling back in 2006 to the Undertaker still meandering down to the ring every Wrestlemania like a stream this is no longer moving, this is far from just a recent occurrence in WWE. Goldberg's glorified squash match victory over the Fiend yesterday was yet another example of WWE's willingness to build to the future. It is a particularly cruel treatment when it comes to Bray Wyatt after previous burial led to the performer rebuilding himself from near-scratch. For WWE fans there is a sense of inevitability when it comes to Vince rolling out the stars of the past to pop nostalgic fans in the modern era. Except now there is competition to WWE. It may seem ironic come Sunday morning as fans marvel at what looks like a stellar card for All Elite Wrestling's 'Revolution' pay-per-view, that as a new company builds towards the future, the WWE seems hellbent on reverting to the past.