Give me three character traits about each of these new WWE wrestlers:
Ryback, Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro, Brad Maddox, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Big E Langston
I can do this for maybe four of the eight listed here, and I’d be stretching in a couple of cases. So tell me why I should spend $40 on a ticket or $60 on a pay-per-view to watch them do anything.
WWE introduced a number of new characters throughout 2012, including a glut of them in the past 10 weeks, with only a couple of them receiving proper character development beyond superficial “I hate this guy and want to beat him up” or “I hate you people and want you to stop booing me” type stuff. Most of them are rookies to the WWE main roster, others are repackaged familiar faces, but they are all a part of an unlabeled “new talent initiative” coursing through WWE.
But what good is new talent when you hardly know a thing about them? The basis of pro wrestling is emotional investment: Do you care enough about this guy to pay to see him get beaten up? Do you care enough about that guy to pay to see him get his revenge? WWE has proven itself over the decades as a master emotion manipulator, but especially when they put forth a great deal of effort. It’s when they introduce a new character and let him languish that things get frustrating.
Take the example of Antonio Cesaro (with a white wine pairing), the former Claudio Castagnoli who enraged and then endeared himself to Ring of Honor fans through his actions and his character development. When he landed in WWE, he became a nondescript European rugby player (so of course he’d “go pro” by becoming a wrestler, just like plumber TL Hopper and dentist Isaac Yankem) who may or may not be the strongest man pound-for-pound in WWE, depending on how the Smackdown announce team feels that Friday. To hear him talk, well, you’d know he thinks he’s superior to Americans, because aren’t all British royalty? Oh, that’s right, he’s a Swiss rugby guy. Huge disconnect there for me, that can’t be corrected just because he gives Brodus Clay a face plant.