2016 has started in the worst possibly way for the WWE with John Cena getting injured so quickly after returning from a short hiatus. The problem is not that Cena is out, but that he has joined a long list of superstars on the sidelines through injury. Personally, I think he’s done it on purpose to spend some more time off the road with Nikki Bella, but that’s neither here nor there.
Cena and Nikki Bella have joined the likes of Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Sasha Banks, Sin Cara, Hideo Itami and Sting in the rehab clinic. That’s a lot of people to have off sick when the roster isn’t as deep as it could potentially be. The main worry for a lot of people is the WrestleMania 32 picture, with so many of these superstars out.
Word is that Daniel Bryan should be cleared to compete by that time, but whether that’s true, we can’t be sure as WWE as being very careful with him after two long term injuries in two years. Hideo Itami should also be back on NXT fairly soon, as the injury he suffered took around the same recovery time as Sami Zayn’s rotator cuff injury and it happened at roughly the same time too. For the rest of the people listed though, it looks like they’ll have to wait until 2017 for their next chance of a WrestleMania moment.
The main event picture is looking like pretty slim pickings at the moment. Who will main event WrestleMania? With Roman Reigns looking strong right now in his PG Stone Cold Steve Austin role, he has to be one of the main players, but if he holds the title into ‘Mania, it will be a case of serving up the same old dish to the WWE Universe as his only real options would be in the form of Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus or Triple H. Reigns faced Lesnar last year, Bray Wyatt and Sheamus for most of this year and has been in a storyline with Triple H for the backend of 2015 and the foreseeable future, so unless they take the title off him at the Royal Rumble, and have him face ‘The King of Kings’ at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, it’s hard to imagine that the WWE Universe will be inspired by the main event.
It leads to the discussion of potentially including an off season in WWE’s year though. The strain that each WWE superstar puts their body through every day doesn’t bear thinking about; with every day not only holding rigorous training sessions, but then having to go and perform every night around the country/world, it’s a lot of pressure for one person to hold. Of course, some of these injuries are just caused by freak accidents, but some are caused by the sheer stress that they are put under.
The likes of Seth Rollins, Sting, Tyson Kidd and Sin Cara are all injured because of accidents or bad landings. Orton has more trouble with his shoulders than a regular person might because of his hyper-extension, which ultimately leads to more injuries than he or the company would like, while Daniel Bryan also seems to be going down that road with the concussions, which is even more dangerous.
However, with Cesaro’s injury, it is more time on the road and stress on the injury that has led to him having to take more time off. In an interview with WWE.com, Cesaro was quoted as saying the following:
“I knew something was wrong [for a while], but I thought that it was just sprained or something like that. So, I iced it and had it looked at. I was like, “Oh, I have range of motion” and didn’t necessarily have too much of a loss of strength, so I knew something got hurt, but I didn’t think it was injured, if that makes sense. I kept working out and working [in the ring] obviously, and it kept getting better, but there was still something lingering. Then I thought, “Maybe if I were to know exactly what it is, it will be easier to rehab and get it better” … and then I found out it’s a complete tear. [Laughs] So, no matter how much rehab I do, it will not reattach itself to the bone, unfortunately.”
The problem with the WWE is that if you take time off, you lose your spot. Cesaro was a guy who was finally getting a push within the company and on top of that, the crowd was really behind him. So even though he had this niggling injury, he wanted to keep pushing on as it might have elevated him into the main event picture, and excellent matches on RAW every week were only helping to prove that point.
This is why it might be pertinent for the WWE to include a general off season for every performer on the roster. Have some time to go home over Christmas and New Year, rest and relax, before coming back hopefully refreshed. In terms of employee benefits, WWE would profit as they would have their main superstars wrestling all year round.
On top of that, the Superstars that are injured currently are mostly main eventers, or at least talent who will have a great match on any given card. With the dip in ratings that has been seen during the back end of 2015, guys like Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins maybe could have pushed those up if they were still on TV. The Raw after Survivor Series dipped to a low of a 2.16 rating, which was the lowest that WWE had seen since way back in 1997; just take a second to think about how long ago that was – Undertaker hadn’t thrown Mankind off the Cell yet, Mike Tyson hadn’t been the special guest enforcer at WrestleMania XIV and the likes of Kurt Angle, AJ Styles and the Hardy Boyz hadn’t even stepped into a wrestling ring yet. Obviously, mitigating factors played a part, such as the NFL being on at the same time, which directly takes viewers from WWE, but it could be suspected that the audience just really didn’t care that much about the upcoming Reigns vs. Sheamus feud.
Let’s specifically focus on the last little bit of 2015, with Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns as the main attraction, along with a little bit of The Authority peppered into the mix to make it that little bit worse. If WWE had an off season, the WWE creative team could sit down and plan what their stories were going to include, and while it’s hard in this business to create a truly original storyline anymore, with a few weeks off TV, the creative team wouldn’t have to churn through scripts so quickly and would be able to actually delve into some plotlines. Not just having somebody say tater tots over and over.
It’s curious that for a company that goes through such rigorous safety checks regarding health and wellness, WWE doesn’t seem to give stars much wiggle room for time off, and barring injury or a serious incident outside of the ring, Superstars will be on the road for 300 days a year. For most average people working in an office or in retail, they would only be working roughly 235 days a year and that’s while they’re at home with their family living a comfortable life. Those 65 extra days a year, touring so much can only be debilitating in the long term, and you can see why people like Brock Lesnar sacked it off after a couple of years.
There are arguments against an off season though and frankly, the chances of it being signed off on are zero-none, as with RAW being a weekly episodic television show, and the longest running at that, the decision makers would never give the go ahead for potential weeks of no television broadcasts. The WWE would lose a lot of money from gates to their shows, from the USA Network, and merchandising on top of that too. Giving their stars the time off wouldn’t be cost effective from a financial standpoint.
Also, there would be a potential for WWE to lose some of it’s fan base as a break in watching might cause another show during that timeslot to pique their interests. While a 2.16 rating isn’t great, the dip that the show could suffer after coming back from an off season could be even worse than that.
Most notably, why change something that has been constant for 23 years? Since Raw debuted way back in 1993 when I was still just a baby and had no idea what a Yokozuna even was, the product hasn’t changed. Every week, muscular guys would come out, have an bit of an argument, and then fight in front of thousands of people and millions watching at home. For a company to change their business model after becoming a global phenomenon just doesn’t seem like good business sense and if there’s anything that Vince McMahon has about him, it’s business sense. He might be too enthusiastic when saying Happy New Year to people, but when it comes to running his company, he knows what he’s doing.