WWE: It’s Time to Stop Focusing on Nostalgia, and Build to Future


Memory is a funny old thing, and it has the uncanny ability to cloud our judgement and warp the past. In WWE, it means cheering an undead zombie through all seven minutes of his slow, plodding entrance. It means coughing up at a lung at the sound of breaking glass.

Nostalgia encourages a reverence for all things Attitude Era in the WWE, and a misconception that times were ‘better back then’. It ignores the sexism, racism and homophobia that characterised the era in a rose-tinted glasses approach to wrestling.

A reliance on nostalgia is holding the company and its modern day superstars back, but it’s not only the audience that encourages this approach. WWE wheels out their past stars like special attractions, giving them a platform rarely afforded to their full-time stars. Appearances are often hyped weeks in advance, advertised frequently on social media and given priority even over main event feuds.

It’s a problem that’s plagued WWE in recent years, with even Vince McMahon admitting that something within the system is broken, and that the churning wheel of stardom may have ground to a halt. It’s not, in fact, for lack of ambition, as so many talented WWE stars have proved, but because of a refusal to move on from the past and instead, look towards the future.

In giving in to harmful nostalgia, WWE recently re-inducted Hulk Hogan into its Hall of Fame. While the move was unsurprising, it was extremely disappointing to many fans and stars. The New Day and Titus O’Neil both described their disappointment at Hogan’s lack of remorse for his history of racism, and the decision to re-induct him.

Disappointingly, the decision was likely made in order to market Hogan as the star he once was – to play on the rose-tinted glasses approach of many in WWE’s audience.

Credit: WWE.com

While a vocal majority have spoken out against the decision, it’s clear there is still a strong audience contingent willing to forgive and forget simply due to Hogan’s past achievements in the wrestling world. See, nostalgia has a way of clouding judgement, and the first notes of ‘Real American’ will likely have WWE’s audience leaping out of their seats.

The muted reactions that even main event stars in WWE receive when compared to past legends is astounding, and represents the consequences of relying on nostalgia. Newer superstars like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns aren’t seen as ‘legitimate’ simply because the memory that most fans have of WWE is one stuck in the past.

Raw’s 25th Anniversary this year was headlined by a wave of past and present stars in a celebration both of future and past. During the event, the Dudley Boyz appeared to dismantle Heath Slater and pop the crowd, and later, D-Generation X returned to rapturous applause, destroying The Revival for the live crowd (an embarrassment that solidified their place at the bottom of the tag team ladder).

Credit: WWE.com

Randy Orton is currently involved in one of the top feuds of Smackdown Live with Jeff Hardy, both veterans who debuted in 2002 and 1994 respectively, enjoying long and noteworthy careers within WWE. Brock Lesnar, the current and longest reigning WWE Universal Champion also debuted back in 2002.

Each of these men represents a WWE long since past, a veritable ‘old guard’ that no longer embody professional wrestling as a whole. Like any other form of entertainment, wrestling has evolved in recent. Still, they coast by on nostalgia and goodwill, arguably taking desperately needed television time away from the talented new stars of the future.

Change is a difficult thing to muster, and it’s made ever harder by a dedication and love for the past. For those who enjoyed the Attitude Era and everything that their childhood had to offer, the WWE Network is always available (at only $9.99 a month), and there’s plenty to find and love about the back catalogue.

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With nostalgia and reverence must come an understanding that WWE can’t move backwards. Evolution is an important step towards embracing the future, and a reliance on past stars is only holding the current product back. It’s time for the company to stop relying on nostalgia and goodwill, and build something strong and new for the future of wrestling.