In all forms of sports and entertainment, there is something to say about the value of experience. However, the age that comes along with experience can also become a detriment. Just as there are questions about the Los Angeles Lakers’ new, aging roster, there should be questions about the WWE’s penchant for leaning on aging talent to remain in the spotlight. John Cena pointed that out, and not only is he right, but he is just scratching the surface to the full issue.
Cena was talking to Brian Truitt of USA Today when he made a statement that rings true.
“Man, I wish there was some sort of fountain of youth where I could be a full-time contributor,” Cena said. “The longer they continue to bet on an aging prospect, which makes (WWE’s) future a little bit less stable.”
The second part of that statement is what needs to be further dissected. WWE is an organization that falls back on old habits hard. When ratings continue to dip, their answer is to go back to the thoughts of yesteryear. Legends’ Nights, retro, and throwback shows are all the rave. When fans were set to return to ringside the promotion trotted Bill Goldberg back out to line him up for yet another unearned title shot, this time against Bobby Lashley. Look across the product, it’s clear that that promotion struggles to embrace the youth moment, even though they have some great young talent on the roster like Pete Dunne, Toni Storm, Austin Theory, and Gigi Dolin.
But the problem does not end there. The biggest issue is that WWE is built around the whims of aging white men. Vince McMahon, Nick Khan, Bruce Pritchard, Kevin Dunn, and John Laurinaitis all deserve a part in the blame as WWE’s product continues to age and lose interest overall. The group of decision-makers behind the scenes lack diversity in a lot of ways, and diversity of age is one of them. Creating a weekly product that caters to Vince and others in his “Good-Ole Boy” network is directly opposed to elevating the youthful talent on the roster. The promotion may be racking in large contracts for its overall body of content, but there is no denying that television ratings continue to stagnate and drop, while overall interest dwindles.
What will the promotion do when names like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins are no longer around to perform full time? They have not built any of the younger talents to take their place in the future. Look at the youthful names that All Elite Wrestling continues to build around. Names like MJF, Jungle Boy, Adam Page, Darby Allin, Britt Baker, and others are the types that can be the foundational pieces of a promotion for the next decade. WWE can boast about having large contracts today, but they cannot go name for name against AEW when it comes to talent under the age of thirty. That should be concerning to not only fans but everyone in the company.
John Cena uses his voice to speak the truth about the current state of the WWE and professional wrestling. He is right to question the long-term viability of the WWE as it continues to lean on aging talent to draw in fans. As proof shows the dwindling impact of those old names, what will the promotion have to lean on ten, twenty years into the future?