The December 19 edition of WWE Raw saw Bronson Reed standing in the middle of the ring with The Miz’s arm around his shoulder. Even though there were multiple reports about WWE showing interest in a return for Reed, some were still perplexed by the image on the screen. His return is another in a long list of individuals who’ve returned to the promotion since Vince McMahon’s departure. While fun at times, WWE is at the point where the impact is lessened and more is needed to keep fan interest.
Since July, some interesting names returned to WWE. Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, Johnny Gargano, Dexter Lumis, and others adorn the list. For many of these individuals, the shock of their music hitting and seeing them back in a WWE ring created the excitement that fans expect from professional wrestling. Bray Wyatt and Gargano’s returns are key examples of such.
But every return did not get that level of reaction. Take the tepid crowd noise for Logan’s return with the Viking Raiders as an example of what happens when fans aren’t informed or the returning performer didn’t have the largest following before departing. WWE must show caution as the latter becomes more commonplace than the former.
On top of that, WWE’s booking hasn’t reinforced the idea that these individuals are stars that fans should care about. Outside of Wyatt, none are consistently presented as a superstar. Yes, Kai and Iyo Sky are WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, but they hold titles in a non-existent division. The Lumis angle was fun when it first started, but months of being linked to The Miz has further evaporated interest in the outcome or what’s next. In the eyes of many, that booking has also negatively impacted Gargano’s star power.
WWE is taking the right steps to add depth to the roster. The “budget cuts” that led to massive roster releases throughout 2020 and 2021 had drastic impacts on the entire promotion. This was especially felt in the women’s division. Bringing back more names helps create fresh matchups and the potential for new angles.
What the promotion is lacking is adequate storytelling to develop these characters. Yes, fans watch wrestling for the athletic abilities displayed in the ring, but character-driven content is equally important along the way. These big returns lack that storytelling. WWE can tell great stories. Look at what they’ve done with Roman Reigns, The Bloodline, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens. Those examples stand out as great storytelling in wrestling regardless of promotion. That same care needs to be applied to these returns to get the long-term impact both fans and the company want to see.
On one side, it’s great to see names that fans enjoyed returning to WWE. Now, the company needs to take the next step to elevate them as stars, instead of relying on the “return pop” as those moments are quickly running out.