The question you recently answered about what the fans perception of a wrestler’s position on the card does to their drawing power was an interesting one and got me thinking about the nuances of general fan responses and drawing power.
My primary question is, to what extent can WWE, as a well-oiled machine of a brand at this point, succeed in making a wrestler a draw by sheer will of a push? By that I mean when it comes to the conversations we’re constantly having about guys the fans want to root for vs. guys the company wants to push, how much success can be had by forcing somebody down our throats? Maybe the best recent example of this is Bryan vs. Reigns, but it’s tough to argue we’ve seen the end result of that.
Looking at older examples, it’s clear that a plainly inorganic push rarely gets over. Sheamus, for instance, didn’t become a draw no matter how hard WWE has tried with him. With guys who started getting over and then saw resistance, however, their have been big successes- Cena being the obvious one. So how much of Cena’s success in terms of drawing power can be attributed to the fact that he’s been pushed relentlessly for a decade, regardless of how crowds respond to him?
I know this is a complex one, but I suppose the heart of this issue is the question of whether or not Cena would draw the way he does if he had, say the marketing structure of 1990s WWF behind him, as opposed to the powerhouse he has behind him now… Would he be a true top draw as Austin and Rock became, or would his divisive reactions limit him to being a temporary fix kind of guy, the way Bret was? It’s worth pointing out that while Cena’s been the top draw for a decade, and while he’s been a (the?) central part of top drawing events like WrestleMania’s 29 and 23, the business as a whole has basically only declined in terms of pop cultural cache during his tenure.
Can Reigns become as successful even if he’s destined to never escape the Let’s Go Roman/Roman Sucks zone? Conversely, how seriously effected is the ceiling of the likes of organically over guys like Punk and Bryan, given that neither ever seemed particularly interesting to the WWE brass?
Quite the loaded question. I think actually if this was still the 80s, Cena would have gotten over like gangbusters in the NWA, whereas Sheamus would have been the big star in the WWF in the Rick Rude/Ted Dibiase/Don Muraco top-ish heel slot. Strange as it sounds, I think Cena would have been too small for 80s WWF, and probably wouldn’t have gotten a second chance without a Paul Heyman to fight for him. And regardless of the marketing behind him, people pay to see Cena and react to him as a top guy, so eventually if you push a guy like that the momentum becomes a kind of perpetual motion machine, ya know?
As for Reigns, I have no idea anymore. It seems like they think they can have him tread water for months and then re-heat him by winning the Rumble again and then finally winning the World title at Wrestlemania, but obviously this was misguided the FIRST time they tried it and Reigns, although becoming more accepted as a babyface by the fans, has lost whatever momentum he once had earlier in the year.
In short, who knows, man?