How WWE, AEW Legends Should Continue Leading Manager Renaissance
When you look at the latest acquisitions for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) with the recent additions of Sting, Paul Wight, and Christian Cage, it shows a trend WWE should be encouraging since it's in the immortal words of Paul "Triple H" Levesque "Best for Business." Let's make no mistake, professional wrestling has struggled to recreate its own success since WWE near monopolized the business acquiring their biggest rivals in WCW and ECW in 2001. While owner and CEO Vince McMahon already had a working relationship with ECW owner Paul Heyman prior to the company's bankruptcy, time ran out for WCW President Eric Bischoff as his last-ditch effort to save the company fell through. The only "competition" McMahon faced is Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) and AEW. The shelf life for most wrestlers is about as long as most professional athletes at around 10-15 years on average. Unfortunately, unlike other professional sports, the long-term positions after being an active performer are quite limiting, which is why the decision of those like Sting, Wight, and Cage to move on from their former employer makes sense.
Let's face it, even with the WWE Network, the options for former active talent and/or legends don't go far. As there are several sports networks that can use the expertise of former athletes, there are hardly any major outlets clamoring for former wrestlers to broadcast positions even with outlets like ESPN, CBS, and Fox providing regular coverage. So what are those talent-in-waiting to do while WWE tries to find them something to do? For those not under contract as an employee, independent contractor, or a legend's deal, they work at a smaller indie company that hopefully has a TV deal or the next tier in Impact Wrestling and AEW.
Under a legend's deal, aside from not regularly performing, you just get the typical merchandising deal, speak on a few documentaries, and become an ambassador for the company. In other words, sit and collect a check and be on call if they come up with something for you. Believe it or not, some actually want to do more and just collect a check. Many still like to contribute to the business even if they're no longer an active performer. Just look at how AEW's using those like Taz and Sting taking leadership roles in the locker room and also act as managers. It's something WWE used to regularly do with former talent making their veteran presence and mold them into managers like Mr. Fuji, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Jimmy Hart, and Sherri Martel.
While Heyman isn't the only active manager in WWE, the company is finally starting to recognize having them again instead of just having valets with MVP leading the Hurt Business. One talent wasting away is two-time Hall of Fame performer Ric Flair. With all the names to associate with the Four Horsemen in WCW, was it not worthy to carry on the name in WWE? In NXT, you had a clique of talent known as the Four Horsewomen for the multi-time champions that made up the group. I don't see the problem with reviving the group in an official capacity. Even the group with WWE's stamp on it with Evolution was only one group of four. There's a lot that can be learned from the mentoring from the older talent that can improve the bottom line. Just ask the Undertaker, who wasn't always the well-rounded powerhouse in the company. It was Ted Dibiase, Bruce Pritchard, and Paul Bearer, who helped make him a household name before he went off on his own. There wouldn't be a Hulk Hogan without Freddie Blassie to help him out early in his career. Martel was instrumental in helping to solidify the careers of Macho Man Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, and Booker T via Harlem Heat.