At WrestleMania, like many others I was wowed by Ricky Steamboat’s performance. Evidently he was even better at Backlash - though I didn’t see it. (I paid for WrestleMania and Lockdown in a three-week span; that’s more than enough money spent on wrestling, thanks.)
Were they legendary encounters? No, of course not; he’s in his mid-50s and hasn’t wrestled in years. That said, he didn’t just not embarass himself; it’s blasphemous to admit these things publicly, but I’d argue he looked less out of place than did Ric Flair over the past few years. Flair had/has off-the-charts charisma (which covers a multitude of sins), could still tell a compelling story, and consistently worked with people determined to move heaven and earth to help him tell it. These are all good things, but to a new or non-fan, it was difficult to see how he could possibly keep up with, say, MVP.
I digress. My point, and I did have one, was something I said offhand during my WrestleMania review on this site - that Steamboat reminded me of Shawn Michaels. Both suffered career-ending injuries, and both came back looking damned impressive…it’s just that Steamboat waited until his 50s and was out longer. Had he been able (and willing) to go back in 2000…who knows?
There’s no doubt the notorious wrestling schedule contributes to serious injuries - wrestling is hard and dangerous enough, but the body simply can’t repeat the process on a near-nightly basis indefinitely. This isn’t anything new. However, a handful of wrestlers have left for extended periods of time, and come back even better despite being (duh) a few years older. Some left because their body gave out (Michaels, Flair in the 70s, HHH after the quad tear), some because they had other projects (Cena’s movies, etc.), and some just because they needed a break (Jericho, etc.)
I’m completely convinced that wrestlers need at least four months off every two years.
I’m sure that sounds like an unreasonable amount to Vince McMahon, but I would answer with the following:
1- It’s a better long-term investment. I’d rather have (and would make more money with) John Cena for 12 more years working an average of 10 months per year, than full-time for another…what? 6, 8 years before something bad happens?
2- You have more than enough talent to fill in the gaps every so often - it’s not like you’d need a formal offseason. If HHH leaving RAW for a month or two (or six) doesn’t cripple the show (I’m using an argument he’s likely to respond to here), then how bad could it be for, say, Big Show to take his turn afterward? Or Batista, or Orton, or Jericho?
3- It’s a ready-made narrative device. You’re already doing a brilliant job of this with Randy Orton, so it scarcely needs repeating, but for the record: there’s no better or more proven story in wrestling than: heel injures face, face goes away for a while, face comes back for revenge. It works almost every time. If you plan these really well, you could artificially keep two people apart longer than otherwise, helping build towards dream matches - and you have precious few of these left. I’d argue the “off time” would build as many stories for you as your championship belts.
4- It would nullify the single competitive advantage TNA has over you. For otherwise valuable performers like Kurt Angle and Booker T, a reduced schedule may well be more attractive than extra money. You don’t want to create a situation in which a steady stream of your established stars jump ship for the tempting combination of fewer dates, more time at the top of the card (novelty and nostalgia both sell in Dixieland), and a longer overall career. I’m not suggesting TNA is likely to steal HBK, Batista and Edge in a few years, or even that they’ll be any threat to your dominance- but would you have guessed two years ago Mick Foley would leave? You know losing one performer you’d otherwise prefer to keep is one too many.
What do you say?