One thing that has stuck out recently, in a WWE landscape increasingly dominated by antagonists, there is an absence of true heroes. Sure, there are plenty of fan favorites to go around. They wrestle by the rules, sign autographs, and generally try to portray themselves as model citizens to wrestling fans across the globe. The real problem with these “good guys” is the lack of interest many of them seem to take in the common good of the WWE locker room.
Think of all the situations in recent years – and, particularly, in recent months – where defenseless competitors have been isolated and maimed by packs of wrestlers or in clearly unfair situations. Consider The Wyatt Family’s relentless decimation of Kane over the summer. Week after week, almost without exception, the Wyatt clan was allowed to do this, completely unchallenged by a locker room of wrestlers who could’ve put a stop to it. More recently, we’ve seen The Shield and Randy Orton run roughshod over Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and others. Again, we saw this go on for weeks, with no one standing up to those four men.
Sure, Triple-H made threats to fire people who interfered with what was “best for business.” It’s also true that, on the September 16 edition of Raw, a group of fan favorites finally did come to the aid of Bryan. Apparently, they’d “had enough.” It’s worth noting, though, that most of the men who helped Bryan fight off The Shield that night had previously been the victim of Shield and/or Orton attacks themselves. The decision to help Bryan was probably fueled by more than mere altruism.
On the September 23 edition of Raw, the same men who’d aligned themselves with Bryan the week before were placed on his team. In the night’s main event, 11 of Raw’s fan favorites took on The Shield in an 11-on-3 handicap match. To the surprise of many WWE fans, only four of those 11 men survived the elimination match. Surely, The Shield members were formidable opponents, but why were seven fan favorites unable to best three other wrestlers, especially with the backing of four talented partners?
The answer to that question, of course, is the fact that several of the 11 wrestlers on Bryan’s team had been subjected to unscrupulous beat-downs earlier that night. The Prime Time Players had faced an uneven assault from The Wyatt Family, while Rob Van Dam and Kofi Kingston each succumbed to ruthless attacks that left them bandaged up and unable to perform to their usual standards. What’s worse is that, with the backing of other fan favorites, these attacks could have been avoided or, at the very least, the damage minimized. Where, indeed, was Bryan to save RVD from his extended beating at the hands of Orton and Alberto Del Rio? Where were The Usos? Where were these men, earlier in the evening, when CM Punk was double-teamed by Ryback and Curtis Axel? For that matter, why hasn’t Punk stood up for his old friend (and sometimes rival) Bryan? If anyone knows what Bryan is going through right now, it is Punk – who faced the very same forms of harassment from Triple-H a mere two years ago.
To be clear, there is no way that a band of good guys can come to the rescue of every co-worker who is attacked on an episode of Raw or Smackdown. The risks are too high, and the frequency of these events is too great. Still, as the years pass, there seems to be less and less WWE locker room camaraderie, with a greater focus on the individual. That’s fine, for most purposes. Problems begin to arise when an authority figure like Triple-H rules with an iron fist, and there is little to no locker room unity to be found. This allows the Ortons, Shields, and Wyatts of the world to keep doing what they’re doing, while others languish as perpetual underachievers. There is a pretty clear solution to the problem, but will the fan favorites truly come together … or will they continue to suffer individually?
PWI Contributing Writer