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Biggest Heel of 2014 for WWE: The Injury Bug

Coming out of Raw last night, I was convinced that the biggest heel of 2014 is turning out to be the injury bug. Raw went off the air with Seth Rollins possibly injured after getting flung out the ring and hurting his knee.  As it turns out, Rollins was just doing a fine job of selling and is luckily fine. Still, it called to mind the injuries the WWE has already had to endure thus far this year. It does appear though that the WWE may have dodged a serious bullet with Rollins holding the “Money in the Bank” briefcase. In addition to the fact he might be in the hottest feud in the company with former Shield team member Dean Ambrose.

Daniel Bryan was set to get his big run after getting his Wrestlemania moment only to survive through one some what forgettable title defense against Kane. He would find out that he had a neck injury and have to have surgery. His recovery from that surgery has not gone well and there is legitimate concern that he will have to undergo a second surgery. The time table for his return keeps getting pushed backwards. In addition, there are recent reports he has damage to his shoulder that may require surgery as well.

The WWE as a result of this injury the plans for the company got turned upside down and they were placed in a state of limbo waiting for the status of Bryan. Eventually of course they were forced to strip Bryan of the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Leading to the break glass in case of emergency title run of John Cena that we have currently have. It was a major blow for the expected direction the company wanted to take coming off finally giving into pressure and giving Bryan the push fans wanted.

Wade Barrett was given a big push with his “Bad News” gimmick and was given the Intercontinental Championship in the latest attempt to restore this title to its former glory. Barrett was injured right before the “Money in the Bank” pay-per-view on Smackdown and has to have shoulder surgery for the second time in his career in WWE. He was one of the true contenders to win the briefcase which, as we mentioned, was won by Rollins. We may never know if the plan was for Barrett to win or not, but there was definitely a feeling he could have been placed in that spot.

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All of this calls to mind back in 2012 when the UFC was plagued by injures and could not seem to get to a pay-per-view at times without losing their scheduled main event and several other big fights along the way. Just recently the UFC had to postpone UFC 176 due to injuries for their main event of that card with Jose Aldo ruled out. They have lost a number of stars this year due to injuries. At the same time, they have stepped up the number of cards they are running this year to record levels. Anderson Silva had his leg broken in his rematch with Chris Weidman. Antony Pettis won a title but was injured in doing so. UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez has also been on the shelf. In addition, George St. Pierre left the company and then was injured while training with his return now out of the question anytime soon.

Could you imagine if the WWE lost that many top guys and where this company would be? They clearly have not build as many stars as UFC has done even though the WWE has much more control of such things. If John Cena did not have super-human recovery skills the WWE would be in serious trouble. This is their own fault to a degree though, as Cena is built as this huge step above everyone else. It was proven with Cena’s last injury after Summerslam last year the lack of faith the WWE has in anyone else.

While no one can foresee injuries, you can give yourself more tools to work with should they occur. It is a clear message being sent to the WWE that they need to position more people capable of being big stars if needed to be. Still, you have to concede they have some horrible luck with the timing of these injuries, as they have been at points where guys were in theory set up for major pushes. The jokes about “vacant” being the best WWE Champion have been on Twitter for many months. This started with the WWE doing storylines where this was the case, but have turned into real life reasons for titles being vacated. Why the WWE has never considered the UFC model of having an interim champion I can not say. It guarantees a hot feud for a title for the returning injured superstar and seems to make sense.  Given the struggles with the WWE Network in comparison to UFC Fight Pass that might not be the only UFC idea the WWE should consider.

At the end of the day, injuries are always part of sports and sports entertainment. The difference is in terms of sports entertainment you can always make things work if you build up enough stars to maintain your company. If a football team loses the star quarterback for the season, their chances at success greatly diminish. In wrestling when booked correctly it doesn’t have to be that way. What these injuries show us, beyond the message of these guys take real risks every night they step in a ring, is that creative is lacking when under the gun. If creative was doing a solid job from the top of the card through the mid-card on a regular basis these unfortunate situations could be handled better. Their lack of creativity in dealing with these situations is real a concern. It devalues their championships and their product as a whole.

The brilliance of the “attitude era” was they WWE was strong enough that it could hold up through losing anyone due to injury even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to a degree. The current WWE is not able to cope with that and thus when trouble strikes they turn to the only guy they truly seem to trust in John Cena. That circle needs to widen and have more guys the WWE can have faith in to carry the ball in times of trouble.

About James Borbath

James has covered the NBA and Toronto Raptors for 6 years for various publications as well as his own website. A native of Hamilton, Ontario where he attended the first ever Royal Rumble, James is a life long wrestling fan and has decided to trade to slams of a different kind in pro wrestling. He hopes his transition will be more successful than Dennis Rodman or Karl Malone. Among his talents is a better than average Randy Savage impression. Follow him on Twitter @condoonthemoon

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