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    Tuesday, December 28, 2021

    The Year That Was 2021: WWE

    Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman

    As the second-worst year in recent memory winds down in the next few days, we're continuing a new tradition we started last year. Once again, we take a quick look back at the promotions that have kept us sane through the pandemic. For the second time, we present The Year That Was.

    WWE has been embattled since the rise of WCW and the Monday Night Wars in the Attitude Era. Back in those days, there might have been a real fear that the empire would fall to an upstart, but fortunately that upstart made more mistakes after its initial successes, leading WWE to win their war. Since then, Vince McMahon would rule the wrestling world from the very top for almost 20 years.

    In the future, some people may look at 2021 as the year all of that started to change. No, WWE would not fall in 2021, but this year, the cracks in its armor would definitely grow bigger, thanks to its own misfires and the sheer goodwill created by Tony Khan, All Elite Wrestling, and quite a number of WWE's own former talents.

    The crowd returns

    First, though, let's talk about the good. After spending much of 2020 and the first part of 2021 away from the crowds, the audience returned with a vengeance, and the difference is easily night and day. The company experimented having crowds back at this year's WrestleMania, and it can definitely be argued that the show really needed it.

    There's nothing to thank than the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, which have allowed crowds to return to full force. Even though the current Omicron-fueled surge threatens all of that, it's just a good stroke of luck that the audience is back to lend their energy to shows, no matter which company it is.

    WWE got their stars back and made new ones

    Life getting better in general also means that the company can go back to business as usual, which involves getting back the stars they lost in the pandemic era. It's been said that WWE had been "saving up" the good stuff for the crowd, and whether that's true is still up for debate, there's a marked difference between who's around now and back then.

    We've gotten big names this year, including John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Becky Lynch, and Edge, which more than helps the company's stock when it comes to putting on marquee matches. That does make all the difference, especially with more casual fans and WWE diehards who just want the top stars.

    It wasn't just about the big names as well—for their part, WWE tried their hand in making new stars as well, something that many fans have always wanted them to do. This year saw the incredible rise of Bobby Lashley and Big E to the WWE Championship, which is a huge win for their ranks and for African-American representation.

    These moves were definitely nothing to scoff at, as in those crowning moments, WWE proved that they could still fulfill what their fans wanted and deliver big moments. Whether or not you were still strung along at this point is a completely different matter, of course. 

    The Great Downsizing continues in 2021

    Even though WWE would have some good moments in 2021, fans will always remember the bad things—and the biggest thing they would remember most about this year is how many talents the company simply let go, in the name of "budget cuts" for a company that had posted record profits.

    WWE President Nick Khan had a light trigger finger when it comes to cutting down WWE's gigantic roster, continuing what he started last year and letting go of veterans, underused wrestlers, and even more bafflingly, wrestlers who were supposed to be the company's future. There's simply too many of them to list down here, and you already know who they are at this point.

    It's as if WWE figured out that they could get by with a relatively skeletal roster moving forward while they wait for their new non-Triple H projects to mature in the Performance Center and NXT 2.0. It should also not go unstated that a majority of Triple H's contributions were totally removed from the identity of the company, and we have yet to find out whatever that will mean for his future as he recovers from a crucial heart procedure.

    The beginning of the end, or a rebuilding phase?

    The Great Downsizing doesn't even take into consideration the handful of relatively notable wrestlers who left WWE and NXT to bolster the ranks of AEW, namely Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and Kyle O'Reilly. More than anything, it's these departures, as well as a vocal online clamor for AEW, that paint a telling picture of WWE possibly being in danger as a top destination for the world's best pro wrestlers.

    But then again, loyalty of the casual and young wrestling fan to WWE remains as strong as ever, especially in the face of AEW rising. The Performance Center continues to take in young talent, and many still consider WWE a place to be to further their career. While it's easy to say that the walls of the kingdom may be crumbling down, it's also worth noting that for every jaded fan who swears off the company, it'll take a lot to destroy WWE. 

    And while this could be the year things changed for the worse, for all we know, they could simply just be in a rebuilding phase.

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    Item Reviewed: The Year That Was 2021: WWE Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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