A Historical Perspective on the Mid Card
When you look back at the evolution of mid card talent in wrestling, the purpose and delivery has changed so much. In the 70s and 80s, the mid card was the perfect place for talent who had the potential to grow into major stars to hone their craft and gain popularity and momentum. It allowed a promoter and booker to see if there was a certain level of charisma there that could translate to a larger audience.
The list of mid card performers from this era is a who’s who of Hall of Fame talent. Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Greg Valentine, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Jimmy Snuka, Don Murraco, and many more would go on to either become world champion later in their careers or be placed into high profile programs with the incumbent champion.
The 90s Mid Card Arrives
In the 90s, the mid card became a place where innovation could take place. New stars could emerge and styles would clash creating exciting action for the fans. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Goldust, Razor Ramon, Jeff Jarrett, Owen Hart, and Davey Boy Smith would establish themselves as premier talent by carrying the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Diamond Dallas Page, and a host of others would see their stock rise tenfold as they would war over the WCW United States Championship. Even ECW would get in on the use of the mid card to build for the future with stars like Rob Van Dam and Tazz.
The End of the Monday Night Wars
When the Monday Night Wars were over, WWE found themselves the lone company standing on the mountain top. They had such a deep roster that they had to incorporate talents into mid card programs just to give them exposure. We were able to watch Val Venis, William Regal, and D’Lo Brown, and Billy Gunn emerge as Intercontinental Champions while seeing prior mid card stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels take the step into the main event. The end of the Monday Night Wars combined with the assortment of WWE shows like Sunday Night Heat, Velocity, Raw, and Smackdown provided enough screen time that fans would get acclimated to a huge talent pool and WWE could be picky about how quickly to promote mid carders and how long to let them improve their skill set.
The Beginning of the End of the Mid Card
For the past several years, WWE has changed its stance on mid card talent. Mid card talent these days have little to no effect on major storylines and get less and less relevant screen time. They get served up to the true main eventers and have feuds that most casual fans won’t remember. How many remember the amazing performances put on by The Usos and Tons of Funk? How about Kofi Kingston vs Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Title? Those types of feuds do nothing to leave a lasting impression. Tons of Funk became a joke, the Usos are a great tag team, Ziggler is the definition of wasted talent, and aside from the feud with Randy Orton years ago, Kofi Kingston is only relevant because WWE had no idea what they were going to do with Big E and Xavier Woods. Luckily, The New Day thing worked out but none of the three members have had a serious singles run.
Where Oh Where have the Mid Carders Gone?
The reality is that main event talents have been given the mid card championships because WWE has balooned so much and acquired so much talent that they have so many guys at the top of the card, they don’t know what to do with them. In a lot of ways, the mid card has become as insignificant as factions. WWE would do itself a service to elevate mid card talent a bit and give them some time to shine with the United States and Intercontinental Titles while taking some of those main eventers and creating exciting factions that can wage war on a weekly basis all the while maintaining a high quantity of future world champions. Heck, DX, the Four Horsemen, the NWO, even Nexus helped prolong or establish several careers and can work again. In either event, the lost art of the mid card as it was represented in the past, as a proving ground or place for innovation has been all but lost.
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