Nick Paglino

Mick Foley and Chris Jericho are coming back. Kind of.

The Rock is coming back. Kind of.

The Undertaker is coming back. Kind of.

Kevin Nash came back. Then he left.

Triple-H came back. But he doesn’t bump.

Stone Cold Steve Austin will come back someday…to cameo as a referee.

Hey, maybe WWE can get a celebrity to work WrestleMania!

WWE isn’t just tolerating part-time workers. WWE is embracing the concept.

Tell me how that makes sense.

Perhaps part-time star power is better than no star power. But WWE is eerily approaching the end-of-days WCW model, when big names never worked house shows. When live income was treated as disposable. Crowds swooned. An important revenue stream was minimized.

If the company doesn’t care about house shows, why would fans? Why should fans?

The fans don’t. Non-televised WWE gates generate chump change in comparison to potential. In comparison to past performance. Problem is, fans aren’t buying PPVs in impressive numbers, either. Loyal fans see promotions as a whole. They don’t break it down to the sum of the parts.

Fans don’t want stars to come and go. They want to see WWE’s stars on TV every week. They want to see those same stars at the local arena. Anything else translates to a ‘B’ show.

That’s what WWE is most nights, even on TV: a ‘B’ show. They’re not waiting for Godot, they’re waiting for The Rock. Of the stars mentioned above, only Triple-H was on Raw this week, but in a non-wrestling role.

Yet those names are perceived and presented as the big stars. Of the full-timers, only John Cena truly belongs at that level. CM Punk and Randy Orton are a notch below. Punk’s getting there. Orton won’t.

(Memo to Punk: Don’t do the “head on the pillow” gesture before attempting the Go To Sleep. I know, every WWE superstar has to have a hand gesture easily mimicked by the marks. But it’s beneath you and looks silly.)

WWE’s major stars aren’t on the house shows. Some PPVs, yes. Some PPVs, no. So the only truly unfettered revenue stream, the one where everyone is continuously involved, is merchandising. At least Vince McMahon knows how to run a proper T-shirt business.

But fans don’t just want a T-shirt. They want the ‘A’ team. They’ll show up when the ‘A’ team does. For selected shows like ‘Mania. Look at the numbers. That’s exactly what’s happening. Part-time stars always dilute a promotion. Remember when Smoky Mountain started using WWE stars on big shows? The WWE wrestlers were quickly perceived as the “real stars.” When they weren’t there, the crowds went away, too.

But what’s the alternative? Develop stars? WWE can’t. WWE doesn’t. They merely label. They’re a wrestling company with ONE TRUE, LEGIT, FULL-TIME STAR. Think about THAT.

But even if WWE knew how to develop stars, it would be tough. What would grow in The Rock’s (occasional) shadow?

You don’t do what you can’t do. So you take an idiotic concept that’s bound to underachieve and present it as a good idea. Do something stupid long enough, you’ll start believing it’s smart. Especially when it’s all you got.

Meantime, the part-timers work when they see fit and still get rich. Been there, seen that.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM, Pittsburgh, PA (105.9). Check out his web page at Contact Mark by emailing FOLLOW MARK ON TWITTER: @MARKMADDENX.

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