Last night at Survivor Series, one of WWE’s “Big 4” PPVs each year, an otherwise stellar show concluded with an all-too familiar sight: the old guard standing in the spotlight while the supposed “stars of today” were swept aside.

This was made clear from the first elimination of Raw vs Smackdown 5 on 5 main event when Shinsuke Nakamura was disposed of without ever really being given a chance to get in any of his “strong-style” offense in. The small saving grace in his elimination was that it came at the hands of fellow rising star, Braun Strowman.

Over the years, the company has been notorious for protecting the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and Triple H. In the modern era I don’t know that you could find three guys more accused of “burying” young talent, although to be fair, Triple H’s recent track record is far more forgivable, having let both Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns go over in consecutive Wrestlemanias.

Seconds after Nakamura was felled, Bobby Roode joined him. While Roode had at least been given a little time to showcase his ability, his elimination still came as a sudden squash, again at the hands of Strowman.

At this point, Raw held a 5-3 advantage, meaning it was only natural for Smackdown to answer, albeit with neither of its new stars. Anchored by three men with 15+ years in the company, “team blue” set about eliminating Samoa Joe and Finn Balor. The dirty work was done by Cena and Orton, who between them have held a combined 30 world championships.

With the match now tied at 3 apiece, none of the company’s next generation was represented, save for Braun Strowman. Even more obnoxious was the fact that 6 of the 10 men in the match were only even with, or in Angle’s case, back with the company because of Triple H.

As the company’s COO behind the scenes, Triple H (Paul Levesque) recruited Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe to the company. Yet as we’ve seen numerous times over the years, once the lights were on, it was Triple H who would stand tall.

Even after Cena and Orton had been eliminated, leaving Shane McMahon to fend off Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Braun Strowman, the spotlight shifted unceremoniously from the Beast Among Men to the aged veterans. Angle and Triple H would bicker over who would seal the win, and then Triple H would turn on Angle and help McMahon eliminate the Olympic Gold Medalist from the match. A brief stare down would ensue between Strowman and Triple H before The Game would then pedigree McMahon to score the deciding fall. So basically, Raw wins and Triple H is a massive troll. Cool.

To the company’s credit, they at least tried to swing some of the spotlight back to Strowman after the match, having him clearly take exception to The Game’s tactics. Following a brief exchange, Strowman would leave Triple H lying after a pair of running power slams to close out the show.

Here’s the problem. Had this match occurred sometime around 2007, I would’ve thought it was fantastic. But to come a decade after the fact while holding down younger, frankly better performers is downright insulting. As I stated at the beginning of this piece, the show overall was stellar. I can’t really think of a “lowlight,” save for the continued protecting of the old guard throughout the main event. But if the company wonders why it’s able to make mega stars out of guys like Nakamura and Roode in NXT, its developmental sub-promotion, only to see them fizzle on the main stage, they should take a hard look at matches like this one.

WWE likes to pretend these days that wins and loses don’t really matter -that so long as a guy sees stronger booking, anything that came prior is irrelevant. What they don’t realize is the exactly opposite is true.

Fans rejected Jinder Mahal’s recent WWE Championship run because they had watched him be booked as a joke and glorified jobber for four years before he suddenly became the number 1 contender and then was crowned champion. Save for the one victory, he hadn’t even seen a television win in more than two years leading up to the start of his reign. As such, fans rejected his run despite it falling just short of 200 days. It had nothing to do with Mahal being a “new guy” rather than a stalwart of the past decade. Momentum matters, and when you give new stars a chance to face off against the previous guard, it’s not a good idea to book them to lose or be squashed. All you end up doing is hurting their credibility and stunting the growth of the new era.

One of the core beliefs of the business has always been to pass the torch to the next star when the time comes, but guys like Orton, Cena, and Triple H have been largely “done” for more than a couple years now and still get favorable treatment.

Why not give the “young guys” some shine when they face off? Why not use Cena and Orton as a means to legitimize Samoa Joe or Finn Balor? Or, for that matter, why not have Angle or Triple H give a rub to Roode or Nakamura early in the match so that even if the two get eliminated first, they’ll have at least shown they can hang with the “big dogs?”

It just doesn’t make sense to keep holding back the future when the old guard is rapidly approaching the end of the line.

The shame of it all is that the Big 4 PPVs used to be the only shows you could really count on for top-to-bottom quality, but now they’ve become the time of year when part-timers past their prime are trotted out and still made to stand tall, subverting what should be commonsense. Sure, it’s nice that the new generation can look strong most of the year, but if you only get 4 grand stages a year to showcase yourself and you can’t cash in then what’s the point of it all? WWE can’t just keep kicking the can down the road. At some point, they have to hand over the reigns to the stars of the future and step aside. The sooner they learn that, the sooner they’ll be able to finally cash in on the plethora of talent on their roster.

Darreck W. Kirby

Founder of The Dallas Prospect, Darreck took a love for writing, analysis, and sports and brought them together in one site. Whether tracking the latest Cowboys stats and trends or breaking down film analysis for the latest flick, Darreck does it all.