Russo wonders if this transition took place due to the amount of heat that came down on the professional wrestling business in the mid-90’s revolving around steroid abuse. He finds that hard to believe because there are still guys like Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Sheamus front and centre in WWE.
Vito says that he believes all of that changed when WWE transitioned from being a professional wrestling company into being a sports entertainment company. He thinks Vince McMahon and WWE began looking for handsome, athletic individuals instead of searching for the traditional ‘real’ looking professional wrestlers such as Stan Hansen.
He adds that guys like The Rock, Brock Lesnar and John Cena are the rare combination of looks, athleticism and charisma that allows them to flourish in the era of sports entertainment. The business continues to evolve, and for better or worse it has simply moved past guys who look and act like Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen.
Russo says it’s a difficult transition for guys moving from Japan to the United States as well, because their success in Japan does not guarantee they’ll be successful in North America. Vito says that WWE is trying to get Nakamura over but it’s hard for fans to invest in performers they’ve never seen before.
He points out that that’s a challenge for WWE’s creative team as well, because it can be difficult to start some of these performers at the bottom and gradually get them over when they’ve been main event guys their entire career elsewhere.