In most sports a franchise player is the top competitor for the team or brand. When a wrestler is referred to as “The Franchise” or “A Franchise Player” in professional wrestling it often means the wrestler has helped build the brand or promotion they are working in. Very few men in wrestling history can be considered true franchise players.
Sting was often called “The Franchise of WCW”. Sting had been loyal to the promotion since the days of the NWA and had never jumped ship to Vince McMahon’s pond at WWE. Sting was one of the few to never betray the WCW promotion. He was one of the company’s top babyface characters and drew in young audiences with his flashy style and appearance. In the later years of WCW Sting would be a main player in the World Heavyweight Championship title picture and would serve as one of the promotion’s top drawing stars. Sting would stay loyal to the WCW promotion until it closed its doors in 2001.
A top draw for the ECW promotion in the 1990’s was the man who many saw as the face of the change ECW embraced. ECW pushed toward a more hardcore and less traditional style. This promotion was led by Paul Heyman and the public face of the change was Shane Douglas. Douglas would begin the ECW evolution by spitting on the NWA title to establish independence. ECW built its brand on the back of this event. Douglas was affectionately named “The Franchise” as he would continue to be one of the company’s top draws until he left in 1995.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is a franchise player in the WWE if there ever was one. Steve Austin carried the promotion into a new era of attitude with his persona. The working man who hated his boss and had a roughneck attitude led fans to want a more adult product. Austin would become one of the biggest stars in the world of professional wrestling with his antics. Without Austin aiding in ushering in the Attitude Era, the WWE may have died out in the 1990’s.
John Cena has been the face of WWE’s PG product. His character reflects well on children and he looks the part of a big man which is so important in wrestling. Cena’s merchandise is the top seller for the current WWE product and the bookers always run back to the Cena well when they are in need of buy-rates or television ratings. Despite many fans’ feelings toward the star, he may be the key to WWE’s survival in this economic climate.
Can one man carry a promotion? A federation is only as strong as its main event stars. In the case of these men, companies could have folded if they’d failed. These men are the true franchise players of recent wrestling history.