The Wrestling Connoisseur: I Think Raw Gave Me Salmonella
It’s not very often that there is such a monumental RAW episode that I have to write specifically about it. Last night’s May 21 show started with the typical fanfare. That fanfare entails an awkward Kurt Angle with bad posture giving a little speech. Of course, it was interrupted by the ever villainous Stephanie McMahon. Any wrestling fan knows where it goes from here. Stephanie’s character is hated. If there’s anyone more despised it’s gotta be-enter boos, Roman Reigns. And therein lies a massive problem.
Any attempt at story telling needs to not insult the audience’s intelligence. Roman Reigns is scripted to cry about WWE management and corporate office is against him. The man that is booked so heavily over the entire roster is whining about exactly what the fans know doesn’t exist. There’s some irony here. That bubble I always mention that Vince McMahon lives inside? Yep. The crowd boos Reigns entrance. They boo his comebacks. They boo his music. They boo anytime his name is mentioned. Why push that guy so hard on the fans? Any one remember Die, Rocky, Die chants? They may make a comeback for the Rock’s cousin.
But it wasn’t just the poor booking for Roman last night. It was the entire show. Story lines were hardly present at all. The B Team of Axel and Dallas are being too funny to be heels. I’ve said it a lot; heels can’t be funny. The audience can laugh at them, not with them. Think Bobby Heenan if you want the heel “comedy”.
The Nia/Rousey story is awful. The champion challenged a nobody in the wrestling world. Rousey has had one match. They even make it a point to state this. Putting her against Nia is ridiculous. Nia isn’t even stabilized as champion. Not to mention they are both faces. There’s zero heat, zero context, zero excitement for this match up. Nia isn’t a credible monster/beast/champion, and, quite honestly, neither is Rousey. There’s no attachment for this match up. I have nothing at stake to give a damn. And I don’t.
I could say the exact thing for all the matches. Braun versus Balor main event made no sense. Two faces, booked on a whim; as though Stephanie stirring shit is enough to make me care? Braun worked the heel of the match. And, if done right, the match could have been great. If Braun actually was heel then maybe it’d work. Balor definitely has the under dog feel. His comebacks felt fired up. But it’s against Strowman, arguably the biggest baby face on RAW.
And don’t get me started about the trans-phobic Lashley “sisters” segment. Are we in 2018? Does Vince McMahon open his windows to 1950’s air? Or even 1980’s? For a company that spouts anti-bullying measures, has a merchandise program aimed at LGBTQ friendliness, they sure miss the big picture. Men dressed up as women and being destroyed in the ring is not trans-friendly. The whole segment reeked of disillusionment. And yes I get it and no, it wasn’t funny at all.
It’s disheartening from a writing perspective that wrestling is willing to turn to old, hateful cliches and yet refuses to follow the tried and true formulas for success. “Let’s do the thing with a midget.” “Let’s do the guy dressed as a woman bit.” No, let’s follow what took wrestling to the top; well thought out story telling in and out of the ring and listening to the audience. That is when ratings will increase.
Kevin Sullivan said recently that fans today are connoisseurs. Yeah, he was kind of talking about me. It describes me perfectly. I love wrestling. I love knowing how matches work and why storytelling works. Look at what makes books work or movies or monomyth. In every story telling art form there is a formula. It’s a formula for success. Every Disney film follows the hero’s journey. There’s a reason for it.
What do you do when something you love starts eating away at you though? Luckily for wrestling fans there are other options out there. And it’s not all bad in WWE; NXT is a pretty good product. And fans can always watch and support local promotions, ROH, Impact, PWG, New Japan, All Japan, NOAH, CMLL, Lucha Underground, MLW and many, many more. WWE is butchering what wrestling is.
It won’t always be this way though. One can call it morbid or cold, but Vince isn’t a spring chicken. The reason why Triple H is the real COO and creative force behind NXT and 205 is because Vince is getting older. The King of Kings stands to inherit the throne. That’s not a bad thing. Triple H is proving that his in ring perception is giving more credence to the product, which is what happened decades ago with all the great veterans turned office worker, managers. Somewhere along the way, the workers turned into ass kissing yes men, and that’s ruined the WWE. Last night’s show was pure evidence.