Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Problem with Bad News Barrett

Really, that's what you script for Barrett?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Bad News Barrett debuted on RAW last night. For those who don't know, that version of RED BELLY Wade Barrett debuted and developed on the JBL and Cole Show, WWE's mostly amusing web variety show featuring the two announcers, Renee Young, and a rotating cast of wrestlers, which lately has heavily featured Hornswoggle in a bear suit that looks like the titular character from the movie Ted. Anyway, Barrett's role on the show was to break into the scene at the most inopportune time and remind various wrestlers of the mistakes they were making or the bad fortune that was awaiting them.

The base character was actually quite brilliant. The actual persona would play at the idea of "shooting the messenger" when enacted in an actual wrestling storyline. Barrett's delivery and tone is such that he could play an effective heel while delivering the bad news, i.e. feeling sorry for having someone lash out at him gets harder and harder with how much he seems to revel in delivering said bad news. I was quite looking forward to the time on RAW where they would implement that trait in his character.

Then, they debuted him last night and had him deliver "bad news" generically to the crowd using garden variety heat garnering tactics to do so. So much for making a great first impression.

To me, Barrett's total weaksauce material last night is proof positive that WWE Creative, whether it be the writers on the show or the guy greenlighting it to get to camera, have no idea how characters work. Barrett was scripted to insult the fans because that action is literally the only thing WWE writers or Vince McMahon think will get people to boo a character. To a point, maybe they're right, but at the same time, WWE sells merch for everyone, not just the faces anymore. Even the bottom of the barrel, most scummy heels on the roster, the racist, xenophobic, Tea Party caricature Real Americans, have merchandise that people want to buy. Cult of personality goes a long way.

The disconnect also shows how far the gap is between what makes TV and how creative actual people can be in WWE when they're left to their own devices. I watched a few JBL and Cole Shows, and they're legitimately entertaining for the most part. The material is a departure from the style of writing on television, but everyone remains in their established canon character. This show isn't the first time that gap was highlighted either. Z! True Long Island Stories remains the best thing Zack Ryder ever did.

I know the idea that doing a niche YouTube show is a lot less demanding than presenting television for four million people each week might be interpreted as common sense, but sometimes, one just has to take a risk. When every other heel is out there tossing insults to the fans each week, why wouldn't WWE want to try something different to help a guy that they scripted to win the first season of NXT and then be positioned as the leader of an earth-shaking stable that put him squarely in the main event reach the potential they saw in him?

Then again, taking risks is not in the DNA of most corporate entities, and WWE seems to have lost its soul within the exoskeleton of shares and stockholders it constructed for itself since going public. The ones who suffer are the wrestlers, Barrett especially. Of course, unless the writers course-correct on Bad News Barrett's character, the silver lining to this botching will be an opportunity for RED BELLY to deliver awful news to himself on the JBL and Cole Show.