Monday, January 27, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Art of Trolling

Troll on, yo
Photo Credit:
Stephanie McMahon, the concern-trolling mom voice of WWE who brilliantly manipulated The Big Show in the autumn, made her grand return to RAW tonight. Sure, the vessel which she used to convey that passive-aggression was on the show continually, but her joie de vivre for making the innocent feel guilty for all the wrong reasons was dissipated in the oddball impulse for her and her husband Triple H to continue on this dallying path of riding the fence in a way that would have given both of them major crotch wounds had they done so literally. Fighting with Randy Orton is not a recipe for success for the WWE's preeminent power couple. However, snagging the red meat from a Royal Rumble that left a lot of people unhappy, whether intentional or not, was nourishment enough for the McMahon who held Kane's mask aloft as an unearned trophy to return back to the body from whence she left to travel the planes of existence in search of a higher truth.

This McMahon, and to a lesser extent this Triple H, were sorely needed after the aforementioned Rumble. Straightforward, lukewarm, amphoteric Authority could not stand in the face of the onslaught of Daniel Bryan and his YES! Movement. While I could stand to lose the authority figure-as-central-story-figurehead altogether, the magic of Bryan has always been in fighting against the metaphysical being known as "The Evil Booker" (not to be confused with Booker T, who was never really evil as much as he was incoherent). In the same way Steve Austin needed a stodgy, traditional, whitebread boss to rebel against and an image to shatter, Bryan now must always fight the specter of what the dirt sheets say about management's apparent faith in him. Fighting that invisible boogeyman could be effective enough on its own. WWE can just throw him against the wall and have him eventually overcome those odds until he's achieved a resolution.

But professional wrestling has never been an artform to dabble in the invisible hands of fate or any subtle demon who might fill up the cracks of a larger narrative. A larger than life hero in Daniel Bryan needs an ostentatious villain, and who better to play up that role than Stephanie McMahon and her cohort, Triple H. They know they can push the buttons of the fans. They know they can troll because they've done it before. And just like their father(-in-law) before them, they know that to get the most out of a story, they have to ham it up.

So, that's why Triple H came out mockingly whine-asking if the crowd missed someone, why McMahon so schmaltzily confided to Bryan that he was held out of the Rumble match for his own safety, why she so exaggeratedly asked if the crowd came to see him and stopped COMPLETELY to let them respond. She inherited her daddy's flair for the dramatic. For those who saw her stumble in such a role at the beginning of last decade, sometimes character just needs to be coaxed out of a personality in the right situation.

I don't know if tonight's show was in direct reaction to the Rumble crowd. I don't know if they rewrote the show. Quite frankly, I don't care. If these are the performances I'm going to get from Triple H, Bryan, and especially McMahon for the next two months, then I will be happy with whatever path they choose to tread. Regular villainy doesn't get you heel heat anymore. Just look at Sheamus, who vandalized a car with his own feces for reasons unbeknownst to anyone of sound moral fiber. However, to troll is to get under the skin of a random viewer or audience member. If you want to get the fans to hate you in 2014 and in turn get behind the one you're antagonizing, intentionally find a sore spot and dig under the skin. Change the game to get better reactions. It's the perfect gameplan for the new era in WWE's history.