Monday, February 17, 2014

Instant Feedback: Building a Spectacle

An earned spot
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When a spot gets over, it gets a reaction. Whether it happens quickly during a non-competitive exhibition match, or whether it happens towards the end of the match, fans will hopefully recognize it and cheer for it. How can two wrestlers build to elevate even the most familiar of spots, though? How can they make that reaction go from a common, Pavlovian cheer into a transformative, echoing, satisfaction-inducing roar? They build to it. They tease the move, and then yank it away. For maximum effect, they'll do it again, maybe a third or fourth time before finally executing it after all hope is lost, and when the thing finally happens, they've manipulated the crowd to maximum effect.

When Antonio Cesaro first teased the Giant Swing on John Cena, I personally didn't think he would pull it off. That move is great to display on lower card opponents of sizable girth, but the Franchise, the Man, John Cena? No way. They would craft a match that was able to get the point across and work the crowd in ways both guys were more than able to. But then Cesaro had Cena by the legs again, and they even went one better, going into a STF attempt that went into the Swiss Superman lifting that pillar of granite into a deadlift gutwrench. If that instance was the last time they teased the Giant Swing in the match, they would have done their job.

But then, out of seemingly impossible setup, Cesaro grabbed Cena by the legs, lifted him up off the ground, and swung him around for ten rotations. The crowd, or at least the part of the crowd that chants "CENA SUCKS!" exploded. That reaction was no accident. They built to that spot. They earned that spot.

When critics and analysts talk about storytelling in a match, the march towards a climactic moment is exactly what they talk about. That moment can be something within the greater feud, but true masters can come in with barely any angular attachment and build to something special, a spectacle, if you will. Cena and Cesaro were entangled inasmuch as they're going to be in LEXAN pods in the Elimination Chamber Sunday. The overall narrative is more about Randy Orton anyway. So they had two options, and they chose the better one.

Pretend for a second that crowds actually saved their "This is awesome!" chants for selective matches and didn't give it out to everything that involves a wrestler they like that goes two segments. A match like this doesn't get that kind of chant only for the Giant Swing. Cena took a MASSIVE bump that I thought his name was Seth Rollins for a second. The finishing sequence was sublime as well. How a man the size of Cesaro has the dexterity to land on his feet out of an Attitude Adjustment attempt is probably the most impressive thing he does, and he's a man who shoot deadlifts Great Khali like it's no thing. Then, Cena rolled through the Neutralizer into the final AA, and its beauty cancelled out any malodor that was connected with him taking another duke.

But this match was all about the delicate teetering on the edge, making the crowd rabid for something they seem to take for granted. Pro wrestling is art, and both Antonio Cesaro and John Cena are artists. I for one love the fact WWE has opened up RAW as an expansive canvas for them to create.