Friday, February 14, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Royal Treatment

Photo Credit:
The difference between being a main player in WWE and a card-filler is all about the way the announcers talk about you, how you are presented in the narrative. When the COO is calling you the guy who could walk out as Champion if everyone underestimates you, you matter. When the voice of the company says you're the dark horse to win, you've got currency. If the goal was to make Smackdown the Antonio Cesaro show, WWE succeeded.

Even if Cesaro didn't get the duke over Randy Orton in the main event, the show would have made the Swiss Superman look every bit the threat as the seasoned wrestlers in the Chamber would have to win. Wins and losses don't matter as much as the cacophony surrounding you does. That chatter may not matter as much as it did even 15 months ago; JBL's hijacking of the broadcast booth into a festival of ass-kissing and dissonance. I can't stress how much JBL has submarined the already poor quality of WWE announcing, but I could write an Awful Announcing-style blog chronicling how much he fucks things up.

Still, the chatter matters when it comes from Triple H in his "fireside chat" segments, and that importance is amplified when it is singled out during the telecast rather than left to watching solely on the website. The sad thing is that the negative chatter matters too. How can you expect people to care about Damien Sandow, The Miz, or even Cesaro's tag partner, Jack Swagger, if the idea that they're in slumps or on losing streaks is hammered home? For as much as folks like Daniel Bryan have gotten over on their own merits, the narrative still matters.

But when that narrative matches the action on the screen? Then a total eclipse happens, and it is brilliant to behold. I never thought in a million years that Cesaro would get a win over the reigning and defending WWE World Heavyweight Champion, let alone clean, but after a sunset flip powerbomb, roaring European Uppercut, and the Neutralizer, his dark horse status was legitimized. The wins-and-losses-don't-matter talking point tends to look silly when everything comes together.

And yes, everything came together for Cesaro tonight. He won't win the Chamber, but he won't need to, just like Alexander Rusev didn't need to eliminate a soul at the Royal Rumble in order to look like he made an impact. Presentation in pro wrestling matters for so much of a performer's weight within a given narrative. Tonight, Cesaro's figurative weight became that of a hippopotamus on a binge-eating diet.