Monday, June 30, 2014

Instant Feedback: Layer Cake of Varying Providence

Jericho's back... that's good
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WWE promised a return of a former Champion who had transcended the ring and became a multi-platform entertainment icon. It first trotted out Vince McMahon, a former Champion and (failed) entertainment mogul, but once the broomstick-lodged-up-the-butt walk was recognized as belonging to Damien Sandow, that ultimate troll option went out the window. Then The Miz was trotted out as the rotten egg in the jar of pickled ova on the counter at Moe's Cavern. A collective groan could be heard across RAW-watching nation until he was trumped by a returning Chris Jericho. Just when a Jericho/Miz feud had emerged from the aether, the screen BLEARPED, and the psycho hillbillies reminded Y2J dem buzzards done needed to be followed.

But Jericho wasn't the most important former Champion to return. In symmetrical fashion to how Paige won the Divas Championship from AJ Lee, Mama Knight's Baby Valkyrie lost the title right back to Lee, who came back with all the shock of someone putting the flatware in an electrical outlet. Lee, last seen as a jaded variant of the character her now-husband played between SummerSlam '12 and WrestleMania XXIX, took on the mantel of returning hero and elicited Paige into transforming into her natural state as a villainous firebrand who takes not an iota of shit from any offenders. In a side note, is it just me, or have some fans developed a cynical streak the likes of which would make your average angsty teen nod in admiration? Maybe I'm being myopic here, but that interaction felt like the start of a feud, not the start of a demotion back to NXT for the now-former Champion.

Either way, both instances were examples of swerves that held emotional impact. Whether it was the lack of advance in the case of Lee or WWE handling the leaked report of Jericho's return with grace that the company really isn't known for most of the time, the circumstances came together to help show that the shock still has some value, that Vince Russo's devastating overuse of the mechanism has rebounded. Still, while those layers on the cake tasted good, the other ones underneath the frosting tasted quite rotten.

For example, Triple H decided he was going to swerve John Cena by putting him in a four-way match at Battleground against The Demon Kane™, Randy Orton, and... Roman Reigns? The same Roman Reigns whose inclusion in the Money in the Bank ladder match got Vickie Guerrero fired? The same Roman Reigns who saddled up next to Cena in The Shield's last gasp as a group before it totally dissolved into him as the last holdover in riot gear and Dean Ambrose as the troubled teen? In comics parlance, that situation would be like Magneto sending out Mystique, Juggernaut, and Cyclops to fight Charles Xavier. One of those mutants isn't going to be going hard after the Professor as much as he'd be attacking his other two "allies."

WWE just can't get out of its way sometimes. Every two steps it takes forward, it takes another back. That situation is a best-case scenario, which typically is close to the national average for an entity slogged down in corporate inertia. Once you incorporate and start running like a business instead of an entertainment troupe, then the risks start to become less and less frequent. The process at the top has too many inputs, and the head can sometimes be freakishly insane and fickle. Even Apple isn't immune to this kind of inertiatic malaise; instead of creating its own innovative products, it has been reduced to buying SOMEONE ELSE's innovation to help grow the brand.

I'm afraid WWE isn't going back to any kind of imagined halcyon days of yore. Granted, I don't recall any time when the format of the show was radically different than it is now, but I do at least recall a bit more patience at times and a lot more different looks in terms of stories and the principals in them. Maybe I'm just looking at things through rose-colored glasses. I don't know. And maybe the bad wasn't bad enough to outweigh the big stuff to happen. Maybe the solution is just to eat around the awful, rotten layers and just savor the good ones.

Who knew wrestling fandom could be so complex...