Friday, July 25, 2014

Somebody Beat Up Ziggler and Maybe I'll Start Caring.

Ziggler needs to take a cue from the past...
Photo Credit:
I want to like Dolph Ziggler more.

He’s really fun to watch. He's fast, funny, bumps around like crazy, and looks like something that Michelangelo carved out of marble. I look forward to seeing Ziggler on Monday nights. But after the initial excitement of his introduction, I really have to make an effort to care about him. He’s stuck in a hamster wheel of good matches that don’t mean much. I’m really trying to care about Ziggler, and it shouldn't be this hard.

Kids, ask your parents grandparents about the Marx Brothers. Back before any of us were born, they were huge movie stars. Even today – 60 years after they were produced – their films are hysterically funny. One of the main reasons for this was Harpo, a gifted physical comedian who played a mute, anarchist harp virtuoso. Since Harpo didn’t talk, and much of his physical comedy was built around playing pranks and being physically aggressive toward other characters, it was difficult for audiences to connect with him emotionally. The Marx Brothers needed to:
  1. Make Harpo sympathetic without using any dialogue
  2. Create situations where it was ok for Harpo to physically assault other characters (this already sounds like an episode of RAW…)
The way they did this was to have something happen to Harpo early in the film to get the audience’s sympathy. Here’s a scene from early in A Night at The Opera. What’s happening is that the evil opera singer has discovered Harpo trying on his costumes:

He hits Harpo with his cane, pushes him against the wall, whips him, and throws him out the door. We immediately know that guy’s a dick.

We also immediately sympathize with Harpo. We’re immediately on his side. And for the rest of the movie we cheer as Harpo carries out his absurdist revenge on the opera singing dick.

It’s tough to argue that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are the two most interesting WWE performers of the last two or three years. One of the reasons why they were able to capture the fans’ imaginations is that we were able to sympathize with them. When Punk dropped the pipe bomb, despite his inherent smarminess, it was apparent that he was legitimately frustrated. We sympathized with his frustrations.

And Bryan’s narrative positioning, along with his reputation as an undersized technical wizard and indie hero, immediately cast him as an underdog. Again, we sympathized.

The thing that these three examples – Punk, Bryan and Harpo – have in common is that they made audiences sympathetic. And they did that by being vulnerable. Harpo gets beaten, Punk isn’t in the opening credits, Bryan is called a B+ player. They had something to fight for/against. And this made them into cool, compelling characters that interest us.

And that’s my problem with Ziggler – I have no reason to sympathize with him. I don’t know why I should care.

But I know what would make me care. Make him vulnerable. Ziggler’s current storyline with the Miz has the potential to make me care. What if Miz starts calling himself the “show-off” and plays the arrogant and cocky heel? Even more arrogant and cocky than Ziggler? It creates a crisis of confidence for our boy. He’d be vulnerable. He’d have something to fight for. He’d create a reason for me to care.

This shouldn’t be too hard; it’s a show that’s literally built on acts of physical aggression. Somebody needs to beat the crap out of Ziggler, and it should mean something. Ziggler needs to respond to it like a real human being. He needs to not be the "show-off," but a guy who's angry and frustrated, and maybe a little scared. But for whatever reason, it’s not happening with Ziggler. Or a lot of other characters for that matter.

The punchline is that I really want to care. But the WWE needs to give me a reason to.