Monday, September 29, 2014

Instant Feedback: Vince McMahon's Brick Tamland

Y'all got gak'd, son
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WWE and comedy seem to have an antonymous relationship. What passes for funny in the script usually tickles the ribs of one man, a dinosaur whose unrefined sense of humor was odd at best even in days of his youth. Vince McMahon's input into scripts and presumably his writers catering to him brought the RAW audience some "gems" in the last few years, with heavy emphasis on fecal matter and crude sex jokes. While comedy is a crucial lubricant for any successful wrestling show, WWE's attempts at hilarity have often been like greasing a machine with molasses instead of oil.

And yet, every time WWE went to the comic relief well on this episode of RAW, the bucket came up full, even when the script called for the usual poop (or in this case, green slime) and dick jokes, the laughs were there. Crediting Seth Rollins and more importantly Dean Ambrose for elevating the material is easy, and Ambrose especially deserves credit for keeping the crowd engaged and the joke progression on the rails. However, were the jokes here on point because for once, the framing was on point?

Rollins getting gak'd like he was on You Can't Do That on Television had cathartic weight behind it, even if the payoff was a silly sight gag that was meant to be a substitute for ejaculate at worst or feces at best. Puerile humor can work, especially in an artform that is supposed to appeal mostly to adolescent boys (and girls), but the difference between getting the dumb pop from some kind of gimmicked set piece and a gag with adult subtext even with an immature pop involves actual work. Ambrose had to steal the briefcase, chew scenery, and then bait Rollins out just to see him get slimed, and even though it wasn't supposed to work, I was grinning and chuckling as if I was watching a Los Ice Creams match at the Easton Funplex.

Speaking of which, even though WWE often succeeds better by trying to be the best big budget Chikara it can be than it does by imitating current Nickelodeon gross-out humor, even the surreal gang party that featured Hornswoggle in a gator costume and the Rosebud Bunny posing with one of the most important civil rights leaders in the last quarter-century flowed better. No one is going to confuse anyone in that particular match and follow-up for the Submission Squad, but they delivered quasi-psychedelia above their own replacement level.

Plenty of times, RAW has been buoyed by great "serious" action bogged down by dreadful, Vince McMahon-special comedy that puts an embarrassing damper on the show. A hot opening segment followed by a super-competitive Intercontinental Championship match and then capped off by a well-done old-school teaser finish is a formula that any good RAW should aspire to. So few times has the comedy on the show worked to the benefit of the rest of the action, but tonight, the laughs were present. The result made this show the first episode of the flagship worth watching from top to bottom since before WrestleMania, when RAW was still on its improbable 15-month hot streak.

I am not proclaiming the end of the dick and poop joke era by a longshot. One week is not a large enough sample size. McMahon may have had his blue moon week, or maybe he just wasn't as involved. Either way though, it's amazing how much a show can be elevated when even the "throwaway" segments have some entertainment value.