Monday, October 6, 2014

Instant Feedback: A Tale of Two Stars

He's not the guy WWE should be relying on for big moments
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The first RAW in October of 2014 will be remembered for the exploits of two wrestlers. One was scheduled to be there, while the other only tipped his hand on Twitter moments before he walked out of the curtain. While The Rock's appearance, surrealistically to joust with Rusev and Lana, was only rumored and whispered about the day of the show on the usual channels, shocked the audience into life, it was Dean Ambrose's continued commandeering of the show that left the most indelible mark on the narrative. If one of the two were to move the needle, WWE should be glad that Ambrose whose antics were more impactful. Of course, I speak from the position of someone who is absolutely tired of The Rock's sub-fratboy rhetoric in 2014, so maybe I'm not the most unbiased judge of these things. However, the juxtaposition of Rock and Ambrose as the star performers on RAW illustrates where WWE languishes so much and where the company needs to go.

On one hand, The Rock gets people to react. However, the moment he opened his mouth, he showed that nothing really had changed since 2013, and there, nothing had changed since 2012, and then before then 2003 and so on and so forth. He's still acting the part of a dry-dick trashboy who holds women in contempt for reasons no one really could know and throws around gendered and othering slurs like former TNA Tag Team Champion Pacman Jones throws up dollar bills in the club. Nothing has evolved, and so his coming back elicits a loud Pavlovian reaction for him with questionable benefit for his targets. Did Rusev or Lana gain anything by the association in the ring? To be fair, the returns may be too early to gauge, but at the same time, him getting smacked around only to turn tail for a guy who may not be there next week is not a good sign.

Meanwhile, Ambrose made his first splash by popping up right next to Seth Rollins in the crowd after the latter thought he made a clean getaway from John Cena. He then held court, invited Cena to come out, and then bailed when he got as sick of his shit as the Brooklyn crowd got three seconds after the former Champ opened his mouth for the first time. When all was lost, he returned with a hot dog cart (in a twist that I foreshadowed in a roundabout yet totally accidental way) and acted as a culinary Gandalf at Cena's personal Helms Deep. Then he stuck Cena to end the show. None of his script was particularly innovative, but the way he executed on it felt fresh and exciting, much in the same way that a Mike Trout home run could look as majestic as a Willie Mays one, or how both Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger could give their own takes to the Joker (Jack Nicholson was never The Joker, he was Jack Nicholson in clown makeup, even if nothing is wrong with that scenario).

For WWE to take the next step towards a new order, a new era based around The Network, it needs to cultivate Ambrose and find a way to make him and the Network inextricably linked. Appearances from guys like The Rock are great, but they can't be the backbone of your plan going forward. Even if the best option was Daniel Bryan (who is not that bad an option at all), you should always forge ahead and find out how to make the guys who are going to be around week to week work for you, not make the narrative terraform them and then trot out some former wrestler or a guest host whenever the numbers aren't as healthy as you'd like.

But when you have a guy like Ambrose who is ready to light the goddamn world on fire, you have no excuse not to make him the center of the show. Maybe Rocky should just come back around during WrestleMania season. Maybe the only part-timer you feature with importance is the one holding your World Championship. Or maybe I'm just a dude yearning to see something new and am not in WWE's target audience. Those people making #SovietStreetWalker trend and cheering for Rock's gross shtick seem to like what he has to say today. I just hope they're there tomorrow when Ambrose is the one left to do all the heavy lifting himself.