Monday, October 20, 2014

Instant Feedback: Tropes vs. Wrestlers

Dammit, don't make Ambrose into just another guy
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In terms of narrative direction, WWE does one thing exceedingly well. This company knows how to turn its hottest wrestlers into "just another guy." The altar to its top star, whether it be John Cena or one of his forefathers, is soaked with the blood of up and comers who dared demand room made at the top. Sometimes, those wrestlers make it to the top of the food chain, but they never make it the same. They always lose something, because they have to make it on WWE's terms, not their own. Whether it be Ricky Steamboat or CM Punk or anyone in between who had a flicker of a spark, the WWE machine uncannily was able to grind them down into a fine paste before they were able to be rehydrated. The notable exception was Steve Austin, who made it because the company was lagging behind another, and because he hit so big, every character going forward had to be something like him.

Some weeks, this modus operandi is well-hidden, but no matter how many glimmers of hope that are given, WWE ends up jerking the narrative back towards something familiar to millions, something safe, something that's been done before. The magnetic star in the making is given material that he may or may not be able to save, and other wrestlers below him on the pecking order lose protection, whether they're holding a title or not. Everybody's stupid. No one gets ahead. The most memorable spot on the show may or may not go to a returning star or a celebrity who won't be there the next week.

Tonight's RAW was an exercise in familiarity. Dean Ambrose, the singularly charismatic wild card, was made to do shitty prop comedy before getting pinned clean as a whistle to end the show. Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, and AJ Lee all lost matches to set up title bouts to happen in six days. The Bella Twins big blowoff at Hell in a Cell was given a stipulation that could end up being good if it were executed on NXT or in an indie with better rep like Chikara. Once again, Randy Orton and John Cena were plugged into the highest-stakes match on the card despite the fact that the booking had set up other wrestlers to get that shine. The best moments were fleeting at best.

Then again, WWE gets extra lazy for the "go home" shows to its special events, but it's not like the creative staff has been hitting it out of the park. The disconnect is as wide as it has ever been. Sometimes, I think that Vince McMahon and his writers intentionally sabotage anyone who comes close to making it across the void. Why else would the same script be in play every week? Why else would these habits continue to play out? It's insidious, a culture that breeds death and despair rather than growth and morale.

The thing is that Vince McMahon still gets this reputation as being a genius. Obviously, I don't agree, but even if he was once a genius, he's certainly there anymore. I don't know how much quality of the show correlates to take-home revenue the company gets, and I don't pretend to, either. So whatever bottom line he gets and is happy with or whatever is attributed to his savvy as a businessman. You don't need to be a genius to succeed at business, to be honest. Some people have made shitloads of money with terrible products.

But then again, some of those terrible products have at least been ideas no one's tried yet. WWE repeats itself every week, and then the brass has the gall to leak its displeasure with talent not being able to get over to the dirtsheets like it's their fault the material they're given is sub-Uwe Boll. Dean Ambrose could be a dynamic presence on the show, but not if he's beating up effigies in the most Degeneration-X way possible. Even if Dolph Ziggler or Sheamus aren't able to carry the top of the show, they can be generals of the midcard, but not if their title reigns are jokes. WWE could be an enjoyable watch, even at the three-hour timestamp every Monday, but not if it keeps puking out the same garbage and expecting fans to eat it up like half-digested worms out of a robin's gullet.