Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Instant Feedback: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Does anyone believe Ziggler will be gone more than a couple of weeks?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
When was the last time someone was fired on WWE programming who didn't come back almost immediately? Forget those who were legitimately future endeavored; people who have quit or were fired for story purposes never stay gone for any amount of time worthy of being missed. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but that absence has to be more than a week. Wrestling fans tend not to be horny teenage lovers who can't keep their mitts off each other with people who aren't over, especially when those fans have been burnt before on these kinds of angles. Basically, WWE and its creative team collectively are the boy who cried wolf. Every time that collective produced a firing angle, it got people in a tizzy thinking that a missed time story was afoot and that wrestler would be gone for a bit. Yet each angle was flat and produced an immediate return.

I'm not saying that Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, and Erick Rowan will be off television for months. WWE has given no one any reason to believe its stories have that kind of believability. However, the execution on how those three ended up losing their jobs, how The Authority's plan built organically from its return last week and how it passive-aggressively set John Cena up to be a do-nothing, impotent figure who didn't care about anything but his own ends, that was all A+ villainy. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H returned to the show without missing a beat and they actually had some material with which to work instead of just chewing the fat and saying "Best for business" ad infinitum. The generic "evil authority figure punishing the babyfaces" match booking was tied together by the show's overrun. And the choice of The Authority first high-tailing it out of the ring and then giving their verdicts as Cena stood behind the fired with Sousa blaring on the speakers and confetti raining down from the ceiling, oh man, that all hit the spot. In a vacuum, RAW's main arc gave it purpose.

But the thing about the boy who cried wolf is that when he was really in danger, no one believed him, and he ended up being devoured. The stakes here for WWE aren't as grim, but for all the work that the wrestlers and various NPCs with microphones put in to turn in a solid effort, the reactions rolling through tend to be more unkind and pessimistic. You reap what you sow, and when the seeds of apathy are planted, one cannot be surprised when the reactions to what should be major, groundbreaking stuff are less than bountiful.

Basically, WWE has to disabuse itself of this goldfish-memory booking and get some kind of plan that's longer than a week in advance and is not subject to last-minute rewrites that undo any kind of narrative momentum. In all honesty, Ziggler could use a couple of months off for all the prop bumping he does. Ryback and Rowan can show up in NXT, which has a good narrative structure going on and is actually treated as a separate entity from main WWE. In fact, NXT's successes have reportedly spooked Vince McMahon, and instead of seeing how he could learn from people within his company, he's taking the old contrarian routine of saying that the thing that threatens him that he has no hand in is overrated. I take all those backstage reports with a grain of salt because who the fuck knows what really goes on in Gorilla and beyond, but the WWE show really does, at times, feel like it's written by a guy whose main motivating factor is spite, doesn't it?