Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Polishing Turds, Giving Perspective : The Paul Heyman Story

The man and his beast
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Paul Heyman almost talked me into thinking that WrestleMania could still be worth my time if not my money this year when he got together with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for a sit down interview last night. But before we get to that lets talk about why WWE sucks. I wasn't pissed with the Rumble only because Roman Reigns won. I was pissed because they didn't tell a good story in the ring. They didn't hit the right notes at the right time with the right people. Plus, it doesn't help when your story telling for the most part of the last year has been wayward, tacky and boring.

To get a great wrestling program, you need to imbue your wrestlers with two things, one, a story which features a colorful past, and two, a personality.

A story is built right from the day a wrestler debuts. Everytime he appears on TV, it should matter. Something must be done to move the story of the wrestler's life ahead. This should ideally happen for the most part in the ring along with vignettes or promos etc. Now, a personality does not mean only a gimmick (see Dean Ambrose for how to get this wrong). It means telling the audience about the character's moral fibre.

When you have done the above, you wait or more preferably, build, the perfect antagonist for your character, the perfect storm, the perfect crisis and then we have something worth talking about. A great example of this is Bret Hart's run, right from the moment he beat Ric Flair on TV for the world title in late '92 up till Survivor Series '97. Of course, you could say that a lot of it, including the heel turn, was unintentional, but that's another discussion.

Now, the problem with Reigns becomes clear. His story was that he was in a great tag team which used to beat up people real good. Then one of his brothers forsook him after which he started giving bad promos about nothing in particular, after which he got hurt. He came back, angry at nothing in particular and won the Royal Rumble. What do I really know about Reigns? I can't remember him taking a stand about anything in particular. I can't remember him being upset about anything. Maybe he was, and I forgot, but being somebody who does pay more attention than the casual fan, even if they did tell a story it must not have been given the right gravitas or emphasis or I would surely have remembered something. His is a perfect case of style over substance.

Oh and the ringwork. Now I am not a workrate fanatic though if given the choice between watching a random WCW-WWE Eddie Guerrero match and a late period Steve Austin/Triple  H match I will invariably pick the former. However, I do have the reasonable demand of a decent in ring pyschology. The only thing I remember Reigns doing is hitting is 3 spots - the Superman punch, the spear and that kick to the opponent's head while draped on the apron. This is good enough in a tag match but a one on one encounter at Wrestlemania requires a different approach. It requires keeping the audience on its toes without having the luxury of a hot tag or outside interference. I need to keep asking - what will he do now? I don't want to wait for your spots (see Orton circa 2007), I don't want to orgasm at your end game finisher exchanging (see Rock-Cena), I want a story. In short, what I want to say is that at Wrestlemania I want Kurt Angle/Shawn Michaels, Michaels/Undertaker, Austin/Rock, or Daniel Bryan-Triple H. That is the level of ring pyschology and story telling that I want and expect at WrestleMania, and the upshot of all of it is that there ain't no way in hell that Roman Reigns can do that. It is, in fact, downright unfair to put Roman Reigns in a WrestleMania main event with the level of experience that he has.

And this is not even considering the fact that even IF he could deliver in the ring, the character and the story have been so poor and underwhelming that it would take a miracle to save this from becoming Undertaker v. Pyscho Sid Part II.

However, the latest from WWE's studio effort last night in lieu of the cancelled RAW seems to indicate that they might have started working on the "miracle" part of it, simply by giving Paul Heyman a chance to give us some perspective. And really, that's all I have ever wanted from the product. Seeing Heyman tie together Reign's family ties and bring in Lesnar's in ring dominance over his most popular and famous family wrestler was fantastic. Roman Reigns, on his part, was thankfully, not the typical douchebag WWE babyface, bless the lord. He gave Heyman respect, let him talk about the family, gave a small smile where appropriate and refrained from cheesy one liners. Basically he gets points for not being Cena in prick mode.

However, this does not get us away from the problems they still face in getting Reigns ready for a WrestleMania world title match. First, they need to tell me his character motivations. Why isn't he hellbent on wrecking Rollins? Where the hell was he when Dean Ambrose was getting his ass handed to him? What are his views on Bryan never getting a rematch for the title he never lost? Will he ask Uncle Rock why he never asked for a rematch against the Beast Incarnate? Does his character realize the significance of getting a title shot at Wrestle-fucking-Mania? Does he realize that it took HBK/Austin/Hart/Foley/Angle/Guerrero many many years of being awesome at wrestling before getting a shot at the main event? They need to address this shit, apart from CONFRONTATIONS with Heyman and Lesnar. Sure, when Heyman talks and Brock smirks, it is all milk and honey but it won't work when the bell rings.

Or you know, we could just dump this and watch Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kota Ibushi everyday for the rest of our lives.