Monday, April 6, 2015

Alex Riley, The Boy Who Desperately Wanted to Be a Brand

Alex Riley is the dictionary definition of corporate art
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When corporations get a hold of the creative process of a business for which they are responsible, the results are easy to identify. The resultant product's appearance is impossibly slick, almost plasticine and artificial. It is heralded using buzzwords and in front of grandiose imagery that seems too big for such an inauspicious debut. Oftentimes, the product is underwhelming and ends up being rejected by the public, even if it's loved by those who created it and proves useful to them. Sure, it might gain a few followers in traction, but rarely do these products attain market foothold that is dreamed for them.

If anyone in wrestling fits that mold right now, Alex Riley is that man. Forget Roman Reigns for a second. Once upon a time, he connected with the crowd and even now doesn't feel like plopped off an assembly line. But Riley's current incarnation feels like he was fitted with a character straight from the most out-of-touch portion of the WWE writers' room. Someone threw a dart against a board that had a range of emotions WWE wrestlers were allowed to feel and landed on "anger." So now Riley RAGES on Twitter. Feel his rage, guys. FEEL IT. He posts graphics on Twitter that look like they were vomited from the TapouT test easels. He even has an oblivious hash-tag that he uses, demanding that he be allowed to RAGE away from his cushy announce job back in the ring like he wasn't a "blue chip" prospect who flamed the fuck out once his one trick got old.

Yet, for as much as this new thrust stinks of corporate spit-shine and rubber-stamp approval, WWE's idea of putting its grubby hands on someone ends up with Dean Ambrose going from edgy loner to the worst possible Charlie Kelly, or even worse, someone like Mojo Rawley whose entire gimmick is "look at how jacked I am and excited to be at my job." Riley's gimmick seems like it's something he earnestly came up with, like if Zack Ryder wasn't a fun-loving broseph from Long Island but instead a self-absorbed fuckboy. If a megacorporation put out an alternative to a cool, sourced-at-the-grassroots-level product, he would not only be first in line on the day it debuted, he would be on Twitter telling everyone who preferred the local-source original that they were hipsters or worse.

Thankfully, Riley's efforts to get his in-ring career restarted have gotten him endless scripted embarrassment at the hands of Kevin Owens. In fact, the biggest testament to Riley's failure as a character right now is that wrestler-womping-on-announcer stories are supposed to get the wrestler over as a heel. The biggest cheers Owens gets (and he gets a bunch of them because NXT crowds care not for WWE-given alignment) are when he mollywomps Riley in various ways. The former Varsity Villain proves time and time again that his employment as a wrestler is tenuous at best. So what does someone who thinks like a corporate weasel do when even he knows what he has to offer isn't being accepted by his bosses?

He resorts to brown-nosing.

If you can't work your way to the top, schmoozing the bosses is the next best route, and what better way to do so than by shit-talking people whom those bosses just do not like. Riley has a history of throwing shade at people, but before, he would go after people who were not only better than him, but also were pet projects of Triple H. However, he's smartened up and has gone after an easier target, one that he thinks might ingratiate him to the front office:
If you're not catching against whom a shot that is, well, AJ Lee got the date of when she won the WWE Divas Championship tattooed on the back of her neck as a point of pride. Lee, as news broke it on Friday and as I wrote about today, has left WWE for various, personal reasons. Of course, Lee had become somewhat of a sore spot for management, and the feeling is that maybe, the officials weren't sad to see her go, whether it was association with her husband or other, various reasons. So yeah, Riley thought it a good opportunity to maybe get in better with the upper crust and mocked a wrestler who accomplished a billion times more than he ever could despite having the handicap of being a woman working in WWE, one of the most sexist companies in the world of entertainment.

But it does help put that nasty little bow on the shit package that is Alex Riley. He's a white man without talent who wants to tap into his privilege to get things that he feels he deserves despite not working for them more than anyone of his peers or having the competitive edge to push him ahead. If he's not able to force himself onto the show via sheer will, maybe he'll do well by attempting to kick a woman who's not even a coworker of his anymore while she's on her way out, and in the shitty world of American capitalism, fears of that working and him getting ahead by gladhanding his superiors cannot ever be totally unfounded. But hopefully, this very definition of a fuckboy won't get what he wants, and instead, this will continue to be his crowning legacy in WWE.