Monday, April 27, 2015

Instant Feedback: Kings of the Rut

Not this again. Anything but this again.
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The King of the Ring tournament kicked off on RAW this evening with four first round matches to culminate in a final flourish on The Network tomorrow night. Not only did the old standby, which hadn't been conducted since 2010, evoke memories of a star-building mechanism with dubious providence that has been swept away through rose-colored fondness, it promised that maybe, just maybe, RAW would follow a different formula than the one it had been stuck in for the last god-knows-how-many-weeks. So of course, Seth Rollins' theme music hit, summoning him to the ring for another 20 minute block of vocal text to kick off the flagship.

Yes, wrestling is a show, and the verbal portion of it is just as important as the in-ring component. Exposition and explanation are key components of wrestling storytelling. Damien Sandow's first post-Mizdow soliloquy-turned-character unveiling against Curtis Axel could not have happened in a match by itself. But Sandow's big moment (which was tainted by his inflection imitating Axel that fell a bit too close to mocking people with Down's Syndrome for my taste) actually moved something forward. For the first time in forever, at least I have a chance in who knows how long, Sandow was able to speak as an agent of his own destiny rather than a device to enhance The Miz's aura.

What has Rollins said or done in these show-opening blocks that has advanced his own narrative as much as Sandow did? For that matter, could the same be said of anyone who's taken that block week in and week out? Certainly not Triple H or Stephanie McMahon. Zilch to Randy Orton. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar had some story to move forward the night after WrestleMania, but moments like theirs have been the exception rather than the rule. The first segment of the show has been stale and stagnant, and the fact that RAW as a whole has struggled to get out of the blocks in the last several months can't be a coincidence.

Tonight's show had the built-in excuse of a tournament with honest-to-God wrestling matches, feuds intertwining, to start the show with something different. Imagine the Stardust vs. R-Truth match getting that hot initial crowd to start instead of one that had already been beaten down by the opening segment and the done-to-death distraction angle in the first quarterfinal match between Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett. It wasn't a great match, but it wasn't a bad one either, and both Truth and Dust could have used more energy from the crowd to get going a little faster, a little more energetic. I have no experience as a producer or an agent, but I do know what I like to see in a wrestling show, and seeing the same fucking formula week in and week out gets tiresome.

Maybe the joke's on me, because I still willingly tune into RAW each week, whether out of habit or blind devotion to watch as much wrestling as one can. Or maybe sifting through the chaff to get to things like the Sandow promo or the last two quarterfinal matches has become rewarding in its own right. However, what I do know is that doing the same thing over and over again desensitizes an audience in the best case, and a numb audience can't react to Roman Reigns' strength and coolness now, can it.