Monday, July 6, 2015

Instant Feedback: Talent

A collection of terrible people, judged by how good they are, could be the future
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WWE likes to say that it tells stories. It's a fair assessment; WWE does tell stories in the same way that your uncle who had a little too much regret in his life and a little too much to drink at Thanksgiving does. But a story needs characters just as much as it needs a narrative structure. What kinds of characters does WWE employ? Well, the protagonists, antagonists, and background characters all tend to be shitty people. Terrible, awful, shitty human beings interact with each other all show long. Nobility is a lost art, as if WWE only embraces the dirt worst people who populate the crowds, y'know, the ones who chant "PUPPIES!" or eat up The Rock's homophobia and misogyny.

Case in point, the Dolph Ziggler/Rusev/Summer Rae/Lana love rectangle has been going on for the better part of two months. Rusev kicked Lana to the curb because he inexplicably turned from noble foreigner who just happened to fight for the wrong world leader and ho worshiped the ground she walked upon into a macho, misogynist freakshow. He basically morphed into the Men's Rights Activist forum at Reddit overnight. Ziggler swooped in for an easy rebound with all the tact of Glenn Quagmire, preying on a woman who was just crushed and forcing her into a highly public awkward romance for no other reason but that he's a giant attention monger. Summer Rae is far too eager to participate in Rusev's reindeer games against Lana. Meanwhile, the only decent character in the whole thing, Lana, is the feeblest and the one seemingly with the least agency.

So, when the principles in the story, and make no mistake about it, in classic main roster style, the women are just add-ons, are terrible, awful people, to whom should fans gravitate? The tendency to root for the people better at their jobs. It's why heels get cheered so much in WWE. Fans aren't contrarians, and god bless 'em, they're not mugging for cheers or trying to sell merch. Well, part of that could be the reason. Indie wrestling has changed a lot of things, the most prominent of which has been the erosion of the true heel for the sake of scraping by on selling t-shirts.

But true heeldom in WWE hasn't been eroded away inasmuch as it's been ingrained into everyone's DNA. One could argue the true babyface never existed in WWE, although that gives way too much credence to the argument that Hulk Hogan was always a terrible human being. Flawed, yes, but Hogan was never an out-and-out scoundrel until at least WrestleMania IX. But I'm getting off-task here. The truth is, ignoring crowd reactions, both Ziggler and Rusev are bastards. But they're both good at their jobs as well, so they both draw support.

Talent is the great equalizer. Talent is the thing that should be celebrated. In a way, wrestling is the thing that should continue to hold the good vs. evil ethos that real sports media has adopted in a big way to deny guys like Alex Rodriguez to hold up the gritty slap hitter from St. Louis of the month. But then again, wrestling has been the same for a century. Changing the DNA could revitalize it. Imagine people getting behind someone who's good at his or her job rather than by some moral code? Imagine a guy like Cesaro, who busted his fucking ass to get over with the office (he's been over with crowds forever and a day now), getting pushed not because people like who he is, but what he does? It's a brave new world.

Maybe it's one that WWE should explore.