Monday, August 17, 2015

Instant Feedback: Cosmic Death

They got weird, and it was fabulous
Photo Credit:
Wrestling is one of the most diverse live arts one can conjure. The spectrum spans from pure sports build to total fantastical Japanese monster film, and all of it can exist within one company without batting an eyelash. Absurdity fits pro graps like a pair of fishnet stockings cling to the supple legs of Dr. Frankenfurter. But when the theater of the bizarre flops, it can cause the most eye-rolling of embarrassments that don't involve racial or sexist backwardsism. It has to be done right, carefully, with the right performers, or else it falls flat.

That caveat can be said of any other type of wrestling implementation, but not to the degree of extreme reality-bending character work. A bad "sports" wrestling match puts people to sleep, sure, but it also has the benefit of the doubt. The next match might have better wrestlers, and it isn't embarrassing to show friends. Bad straight-up promos end up as WrestleCrap fodder for future enjoyment. Wrestling melodrama isn't nearly as bad as the Twilight saga if only because of the ostentatious, bigger-than-life characters providing something to laugh at. But absurdity can cause bewildered looks, and a lack of understanding, which leads to fear, which leads to hate, which leads to the Dark Side of the Force... sorry, I'm really, really fucking stoked for Episode VII.

RAW tonight had examples of out-there characters holding court on both ends of the quality spectrum. On the low end, Undertaker came out in purple lighting, going through the motions, talking about demons 'n shit like he was a low-grade 1998 Undertaker cosplayer trying to pop a low-rent indie in Dubuque. He looked old and tired, which may not be too far off from the truth of the real Mark Callaway. If someone out of the narrative looked at Taker meekly calling out to Brock Lesnar, what would that person say?

But what if that person saw Stardust and Wade Barrett hold court while hyping up their match with Stephen Amell and Neville? The excellent video recap package with the comic book-stylized fonts and graphics set up a segment where two men with the minds of supervillains cackling madly at the terror they were going to reign down on the heroes, and both men fucking delivered. Stardust emoted with all the cocaine-fueled madness of the best possible Riddler fused with Randy Savage, and Barrett, as Brandon Stroud aptly described on Twitter, came off as the best possible Batman '66 villain with a royal motif. Honestly, wouldn't he be just rad bouncing off Adam West and Burt Ward?

But the crowning moment, the crescendo, put the capstone on the magnificently-appointed villainous lair of non-Euclidean geometry. Stardust placed the spiked cowl upon Barrett's shoulders, and the King of the Ring crowned himself a Cosmic King. The delivery was pitch perfect. The faces came right out of a comic book, and the payoff could have been filmed for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. If you're going to take the weird road, you don't even think of switching the GPS on your phone to the one mostly traveled. You keep going until you hit that sweet spot.

Once upon a time, Undertaker was able to hit that sweet spot. Now, he seems disinterested, and it ultimately hurt the build for his match, one that he, Brock Lesnar and, I guess, Paul Heyman saved at the end of the show. But when you can build a match beyond the novelty of having Stephen Amell wrestling in it with the eerie gusto that Barrett and Stardust did, well, you've just created wrestling art at its finest. That is an accomplishment worth crowning yourself over.