Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Russo Strikes Again: Entertainment As Character Attribute

New Day is entertaining, but that's not something that should be thrown in the script as denigration
Photo Credit: WWE.com
New Day generally is the best part of any given three-hour episode of RAW. Last night proved no exception as all three members of the group came out to engage in verbal repartee with John Cena before Xavier Woods answered the United States Championship Open Challenge. Cena fired back, however, with the ultimately bland and dismissive nuclear option for any "serious" dude against any kind of slightly comedic act. New Day should "stop being entertaining" and come to fight. Funny that the dude who tries to be funny with his "Cesaro has pepperoni nipples" or "Heath Slater is Wendy" material is gonna chide someone for being "entertaining." I guess he's just jealous.

Regardless of context, Cena brought up one of my least favorite post-Attitude Era story nodes, entertainment value as an in-story character attribute. It's such a metaphysical way of looking at wrestling, one that dissolves the fourth wall within the time when the fourth wall should probably remain somewhat intact. It's such a trite, boring-e-fedder tactic to tell someone they're not focused on the match when they're delivering all of their lines of dialogue to the person they're about to face, for one. Two, wrestling isn't a sport as much as it's sporting entertainment. I mean, Vince McMahon's preferred term for what he hawks has that word right in the term.

It's even worse when pointed in the other direction. I can't think of any reason why a sane human being thought that having Jerry Lawler and other announcers say repeatedly how David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty had no charisma would get them over as Tag Team Champions. But regardless of whether it's a good idea to open up the panel and use the wiring of a wrestler's brain and ability to "entertain" as a tangible story trope (and it's not), it's a function of Vince Russo's influence that created the Attitude Era and when taken too far nearly killed the allure of what professional wrestling could be.

Removing a good bit of the kayfabe wall and basing the narrative on worked shoot-style promos and stories rejuvenated a wrestling industry that was flagging under the weight of neon-colored spandex in the WWF or aging bloat in WCW, but Russo didn't know when to stop removing layers, and it led to a lot of "shoot" promos that were really superfluous and stories, especially in WCW, where announcers and wrestlers wondered aloud if people were actually following the script. Taking the parsing of a person's ability to be entertaining and using it as fodder within the narrative is another thing born in that era, and it hasn't quite died, unfortunately.

Sure, Russo may be a pariah to most companies in America and is pretty much consigned to making in character appearances that may or may not lead to him badly taking a RKO. But for as destructive as people within the biz claim he is and with how people talk about him with disdain, his influence has survived for far too long. People who are allegedly better than he is need to find out what parts of his philosophy worked, mainly the idea that the audience should believe what's being presented to them and that spots on the card should be reserved for more than just the big big main eventers, and root out the ones that don't.

Clearly, using someone's entertainment value or lack thereof is something that needs to be thrown in the garbage like an empty milk carton. If you can't build an issue out of something, it shouldn't be used as feud fodder, and a story between people over how entertaining they are isn't something that I think can be done right if one side is denigrating that ability vis-a-vis wrestling ability. Now if two parties feuded over who could make the audience react more loudly, one might be onto something, but that's a whole other issue for a whole other blog.