Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Happily Accidental Foundation of Professional Wrestling

A gilded Reigns may be the best path right now and it wouldn't have been needed without Rollins going out
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Seth Rollins' knee injury, suffered last week at a house show in Dublin, is unfortunate for several reasons. Of course, a man's health is paramount, and the fact that Rollins has to deal with shredded knee ligaments for half-to-three-quarters-of-a-year is the most awful thing to arise out of this. As the consequences trickle downstream, the one that affects the WWE's ever-changing and tenuous narrative the most has to do with the plans surrounding the now-former Champion. "Plans change" is the mantra of the dirtsheets, but regardless of what their reports have stated about Rollins' future, it's clear that he wasn't meant to drop the title right now. Whether he was really going to lose to Roman Reigns at Survivor Series or keep the belt into WrestleMania or even take the strap all the way past the 435 day mark to spite Philip Brooks, UFC Superstar, he still had time left on the clock.

Things in wrestling rarely ever go the way that the people in charge plan them to, however. The most feelgood moment of the last decade, Daniel Bryan triumphing at WrestleMania XXX, only happened because CM Punk got sick and tired of management jerking him around. Austin 3:16 was almost the coronation of the Connecticut Blue Blood, Hunter Hearst Helmsley; in essence Steve Austin benefited because Vince McMahon needed someone to punish for that kayfabe-breaking embrace at the Madison Square Garden house show (and it sure as fuck wasn't going to be Shawn Michaels). Hulkamania only happened because Verne Gagne didn't know what he had with the statuesque, bleached-blond mammoth he had on his roster and let him go to the then-WWF. Wrestling is built on plans-B and accidents forcing the hands of promoters and bookers. Rarely do things go to plan, and sometimes, even when they do, the results are lackluster, like when Hulk Hogan passed the torch to the Ultimate Warrior, who ultimately fumbled it and helped set the wrestling world on fire in a bad way.

Rollins' torn anterior cruciate ligament is certainly a crossroads, but the company is in a great position to extract the silver linings from out of those clouds. The talent level of wrestlers at or near the main event is insane, hands ready to grab the ball and run with it. Roman Reigns is in a far better spot than he was at this time last year (mainly because right now, his guts are held in place where they're supposed to be). Dean Ambrose just needs a reason to be relevant, and he can and will light the world on fire (in a good way). Kevin Owens going to the main event might be premature from a story standpoint, but that guy can totally take on anything that the writers and McMahon throw at him. Alberto del Rio... well, outside of the ring, he's phoning it in right now, but if I were given that material and being paid that much money, I might sleepwalk until I got to the ring too. In addition to the players being in place, the circumstances are nearly limitless. Even the most likely scenario of Reigns turning his back on the fans he's earned to replace Rollins in The Authority seems juicy, and as long as he's not called upon to talk for 20 minutes at show open like his assumed predecessor did, he'd be an improvement.

The dirty secret is that with Rollins on top, WWE has been slogging along. To pin it all on the now-injured wrestler is admittedly disingenuous, because Rollins clearly isn't writing the stories, and he's probably not able to ad-lib his own material. He's also gotten a lot of credit for playing the role of boss heel so well, but how well has he really been doing? Do his slogging, nasal, rambling promos really inspire heat, or are they sleep aids? His matches have gotten high marks from a smattering of critics, but objectively, he still wrestles like a babyface pandering for pops with big dives. His turn and title reign seemed artificial, like Triple H's initial run in 2000. Granted, I am not happy in the least that Rollins had to tear his ACL in order for his run to end. Rooting for injuries in most cases1 is really fucking gross.

At the same time, a change in paradigm could do WWE good right now, whether or not that change had to come about because of a horrific injury or not. The company has the raw roster to make the change happen. It has the circumstances. When Rollins gets back, he'll be better off as well, settling into the babyface role he was born to play. WWE could (key word, could) use this as a leaping point, one that it never knew it could have had because of the grotesque circumstances from which it sprung forth. But it would definitely fit in with the lineage of some of the biggest developments in the history of the industry. Wrestling sometimes needs accidents to happen and for plans to change abruptly in order to move towards the best possible endpoints.

1 - I would make the exception for human pile of waste Greg Hardy or others of his ilk.