Tuesday, August 9, 2016

RAW Is... Cognitive Dissonance

Last night was the first time I felt ashamed being a fan of these two
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady have been pretty much bulletproof since debuting their act in NXT. Amore has the gift of gab unseen in wrestling since The Rock, and Big Cass has been the perfect complement to him with his stock catchphrases and more importantly, his physical presence. They've delved into areas of discomfort before, as most hyper-masculine shit-talkers are wont to do, but they've never really crossed into territories that would make me wary of calling them faves, albeit problematic ones.

But then last night on RAW, Amore and Cass crossed a line that sadly felt inevitable when they went full homophobe on Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. First Amore stated that Jericho broke "guy code" by wearing his scarf, which in fairness isn't really much worse than some of the stuff he's said in the past. But then he and Cass went in implying that Owens and Jericho were like Bert and Ernie sharing the same bathtub in a homosexual manner. That line is was way too much.

I was hoping that with the "New Era" in WWE that toxic masculinity would be toned down if not eliminated. NXT, by comparison, has a lot less of the questionable promo tactics going on, although I fear that might be a function of having less time to work with weekly than a change in philosophy from the showrunners. But even assuming that it was because the writing was better, I had hoped it would transfer to RAW's writing with less material focused on aping Rock and John Cena and more on trying to build heat on issues that relied less on cheap heat and baiting tactics.

The worst part is that it can't even be played off as heeling for which a receipt was owed. Amore and Cass undeniably are babyfaces on WWE booking sheets, and the fans respond in kind with mega pops every time they enter the arena. Their shirts fly off shelves. Fans bring signs and sing along with the catchphrases. They, as much as Dean Ambrose, Cena, Finn Bálor, and Sami Zayn are at the vanguard of the new WWE in terms of fan favorites. So why have them alienate not only queer fans (believe me, if bashing gay/lesbian people is okay, imagine what a trans, genderqueer, sexually fluid, or otherwise different fan is thinking since they don't have even the footing in society that gay/lesbian people have clawed out which is meager to be honest) but fellow coworkers?

Seriously, not two segments after Amore and Cass left the arena, Darren Young made his entrance with Bob Backlund to continue his feud against Titus O'Neil. While Young's character doesn't have public sexuality attached to it, Fred Rosser sure as shit is an out and proud gay man. I don't know what his feelings are about the subject because I don't know him. He may publicly play it off as carny bullshit because he's been in the business for long enough to know how things run. But he also may not, and several other gay WWE employees who haven't come out yet may end up being intimidated by it. They may never come out because the work environment is now hostile towards them. WWE doesn't seem like a great place to work for anyone of any sexual orientation because of how petty management seems to operate, but that doesn't make open homophobia as crowd-baiting strategy is cool either.

I've written about this at length before, and I feel like bashing my head against the keyboard every time I feel the need to write about it again. But WWE's anti-hate and anti-bullying campaigns ring almost as hollow as the transparently fake air of competition and brand loyalty is presents as story with any time it's serious about treating RAW and Smackdown as separate entities. Out of one side of its mouth, Stephanie McMahon will talk about how hate is bad and how WWE is a shining star of tolerance, but then the writers write stories and the wrestlers cut promos that fly in the face of said tolerance. It's almost like McMahon and the rest of the company are only participating in these anti-hate measures because philanthropy is how brands win nowadays. Hmm...

If WWE had any spine, Amore and Cass would get a seat on the bench after SummerSlam and think about what they've done if those lines were ad libbed. If scripted, any writers involved in feeding those lines to them would be punished. But WWE has no teeth when it comes to social issues, and any writer who presents a script to Vince McMahon or the other bigwigs are emboldened to write trash because that's what those final arbiters are approving every week since the dawn of the writer's room itself. The rest of the show wasn't even good enough to make up for the gross lack of decorum to start; it seems every show that sets up a live Steve Austin Podcast falls flatter than Kansan terrain. But even if yesterday's show was a tenth as good as last week's, let alone two weeks ago, shit like what Amore and Cass said would have been unacceptable. WWE needs to do better, but I fear continuing to point it out is shouting into the abyss at this point.