Sunday, December 18, 2016

Instant Feedback: Roadblock: Time Is a Flat Circle

This excellent match was wasted on lazy booking
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If WWE were a band, then several bad booking tropes would end up as songs on its greatest hits album. Roadblock: End of the Line would have featured a good number of them, including "garbage misogynists presented as the good guys," "historic title reign ending mere days after breaking the record with hollow pomp," "making an angle between wrestlers all about an authority figure who can't bump," "feud between two wrestlers is in constant feedback loop," "bad blooded history ignored for a convenient pop," "supposed babyface wrestlers attack supposed heels after a match for flimsy reason," and my personal favorite, "ending a pay-per-view event as if it were an episode of Monday Night RAW." All it needed was "twin magic," "distraction roll-up finish," "LOL top guy wins hilariously," and "heel bails on a match" and the playlist would've been complete. WWE's insistence on treating its crowd like goldfish does its wrestlers a huge disservice, since the wrestling action itself ascended to sublime quality at points.

More specifically, the terrible decisions at the ends of these matches obscured monumental feats. Cesaro and Sheamus running the false tag finish in the proper show opening match felt electric and unique on its own, but when one thinks about how their story played out since the stillborn end of their Best of Seven Series, it was the perfect denouement to their climactic bar brawl scene where they first realized that they were meant to be glorious lovers pursue this tag team thing even past their mandatory title shot. It showed how much they were in sync as teammates more than any expository backstage segment ever could. The sin of dropping the titles from New Day so soon after they broke Demolition's record, in the face of no context, was venial, and thus the blinding fluorescent brilliance of the finish to that match might carry over better than others.

But the fact that other notes were lost to the overwhelming inertia towards tired decision making in the writers' room or more pointedly in Vince McMahon's office plays into the recurring theme that WWE brass think they are the stars and thus shut its stars out in the pouring rain for their efforts. Sami Zayn's Herculean feat of going the distance with Braun Strowman is blunted by the insistence of Jinny Couture's Bizzaro-World Counterpart, Mick Foley as the main actor in the narrative. Very real commentary on using sex as a weapon is decimated when the supposed good guys, Enzo Amore and Big Cass, begin the story by very really sexually harassing a married woman. The beauty of the overtime period, with Sasha Banks' face bloodied in war against her mortal rival, feels more like horrific déjà vu because it was the third verse, same as the first.

But the ending of the show will look the most egregious because it's the main event. People tend to remember main events and endings more clearly because those are the last things people tend to see, and once again, WWE treated the closing moments of something it expects people to pay extra money for the same as it ends its two flagship shows. In the pre-Network era, this practice was far more egregious because of price point, but even with the $40 (actually more since a Network subscriber gets WAY more for the $9.99 price point than the PPV but I digress) discount, ending a main event match, especially one where Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens put in work the way that it might have ended on television is still inexcusable.

Expecting WWE to change its spots as long as Vince McMahon is still alive is a foolish endeavor, and as long as the wrestling is good, these special events will remain decent viewing, if not required. Smackdown to a lesser extent and NXT to a greater one still have the kind of return on investment that one might expect, but for the amount of time required to put into RAW on a monthly basis before each of these shows, one shouldn't have to put up with more recursive storytelling when some kind of satisfactory payoff is expected somewhere on the card. At this point, however, wanting something different on RAW is shouting into the Abyss.