Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roman Reigns the Latest to Chime in on WWE's Proxy War Against the Indies

Reigns spoke out against unoriginality, but his bosses are worse
Photo Credit: WWE.com
WWE has no competition, and it would like to keep it that way. Whether it be signing up anyone who has star potential for a fledgling, partnering with successful or dormant promotion, partnering with successful or influential promotions here or abroad, or serving cease and desist letters to wrestlers even thinking about using anything remotely resembling intellectual property, the company has a stranglehold on the wrestling world. Any good monopoly doesn't just attack from the front office; the foot soldiers get their jabs in too.

To wit, Roman Reigns was the latest WWE wrestler to lash out at indie/New Japan/Ring of Honor talent for swiping IP. Taking a not-so-veiled shot at the Bullet Club, he said this on a WWE conference call:
We don't need guys running around doing 'Too Sweets,' and we don't need guys acting like they are DX from, you know, 15 years ago. We need original characters.
His words contain a kernel of truth. The Bullet Club definitely takes its Kliq/New World Order/Degeneration-X cosplay a bit too far sometimes. Dragging wrestling out of the past includes creating your own identity and defending it, so even if WWE is such a megalith that going after even the next biggest competitor feels like punching down with nuclear force, I get why its so vigilant. I don't agree with it, but I get it.

The problem here isn't with Reigns defending the company line, but the fact that the company line attacks lack of originality when Vince McMahon has been fucking the Attitude Era chicken for what, 20 years now? It's not just trying to recreate "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, or Mr. McMahon every chance the company can get. It's using stale archetypes across the board. It's presenting an "athletic" Black man as nothing more than a combine report and physical potential. It's confining wrestlers of color to tag teams and sideshow acts, and mercilessly breaking up stables and tag teams in other applications. It's having one archetype for heels on the main roster. It's pilfering over moves from people outside the company and giving them to its workers on a secret mandate. WWE may not be encroaching IP on an actionable legal level, but to defend it as an original enterprise is laughable.

People are going to get mad at Reigns, and rightly so, but anytime he or John Cena or a company man speaks out on this kind of thing, they're doing so as an extension of their bosses. Maybe they can exercise some autonomy, or maybe they do believe what they're saying. I don't know. But them speaking out isn't nearly as damaging as the machine enforcing it behind them. This whole situation kinda stinks on all sides, and yeah, one might think that the Young Bucks especially would be creative enough to come up with their own shtick. At the same time, who knows if it's originality or class warfare at stake. Notice that WWE had no problem with the Bullet Club when it had the chance to sign guys like AJ Styles, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson. The Bucks, however, keep rebuking contract offers. How does anyone know this whole crusade isn't some petty war for not being able to control all the profitable acts in the world?

WWE wants you to think that the Bucks or the Bullet Club are thieves, and in a way, they are. However, WWE wallows in its own rote mindset unless it has need to for business purposes. Anyone who tells you Vince McMahon is a genius can only point to years of doldrums that the company has experienced creatively when it wasn't at the height of Hulkamania or Attitude. Anyone who tells you he's a master businessman is only going on past achievements. In character, he's so quick to tell you that people who go to courts to get what they want instead of fighting for it are weak, and yet, instead of creating a company that folks like the Young Bucks want to go to and not rebel against, he's using the courts to shut their satire down. I understand getting annoyed at the Bullet Club, but the alternative is defending a megalithic entity that sucks the landscape dry and leaves scorched earth for anything other than its own approved branding. I know whose side I'll take every time.