Friday, November 17, 2017

Stephanie McMahon and the Point of a Heel Promo

McMahon should probably not talk on RAW anymore until she's ready to bump
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Wrestling is storytelling; I'm pretty sure even the most intensely antagonistic groups towards each other in this culture war can agree on that. In any story, every beat, every plot point, everything a character says has to have a point, a purpose, or else it can and should be edited out. Whether it be foreshadowing, catalyst for action, comic relief, exposition, or some other reason that can be justifiably defended, each element has to serve some kind of end. So it's not only fair to ask why certain people do certain things during a three hour telecast of Monday Night RAW, it's pretty much essential. In that effect, what is the point of Stephanie McMahon coming out and degrading various people on the RAW roster whenever she appears?

The knee-jerk answer is that "she's a heel, duh," which, I get it to an extent. McMahon gets heat, so of course, that might seem like justification enough for her to keep doing what she's doing. However, one could and should dig deeper and ask what the point of a heel promo actually is. Wrestling is base storytelling in that one should not expect some actions and mostly all reactions to be anything but physical. The disclaimers before each show, at least in a far off time when the main mode of consumption was syndication on the weekends, say not to try this at home, which ostensibly refer to not actually doing wrestling moves. However, a deeper read can prescribe a fuller warning by saying "Our wrestlers solve problems by hitting people; don't do the same in real life." Socking a guy in the face for insulting your mother won't hold up in court, but if you're, say, Magnum TA and the other guy is Tully Blanchard, and the setting is somewhere within an hour or two of 6:05 PM on Saturday on the Superstation, then it's not only legal, but it's encouraged.

So then, if even microaggressions are justification in this universe for getting a boot up your ass and a palm upside your head, then it should follow that the kinds of things McMahon says to her subordinates deserve forceful retribution, right? She's owed several beatings, and yet the only reprisals she's taken in the last five years have been being tossed into mud by Vickie Guerrero and being accidentally knocked into a table by Triple H two straight WrestleMania events. The former was shrugged off as soon as RAW aired the next week and Guerrero was no longer a rostered WWE employee, and the latter wasn't so much reprisal as it was deus ex machina for Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins to win their matches. She's deserved so much more comeuppance from people like Mick Foley, her brother Shane, various members of The Shield, and most recently, Kurt Angle, among others.

Yet, she hasn't taken a meaningful, on-purpose bump meant to put someone else over since the Guerrero mudbath (remember, she went over Brie Bella the last time she wrestled). Of course, the reason for this is WWE's policy on women bumping for men is, well, non-existent in that women do not bump for men at all. WWE has recently loosened restrictions on men bumping for women, but notice that Bayley and Nikki Cross are always giving out moves, not taking them, and the James Ellsworth stuff is the exception that's different because he's not seen as a "man" so to speak. But Bayley and Cross aren't symptoms of a problem because they're not on screen 100 percent of the time making active performers feel small. McMahon, however, pretty much isn't on screen unless she's berating someone.

The problem goes deeper than the gender politics of WWE's sponsorship deals. McMahon has also spent a lot of time berating RAW women. Sasha Banks, in particular, has felt the wrath of McMahon's verbal vitriol. She owes McMahon a boot up the ass something fierce, and when has she even come close to delivering it? Any payment on the bill of goods is going to be either way overdue or it'll be even after McMahon piles more shit upon the back of the Boss. Basically, she's owed a ton of comeuppance, and she hasn't received it with any of the regularity that even her brother and husband have. Doesn't that make her entire existence in a wrestling sphere pointless?

No crime is greater in wrestling than being pointless, and yet WWE commits it all the time. Sure, McMahon gets heat, or LaVar Ball got people talking on Twitter, or Flo Rida punching out Heath Slater was... something I guess, but it just sends people who are there all the time out for a cheap thrill at the hands of someone who might show up again in a year. McMahon is so egregious because she has taken bumps before, and yet she won't even deign herself to put over Banks. She never gave Bella a receipt for her SummerSlam win all those years ago. What the fuck is she even doing if just to enhance a personal brand, which isn't even that good? I mean, she wants to be the avatar of a workplace no one wants to be at because capital has unrealistic demands and labor has no means of recourse whatsoever but to grin and bear it? Does she fucking realize that most people who watch her company's programming do so to get away from that?

WWE hit it big on Steve Austin terrorizing Vince McMahon because it was vicarious catharsis for its viewers' frustrations at their places of work. With no one terrorizing Stephanie McMahon, she becomes just another reminder that life sucks and then you die. Who the fuck wants to watch that? All the heat she garners is a mix of frustration and misogyny, because you know a portion of the crowd booing her is doing so with evil in their hearts about what they want to happen to her but that never can, and it is destructive, as most pointless things in wrestling are.

If a heel cannot or will not allow themselves to get punched in the face for their words, deeds, and intentions, then that heel is worthless and should not be part of the narrative. McMahon's presence on the show actively hurts it, and it stands out especially among WWE's myriad problems right now, which says something. If McMahon wants to get her jollies in the ring yelling at people, then she should stick to people that her oh so precious sponsors will let her bump for and actually put her fascist-supporting money where her big stupid mouth is. Otherwise, get all the way the fuck outta here.