Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Guy Can Be Funny Sometimes

Photo Credit: WWE.com
Jim Cornette is a yutz. I can't stress this enough. However, he was a manager during the Jim Crockett Promotions days and booked Smoky Mountain Wrestling, so people pay attention to him when he says the Lucha Underground Temple should be nuked with every worker and fan inside or when he threatens someone for daring to sell for a child. The line "funny don't equal money" is a popular mantra in that comedy acts don't draw. Laughs are for breaks in the action, but the real drama comes with super serious, personal issue-driven feuds, and if you're a top guy, you can't partake in comedic endeavors lest you be labeled a geek.

Of course, "funny don't equal money" is patently false. It's not to say comedies outpace action movies or prestige dramas in terms of overall drawing power, but who said that those genres don't mix? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a virtual mint, and every single movie has jokes in it. Thor: Ragnarok wasn't a comedy, but it had enough jokes that it could've been one. It made nearly five times its budget back. Sure, not every successful action movie has jokes, and not every prestige drama has comic relief. But laughs aren't a preclusion to doing either one, and in fact laughs might be necessary at times.

Wrestling is more akin to scripted drama than it is sports, although it's like both enough that it's its own beast. That being said, similar rules apply to wrestling that do to movies and television. Not only is comedy valid, but it's necessary for the flow of an entire show, especially if you're talking about WWE's 400-hour or so yearly slog. That comedy could be injected in one of two ways, through dedicated comedic characters or through moments of comic relief. Last night on RAW was a brilliant example of the latter.

Braun Strowman coming out to answer Elias for his misdeeds on last week's show with a ridiculously oversized standup bass and setting it up as a prop for a vicious yet whimsical beatdown at the end of the segment was totally in line with the integrity of his character. It was also hilarious. The two were not mutually exclusive. People, by and large, probably won't think any less of Strowman in the coming weeks when he reverts back to something more primal.

So, what are the positives for Strowman basically reenacting an old Looney Tunes cartoon with Elias? He becomes more relateable, more human. Should a monster wrestler have such a point of empathy with the common fan when he's larger than life? Well, if you want him to be cheered, you do. Said empathy will not make his feats of strength less impressive. No single character is monolithic enough, nor is any single fan obtuse enough that they view wrestlers in such a way. All people contain multitudes, but the more multitudes that a wrestler has that connect with an audience, then the better they'll resonate with them.

Strowman started out as a mindless machine of destruction, and he took to audiences in a big way. Because of that, his role within the company would grow, and with that growth, he would have to evolve. Adding in a human element, a funny element, is key to that evolution, which is why segments like last night's upright bass assault worked. It's why the phrase "funny don't equal money" is utter, utter bullshit, and why people like Jim Cornette don't deserve the constant place in pro wrestling discourse and influence that they seem to have.

If wrestling is a variety show and its goal is to put smiles on faces, then laughs are a crucial element to the programming, especially if it's a WWE narrative that puts out so much content in a given week, let alone year. Grimdark bullshit without any levity exerts so much pressure on an audience that it can be too much. Whether it's a dedicated wrestler for comedy like Santino Marella or someone else, you need to keep it light at times, especially if it's a wrestler who is a candidate to be considered "The Guy" like Strowman or even Roman Reigns.