It’s been a while since I wrote anything about pro-wrestling. I just haven’t felt compelled to spew out thoughts on the meta-textual, physical performance art that airs weekly on network television. I either say that or “hot people pretending to fight” — You know, I really haven’t settled on a way of describing it yet.
Last night on RAW, the entire McMahon family came out and addressed the WWE fans. They tend to do this once every few years when TV ratings have hit a low, and they need a way of rebooting themselves.
Even though the McMahon’s are still in character, as the real owners of the company they like to come out and tell us that they “haven’t been listening to fans, but we are now” or “you’ve had your intelligence insulted.”
Don’t tell me whose intelligence is being insulted! I watch a show every week without fail that I only enjoy maybe 25% of the time — I know exactly where my intelligence stands, thank you very much…
These announcements are sort-of storyline breaking, but then quickly settle back into the show by transferring all of the potential heat (negative backlash) to one of the on-screen villainous wrestlers.
It’s like when the director of a school play runs out onto stage to deliver lines for the kid who is puking in the dressing room. Everyone stops to look at the teacher, confused as all hell. But as soon as the lines are spoken the teacher looks to one of the other on-stage students and claps enthusiastically, as they slowly back off to the side of stage.
Everyone is pulled out of the story for five minutes, but then we’re back in it with the same old same old.
And that’s the problem with pro-wrestling, especially WWE — You can only rebrand it so much.
Sure, you can add some new faces and change a few rules — But ultimately it’s still larger than life personalities fighting each other in choreographed performances.
It’s like when your friend says they’re “rebranding” and they show up for coffee the next day in a new hat. But they’re still complaining about the exact same things and still said that one word that you’re fairly certain is an offensive slur, but you don’t want to be caught googling it in public.
But hey, at least they have a new hat.
They opened the show by punishing and humiliating the former on-screen authority figure. The irony of the McMahon’s punishing a guy who is essentially an actor for all of the creative decisions they’ve actually made over the last three months is laughable.
But still, I’m going crazy because Kurt Angle is there, and Heath Slater is getting some justice too. Ah, wrestling.
The commentators then tell us we’ll be seeing a lot of new faces around on Raw and Smackdown in the coming weeks, and the wife and I immediately start fantasy-promoting people from the NXT (development) roster.
Instead, we get video packages for the floundering NXT mid-carders who haven’t really found a place on the “college league” brand, and also Nikki Cross.
I’m being harsh, EC3 and Lars Sullivan are two guys whom I’ve always said are better suited to the bright lights of the main roster. Lacy Evans and Heavy Machinery however, are talents who could never really find a place in NXT, but who also still have a lot to learn.
Who knows though, because I felt the same way about Liv Morgan and Elias and they’ve both proven me to be the incorrect fan I am.
During a discussion with the former tag-team champions, Shane McMahon established a new and interesting rule. Or rather, he abolished a long-standing one — There will no longer be mandatory rematches for championships.
This is interesting, and definitely the most positive take from the soft rebrand of Raw. For years we’ve had to watch boring, zero-heat feuds go on for longer than they need to due to the “rematch clause” rule.
I’m assuming that if a feud is hot, then we’ll still get some kind of rematch. For example, we all want to see Asuka vs Becky Lynch at some point soon, but we don’t want to see Seth vs Dean agai… oh this no-heat feud for a title is still happening? Okay. Business as usual then.
However despite all of this, the episode did fill the final hour with an eight-woman gauntlet match to crown the number one contender for Ronda Rousey’s championship.
It had some slow spots, sure, but ultimately it was a well-paced match that managed to get most of the competitors over. Natalya was booked like 2009 John Cena and people (including me) went crazy for it.
The only thing this new show was missing was some storyline hook — Some twist in the ongoing narrative that would get people to tune in next week.
I thought for sure it was going to be a Ronda Rousey heel-turn at the end of the night, as she hugged and celebrated with her friend and future opponent. Alas, it did not happen, and it left me feeling that same sense of disappointment I’ve felt for the last three months of Raw.
If Vince McMahon really wanted to shake things up, he would’ve retired on-screen as the chairman, and handed the reigns over to his daughter and son-in-law. Even if he didn’t do it in real life for a few more years, just that on-screen change would’ve given the fans a transitional period, before Triple H takes over for good.
I’ll keep watching, because it’s me, but Smackdown and NXT remain the two brands I would show to first-time viewers. Raw is at best a distraction (last night) and at worst a chore (the last three months), and that’s not something I should be able to say about a brand’s flagship TV show.
Today is Tuesday, December 18th and I can’t believe it’s a week until Christmas. Fill me with cookies and wrap me in bacon.
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