DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO
Critics, including Eric Bischoff, have disparaged WWE TV for being too robotic; for example, every interview segment is shot in similar fashion, with the camera zooming in at precisely the key moment every time. The result is a paint-by-numbers, cookie-cutter feel.
Guilty as charged. But it doesn’t stop there. WWE TV is extremely overscripted. So is TNA.
Performers can’t ad-lib during promos, thereby keeping them from exacerbating crowd heat if it builds early, or laying back if it doesn’t seem to be coming soon enough. Performers can’t read the crowd during a match and react accordingly. They have to get from Point A to Point B as laid out.
Robotic is a good word. It takes the show out of the hands of the performers – the draws – and gives it to the scriptwriters. Stephanie McMahon and Brian Gewirtz steer the ship, not John Cena and Batista.
Some performers do have X amount of freedom. Chris Jericho re-scripts his promos, which is why they stand out. Triple H obviously has carte blanche, and no one is going to tell Undertaker or Shawn Michaels what to do. Just about everyone else is subject to the post-improvisational backstage hissy fit and subsequent de-emphasis.
That’s why most WWE promos are in the same voice. Listen close, and you can hear a lot of the same words and phraseology crop up. It’s so subtle it’s subliminal, which is potentially more damaging/boring. It’s like hearing one long interview by the same person. It’s best to give wrestlers key issues a promo should cover, then let him come up with something in his own voice. Imagine if Ric Flair hadn’t been allowed to sound like Ric Flair.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Just listen to Flair’s WWE mic work. WWE mostly scripted Flair’s interviews word-for-word. WWE didn’t trust the greatest stick man of all time. Oh, they included all his catchphrases and watchwords. But listen, really LISTEN, to Flair’s WWE promos. Said catchphrases and watchwords often sound forced and out-of-context. The promos were scripted, and poorly so.
It’s petty, it’s controlling and it’s counterproductive. Which is to say: It’s typical WWE.
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