Well, there’s a lot to talk about in the world of wrestling these days, a lot of current events and trends that I haven’t covered because, well, I don’t do a current events column, I leave that to other, less talented guys. It’s a joke. Don’t send me hate mail… Wait, I don’t get much feedback, so hate mail might actually be welcome. If you don’t hate me now though, wait until I tell you about all the sex I had with your mother!
This week(ish), we’re going to talk about realism in wrestling, although to be fair, if you don’t e-mail me, we’re not really going to talk, I’m going to talk, and you’re going to read. That, or scroll down looking for porn, in which case you’ll be disappointed, because you clicked on the wrong link.
Specifically, I want to talk about the contests that have been running on Raw and Smackdown recently, and the attempts of the WWE to tap into the “Fan-Interactive” reality TV market.
There’s one really, really big problem with this.
Wrestling is (pause for dramatic effect)
That’s right! I’ve blown the lid off the business, twenty plus years after Linda McMahon did it in court… Granted, I’m late, and it’s not such a bad move, but this is something that the WWE management seem to have completely forgotten, at least when it comes to these contest segments.
The first quarter of Raw and Smackdown is routinely one of the highest rated portions of the show, because its the point that all the casual fans tune in to see if there’s anything worth watching on the show. This is why the card is reviewed about three or four times in the first half hour, that’s smart business.
On the other hand, putting the Diva search as the Raw opening segment so many times was, well, not good business, or smart business, or even business at all, since I don’t think they made any money on it.
Give me a second to deviate:
One of my favorite parts of Raw right now is “The Simon System” promos from one of the new ‘sponsors’ of Raw. Now, we all know that this guy is a wrestler. How do we know? Well, some of us recognize him from ECW and OVW, others saw him put on a chicken wing, and most should notice that he comes down to the ring with his wrists taped. Plus, you can’t actually buy the Simon System anywhere, if you really need more evidence.
But, and this is a big but, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself in it. The little things, like his jumpsuit, the display set-up, the Intros and apology this week from JR, and even the wireless headset microphone “Simon” wears while hocking his product, it all creates what is called an “illusion.”
This means that while looking at it, on one level, we know it’s fake, but it’s on the same level that we know CSI is fake. Yeah, it’s not a true story, but it’s easy to subscribe to it, to believe it. In other words, it’s a great gimmick, and it’s building up to a hell of a debut, I think.
And for those of you who don’t realize it, and I hope it’s a rather marginal percentage, the people Simon insults every week are plants, because that’s the only way to avoid a lawsuit.
This is great booking, because much like the Billy Kidman/Paul London storyline on Smackdown, this is original, entertaining, and something you can lose yourself in.
Now, let’s take a look at the exact opposite effect that the Diva Contest had. Vince is clearly and rather obviously trying to tap into the red hot “reality tv” market, but he’s doing so in the middle of an industry forever painted with the stigma of being fake… Despite the fact that it’s the same as any other fictional show on television, professional wrestling is never going to get out from under that, because they went for so long purposefully fooling people, and there’s going to be a certain amount of societal resentment for that. We as a society resent being fooled, and that’s not going away. So even the reality tv Vince presents is going to have a lot of people looking at it and saying “I think it’s rigged.” And you know what, in part, I think it was, because Carmella was immediately “made” to be a heel, and singled out as such, and the audience reacted, they boo’d her, and yet somehow she made it to the finals. So in that respect, I do think the contest was rigged.
But I don’t care, because the girls were obviously not prepared for the vignettes, and that did something that no “real” fan of wrestling could appreciate, respect or enjoy.
It made pro-wrestling look silly.
Let me paint a better example. Randy Orton, still a heel, comes down to the ring, and starts going into his heel speech, starts acting intimidating, starts working his character… And he does it fairly well.
And the potential divas in the ring… They laugh. The giggle, the snicker, they whisper to each other in the background while Randy Orton struggles to get over with the crowd. I could plainly see that the front rows, the ones who could see the Divas and in turn could be seen by the home audience, they just weren’t buying it. The wannabe-divas ruined the illusion, they made it very, very clear that everything that was going on in the ring was an act.
And we know that, consciously.
But the presentation, the reaction, the announcers, the whole product is geared towards allowing us to enjoy a ‘suspension of disbelief.’ Bluntly; We want to believe, we know it’s fake before and after we watch it, but during the show, we pretend it’s real and lose ourselves in the characters.
It’s not in any way different than watching Friends or Will & Grace or an action movie, one that you know could clearly never happen, but while you’re watching, you’re supposed to believe in it.
Only putting these giggling idiots onstage was like seeing the edge of the set in Star Trek, the microphone during Seinfeld, or the wires sticking out of the back of Dan Rather’s head on CBS.
It really made the whole thing look stupid, it took away the illusion… And worse, it made the fans sitting at home, the fans who already have the stigma of being ignorant purely because they are fans, feel silly for watching… What we were watching was, for this period of time, very clearly fake, very clearly a complete put on. These people weren’t larger than life, they were standing in the ring getting laughed at by girls, and by extension, we the fans, were also getting laughed at by a bunch of bubble headed women.
I found it alienating.
It’s very rare that I feel stupid to any great degree. I can feel (and quite often do) that I made a stupid decision; I feel that way just about every time I play Halo 2 online, but this wasn’t a momentary thing.
I actually sat back and thought to myself “Why do I watch this crap?”
To spell this out for you, I am such a fan of professional wrestling that I absorb all the information I can, I learn everything I can about, and then, in my spare time, I write about it. I write a column on professional wrestling, a column I’m usually very proud of… And here I am, one of the most hardcore fans and ardent supporters of the business, and I feel stupid for watching it.
Not only is Vince not appealing to the “reality tv” market, because they are honestly never, ever going to look at wrestling, it’s a completely different genre that just isn’t going to tie in, but he’s alienating even the most dedicated fans. Week in, week out, the Diva contest was given prime “real estate” on Raw, week in week out, Vince through his best superstars at it, including a rare appearance by the Rock that was squandered when a Red head with the IQ of a bag of hammers decided her “ass was hungry.” And sat in some pie. I changed the channel right then and there, Rock or no Rock, because that was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen, and if it happens again, I’m going to join the Parents Television Council.
And now, it’s happening on Smackdown, a show that is already struggling with the second string writers and a lack of real “main event” superstars. This is actually changing with Kurt Angle returning to the ring, and the recent return of the Big Show, who like it or not is main event all the way.
But they’re starting every week with Tough Enough. And they’re showing clips of Tough Enough throughout the show. And Cole and Tazz are recounting Tough Enough during matches… And there’s usually a second Tough Enough segment at some point near the middle of the show.
And Paul London isn’t getting any air time.
And Rico got fired.
But Tough Enough, that gets at least twenty minutes for every two hours of Smackdown.
I liked Tough Enough. Check out the “d” on the end of “like” there, it’s important. I liked it when it was Al Snow and a bunch of guys for a whole half hour of their own show, learning how to bump, listening with respect to the performers who tried to explain what they do, trying to pay some dues and learn a craft and “follow their dream” as it was. They treated the business with respect, they wanted to be a part of it, and they busted their ass.
Now, what we see week in and week out, is the WWE trying to humiliate these guys, trying to make them look stupid on television. There’s no honor in that, there’s no respect… It’s Mae Young giving a bunch of young men a lap dance, which teaches them absolutely nothing about the business, and once again makes the business look stupid. It’s a bunch of guys no selling moves from the Big Show, it’s Kurt Angle beating up one guy, and then the Ref saving him from getting a bit of his own medicine on national television.
This has been heavily down played, but Dan Putland (I think is his name) is a former UFC competitor, a “shooter” in the world of wrestling language, and he took it to Kurt Angle. He had him locked up, and he could have broken his arm very easily, and if the Ref hadn’t counted Mr. Putland out when he did, even though his shoulders were clearly not flat on the canvas, then Angle would have had to tap out or suffer another injury.
What the hell is that?
Seriously, I want that question answered, because it makes no sense to me. Why would they show that, when Smackdown is a taped show? That should never have made it to television, hell, that should never have happened. Why are they giving these guys an opportunity to make their superstars, who the WWE desperately wants us to believe are on the verge of being super-human, look stupid? Why would they let Putland, and acknowledged shooter, a man who can and will take it to anyone you put in front of him, get a hold of one of their most credible super-stars. Kurt Angle was reported to be pissed off about the whole thing, and I can’t say I blame him one bit. I, as a fan, am pissed off about it.
I do not like to be made to feel stupid for being a fan of the business, I do not like to sit back and question not only the quality of the program, but my own intellectual integrity for wanting to enjoy it… It’s absurd, the thinking behind these recent events boggles the mind, and I think Pat Patterson had the right idea when he quit. This “new direction” in wrestling is as poor an idea as the XFL, it’s as poor an idea as Mae Young giving Birth to a hand, and like those two less than stellar moments in the career of Vincent Kennedy McMahon, they should be buried, forgotten, and never mentioned or acknowledged again.
I encourage all of you, all of who you in whole or in part share my opinion about this recent turn of events in the WWE to E-mail them, contact them and voice your complaints. Mine are right here, for all to see, but because I am a “smark”, my opinion is of no value to the company, despite the fact that I represent a breed of fan that the company has come to rely on, a breed of fan that, regardless of the crap that they’ve shoveled our way in the past, stands by the company, and supports it with our money until such a time as it recovers from whatever slump in decent leadership it’s suffering from at this point in time.
As always, I encourage feedback, either to my e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, over AIM you can contact me using the screen name CLNubis, over MSN at CLNubis@hotmail.com (don’t e-mail that address), and as of recently, especially if you have Halo 2 and X-Box live, and would like to talk or kick my ass while making fun of my columns, with the gamertag C Nub.
Feedback is like crack to me people, and I need my fix.
Peace and Love
C to the Nizzle