There is little question that as a culture, we have developed an attention span that is notable for its ever-increasing brevity. News travels at the speed of 140 characters or less, meaning that the next hot topic is a trend or two away from being old news. When you can get it now, you want it now…And if you can’t get it now, well, it probably wasn’t worth getting in the first place.
The same certainly can be said for the fans of professional wrestling and, by extension, professional wrestling itself. In the case of WWE, we’re given two weekly televised shows, a monthly PPV, web shows, and twitter feeds – - all of which further storylines and enhance character progression to a degree. Call it oversaturation or call it giving us more of what we want…Either way, it’s a recipe for compressed booking…What used to take months can be accomplished in a manner of weeks.
Throw spoilers and insider rumors into the mix and you’re left with a fan base that has grown accustomed to instant gratification. We crave it and WWE obliges. Unfortunately, the by-product of this symbiotic relationship is a significant amount of justifiable criticism directed at hot-shot booking and frequent title changes.
The bottom line – - WWE is tasked with a difficult balancing act. On one hand is the need to remain exciting and unpredictable on a weekly basis…On the other hand is the need to ensure that storylines are given the proper time to develop and progress. While the E doesn’t always get it right, much of this year’s Wrestlemania is a shining example that long-term foresight is alive, well, and most importantly, effective, even in today’s get it now world.
The first and most obvious example is Rock/Cena. I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback watching last year’s post-Wrestlemania Raw. After Dwayne screwed Cena out of the WWE Title, I expected fireworks…I expected the culmination of weeks of trash talk…I just didn’t expect to have to wait another year to see it. Miz’s sign hadn’t even deflated from the night before and already we were talking about next year’s Wrestlemania. Another year of waiting? This couldn’t possibly work…could it?
Love or hate the two men involved, I think a masterful job has been done over the past eleven months slowly building this feud to a crescendo. As Rock filmed his movies and Cena waded through significant storylines, we constantly were reminded that these two were on a collision course. Something as small as a tweet or as large as the main event at Survivor Series continued to build the animosity, both real and contrived.
This one feels big…Bigger than anything could have felt in the immediate aftermath of Wrestlemania XXVII. John Cena vs. the Rock would have sold no matter what, but the past year has taken this feud to an unprecedented level. The quick payoff could have been realized months ago, but WWE should be commended for having the patience and foresight to recognize what an incredibly slow burn has and will accomplish. This one is personal…and the whole world will be watching.
It’s not just Rock/Cena though, as it seems apparent that the current situation between Triple H and the Undertaker deliberately was set into motion at Wrestlemania XXVII. Now, I don’t mean to say that last year’s match was nothing more than a primer or stepping stone for this year…It was a classic encounter that certainly can stand on its own…What is apparent, however, is the fact that the story told during and after that match was constructed with the express intention of providing a compelling storyline some 10 months later.
As last year’s match was taking place, I understood why Triple H dictated the pace and doled out most of the punishment. After all, the buildup to that match surrounded the idea that no amount of punishment could stop the Undertaker when the streak was on the line. However, I started to lose sight of the direction during the somewhat overly dramatic “carting off” of the Phenom. Why wasn’t the Undertaker given a well-deserved opportunity to celebrate on the stage that has come to define his career? Was it necessary to make Triple H look so strong…or Taker so weak?
I guess the answer to my question became apparent in the seamless integration of this over-the-top spectacle into the much-anticipated rematch. It became the reason why the Undertaker absolutely had to come back and it provided an opportunity for Triple H to hone his corporate persona. In a flash, I understood why last year’s match ended the way it did…It ended one chapter and immediately planted the seeds for the next…A perfectly executed illustration of well thought out, long-term booking.
My final example is a bit more obscure from a planning perspective, but wide reaching in its effect. Cm Punk’s shoot heard round the world caught us all off guard and left even the “smartest” of fans wondering how much of the rant had been approved. Looking back at what has unfolded since that infamous June evening, it is apparent that much of the speech was not only approved, but carefully calculated to set various events into motion.
References to John Laurinaitis initially were seen as veiled shots at a corporate figure meant to cater only to those fans with an insider understanding. In reality, the comments were a launch pad for the introduction of GM Johnny…The effects of which have evolved into an awkward, yet entertaining character with broad-reaching involvement in the Wrestlemania picture. References to Vinnie Mac and his “idiot son-in-law” foreshadowed Triple H’s return as WWE’s COO and his prominence in the on-screen power struggle that ensued.
While the quick return of CM Punk following Money in the Bank is a perfect example of a lack of patience, the fact remains that this diatribe not only served to elevate Punk, but also spearheaded a number of angles that slowly materialized in the coming months…What’s all the more impressive is the fact that none of us knew that this was occurring at the time.
In the end, whether it’s the product of lazy writing, impatient grasps for ratings, or simply a response to the needs of the modern fan, there is no question that WWE often fails to allocate adequate time for character and storyline development. On the flip side, the foundation of one of the most highly anticipated Wrestlemanias in recent memory has been built upon patient, long term planning…This effort deserves to be recognized, as it is a breath of fresh air in today’s world.
If the best things come to those who wait, April 1st may be the best day of the year.