The Anti-Antagonist: Enjoying the Ride

Adam Gorzelsky

RybackAs Raw went off the air this Monday, I couldn’t help but feel that what I had just seen was a throwback to the chaos of the late 90’s. The obvious comparison exists between Austin/McMahon and Punk/McMahon, but the overall vibe of this week, and frankly the last few weeks, has been that of unpredictability.

WWF/E and WCW both made waves week after week with solid programming that included heavy doses of borderline hotshot booking. For quite some time, this formula unquestionably was successful, as fans tuned in every week with a legitimate sense that absolutely anything could happen.

Naturally, a repeated reliance upon shock and awe over well-developed story telling eventually gave way to burnout. In some ways, this was an immensely positive development for professional wrestling, as I would argue that a renewed focus on wrestling led to an era of absolutely spectacular in-ring action in the early-to-mid 2000’s.

Nevertheless, whether you blame the PG era, a lack of competition, or poor writing, it is hard not to recognize that the pendulum has swung so far away from providing those edge-of-your seat, unexpected moments…For this reason, the current situation involving Ryback has been an absolute breath of fresh air for me.

As this entire situation unfolds on a week to week basis, I am becoming increasingly convinced that WWE still has absolutely no idea where to go with this angle. If this in fact is the case, the knee jerk reaction is to blame creative for failing yet again to put forth a tangible storyline. However, taking a step back from the situation reveals an interesting conundrum that plagues the very heart of this scenario.

From a storytelling perspective, there simply is no perfect solution.

Think about it…If the answer is to place CM Punk and Ryback into a program, significant collateral damage is suffered in the process. Forget questions about whether or not Ryback physically is ready for sustained in-ring action, the outcome of such a program has adverse consequences for both individuals.

A loss for Ryback serves to kill the unstoppable aura that has generated this immense momentum in the first place. Likewise, a loss for Punk removes the WWE Title from the hottest character in WWE and places it around the waist of an individual with no experience at the top.

On the other hand, if a swerve is planned that creates an alliance between Ryback and Punk/Heyman, one immediately has to question what effect such a heel turn would have on the Ryback character. At the moment, fans want to cheer his intensity and freakish strength and have grown accustomed to chanting “feed me more” in unison…Concern has to exist when considering the notion of extinguishing this fire at a time when it’s spreading at an alarming rate.

The bottom line is that the injection of Ryback into this scenario may have been a bit too premature to result in a huge pay-off down the line. In fact, a certain part of me feels that Ryback simply is being used at this point to bridge the gap and create intrigue while John Cena is nursing his injury…Nothing more, nothing less.

With such a belief in mind, one would question why I am such a fan of the current situation. The simple answer is that this same apparent lack of structure also has led to a level of unpredictability that has added a dimension of excitement to a product that has been stale and safe for quite some time.

Simply put, because of the adverse consequences described above, I have found myself on edge every time Ryback has crossed paths with Punk the last few weeks. I held my breath when faced with the possibility of Ryback jumping JR, thus revealing himself as another “Paul Heyman guy.”

Similarly I thoroughly enjoyed the somewhat random and chaotic feel associated with the interruption of Monday’s main event…I expected to see Ryback at some point by the end of the night, but the mid-match interference added an additional level of intrigue that again left me awaiting explanations for his presence.

In the end, none of this makes sense…We still have no reason to know why Ryback suddenly has an infatuation with the WWE Champion (aside from the Title itself of course). Regardless of the reason, there is little question that the black hole that is Ryback quickly is reaching critical mass…What started as an experiment now may be an irreversible freight train that alters the landscape in a significant fashion.

Whatever the case may be, I haven’t been this excited and curious about Raw on a week to week basis in a long time. I sincerely hope that WWE has a solid plan going forward, but for the time being, a little bit of irrational behavior is a welcomed addition.

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