The Anti-Antagonist: Let the Feuds Do the Talking

Adam Gorzelsky

Antonio CesaroSometimes there’s just nothing better than a good old-fashioned wrestling match. We’ve seen no shortage of such contests in recent months, as three hours of Raw has more than delivered from that standpoint.

However, as good as some of these matches could be and have been, they are only one piece of the puzzle when creating superstars and providing compelling entertainment for the fans. While some of the best stories of all time have been told in the middle of a wrestling ring, the framework for those unforgettable moments was laid in a compelling fashion weeks or months in advance.

In my opinion, this type of simple, yet effective storytelling has been absent from WWE for quite some time. We so often bemoan the absence of star power on the current roster, with blame frequently being placed on the individual wrestlers for failing to connect with the fans on a meaningful level.

While the talent certainly shares the burden in taking that next step from the standpoint of character development, a significant onus also is placed on management to put talent in a position to succeed. Unfortunately, for far too long, attempts to create new stars have focused on the individual gimmicks themselves.

I fully understand that gimmicks, no matter how subtle, are essential to professional wrestling. Nevertheless, while such gimmicks are the foundation of an individual’s character, continued attempts to engender support for that gimmick often results in the failure to follow through with one of the most fundamental rules of professional wrestling…stars are born and bred through their feuds.

Antonio Cesaro is a perfect example of this concept at work. In the ring, he unquestionably possesses immense talent…Strong, agile, and technically sound…Cesaro is a complete package for any fan of pure wrestling. Despite this talent, he has yet to connect with live crowds on a level that would lead one to believe that his future stardom is a question of when rather than if.

Many individuals, such as Chris Cash, have questioned whether his gimmick is sufficient to “get him over” with the fans. As Chris has stated on many occasions, the anti-American gimmick has been used numerous times and often falls flat when American fans either miss or grow tired of cultural comparisons.

I would argue that a lack of reaction for Cesaro is a direct result of the failure to spotlight him with a well-constructed, personal feud. His gimmick provides a personality trait and the means to engage in a feud…at this point, it doesn’t need to do anything more or less.

While we have only seen animosity building between the Miz and Cesaro for a few weeks, I can honestly say that this week was one of the first times that Cesaro legitimately has caught my attention for something more than his in-ring ability. His attack on the Miz was brutal, unique, and evoked significant emotion from the live crowd…It has made me look forward to seeing both individuals compete at Elimination Chamber…More importantly, it’s made me excited to see more Cesaro.

In this regard, Raw was a pleasant surprise for me this week across the board…Matches and segments mattered not simply because they were being used to make a specific individual look stronger, but because they were utilized to build depth into existing feuds.

Bo Dallas and Wade Barrett continued to build a feud that is spotlighting Barrett’s personality in a way that hasn’t been seen since his return…While remaining separate during the night, Big Show and Del Rio cemented one of the best over-the-top yet brutally personal feuds in recent memory…Even through their separate matches, subtle hints at a Jericho/Ziggler title feud set the Internet ablaze with high hopes for the overwhelming positives that could result.

The bottom line is that individuals were able to shine through and create a buzz for this Sunday using a simple formula…Make us care about the feud and we’ll begin to care about the individuals who make up that feud.

While WWE certainly has miles to go in improving all aspects of its programming, positive steps were taken in this direction on Monday. If we care about every match on the card by the time Wrestlemania weekend rolls around, I’m confident that the prospects for the remainder of the year will be bright.

Keep it simple and let the feuds do the talking.

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