3/28 Barnett's Raw is Blog 2: A Tale of Two Facial Expressions
By Jake Barnett
In this edition of Raw is Blog, we examine how WWE sells and fails to sell PPV's with facial expressions, and an example of both success and failure.
A brief rant, or, my exposition.
Personally, I've always felt that body language sell the most compelling WWE moments. Whether you're watching Hulk Hogan's iconic Point, Undertaker's throat slash, the DX Crotch Chop, or The People's eyebrow, there are very few methods that a wrestler can use to more successfully connect with fans both in the arena and those watching at home. Since WWE's move to HD, the ability to sell even more subtle emotion to the audience has become possible. Chris Jericho's smirks, Shawn Michaels thousand yard stare, and Edge's crazy glassy eyes are just a few examples of how modern production has vastly expand the range of emotion wrestlers can deliver to fans.
Body language can make or break feuds. We saw two examples tonight that I want to expand on, in order to explain to you why body language is so key to the suspension of disbelief required by Pro Wrestling, and why it such a double edged sword.
Example One: The Undertaker says a thousand words with a hat tip.
After weeks of what seemed like two guys running for President of the Mutual Admiration Society, tonight we finally saw this program progress to a personal level. We had the introduction of Shawn Michaels into the live equation, which I was skeptical of at first but really bought in to by the end. All three guys came out tonight and showed us why we love WWE so much. After a few minutes of trying to outdo each other in explaining how much mutual respect they have, we finally got to the heart of the personal issues between these three, and why we should care about the outcome of the WrestleMania match.
Shawn was jealous of Hunter possibly breaking the streak. Triple H thinks Shawn got soft, and its his responsibility to now live up to a promise to put down the Undertaker out of respect, who they feel has overstayed his WWE welcome. The Undertaker's response was brutal and effective, both emasculating HBK and simultaneously shaking the confidence of Hunter. Then, Triple H, shaken and needing to hear a confident voice, asks his best friend to re-inflate his ego regarding the outcome of WrestleMania. Shawn, after being humbled once again, cannot bear to say anything else into the microphone. He back's off and mumbles aloud softly up the ramp to Triple H about how it's impossible, and that he's sorry.
The setup was perfect. Shawn Michaels, broken and humbled, has walked up the ramp, unable to reassure his best friend of anything but defeat. Triple H, for the first time visibly showing the cracks of insecurity on his face. The Undertaker, seizing the mood, walks toward Triple H. He takes two steps, puts on the smirk of a con man, tips his hat and walks away.
That, my friends, is how you sell a match.
Example Two: John Cena can't stop smiling.
I've often found myself in a position of defending John Cena. I must admit I'm not generally a fan of his character, but at the same time I realize that the world is a big blue ocean and I'm merely one fish. He makes the WWE a lot of money, sells a ton of merchandise and tickets, and appeals to and audience that the WWE just can't afford to lose. So I get it. He's an important part of the company, and I often try to keep that in mind when I talk about anything Cena related. But tonight was another classic example of why he irks me.
To be completely fair, I didn't think John Cena's promo was bad at all. He had a pretty coherent point of view, and I thought made a very good point about The Rock only criticizing his mannerisms and appearance rather than his character. The promo did drag a little, and wasn't nearly as exciting as The Rock's, but I thought he did an admirable job of introducing some substance into the feud between himself and The Rock.
After that exchange, we get the Miz out, who did a great job of cutting a very confident promo on both of his opponents. I didn't really dig him taking a beat down from The Rock, but I understand why considering how they wanted to finish the show, but I digress. My real issue with this entire situation was what John Cena was doing during the physical altercation between The Rock and Miz.
Alex Riley had been thrown out of the ring and The Rock had hit a DDT and (botched a kip up) set up for The People's Elbow. While The Rock was running the ropes and dropping the elbow, one of the cameras was focused on John Cena. Having previously gave a very angry and vitriolic promo about how The Rock had insulted both his worth as a person and his fans, you would expect that Cena would be slightly upset that The Rock was taunting him by easily dispatching his WrestleMania opponent in the ring.
No, not John Cena. John is watching the rock with a grin on his face that looked like me watching Kirby Puckett hit batting practice when I was 9 years old. At that moment, I was completely sucked out of the experience. The Attitude Adjustment that followed had almost no effect on me. I didn't buy that Cena was angry anymore.
Up until that moment I was thoroughly entertained by the segment and even John Cena's part in it. I can't say that I'm not intrigued to see how it plays out at WrestleMania, but those moments that suck you out of your suspension of disbelief really irk me.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns about tonight’s report, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @barnettjake.
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