By Will Pruett
I want you to sit back and think of the past. Think of a simpler time. I want you to reflect on the wrestling you watched before 1996. I want you to think of the time prior to the promotional wars. I want you to think of the golden era.
WWE, in 1996 and in every year since, became oddly obsessed with itself. It became about "this business" and "the company" instead of a championship. The on-air story lines suddenly mirrored the discussions those in power may have had backstage. Authority figures were used as more than an occasional problem solver. In 1996, WWE embraced the meta-narrative and never looked back. Today, we are suffering from the crippling cliché it presents.
On this show, Daniel Bryan had a shot to "become the face of the company" which is somehow a prized possession to be in. This was after months and months of toiling away against the current "face of the company" who was (I guess) set to defend his face on this show. Randy Orton is the current "face of the company" or at lead the was, until this show went off the air. But wait, is the "face of the company" like the Hardcore Championship? If yes, Bryan lost Randy Orton's face to Kane. Or something like that.
When wrestling is about an achievement one cannot win or lose in the ring, weird things happen. Lawyers suddenly guarantee title shots. Wrestlers cannot get ahead, even when they are better. Authority becomes the ultimate prize. After all, it is The Authority who wield the power in WWE and they wield it on a weekly basis (live on the USA Network!).
Does wrestling need the meta-narrative? Some would say it is a shout out to the insider fans, who desperately want to be recognized as relevant (why else would they chant for JBL in the middle of a boring match?). These fans don't need shout outs. They'll exist whether the show acknowledges them or not. Isn't the better shout out to pay attention to continuity and consistency, so these fans feel rewarded for watching for many years and decades?
If WWE doesn't recognize their meta-narrative on TV, it won't cease to exist. It also doesn't get weaker or stronger based on what they say on TV. Look at TV shows like Mad Men, who get by without acknowledging their hardcore fans in the middle of the show. An occasional surprise in continuity is enough to keep most fans going. Even in sports, reality shows may be made about who the "face of the franchise" is, but it isn't talked about within the game when players are trying to win a championship.
If the storyline goal is the become the "face of the company" than WWE is telling the story very poorly. If the storyline goal is to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion, they're doing slightly better. If the goal is both, I'm not even sure how this is supposed to work. What am I cheering for again? Can someone send me some merchandise sales figures so I can know which wrestler I should like?
And one for some random thoughts:
- Raw's opening seemed purposefully designed to roll through fans chanting for C.M. Punk. It worked. I'm not sure if I support crowds chanting for Punk, since it's not like he was wrongly fired or anything, but it's entertaining to see WWE try to deal with them.
- Randy Orton did a nice job getting heat on himself in the opening.
-Triple H leading fans in a "Yes" chant made me giggle. I know I'm supposed to be outraged, but you might as well take my internet man card away, I liked it.
- The Shield's development has been amazing. One year ago, Big E Langston, Rey Mysterio, and Kofi Kingston may have looked like a formidable challenge in a six man. On this show, I almost laughed at the group of jobbers in front of The Shield.
- The on again off again dissension between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose is actually fun to watch. Both men have a good handle on their characters and are playing these moments well.
- I love a good creepy Wyatt Family promo. The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield feels like a big time match to me. Is all the talk of war supposed to lead me to think of War Games?
- I'm not sure why Big E Langston lost the fall in the tag match when Kofi and Mysterio, who are both worth less than him, are right there.
- Jerry Lawler confronting Bad News Barrett was more awkward than Bad News Barrett.
- Seeing Christian vs. Jack Swagger will always remind me of their excellent feud for the ECW Championship in 2009. Come to think of it, Swagger was just excellent during that period.
- The Middle Age Outlaws apparently were never told heels shouldn't play to the crowd. Their schtick isn't just tired, it's out of place.
- Why were there tags within the cage match? Why wouldn't the heels take advantage and not tag? Heck, why would the babyfaces be dumb enough to tag?
- Cody Rhodes and Goldust may have had their first official bad match as a team with this cage effort. Sorry guys, but you had a good run.
- Cody doing the moonsault off the top of the cage was kind of pointless. It was also dangerous, especially with Road Dogg in there to sidestep really catching him. When wrestlers do these spots, I worry for their futures. Look at Kurt Angle today after all of his top of cage moonsaults.
- Titus O'Neal's new theme music is bad. His match was bad too.
- The Miz gets to complain about not being on Raw? What kind of world do we live in?
- Emma's dance off debut was quirky, but not in a cute way. It was awkward, but not in an endearing way. It's hard to get her silly dance over with a large crowd (NXT was charmed by it, but that's a smaller sample size). I'm not surprised the dance didn't work, but it is a bummer.
- Santino introducing Emma instantly paints her as a comedy wrestler, which doesn't help things.
- I think everyone knew who would win Sheamus vs. Curtis Axel. It's amazing how boring Axel is.
- Batista's choice of a denim jacket was another desperate attempt to seem young, but he just looks sad. Why happened to suit wearing Batista? That dude knew how to rock a nice suit.
- What's next for Batista, an Ed Hardy shirt? That's the only way his wardrobe could get worse.
- It was nice of Batista and Del Rio to wear matching attire for their segment together. I wonder if they went on a special shopping trip earlier in the day to find those V-necks.
- I don't even mind Dolph Ziggler getting beat in the six man tag. His promo on Smackdown on the WWE App was both passionate and misguided. It will get him internet acclaim, which he doesn't need anymore of. It's not going to get him over.
- Shield vs. Wyatt's still feels super cool.
- Alexander Rusev's promo was decent, but he feels like a mid card monster right now. It could be his height, or his promo ability, but I am not feeling it at a high level.
- Man, that Divas match happened. It feels like we're in a holding pattern until someone can beat A.J. Lee for the title at WrestleMania in an awesome Total Divas moment.
- Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan had a good match, but nothing life changing. This was a muted crowd all night long, possibly because they wanted to chant for C.M. Punk and were not encouraged to. Daniel Bryan went from being the people's choice to the consolation prize. This is a tough situation WWE has to be pretty careful about.
- Seeing Bryan beat Orton clean was quite pleasant, but not the major moment it could have been.
- Corporate Kane's pyro is apparently less magically cued than regular Kane's. It must be all the forms that have to be filled out in triplicate.
Nothing of note really happened on this episode of Raw. WWE is probably mid-rewrite for WrestleMania season and they needed a TV show to tread some water. They had an injured John Cena and an absent C.M. Punk to deal with. It was a boring and flat show. Hopefully those rewrites are going well and Cena will be able to open his eye soon.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - What's the point of WWE's meta-narrative, Daniel Bryan pins Randy Orton, and nothing else happens on a super safe holding pattern episode of Raw!
Feb 4, 2014 - 01:25 PM
Feb 4, 2014 - 01:25 PM
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