Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Natural Drama of Competition and the WWE


Monday night's WWE Raw was really good.  Or, at least, it was a big improvement over the last few weeks.  It addressed a lot of my problems, such as the lack of build up for CM Punk versus Jericho at Wrestlemania, and had some solid matches.

The big take away from the show was that maybe John Cena could stand toe-to-toe with The Rock as they traded insults.  John Cena and The Rock have done such a good job of destroying each other that I no longer care who wins their match.  Why should I?  Either the millionaire wrestler who has starred in bad movies will win or the older millionaire wrestler who has starred in bad movies will win.  I don't care.
It's like Aliens versus Predator.  But bad.  Badder.
I actually care about CM Punk and Jericho's match.  I care about the match.  It has the potential to be an amazing match and will likely overshadow John Cena and The Rock.  CM Punk and Jericho don't actually need much reason to feud.  Their feud writes itself and I don't need a lot of back and forth between them to build it up, although I appreciated finally getting some back and forth on Monday.  It's natural for them to feud and I look forward to their match.

The thing I most remember and care about from Monday is the video Miz posted to Twitter.  You should really watch the video he posted.

I don't care whether or not John Cena likes fruity pebbles or if The Rock is just an act.  I don't read the "dirt sheets" or otherwise care about the innerworkings of wrestling.  I know it's fake, but I also know Breaking Bad is fake and I just don't care about the behind the scenes workings.
Yeah, I know.  I still care.
The Miz made me care.  There's a lot of passion and intensity in that video.  I care about who wins matches, but more and more I care about who actually has a match in the first place.  Bryan Danielson has long been my favorite active wrestler and I'm excited about him being in a Wrestlemania match.  I hope he wins but I'm mostly glad he's going to be there at all.

I like The Miz.  I sometimes think I'm the one guy in the world who does like him, but I do.  I want to see him at Wrestlemania.  I want to see him matter again.

Have you ever seen Rudy?  Samwise Gamgee tries to earn a spot on the Notre Dame footballs team.  The entire movie shows us the drama of just making it to the field.  I don't know if Notre Dame won the game he finally gets to play in.  I only care that he was able to play.

There is so much natural drama to very act of making it to the ring and the WWE is largely missing it.  NXT was a great opportunity for them to make matches actually matter and to give us a chance to really care about people as they struggled to stay employed.  While wrestling may be fake these are hard economic times and these are real jobs and real livlihoods.  The very act of appearing at Wrestlemania is a success and the road taken to get there should be dramatic and important.
Say what you want about TNA, and you can say a lot of bad things, but they tried something interesting with their Bound For Glory Series last year.  It was exciting to see matches actually matter.  Each match awarded points that helped to determine the top contender for the Bound For Glory Pay Per View.  It was simple but made sense and kept me interested in every match.

The WWE could create so much drama and suspense by doing something similar.  The Royal Rumble, for instance, is a hugely important event but I can't tell you how or why any of the participants qualified.  Sure, we want to keep some surprise entrants but why not have rankings shift around every week and at the have only the top 25 wrestlers qualify.  This can create some intensity and drama as wrestlers who are on the cusp might have to wrestle their own friends to qualify.  Doing something like this takes no air-time and would create organic and meaningful storylines that would help us care about the wrestlers and the actual matches.

We know the matches are staged.  We know the storylines and fueds are written well in advance of them happening.  We know that popular wrestlers will always do well.  We know all this and accept it.  Wrestling doesn't have to feel as fake as it does.
Wrestling is fake.  AND AWESOME.
There's a certain pointlessness to professional wrestling.  Movies, books, and most television shows have actual endings that wrap up their stories.  Wrestling will never have that.  Wrestling just inexorably drifts from one character to the next and it can become difficult to really mark out any beginning or end to anything that happens.  Wrestling is all about the now and it can be very exciting.  I just want the now to have more meaning to the future instead of none at all.

There's so many opportunities to make people care about every match and they're missing it.  There's so much natural drama that competition breeds and whenever the WWE goes out of its way to ignore that formula it creates a show that feels fake.

I want to care about every match.  The Miz is right.  Wrestling is his life and it's how he survives.  If he's not relevant he doesn't have a job and if he doesn't have a job he doesn't have food.  There's drama here and the WWE could capitalize on it extremely easily and make us all care about even the most one-sidingest squash match.

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