Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lack of Protagonists in the WWE


I've not been enjoying Raw or Smackdown for a few weeks now. I don't want to be too dramatic, but I usually love the hell out of any and all wrestling because I'm a man-child. The last few weeks have been peppered with crap and the parts I otherwise might enjoy have been lackluster or boring. I'm starting to think of why this is and I have a few theories. Today I'd like to talk about how the WWE is starting to lose all of their characters.

The WWE is becoming filled with NPCs - Non Playable Characters. An NPC exists in an Role Playing Game as a plot device, enemy, or something for the character to interact with. They're there to provide content for a character, or to give a protagonist something to do. I'm starting to think that the only character that lives in the WWE is John Cena, and as much as I tend to like John Cena more than most it is simply not enough.
I like a lot of the wrestlers in the WWE. Hell, I like most of the wrestlers in the WWE a whole lot. As much as I love Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, though, I don't cheer for them because I relate to them or want to see them win a championship (although it would be rad!) but because they are entertaining within themselves. Their function in the WWE is to entertain the crowd and to interact with "protagonist wrestlers".

Right now everyone exists to serve a role for another wrestler to interact with, but we no longer have any of the wrestlers to actually progress through these storylines. I'm not a huge fan of Kofi Kingston but shouldn't he be in meaningful feuds with these people so we can see his character grow and become attached to him, instead of him just being the guy called in when they want to make a heel look strong?

I've seen them try to do this with Sheamus, but for various reasons it's not been going well. I really loved his feud with Mark Henry and it was great to see something like that turn him face. His winning the Royal Rumble was big and made him feel like a big deal as a face. His feud with Daniel Bryan has been engaging and I really loved his promo from a few months ago where he showed a lot of empathy and growth and felt like a two dimensional person. Sheamus could be a guy who we can latch onto and care about as he interacts with all the archtypes in the WWE, but instead they booked Wrestlemania so poorly that we are now forced to choose our love for Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. There's no way I care about anyone more than the American Dragon and now I hope Sheamus gets exported back to Ireland.

It's just really difficult to find someone to care about or to relate to. I'm no longer emotionally invested in any of these people and instead I see a lot of archtypes bumping around and acting the way they should, because their role dictates them to act that way. John Cena is the exception as we've seen him react to The Rock and Brock Lesnar. We've seen how his friendship with Zack Ryder and the hilarity with Kane has affected him. It's easy to hate on Cena but he's the only guy who seems like a human being, even if Cena himself comes off more than a little superhuman.

I want to care about these people. I also know that a lot of the wrestlers are there to serve a role. Instead of seeing an actual story with actual characters it is starting to feel a little bit like The Sims: we're seeing people play out their characters and interact, but there are few clear narratives or characters to really invest in.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe people relate to Big Show or Randy Orton or Santino. For me, however, I'm starting to feel cold about all of this. I'm able to forgive the WWE when it's bad because I always thought they would get around to dealing with someone I care about, but now I really don't care about anyone outside of "mah boy right there" Daniel Bryan. Now that there is less for me to look forward to the bad parts feel worse.

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