All the fun of the unfair
Fan fury is everywhere these days. Whether it’s Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman or Jose Mourinho’s defensive style of play at Chelsea, when people want to vent, they vent. In our modern age of social media it’s all too easy to take to our soap-box, stand aloft and scream hell and high fury at anything we don’t like. Most of the time it’s quite harmless and, by and large, an opinion which has every right to be expressed. Sometimes this moves into trolling and, indeed, quite vicious abuse. What it comes down to is if something doesn’t go our way, we get on our keyboards and, here’s that word again, vent. We all do it. By being a columnist for this site, I do it too. Sometimes however, we should sometimes just give things time. I’m not saying an eternity, but certainly give some decisions time to breath. Anyone remember how angry people were when teen-favourite Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker? Doesn’t look quite so bad now does it? Also, Mourinho’s two European Cup triumphs and numerous other trophies look quite nice in that cabinet over there, don’t they? The same can most obviously be found in wrestling too.
The writers at the WWE get a lot of stick. Read back over some of my columns, I’ve had a bit of a pop at times too. That is doing a lot of them a disservice though. A lot of storylines take a long time to play out. We need to let them breath sometimes. It could be quite easy to turn around and say that the WWE is to blame for this ‘lack of time’ since the brand extension dissipated and numerous storylines are only given a four week turnaround before the next PPV. Whereas years ago it would often be months before two wrestlers stared at each other across the ring now, for example, Alberto Del Rio will be glaring at RVD in three weeks time. Done and dusted. Quite often though, the writers will have an idea for a long gestating storyline, it’s just we don’t see it until the conclusion and the later comfort of time.
An obvious one at the moment is the Daniel Bryan versus the new corporation plot. We can all but hope that this is a storyline that will run and run and, no doubt, infuriate us at every twist and turn. Most of us want the underdog to win but what worth is that win if it comes in a few weeks time at Night of Champions? By and large, after SummerSlam and the inevitable cash-in, most people seem happy with how this is all progressing. We’ve got our Orton heel turn. We have Triple H back to being the Evolution-style, clique leader. We even have Stephanie McMahon being the bitch incarnate again. On top of that, and something that quite excites me, we have The Shield as the hypocritical guns for hire out for justice, but more than likely out for a quick buck or two. It is the involvement of Triple H and, to a certain extent, Randy Orton, that will infuriate people as the months go on. The former Evolution stable-mates will screw Daniel Bryan, and any other number one contenders, out of the title at every turn, and anger and resentment will grow. We will want our fan favourites to win. We will want a Bryan, or a Punk or a Ziggler to do the impossible but it will not happen, because the heels will dictate all. It won’t be fair, it will leave many switching of pay-per-views vowing never to give money to the WWE again because of Triple H and his cronies, but it will all culminate at some point down the line where someone will get revenge on the corporate villains and take the title back for the fans. It will simply take a while to get there.
Is Daniel Bryan going to headline every PPV with Randy Orton till Wrestlemania? No, of course not. This means that, at some point, he’ll no doubt get beaten down and put on the ‘injury’ list for a while. Then maybe that other fan-favourite, anti-corporate superstar CM Punk will have a pop. Maybe even a Rey Mysterio will be fed to the Viper. At some point though, Bryan will have run out of chances and we’ll think it unfair. People will claim that this is all just a waiting game till John Cena returns and Bryan was just a writing-room stooge. Again, maybe this is how it will transpire but we don’t know it yet. As I’ve said previously, if it does end with Daniel Bryan getting one final chance at Wrestlemania and defeating Randy Orton, I’d happily watch Triple H run roughshod over the locker-room in the lead up to it.
This idea of ‘what is fair’ is a key one in the wrestling business. When Dolph Ziggler cashed in against Alberto Del Rio this year, the crowd reaction was huge even though this was a heel defeating a face. Was this ‘fair’? No. The cash-in never is. There were many reasons for the cheers though. Del Rio’s face turn not quite clicking. Seeing any cash-in being quite exciting. Also, Ziggler getting his hands on the Heavyweight title definitively (unlike his previous pseudo-run). What happened afterwards though didn’t feel fair. Firstly, he was thrown into the remnants of the Del Rio/Jack Swagger feud. Then, devastatingly, he suffered a concussion which kept him off live television for almost a month and derailed all of the hype and momentum he had. Finally, to add insult to his fans, Del Rio regained the title at Payback. Fans were not happy but, due to the injury, the story was less about Ziggler now and more about Del Rio and the repeated kicks to the head to aggravate the concussion that sowed the seeds for a return to the dark side for the Mexican aristocrat. Again, there were different stories to tell and when AJ interfered and cost Ziggler his last chance at the title, a previous story had to be concluded, his relationship with the enraged Divas Champion and his hired monster Big E Langston. Ziggler can’t move on until he finally gets them out of his life. For now, this is his story and although many feel aggrieved that his top-tier moment has passed, it has only passed for now. Again, we have no way of knowing how Del Rio will lose his title but if it is finally to Ziggler again, with Michael Cole commenting on their ‘long-storied rivalry’ then it will feel worth it. We just have to give it time. Ziggler, like Punk and Bryan before him, is too good a worker not to get his moment in the sun.
The whole point of the ‘heel dynamic’ is that they do things which aren’t fair. Whether it’s Fandango walking out of yet another match, or Ryback bullying people backstage, if this lack of fairness continues, punishment is round the corner. Obviously, the Money in the Bank cash-in is key to this but quite often, as previously mentioned, witnessing the cash-in, by hero or villain, is an exciting moment and the ‘fairness’ can only be gauged later. The idea of ‘fairness’ is also tested by the heel stable. NWO, Aces & Eights, Evolution, all of them and more use any tactic possible to keep their man, or men, on top. It infuriates and drives us mad. Watching Triple H sledgehammer Goldberg in the Elimination Chamber to cheat and win again. Watching Bully Ray recruit Tito Ortiz to help him reclaim the championship. Watching Kevin Nash fall to the ‘finger of doom’ and allow yet another Hulk Hogan run. The latter two can be attributed to bad-booking perhaps. The latter with the benefit of hindsight and the TNA example coming more from the deal with Spike TV and Bellator MMA. The Evolution example has a clearer through-line however.
This particular stable was created to show the past, the present and the future. It’s also important to note they were better than us and they knew it. Their entrance video displayed various images or limousines, champagne and beautiful women, unattainable prizes for the occasional fan or, indeed, the rest of the locker room. The whole concept of Evolution wasn’t ‘fair’. They constantly cheated to win. Ric Flair’s first act was to hit RVD with a sledgehammer in 2002 to help Triple H retain the World Heavyweight title and it was downhill from there. Goldberg managed to wrestle the title away for a period but it was all just a blip on the way to the stable holding all of the titles they could. There would always be a chair shot or a hidden sledgehammer to take away the fairness of the pay-per-view and leave a nasty taste in the mouth. This was always the point though because, perhaps better than with any stable certainly since, this was part of the long-haul. Orton’s title-winning beat down was just the start of the dissolution of Evolution. It was the story with Dave Batista that really caught the crowd’s imagination. Triple H, the bully-boy who never played fair, was about to be taken down by the beast he had created and, after a back-fired ploy to play JBL off against Big Dave, Batista took the title at Wrestlemania 21. He won it fairly and squarely.
On Monday’s Raw, Triple H played the evil Roman Emperor role excellently, shooing away wrestlers so he didn’t get sweat stains on his Armani suit. Randy Orton, too, is getting the right reactions and the thumb poke to the eye was another great way to ‘piss people off’. For what feels like the first time in ages we have some true, strong heels that will annoy us for months and cause a great amount of anger and injustice. What? Yet another long Triple H promo? More air-time for him? Well, if it annoys people and doesn’t take too much time away from matches and other stories, then go with it. Is it ‘fair’ to treat our heroes, and the audience, like this? No, but ‘annoy us well’ and the story will become something so emotive that we will really care about what happens next.
It is this idea of ‘what is fair and right’ that fuels most sports. A diving footballer smiling after getting an opponent sent off. A boxer hitting a low-blow to get some much needed space between him and his opponent. A bowler ‘chucking’ the cricket ball at the batsman. It riles us as fans and makes us angry. We want our heroes, the good guys to win. The bad guy will always cheat however, it’s in their DNA. Also, we want the writers of the product to deliver and, to go full circle and back to the Daniel Bryan story, hopefully they will. It will be a long story no doubt full of intrigue and backstage attacks. If (when?) Daniel Bryan loses at Night of Champions we will cry foul. The message boards and twitter feeds will overload with vitriol, as is our right as long as it doesn’t turn into trolling, but sometimes what we want and what is fair isn’t always the same thing. Was Paul Heyman costing Punk the Money in the Bank briefcase fair? Of course not, Heyman doesn’t play fair. Same with Randy Orton being ‘the chosen one’. He’s a henchman. A manipulator. A slithering, violent villain akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker...and that casting worked out pretty well in the end.
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Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.