Watching Raw this week got me thinking. That moment when The Shield turned and faced the Wyatt Family in the ring was utterly sublime in its execution. The two three-man heel stables faced each other down and, obviously, were not going to get on. Face/face & heel/heel programmes don’t often work because you don’t know who to get behind but for that one moment when Ambrose couldn’t be calmed and Harper looked straight through him, was perhaps all we needed.
As a wrestling fan, we can all get behind moments like that but try telling someone who isn’t a fan what it is was we were watching – a cult led by a man claiming ‘the Devil made me do it’ and a faction who serve out ‘Justice’ but only to people who are good and who can, in actual fact, be bought off anyway. It sounds sort of ridiculous. That, however, is the point. As long as the story is well told and the ‘performers’ work to the best of their ability, it works. To an outsider though it’s a weird, otherworld of leprechauns and dancing bulls.
It is these more ridiculous moments, however, that sometimes make it ‘ours’. At the time, we often get angry about the more silly storylines whether they be Mr McMahon’s illegitimate son being Hornswoggle or a court case with Chris Masters as the security. Sometimes it makes no sense and, certainly in the age of pipe-bombs and semi-realistic promos, we like to hang on to something we can relate to. Yes, there is talk of WWE wanting to go back to the big men at the expense of the Bryans, Punks and Zigglers but we need that realism in our stars to counteract the big men – the men we will never be like.
With hindsight though, I love those ridiculous moments. Again, perhaps at the time I don’t. They don’t play to the cynical adult that I am. Some months, or years, after though, I think it’s funny to recount stories of Big Show jumping onto a moving coffin or Robocop making the save for Sting. In a way, I’d rather talk about stuff like that to people who don’t know wrestling because it relatable because it’s so silly and almost like a comedy farce. I try and talk about the sublime brilliance of Undertaker v Michaels and, maybe it’s me, but it doesn’t translate.
Some characters are more ripe for the ridiculous than others. Undertaker and Kane have managed to move away from the more ‘fantastical’ elements of their characters over the years. Taker, let’s not forget is from ‘Death Valley’ and powered by an urn. Also, he can be buried alive and somehow reappear at a later date in a different guise. Good work if you can get it.
Kane, too, has both a long-standing history with his brother but also with the file marked ‘redonkulous’. At the time of his debut his past told of a pyromaniac child who was lost forever in the flames of a funeral home. Even before his debut this has more set-up than ‘Days of Your Lives’ or ‘Eastenders’. Kane, however, has perhaps the worst storyline in WWE history with (breath) Katie Vick. This storyline is so terrible that I laugh about it now. Kane’s unrequited love died in a car crash so, you know, Kane thought that this would be the perfect moment to, er, ‘requite’ it. Luckily, baring in mind how cool Triple H likes to think he is now, we’ll always have the image of him having sex with a mannequin to know that he is the ‘doofus son-in-law’.
Luckily, WWE acknowledged the silly stories they’d thrown at Kane over the years and allowed him a great comeback in one of my favourite WWE moments. The Anger Management segment.
Most of the time, we just get these bizarre characters and there is no explanation. Showing ECW on the Sci-Fi channel? Better get a Zombie and a Vampire wrestling in the ring then. Want to humiliate a grown man on live TV? Well, Chavo, you’re going to lose a series of matches against a Leprechaun as you’re dressed as a cow. You have a right-wing patriot who bangs on about ‘real americans’? Allow a Swiss bloke to join and then have him gored by a three foot bull. Obviously, a lot of this is either poor writing or an opportunity for a cheap ‘pop’ for the audience but either way, I’m smirking even as I write it. A lot of people who didn’t follow wrestling, heard about the Colter/Swagger gimmick this year because it was playing into mainstream media. It piqued their interest because it was something current and controversial and even gained a six minute segment on The Daily Show this summer when it was presented by John Oliver. Fast forward to the bull attack and it all seems a bit, well, odd.
Quite often, the weird and wonderful happens for no reason whatsoever. The Boogeyman is a case in point. Before his much delayed debut, a Network Executive appeared on Smackdown stating that ‘Boogey’ (as we’ll call him) was going to appear on another programme but he had ‘done something’ to another member of the cast. Wow! I’m not being funny but in a world of Health & Safety, Equality & Diversity and million-dollar law suits, I think taking this man and then putting him on another programme might not work out too well. Then out he came, smashing clocks on his head and eating worms over knocked out wrestlers. How that executive must have been sat back in his office shaking his head and saying, “Goddamit Marty. I gave you a second chance!” It’s a means to an end though and wrestling, like horror, sci-fi and fantasy, needs a suspension of disbelief. Wrestling often has the ‘just get them out there quick’ approach so we get odd explanations for who they are that are quickly forgotten. Did I particularly enjoy watching The Boogeyman wrestle? No. He wasn’t a great in-ring technician. Do I have fond memories of him now? Yes. I do. It was a great entrance and he was all sorts of unpredictable. At the time, I might even have been angry that he was taking away television time from Chris Jericho, etc. but now, he’s a long-gone character that we might not see the like of again.
There are so many silly segments as well that, at the time, we’ll have hated but now, secretly, watch on YouTube and snigger at. It could be The Ultimate Warrior appearing in a mirror to Hulk Hogan or The Shockmaster falling over in his Stormtrooper helmet. Perhaps the best though is Hogan entering the Dungeon of Doom. It. Is. Brilliant. Honestly, if I saw a school play with performances like this I’d be shocked. My particular favourite moment is Hogan putting his hand under some running water and shouting ‘It’s not hot!’. I like to do something similar when I enter a shower with steam coming off it, shouting ‘It’s not cold!’ Either way, Paul Wight’s appearance at the end is the only solid thing in this segment but the rest of it is utterly hilarious.
Again, wrestling needs these ridiculous moments. Sometimes they work at the time but often or not, they’re our guilty pleasure somewhere down the line. I’m pretty sure we all hated the Anonymous GM storyline. Months and months of lap-top action which led to...bloody Hornswoggle again. It was ridiculous and infuriating but it did give us the great moment of Edge, perhaps as pissed off as the rest of us, destroying the lap-top in a rage. Even Edge though was not beyond the utterly ridiculous. Let’s put it this way, if you’ve just been promoted to the top of your company or have won an award that validates your years and years of work, I’m pretty sure your first act of celebration would not be to perform live sex acts in front of your co-workers. It was a strange, strange segment. Anyway, here’s the Anonymous Raw GM on The Cutting Edge. Watch it with the hindsight that it is supposed to be Hornswoggle and it gets weirder.
WWE can be very good at ‘funny’ moments. The whole Dr Shelby stuff was great last year. Some wrestlers have great promo abilities. Beaker being unveiled as Sheamus’ brother was a particularly great moment. These aren’t the ones I’ve been talking about though. I’m on about those moments that are actually pretty bad when we first watch them, get worse with the passing of time and then actually transcend their awfulness and become kitsch. Interestingly, the WWE loves most of these moments too as the ‘Top 100 Moments in Raw History’ is full of them. Snitsky punting a baby into the crowd? Check. The hand? Check. McMahon getting blown up in a plot that was rubbish in the first place and no-one cared about to the point that Paul London took the piss in the final segment before the car blew up and then the story was thrown out anyway after the Benoit incident? Check.
I’d argue, these moments of the redonkulous are the things that make wrestling great. For us, the wrestling fans, we have the sublime majesty of Bret Hart at the height of his game. We have the storied WrestleMania feud of Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. We have the wonderful wrestling of Punk and Bryan. When talking to those people that don’t watch, or don’t ‘get’, wrestling, it’s far funnier to discuss live sex celebrations, beating up computers and burning your hand on surprisingly cold water. And if nothing else, we’ve got Summerfest, the ‘Huge’ Jackman right hand and the tantalising promise of a Hornswoggle versus El Torito in the main event at Wrestlemania XXX.
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Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.