The beatdown. A staple of wrestling and one which, although never ignored, is often overlooked. It is a perfect way to develop a feud and enhance a rivalry. One man, or group, destroying another. Sometimes we even get matches which are just an extended beatdown but, by and large, they are there for our televisual pleasure.
This week we saw Daniel Bryan come out and hug his new wife, Brie, and celebrate with the WWE faithful as he held up the WWE World Heavyweight titles after returning from his honeymoon. The crowd chanted ‘Yes!’ and the moment was one heavy with emotion (for many reasons but, out of respect for the Danielson family, I will only focus on the ‘storyline’ reasons and not the personal ones). Then Stephanie came out and, as a wedding gift, confirmed Bryan versus Kane at Extreme Rules. Obviously, there then came the pyro and Kane’s entrance music but...no Devil’s Favourite Demon. Daniel and his wife moved out of the ring only for Kane to appear out of the crowd and attack Bryan. A brief flurry from Daniel came to nothing as Kane tombstoned him. Then a second time. Kane’s domination was complete until, minutes later, the Big Red Monster re-appeared threw off the medics and tombstoned our hero one final time leaving him unconscious.
What did this beatdown do though (and, again, this is the story we’re looking at here)? Well, it gave strength to Kane. For months now, ‘Corporate’ Kane has been the lackey for The Authority, even being drawn into arguments with the non-entity that is Brad Maddox. A swift loss at WrestleMania XXX to The Shield and Undertaker’s shock loss meant the Brother’s of Destruction were a fading force, one for a future Hall of Fame ceremony.
It was last week, however, that Stephanie re-awoke the monster as Kane lifted up his red mask and felt the fires burn in him again. There is a brilliantly storied history between Daniel Bryan and Kane, however, which remains unresolved. Two old foes who were forced into a tag-team before the eventual break-up. Now, however, Kane is a monster again and Daniel rides the crest of the WWE wave. It’s time for one final match.
Does anyone really think Kane will win, though? Not really. In a strange way, Kane is being fed to Daniel Bryan as part of the story that Bryan can take on anyone, regardless of size, and win. For this story to have any impact, however, Kane needs to be a threat too so, when the third tombstone landed, a statement of intent was set out. Kane might not win next month but the fight will be strong and it will be violent. The beatdown succeeded in enhancing the story without the two even speaking (only Stephanie’s ignored orders were audible). For a match that most probably won’t headline the next PPV, this needed an injection and it came in the form of Daniel Bryan being destroyed.
The beatdown is seen in wrestling most weeks but also is a staple of movies too. From Rocky Balboa being destroyed by Clubber Lang in two rounds in ‘Rocky III’ to The Dark Knight having his back ‘broken’ in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ to ‘Robocop’ being shot down by the whole Boddicker gang in the original (and best) film. You’ll even find these moments in revenge films (the home attack on Kevin Bacon in ‘Death Sentence’) and even romantic comedies (Hugh Grant getting beaten down by life and losing those he loves in ‘About a Boy’ before fighting back).
So, the beatdown not only works to enhance the stronger of the two, Kane in the case above, but also, it strives to make the hero stronger, again as we’ll no doubt see when Daniel Bryan eventually returns. In wrestling, the beatdown is as intrinsic as the matches themselves. Sometimes, rarely, these are the matches themselves. The 1998 Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Mankind feels like one long beatdown. Due to injury, the 2005 SummerSlam match between Edge and Matt Hardy also felt like one. Let’s not also forget the Royal Rumble match this year between Brock Lesnar and The Big Show.
The final match in that list though was part of a bigger picture however. In a way, it worked in a similar vein to the Kane attack on Bryan. The Big Show is the world’s largest athlete so he is the perfect man to enhance someone who is already a monster. Brock was coming off the back of an ‘up and down’ two years of his contract that saw a bizarre, and frankly unnecessary, loss to John Cena and a long-winded feud with Triple H that saw The Beast lose the second of three matches at WrestleMania. Bock needed building back up. A later win over Triple H plus the excellent match against CM Punk at SummerSlam went some way but the beatdown win over Big Show put him back on top and so when Brock broke the streak, it made sense because he was a monster again. To be honest, if Brock doesn’t go after Daniel Bryan’s title in a few months, it’ll be a surprise because both men are headed towards that juncture.
Brock Lesnar, at the moment, is the king of beatdowns. All you have to do is watch most of his television appearances. Yes, every now and then you get Big Show throwing him out of the ring, but quite often, well, 3MB should look out for themselves. The speed with which he moves and the power he exerts is right up there with the second Frank Mir fight in UFC (and if you want to see a bloody beatdown in fight conditions, watch that). Yes, every so often you see a smaller guy exert a beatdown on someone usually their own size but, in Brock you have a wrecking machine that can develop a story by not even speaking, and surely that is the point of the beatdown.
Through wrestling history there have been some great, and unforgettable, beatings. We all remember Marty Jannetty being kicked through the Barbershop window and, obviously, the Hot-Rod punching SuperFly with a coconut but more recently, the extended beatdown has become a hallmark of modern wrestling as a way to enhance the feud.
During their rivalry of 2012, Chris Jericho exacted a precise and punishing beatdown on CM Punk on an April 2012 edition of Raw. The story had been long-running, with Jericho taking umbrage that Punk called himself ‘The Best in the World’. After the WrestleMania match, Jericho got nasty and poured alcohol into the mouth of his tee-total opponent as he lay motionless. He brought up his alcoholic father and mother (after previously brining up the drug-addicted sister) and then smashed the bottle on his head. It was a nasty beatdown but one that, more than anything, made the feud intensely personal. Again, people didn’t really think Jericho would take the title but this attack was so vicious that it gave the story some legs leading into their second bout.
Perhaps the best beatdown of recent years has been the debut of The Nexus. It’s been shown a lot since and WWE viewers probably watch it quite regularly but try and remember when you first watched it. It was, in no bad way, just another episode of Raw. A masked CM Punk was taking on John Cena in the main event in what was, as usual for those two, a very good match. Cena lifted his hand for the five knuckle shuffle and then...well, something very unexpected happened. Wade Barrett, all swagger and confidence, appeared on the entrance ramp.
The best beatdowns work because they are unexpected. The superkick through a window. Eddie destroying Rey. The thumbs down for Orton. Hell, if a contract signing doesn’t end in some form of ‘unexpected’ beatdown then we’re essentially watching office work. With the appearance of Barrett we got something completely new. If Triple H had walked down the ramp, we would have been interested but we’d seen it before. Same if it was a face walking towards a heel turn. Having the whole first season roster of NXT appear though was absolute genius.
When Barrett appeared, Cena looked confused. He even went for the AA but had to stop to ask ‘you got a problem with me?’. No-one really knew what to make of it. Then it started. Michael Tarver appeared in a half-mask. A brief shot. Nothing more. Then they all appeared. Daniel Bryan. Darren Young. Skip Sheffield. Justin Gabriel. Heath Slater. David Otunga. Regardless of how we look at them now (from hero to zero to fired) when they appeared it shocked the live audience and those watching at home. They took out the Straight-Edge Society and then focussed on John Cena in a move now borrowed by The Shield. They surrounded the apron and...attacked. They poured over Cena before then taking out Matt Striker, Jerry Lawler and infamously, Justin Roberts. Then, they destroyed the ring and everything around it.
In terms of a beatdown, it was incredible. It was unexpected and was not only an attack on one single wrestler, or faction, but on the company as a whole. Yes, we know how the story ended but that’s regardless. At that moment, that beatdown became the most talked about moment of the year. It was so good, even the ‘was it real?’ debate kicked in for a few days. Just as Kane taking down Daniel Bryan enhanced the feud, this not only started a story but also sought to make the careers of eight men and, for most, it worked.
When Kane landed the third tombstone, we knew we had a match. Will it be a moment up there with WrestleMania XXX’s main event? Of course not. In a way, it’s not meant to be. As much as the beatdown was part of the story, this match is part of something bigger too. When we see our heroes get taken down and destroyed, it creates a level of excitement that simple talking can’t do. That’s why our heroes must hit their lowest ebb and, for wrestlers, that comes in the ring being taken to task by the monster awaiting. It’s all part of the classic story and, this week, WWE did it very well.
For the next few weeks, my columns will be appearing a bit later in the week due to work commitments. I will continue to post however so please look out for them. I’m particularly looking forward to next week when ‘Reality’ hits TJRWrestling...
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