This angle really is all anyone’s talking about, huh? Or at least all I’ve been talking about; and Daniel Bryan sure seems to be the guy I like talking about most, but tonight I’ll be circumventing him while sailing in the same seas, navigating instead through the currents of Big Show and his tears.
If I were to give a general impression of Monday’s angle, I’d say it was good, but not great, and you’ll see why in the column. It was a Labor Day episode after all, which may have been why they kept any big developments off TV; they knew ratings would be low for the holiday. I know I wasn’t watching. I saw The World’s End. I loved it. They saved the richest bite for the end of the Cornetto Trilogy. Also, they choreographed some clearly wrestling-derived action, so check it out. But enough about ice cream and Nick Frost putting an alien into a Torture Rack; let’s get to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Mrs. Cerebral Assassin: Stephanie’s not just heiress to an enormous family fortune; she’s not just a corporate executive to the largest wrestling company in the world – she’s a performer. And a damn good one at that. Perhaps she (and her husband, for that matter) don’t have the same legendary swagger, mannerisms and speech as her father, but like Trips, she’s proven effective in her role as a heel administrator. Monday we saw her plucking at Show’s heart strings like a fork-toothed harpist, spinning a manipulative web equal parts logos, pathos and ethos, a contrived yet convincing rhetoric of practical business sense, familial affections and exploited friendship. It was well thought-out and executed perfectly.
Big Show, the reluctant executioner: There’s a reason hangmen wore hoods. It’s so they couldn’t be identified in public, it’s so their guilt (if guilt they had) wasn’t doubly burning by the glare of their neighbors. Big Show had neither a hood nor whatever compensation a hangman received for his duty; he was given a simple ultimatum: knock out Daniel Bryan or the administration would rescind his ironclad contract. I’m not saying it was a perfect premise. In fact, you’ll see parts of this moment appear in the following sections. However, the trope itself, the trope of a person turned reluctant weapon against his friend is ubiquitous and effective when done well. Big Show certainly fits the bill as a weapon the administration would want in their arsenal; he certainly is good at demonstrating reluctance (my, these salty seas are fierce); however, where he and the angle falter most is when … wait, this is the good. Have to stay positive in this section. Err, I like his beard?
[Insert generic “WWE thinks we have amnesia” joke here]: Discontinuity is a problem a slew of different art forms and academic fields tackle in their compositions. Anything from political campaigns to television dramas rely on some measure of continuity. For instance, a campaign manager would concern itself with keeping its candidate’s message clear, consistent and free of hypocrisy. Similarly, the screenwriter would want to craft a story accessible by its neatly tied narrative threads. Continuity, however, though exemplary and something to strive toward, is only an abstraction, a prototype, a concept from which a product deviates. In WWE’s case, it’s a simple matter of logistics. They wanted a guy to fit the aforementioned trope; they wanted that guy to be imposing enough for it to make sense that he could be a threat to Daniel Bryan. Thusly, they decided on The Big Show and his big fist to do the deed. Whether there was another guy who could have worked without as much discontinuity is arguable. And hell, I suppose it’s good they answered that, “How come Big Show doesn’t help Bryan when he has an ironclad contract?” question.
For me, however, the biggest frustrations came in the match itself. What’s the harm of just having a match with Daniel Bryan? The WMD, sure, that must have been hard to do; but he could have just gone into it like any match, and the statement, “Stop fighting. Just stop, Daniel. I’m being forced to do this,” seems self-contradictory. If he’s being forced to do this, why’s he trying to stop Bryan from wrestling? If he had gotten Bryan to stop and they just stood around staring awkwardly at each other, he wouldn’t really be doing the thing he was forced to do, and thus he’d be in breach of his directive anyway. At least by wrestling the match he could hope it’d satisfy them enough to keep the Hounds of Justice at bay. (It wouldn’t have, but still.)
Like I’m sure a lot of us have seen in our respective wrestling-related groups or sources of commentary (like TJRWrestling!), there are plenty of holes to poke into this. I still liked the segment though. I think anyone can realize the discontinuity and still like the segment, especially when one empathizes with the logistical challenges of maintaining complete continuity. Like I’ve touched lightly on in other articles, WWE wants certain angles to happen in microcosm, as if the participants exist only for that given story, whereas the history of the two men’s relationship or each of them as individuals are treated like unruly hair, especially cowlicks. Sometimes you just gotta smother it with gel and hope people don’t notice when the strands fall out of place. Though bear in mind, I know they did mention their history, but you know, in a really off-handed way. So, yeah … gel that sucker.
Stephanie McMahon: “You’re my giant, Big Show. Now let me expose your biggest fear in front of millions of people.” WWE’s used (sometimes exploited) much more controversial and topical subject matter than what they wrote (or bulleted maybe) for Stephanie on Monday, but daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn, girl! You cold. Of course, Show would have approved it, all scripted, yadayadayada, typical “please don’t think I’m a mark” caveat, but still, hearing her say, “Giants don’t medically live as long as other people” was the biggest “Oh, no she di-n’t!” line of the night. It even made me tear up a little. I wanted to fly to Iowa, run down the ramp and give Big Show the biggest hug I could manage. It was an ugly line (because no sh*t it’s his biggest fear), but it made me realize how much I love the big guy. I’d miss seeing his tear-soaked mug in the WWE ring if he went so early in life. So yeah, you can throw this under The Good column too if you like, since it did a great job at what it was trying to do: give Show sympathy and maybe justify a bit of that crying. A bit of it. Just a teeny bit.
Just so you know (wow, déjà vu), I am still going to continue the Gothic series and the next edition will still be Kane. It’s just that I started school last Monday, so now in addition to being a full-time student I have two internships, a part-time job (about 25 hours a week), a bit of a social life and a girlfriend … also lots of video games. GBU fits into my schedule more easily since it doesn’t require research; just to watch the show. I really want to do the Kane article right and for that I need a week where I have more time for the legwork. Hopefully it’ll be this next week. Until then, you have a good one, folks.
Nicholas LeVack is a junior English creative writing major and media studies minor whose interests include writing, wrestling, video games and occasional outdoorsy things. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.