There’s been something building in me for over a week. I thought it would ease but, in actual fact, it got worse every day. I’m usually a positive person, I really am, and try to pass this on in my columns, but this one won’t shift. I’ve tried forgetting about it. I’ve tried counting to ten. I’ve tried to move on. Nothing works.
Something seriously pissed me off last week on the ‘Night of Champions’ pay-per-view. I’d spent my £14.95 (which still seems cheap to what US/Canada prices) and settled myself down for a PPV that had had a good build for a several of the bouts and was coming off a positive SummerSlam and several weeks of above average WWE television. I was ready. Then something else happened. Triple H came out. And he talked. And talked. Then Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel came out. And they talked. And talked. Then there was an impromptu match. Then a backstage segment or two. By this point, I was gone. I’d lost all interest in the PPV. I’d bought something and expected it to be different from the weekly television but instead I had bought exactly what I was watching every week (which, again, I suppose I pay for as I subscribe to Sky Sports).
There was no need for Triple H to come out apart from ego. Now, and this is the important distinction, I know the heel character of HHH is all about the ego. I know that. This didn’t feel like that at all though. This was Paul Levesque coming out to open the show because, if he wasn’t wrestling on the card, he sure as hell was going to leave his mark on it. And he did, because the stench from that opening segment permeated through the whole PPV. The Paul Heyman angle also didn’t sit right. Number one, we’d seen it all before, primarily on the last Smackdown before ‘Night of Champions’ but there was also something else wrong. HHH punishing all around him makes sense. What we watched was Paul Levesque trying to be a heel but, hey, you know, a heel everyone can cheer for because he’s great. Great heel characters of the past have never needed that. They love being booed out of every building. Listen to Chris Jericho on his DVD, that’s how he eventually wants to leave the company. Being dragged out kicking and screaming. Can you ever imagine Triple H leaving this way? Of course not. Then there were the backstage segments. I know you get them at every PPV but after that first twenty minutes and a thrown together match, who cared?
Right, again, I know a lot of people will read that previous paragraph and say I’m wrong, or that I should have just switched off. Along with my anger though is interest. Why did I get so angry about this as opposed to other elements of the product? Personally I think, and still think, the WWE is trying its hardest to create a really strong weekly product, particularly at a time when they usually ‘give up’ slightly because the winter nights are setting in. Triple H has been a big part of that as well and I’ve enjoyed seeing him belittle Daniel Bryan and ride roughshod over the rest of the locker room. What I felt was the problem with that NOC segment (and perhaps with his ‘never drew a dime’ comment to Edge) is that, in his head, he’s already the coolest corporate heel of all time and is playing it like the crowd loves it. No. The reason people now cheer Vince, even when acting like a heel, is because for years he was the vile corporate chief who everyone hated, booed out of every building and was spat on by ‘the talent’. He’s earned that right. Triple H hasn’t.
It’s strange because Triple H is a brilliant heel. This column isn’t about an attack on him as I think he is very good and has led this current story line, but he has to ‘embrace the hate’. If he is going to punish faces and heels, why not punish Heyman by having him as his lackey? Belittle him. The role of The Shield and Randy Orton has been intrinsic and some other top heels need to be accepted too, not to the levels of NWO membership but still it would help build the ‘stable’. Also, CM Punk’s complete avoidance of this story seems odd too. I know the WWE is trying to keep several other storylines going in the midst of this all-consuming one but it still feels a bit odd that the straight-edge superstar has nothing to say on the Corporate faction.
To go back to my initial anger, I’m not one of those people who wants a refund. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous that, because the Daniel Bryan decision was over-turned the next night, some people wanted a refund. This is, to all intents and purposes, a scripted drama. The minute Scott Armstrong gave the fast count, it was obvious HHH was taking back the title and it will only add to the depth of the story. The opening promo didn’t add any depth though. It was regular programming with the added hint of ‘cool heel’ status. It was watching the ‘man’ and not the ‘character’ come out and put his, not his characters, stamp on the PPV and...it sucked all of the wind out of its sails.
Look back to other ‘angry’ moments. The most obvious recent one is the Daniel Bryan eighteen second loss to Shamus at Wrestlemania XXVIII. Again, I’ve talked about this recently so won’t go into the detail we all know but the anger of the fans that night, and the next on RAW, were channelled into the ‘Yes’ chants which still power through every arena the WWE visits. With hindsight, that ‘win’ for Sheamus hurt him more than the ‘loss’ hurt Bryan because Sheamus was never really accepted as a face, particularly the ‘bully-boy-fella’ face he later became.
As an audience, we have a right to be angry about things. Angry about John Cena? Go for it. What’s great about that anger is that the parents shout ‘Cena sucks’ as their kids who are standing next to them shout ‘Let’s go Cena’. Also, as angry as I got about Cena’s complete domination of the product a few years ago, you cannot deny the excellent matches he’s had with a variety of wrestlers. When he has to bring it, he bloody does. So people get angry about him but I feel, I think, that there is a level of respect accorded to him too because, without Cena, WWE would have been in a bit of trouble the past decade.
Also, the anger you feel toward a despicable heel is very different to the anger I felt watching the first twenty minutes of NOC. Was I angry when Damien Sandow threw Cody off the ladder and took the Money in the Bank briefcase? Of course I was. Was I angry when Cody got fired? Yes! Was I angry when the Rhodes family got humiliated two weeks running? Definitely. This is the same anger you get when watching a film or TV programme though because you’ve paid for something and its quality is so good that you get taken along for the ride. Emotionally, you hate what the villain does to our hero and so therefore hate him. It’s the story and the performances that create this. It doesn’t break out of the world it’s created.
I suppose we can blame CM Punk for all of this (go with me here!). His pipe-bomb is still being heard now. That ‘is it real, is it not?’ crossing of the line was so effective that everyone wants to try it. Everyone wants to be that sort of heel. AJ Lee did it a few weeks ago and the fans went crazy for it. In a way, some of Cena’s recent promos have done it (I was a particular fan of the ‘heel turn’ one). The problem though is that these promos have to be so precisely delivered otherwise it comes across as completely out of character. Triple H calling CM Punk, ‘Phil’ during the ensuing Summer of Punk just smacked of an older generation superstar not quite getting this new style of promo. The same with Stephanie’s recent line to Big Show about the mortality rates of larger superstars. It just crosses the line too much.
I know it looks like I’m just knocking the McMahon’s here but I’m honestly not. Like I’ve said, to qualify, they’re doing a really good job of leading the product at the moment, but they need to keep it real in the world they’ve created on television. Triple H should stop trying to be nasty to the locker-room and sycophantic to the paying crowd. Let them hate you. Let them despise you. Let us enjoy hating and despising you. That’s the point. Also, the reason people buy PPV’s is because it is supposed to be different to the product we see on television each week. We see longer matches and feuds exploding before us. Can you imagine Wrestlemania if it was a series of two minute squash matches and a load of promos with adverts coming every ten minutes? We’d demand our money back. Triple H can be all over the weekly product as much as he wants because it’s ‘good for business’ but doing exactly the same thing, talking for twenty minutes, on a PPV is not ‘good for business’. It makes me angry. And you don’t want to see me when I’m angry. Well, it’s sort of like me when I’m not angry, only my face is redder. But that’s not the point. Don’t make me angry like that.
Please follow me on twitter @HughFirth or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org All constructive criticism is appreciated.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.