Wyatts and The Shield: Our Money's Worth
I hope that it doesn’t seem like old news already, because I was dying to write about The Shield/Wyatt Family match at Elimination Chamber. After recovering from our collective orgasms, we were left with the realization that wrestling and storytelling are alive and well in WWE. For all we can complain, there was this.
I know super-synthesized club music isn’t for everyone, but I fancy it on occasion. When that graphic came up of The Shield vs. The Wyatts, and the tunes were pumping, I came close to being an idiot dancing in the theatre where I saw the PPV. That being said, I could have been convinced to dance to just about anything in that moment, so hyped was I for this match.
You’ll scoff at my need for instant gratification, but I am over Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement. I still love him, and I still get chills when I see whole arenas raising their peter pointers in unison, but I have *almost* reached apathy when it comes to what they’re going to do next with Bryan. I really don’t care. I was disappointed when he didn’t come out for the Rumble in January, but I wasn’t outraged. I didn’t like them labeling it the Yes Movement: I loved the organic nature of the Yes chants, and even though a productization was bound to happen, I was sorry to see it happen. I didn’t expect Bryan to win the Chamber match, and if he doesn’t win the title at ‘Mania, I’ll be okay. And it sucks that they’ve beaten me into this worse-than-submission state of shruggery.
How lovely, then, that they haven’t ruined quite everything! When arguably shitty music and a stock photograph can move me to dance, then they can have their Yes Movement ™. When it comes to The Wyatt Family and The Shield, the company has done most everything right: methodical development, meticulous details… wrestlers to love without feeling like you’ve been forced to do so. And because I have amassed such a huge stock of goodwill towards the six men in this match, I had no fear that they wouldn’t live up to my expectations. How rare is that?
They all know themselves and each other, a valuable trait in a pro wrestler. They’re old enough to be good at what they do, and young enough to be hungry to prove themselves. I am struck by how measured and professional these guys are at all times, even under the pressure of this, what I’d deem the biggest match of their careers so far. Before the Wyatts even set foot in the ring, they stare down The Shield from the outside, and the crowd chants “This is awesome!” I felt that way too, just watching it on a screen. It dawned on me that if I was a 14-year old boy watching this, it would make me want to be a pro wrestler when I grew up. I felt that same sense of want and wonder that I had as a kid. Who wouldn’t dream of being The Shield, swaggering through the crowd so self-assured? Who wouldn’t want to be The Wyatts, all creative and weird and free?
When they’re all standing in the ring, face to face, some hard facts are brought to light: Roman Reigns doesn’t tower 3 feet over everyone else. Bray Wyatt looks almost diminutive beside the men he’s usually coaching from the rocking chair. These guys had taken on mythical proportions in my mind, and I was genuinely surprised to see that they weren’t gods. Just men. And so what comes next is even better appreciated, because they’re no bigger than the next guy, but achieve immortality by the end of the match.
Here we go, boys
Bray Wyatt gets all bug-eyed and in-your-face with The Shield. They’re the only personalities that can stand up to each other right now, in terms of intensity and authenticity. People have called Ambrose the next Roddy Piper, a throwback to Brian Pillman, a feral spider monkey. These last few weeks have been his Olympics, the moments he’s been training for all his life. He was always greasy and unstable, and lucky for us, that’s Vince’s flavor of the month.
“I’m not sure anyone here knows who to cheer for,” says JBL, as the fans duel it out for both sides. “They’re just cheering for a fight!’ Naturally, Ambrose kicks off a brawl, and Bray makes his slippery escape - wise in terms of pacing this out, but also amazing because he uses the opportunity to spontaneously scare the shit out of some fans at ringside. Can you imagine sitting (or likely standing) there, all fired up yourself, watching these guys finally clash, when all of a sudden Bray Wyatt darts out in front of you screaming?
This match is hurt, as usual, by the announce team. If it weren’t for the exuberance of the fans in Minneapolis, I’d say watch this match on mute. Michael Cole repeatedly refers to Dean Ambrose as “the lunatic fringe” of his faction. First of all, the repetition drives me nuts. Like the way Cole says “no absence of malice whatsoever” whenever Randy Orton is wrestling, a double-negative empty saying that probably sounds fancy and cool to him, and only him. Second of all, “Lunatic Fringe” is a song by Canadian band Red Rider that also drives me nuts. Just call him a lunatic, Michael. It’s actually much better.
Many have called this already, and I got to see it first-hand in the Royal Rumble match: Seth Rollins is a rock star. Because he’s so slight, his bumping doesn’t look as bouncy and overpronounced as Ziggler’s (and even though I’m a Ziggler fan, Rollins’ work is my preference). He’s obviously quick, but this match shows also how BRILLIANT he is. When Harper goes for a german suplex off the middle rope, Rollins somehow turns it into a backflip, lands on his feet, clotheslines Rowan to the outside, then flies through the ropes with an immediate follow-up attack. But he doesn’t stop there! He throws Rowan back in, and leaps off the top rope to deliver a knee to Harper’s head. Rollins lands in a delicate crouched position, graceful and strong. “This is awesome!”
This IS awesome
Early on in this match, I was afraid that they’d pull the old “No one tags in Dean Ambrose, so he gets mad and refuses the hot tag later”. But he does get tagged in, and demonstrates what I believe to be some of the best pain-selling in the biz. Rowan digs his fists into either side of Ambrose’s head, and Ambrose’s expression looks just like that of someone whose brains are being kneaded like dough.
That's where the brains come out
Bray Wyatt did not disappoint either. He splashes Ambrose in the corner, then grabs his staggering carcass and flings it down to the mat, all as he is reaching for a tag. I am endlessly intrigued by all the small ways that Wyatt differentiates his moveset from everyone else. “Bray Wyatt using every part of his body to just destroy Seth Rollins,” remarks Cole.
I think one of the reasons why this match shone was that they used the 6-man tag stipulation to perfection. I love to see frequent tags, and different combinations of wrestlers going at it. There’s nothing worse, in my books, than the “babyface in peril” consuming most of the match. Here, they manage to make various participants look vulnerable without lulling us all to sleep. There’s just enough interference to keep us as overstimulated as we like to be, while maintaining some semblance of a match structure throughout. These guys are the reason why most 6-man tag matches in the last half year or so have become must-see TV. They know what they’re doing and they love what they do.
"Don't break my smolder"
At one point, Ambrose and Wyatt brawl into the crowd, and only Wyatt returns. Dean’s absence for the rest of the match serves two purposes: first, it fuels endless jokes about where he was instead, and second, it makes Reigns look even more heroic when he takes on all three Wyatts at the end. Even though he comes out on the losing end, he is made out to be a tenacious warrior – powering out of the Sister Abigail with a war cry. For his part, Seth Rollins takes a double powerbomb onto the Spanish Announce Table, thereby recusing himself from the loss. They’ve fertilized the seed of The Shield’s breakup without making it all about that. Without any exaggeration, I could have gone home after that match without a single regret or curiosity as to what happened on the rest of the card.
Comic book characters come to life
I’ve noticed a few (I think new) production tricks during PPVs – these could very well be present during Raw and Smackdown, but are more apparent to me on the big screen. First of all, they’ve been using a much higher frame rate for the slow-motion replays, so everything looks so tantalizingly crisp and slow. I noticed this during Nordic skiing in the Olympics too. Just beautiful, and truly revealing of how awesome some moments are in pro wrestling. Second of all, and at the risk of sounding out of my league (because I am), it seems like they’re framing a lot of their shots comic book-style. There are enough graphic novels and comic books kicking around my house for me to have absorbed at least some of the common conventions – and I love them here. The crew is using every trick they can think of to enhance the storytelling, and we as fans are richer for it.
What do you think of the Yes Movement? Where was Dean Ambrose at the end of that match? What did YOU love about this bout? Share all in the Comments below, follow me @kickyhick or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aside from Wyatt’s promo, my other favorite part of Raw this week was the closing segment, with Taker and Brock. I wrote about it at whatculture.com – 10 Reasons The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar Will Rule WrestleMania 30 – please give it a read as well. Thank you!