by Raywat Deonandan
July 26, 2002
This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author's permission.
Sigh. My Alyson Hannigan obession has reached a new low. I just downloaded a song titled, "Alyson Hannigan" by a sucky indy band called "The Klopecs." (It's a Ramones knock-off, in case you're wondering.) And I just ordered that crappy Dan Akroyd movie, "My Stepmother Is An Alien," just because the Lovely Miss H. has a bit part. Is this sad? Do I need therapy? In my defence, my pathology has cost me a grand total of $3.24, so at least it's not ruining me.
To get things onto a wrestling track, check out this item at EBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1752716824.
It's supposedly Curt Hennig's used chewing gum. Maybe one can extract DNA from the dried saliva and clone a completely new Hennig, except with healthy knees and better manners?
Now on to today's topic...
Internet wrestling columns are often highly critical of the televised product, especially nowadays when the televised product tends to be pretty crappy. One of the results of uniform criticism, though, is often a loss of credibility. Witness Chris Jericho's recent rant against the "Internet community" (whatever that really is), implying that we will never be happy with the product since whining is our credo.
So to help re-balance the scales of criticism, I'd like to discuss some of the things I actually enjoy about today's wrestling programme. Now, I don't watch Indy shows and I don't get NWA:TNA in my area (or if I do, I'm too stupid to figure out how to order it). So I'm going to limit my comments to the WWE product. And in the interests of space, I'm going to discuss only THREE items. Feel free to email me your own list of positives.
1. Eric Bischoff
Being a supposed smark, I know I'm supposed to detest Uncle Eric. But I kind of like the rotund little idiot, with his dyed hair and fake teeth. He reminds me of William Shatner in both his portly physique and in his "I know I'm a tool, but that's my schtick" attitude.
Easy E. has charisma. There's no denying it. If he walked into a crowded party, he'd quickly be a centre of attention. With facial expressions, gestures and general demeanor, he conveys a genuine prickishness that other characters can only generate through scripted monologues. He is a perfect heel, largely because he's probably an ass in real life.
There are subtle touches to his character, which may be innate to his style or scripted by the writers, that elevate his presence from adequate to show-stealing. He has a smarminess about him which reminds me, again, of William Shatner playing his dickish self in a guest spot back on the Larry Sanders show. The framed picture of Bischoff on the wall was a nice subliminal touch, as was Bischoff incessantly giving Big Show the thumbs-up sign during the latter's squash of Spike Dudley. It was clear that Easy E. was immersed in his character, possibly because no actual acting was required.
These days, I watch Raw mainly to see that Satanic Bischoff grin. I just hope the writers can restrain themselves from giving away the "Bischoff gets his comeuppance" angle, which is sure to be juicy if left to evolve naturally.
2. New Faces
This column has dealt with the elements of classical theatre embraced by professional wrestling. Among those elements are effective villains (like Bischoff) and pure heroes. Traditionally, wrestling has relied upon superheroes, like Hogan and Warrior. These days, we're languishing in the hangover after the heady anti-hero party of the late 90's.
The introduction of promising new talent helps to create a stable of potential heroes. Guys like Cena and Orton have the look and the abilities and, most importantly, the youth. Established workers like Edge or RVD should be today's mega-heroes. But, in my opinion, the writers have ruined those young men with unworthy storylines and heat-killing segments (though RVD might still be salvageable). As fresh unmoulded clay, brilliant babyfaces might be created from this new breed.
By the same argument, the new generation of potential mega-heels, like Batista and Lesnar, fill me with hope --again, assuming the writers don't screw them up. The existing monsters --Undertaker, Rhyno, Big Show-- are tainted. We've seen them rendered vulnerable and sensitive too many times to be seen as serious threats. The new stable is not only promising, it's essential!
Having said that, the new guys are either being left to languish, or are being pushed too fast. There is no evenness to the scripting. I like Chris Nowinski's schtick. The guy has natural heel charisma. But, as a rule, the young guys should be kept as far away from The Undertaker as possible, unless he is willing to job to them. Cena, on the other hand, hasn't jobbed enough. He should be losing regularly and cleanly in matches heavily stacked against him, to really earn some crowd sympathy. Perhaps the best pushed newcomer is Batista, who has not been allowed to show much weakness, and is being protected from the upper card, for whom Batista would be simply used as elevation fodder.
I look forward to seeing how Paul Heyman, who writes for Smackdown, organizes the show around two fresh unbeatable monster heels, Lesnar and Batista. Though flawed, they and their clean babyface cohorts represent hope for a sustained credible WWE product.
3. Understanding of the Story Cycle
In an earlier column, I discussed the concept of denouement and alluded to the existence of a traditional story path. This format is well recognized by most TV writers, who structure their shows in segments, with each segment building to a cliffhanger before a commercial break. It's hard to have denouement in a 2-hour TV show that necessarily has to roll into the next show. But lately, it seems the writers have been coming to work sober: the segments are actually building to climaxes which occur just after commercial breaks, with slight denouements in the form of commentator wrap-ups. This is a good thing.
The July 22 Raw was a good example of acceptable timeline usage. The HHH/HBK conflict was teased until the end of the segment, climaxed at the start of the next segment, then tapered with the flight of HHH in the limo. There was no classical denouement per se, but the structure will work best if ultimately HHH's rationale is believable, and his actions lead to the establishment of a new order, i.e. a real heel turn, which would constitute a kind of denouement. This requires planning, something the writing staff is showing more and more of.
The result? Well-paced television which manipulates our emotions in a fashion consistent with the narrative, and which draws us into the next narrative.
Can they do it again? Well, I guess we'll find out soon.
I await the comments, and please drop by my website (www.deonandan.com) 'cause I need the hits!