I was going to start this article with a defence of professional wrestling, but I'm not going to. I know people will say (lonely Internet guy voice) "Eh, why do you want to watch a load of musclebound freaks wearing make-up pretend to beat up each other?" Well, you watch shitty action movies, I watch wrestling (I also watch shitty action movies).
1. Give them a story and they'll ruin it
That's right, folks, show’s over, nothing to see here. Year upon year upon year we have the same old thing. What starts off as a great story will take a turn for the worst. Summer 2011 was the “Summer of Punk” after the man-formerly known as Chick Magnet Punk sat down to “shoot” about the state of the WWE. It made everyone sit up and take notice. It made people who had paid no attention to the sport for years, jaded fans such as I, who were sick of the same old repackaging of what we'd seen a million times. And then here comes Punk, straight-edge Mr. Indie-Wrestling-Come-Good sticking it to the man, name-checking AJPW and Colt Cobana in what – thrillingly – felt like something unscripted and unexpected in a genre where everything is too easily predicted.
Well the only thing that ended up too easily predicted was the outcome, reaching its zenith at (and the weeks leading up to) the 25th Royal Rumble.
Months of Punk whittling away at what goodwill the sport had earned with a head-scratching face-turn, sucking up to everything he hated (HHH and John Cena, mainly) reached tipping point with the jaw-achingly bad saga of Johnny Laurinaitis. Now, nothing against Johnny Ace – he's a fantastic comedy character, but the feud he's been put in with Punk is absolutely laughable. And I'm saying that knowing full-well that wrestling, in general, is pretty laughable.
For weeks, Punk has taken umbrage with the fact that Laurinaitis is boring. That's it. He's boring and predictable. That's the crux of this feud. No “You stole my girl” or “You date-raped and married my daughter” or “You thought it would be a good idea to have Matt Hardy be a thing”. Just, “You are boring, for this I want to take several months explaining how I want to kick you in your face”.
2. Even great wrestlers can have a bad match
Now, I don't mean “bad” as in things went wrong. That's just life, that's not a “bad match”. I mean that the mismanagement of talent such as the Punk vs. Ziggler title match or the Daniel Bryan vs. anyone title-run. Great wrestlers need to be put into situations that are suitable for great wrestling. Putting Bryan in a cage against Mark Henry is fine, that's a natural progression of both Bryan's ascent and Henry's domination. But to factor in Big Show, for no other reason than “he's tall and we pay him, so...” is just plain sad. The steel-cage match can be something magical, but last night an injured Henry spent most of the time on the floor (not his fault), Bryan did his best to play up the sneaky-heel card he has been dealt (he also did well) but Big Show mangled the finishing spot and is an all-round shoddy wrestler. Surely the writer's in the back are better than this? Punk vs. Ziggler, on the other hand, was neither performer's fault: both have been knocking it outta the park, in-ring. The already lamentable “story” between Punk and the Raw GM Johnny Ace (see: number 1) culminated in ruining a sure-thing great match by killing the momentum with too much fucking around in the middle.
3. Having wrestlers bury other wrestlers is not cool
Hey, whaddya know? It's another bit of CM Punk bashing. Whilst his talents in the ring are strong (though overrated) and he's the champion, last night was how not to put-over a wrestler. Dolph Ziggler has worked his arse off this year (he's even been saying it himself, on-air) and deserves the main-event status which he's received this month. Courtesy of a cool move-set, selling moves like a movie stunt-man and a memorable look, he got there. Now, you're saying, don't just go and bury him. That ruins all of the hard work of the past year. When Punk won last night, he made Ziggler tap-out, he pinned him numerous times, knocked-him out cold and even when Ziggler sneak-attacked him, he still kicked out. That doesn't say much for Ziggler as a force in this narrative. I mean, he could come back and keep trying but after Punk beat him this clean, what'd be the point in the champ even listening to him? The creative team just devalued what potentially could have been one of their most lucrative stars to put the already-over CM Punk over. Nicely played (that was sarcasm, guys).
I don't care how many catchphrases Road Dogg had, none of them make me want to see him wrestle.
4. Mainstream women's wrestling is bad
Hiring girls that look good is all well and good if they are valets, but don't make them wrestle. I don't mean to sound sexist but if they can't wrestle, they shouldn't be in there. Kelly Kelly is clearly scared of the ring-ropes, Eve Torres cannot moonsault (even though the moonsault – probably referred to as the “Evesault” or something equally terrible – is her finishing move) and someone is gonna end up getting hurt (ask China); the only women that can wrestle are the heels and we're supposed to boo them. So now what? Hire talented women who can wrestle? Ha! What a concept! (Also sarcasm).
5. Squash matches at PPVs are pointless
What is the point? We have a show every Monday and Friday for people to destroy Drew McIntyre, so why do it at one of your matinee events? You're putting Brodus Clay over as an unstoppable monster not by letting him loose in your battle royal but by having him beat a guy who always gets beat. Put him at number 10 at the Rumble and have him destroy Hunico, Primo and Epico (all Mexican, incidentally, I would no way imply that the Funkasaurus has a problem with Hispanics) with one splash. He doesn't have to win, it just puts him over. You did this with Kharma, why the hell can't you do this with Clay? He's the male Kharma (perhaps Clay's delayed debut was also due to an unplanned pregnancy. Somebody call his Mama!).
6. Having crappy surprise entrants in the Rumble is crappy
It's everyone's favourite part of the fucking thing so make sure it's good. No matter how many times you tell us that “The winner of the Royal Rumble match has gone on to win the gold at Wrestlemania 53% of the time!”, the main thing we care about is who's in it. Sure it's shallow, but if HBK Shawn Michaels showed up and Sweet Chin'd everyone in the vicinity before getting dumped out, I'd still mark out. Everyone would. He's HBK! The same does not apply to the now-fat Road Dogg Jesse James and the still-fat Hacksaw Jim Duggan. I don't care how many catchphrases Road Dogg had, none of them make me want to see him wrestle.
7. Sometimes the expected/unexpected comes good
I knew Chris Jericho would return to the WWE, I just didn't realise that I'd enjoy it so much. From 1996 to 1998, he was seven-year old me's favourite wrestler locking up with twenty-year old me's favourite wrestler Dean Malenko in WCW week after week. It was magical then, it's only gotten better with age (like wine or Demi Moore). Then ten years later he grew moobs and moaned too much, so I stopped caring. He returned to Jeritroll everyone, pointing and laughing at every wrestling trope I know and exposing the emptiness of the wrestling fan. Before he left they booed, when he returned they cheered even though nothing about him had changed. It was all very smart and divisive (so you know that they'll eventually fuck it up).
Before the Rumble, Jericho promised to change the world but no-one believed him. They were right not to believe the world would be changed, but I have to think that was intended (I may be reaching). What did happen was Sheamus and Jericho finished what had to be one of the most boring Rumble matches in recent memory (Kofi Kingston's handstand not-withstanding) with a fantastic one-on-one sequence. Jericho went for the pin and for the submission finish, playing off the fact that Sheamus is a massive bastard who battered him about the head.
The actual finish was a predictable one but the right one (Jericho on the apron, Brogue Kick'd to hell/elimination), Sheamus has been great and he's very funny to look at – two of the main components of a successful wrestler.
The Elimination Chamber is next up in late-February and it being the most-exciting novelty match they have, WWE can't mess that up as well can they? *dramatic pause* Can they?
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