The Facts of Life: Raw Regurgitated, 5/12

The Shield adapts, Daniel Bryan nearly perishes and Fandango finds his heart. Raw Regurgitated, on the internet, just for you!

*** WARNING YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** With the obvious shift in “alignment”, the Shield’s mic work has regressed to a level where shouting platitudes about justice and not staying down have replaced layered and complicated — if not particularly well articulated — declarations about the idea of justice and the justification of heinous actions. And IT’S THE BEST POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED. Especially given how over all three are, that they can get away with these bland promos completely devoid of nuance is what’s #BestforBusiness. This may seem counterintuitive, but part of being a “hero” or, more accurately, a “protagonist”, with a wide appeal is allowing people to project their hopes, dreams and goals on the performers they are choosing to go on a journey with.

Whether that’s finding true love or beating the shit out of your boss and his friends, people need to be able to feel like a character is fighting for something larger than themselves. It’s why Luke Skywalker worked so well, it’s why comedy needs a straight man and it’s why the largest distinction between “heels” and “faces” is how they feel about the WWE Universe. Things like “evil” — as much a something like “evil” exists —  are relative, and what’s uncomprehensible to you may be how someone else feeds his family. There are things are relatively more evil than others, but there’s essentially nothing — outside of pedophilia, perhaps — that can’t or hasn’t been justified or seen as, at the very least, necessary to someone.

These are obviously far heavier topics than wrestling storylines, so the idea that anything that could happen on a wrestling show will be universally accepted as evil is a stretch.  And since that’s the case, being able to get someone to care about a hero or protagonist — who largely exists as an audience surrogate or avatar for their hopes/dreams, no matter who they are — is so incredibly hard, anyone able to get over the way the Shield has while continue to be “generic good guy” version of themselves is worth their weight in gold. And you can believe in that. *** WARNING YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC CHILI CHEESE DOG MILKSHAKE ON YOUR WAY OUT***

It doesn’t hurt that the Shield are also pretty great at backstage beatdown segments. Especially when three of the bigger stars over the last twenty years are going so far out out of their way to make them look good.

Along these same lines, Adam Rose’s gimmick may finally start to be clicking on some level. Introducing characters takes time, and in this instance, it’s by tangentially connecting him to a well known franchise: Zeb Colter’s rampant xenophobia. In television, this is called a “backdoor pilot”, and while it may take some getting used to Adam Rose, the focus on him — in this sense, giving him his own episode of the established Zeb Colter Show — may at least get people to accept the premise of Adam Rose’s gimmick, which is the first step to accept the gimmick itself.

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Speculation is not something we do here, but given the WWE’s tendency to over dramatize injuries, and the next-level meta-storytelling, Daniel Bryan’s injury is likely something closer to John Cena’s injured tricep/elbow than Edge’s neck fusion. Updates from relatively reputable sources like PWInsider seem to confirm that this is a broken neck, with the break itself being relatively minor. With a possible recovery time of around 6-8 weeks IF THAT’S THE CASE, it’s entirely possible he may keep the title, especially since he was going holding onto it through SummerSlam anyways. Regardless, given the WWE’s track record with getting the most out of Daniel Bryan’s character from a booking perspective, this may have an even happier ending than we can imagine now. But, for now, we just hope Daniel Bryan’s okay and that he takes whatever time he needs. He’s a treasure.

WHY DOES JOHN CENA HAVE TO WIN EVERY MATCH EVER, I DON’T GET IT! WHY CAN’T BRAY WYATT WIN TAG MATCHES WITH HIS TWO GOONS AGAINST THE GUY THE WWE TREATS AS THE MOST POWERFUL ENTITY IN THE BUSINESS AND THE CURRENT WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!

In a piece your correspondent will likely be writing somewhere, the women from Total Divas have officially become a stable. And while it’s not a traditional “wrestling” show, Total Divas is to the Divas division what NXT is to the developmental program. Except terrible.

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So much for that Sheamus heel turn. Unless “as US champion, beat up two heels who are among the top contenders for your tag titles” is how the company has started to build up “bad” guys.

This segment with Stephanie McMahon asking for Daniel Bryan to come down to the ring to relinquish his title shouldn’t be looked into too much — sometimes the WWE literally uses segments like this exclusively as footage for the video packages and her asking Bryan to give up the title would be a perfect soundbite — but it is another example of how Stephanie has truly taken over where her father left off as a television character. Part of that is the name recognition, but even that has largely been superseded by her remarkable ability to say precisely the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time to make her seem both calculatingly insincere and oblivious in only the way the progeny of privilege can be.  It, like Jed Bartlett  “in his last campaign, his last debate, for the last job he’ll ever have”, is truly a sight to see.

And whatever happens, setting up intentionally ambiguous moments where she looks stoically into the distance after seeing what damage she had wrought by unleashing “the monster/demon/Devil’s favorite demon” Kane is the type of thing that these storylines need. Asking questions like “does Stephanie have a heart”, “does she feel bad about what’s happening” and, most importantly, “or was this her plan all along” are the exact type of things powerful heels can do to add intrigue to storylines. It also makes these storylines much larger than what they may seem like when they are happening. Kane is a tool being used by Stephanie, in the same way that Dr. Mrs. The Monarch uses the Murderous Moppets to carry out her dirty work, before realizing that they are both dangerous and creepy. When (pardon the pun) authority figures are forced to confront their own humanity, it usually makes for good television. And since nothing else in the storyline really has — unless you really like bad horror movies — they better hope Stephanie work continues to be one of the best things show.

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Turning Fandango face, and having the Miz and Summer Rae come back — hopefully as some sort of “terrible couple” version of the BFFs from NXT — is the most excited I’ve been for any character development since Lana started putting Vladimir Putin’s face all over the Titantron before every match. And that’s the type of thing that makes you want to go horseback riding without a shirt on.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, my second favorite character development is not Rusev’s weird obsession with beating up black wrestlers, but Big E. possibly using that as part of a feud with him.

And Cody Rhodes long-con heel turn, with him using illegal tactics to win a match against someone who is sort of universally seen as an unscrupulous jerk — one who specifically screwed him over while he was supposedly his best friend — in Damien Sandow is the perfect way to slowly move Cody Rhodes into the dastardly/dashing category without having him full on attack his brother for a series of things that have clearly been accidents. As we often say he at JMS HQ, the reason Owen and Bret’s feud worked so well wasn’t that Bret was totally right and Owen was totally wrong — as anyone who actually saw the matches that told the story would see that’s simply inaccurate — but that they were seemingly fundamentally different people from the very beginning whose personalities didn’t mesh well despite their familiar connection. Cody and Goldust were thrust together after years of estrangement in order to help Cody get his job back and eventually to feud for/win the tag titles. But with the slow-but-steady reversion of Cody back to Dashing Cody Rhodes, heel extraordinaire, complicated — there’s that word again — questions about whether Cody should feel bad for the choices he makes in the ring in order to get a win can be what the storyline is about, along with the dissolution of a relationship between brothers. Which is way better television that the plot to a single episode of Frasier repeated over and over again for several months.

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While the crowd loves all three members of the Shield, Roman Reigns connection to the crowd seems to be reaching almost exactly to the point they want it to in his progression. If production in the WWE is crowd noise and merchandise sales, the WWE has went out of their way to trade up to much higher draft picks in the “get me over” draft in order to make sure that the investment they make in Reigns — along with the amazingly (and seemingly sustainably) popular Seth Rollins and the potentially paradigm shifting Dean Ambrose — and its becoming clear that Reigns is closer to Andrew Luck than Robert Griffin III. This feud with Evolution solves all of the problems that their feud with the Wyatts. Which is to say, the groups are over as a whole far more any individual, and were both heels and faces, making it hard for the crowd to know who to cheer for in the sense of “if I cheer this person, the company will do good things because of it” that’s understood as the covenant between fans and the promoters. This led to lackluster crowd reactions to Reigns matches with Bray. But, by putting Reigns in there with someone that people either know, and are thereby impressed with Roman nearly beating, or hate which allows him to get significantly more heat than he does with Bray, like they have with Batista, it allows everyone to look better. Because when the crowd cares about who you are facing in a match, what you are doing in that match and the storyline that surrounds it, that’s how money is made. It’s really that simple. (Except that it’s almost impossibly complicated.)