Four’s a Crowd

It’s hard to think about the idea of living in a world where professional wrestling has The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar start the go-home show for Raw because they were worried about losing viewers to How I Met Your Mother’s series finale. Thank god they’ll never have to worry about losing viewers to Josh Radnor and Allyson Hannigan ever again.

Also, I’ll miss you most of all Fudge Supreme Marshall Eriksen.

WARNING YOU ARE ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** I think if you follow the idea that time is significantly more important than winning or losing, then Big E.’s match with Alberto del Rio was a showcase for them both. And while it may seem weird to have Big E. lose so consistently, it’s important to remember that del Rio is multiple time WWE and World Heavyweight champion who has won Royal Rumbles and Money in the Bank contracts, main evented PPVs and has been an international wrestling star for much of his life. This isn’t Fandango getting the upper hand on the Intercontinental champion.

While heel del Rio as evil shark monster is always great, del Rio is right on the cusp of being the captain of this year’s Randy Orton All-Stars for people who are so good at being heels that they end up getting over like faces. ADR isn’t quite over the crowd enough at this point, but with the “Si!” chants getting louder and louder during matches, it’s clear that people are starting to appreciate the type of matches that Alberto del Rio can put on, even if they sometimes aren’t as smooth as we are used to.

It’s hard for someone as ill-informed as yours truly to talk about lucha libre, but it’s clear that whatever the WWE and del Rio’s interpretation of that is, it’s starting to get over with the crowd. Alberto has finally made what he does best — mix the showmanship that the WWE Universe perceives represents lucha done by someone the WWE Universe perceives as large enough physically to be inherently believable as “good”/”strong”/”a likely candidate for winning a match” — viable for a larger audience.

Oddly enough, a lot of this momentum can be traced back to his brief feud with Batista, which largely saw him show ass. But also just enough personality — with precisely the right target as one of the reasons Batista turned against everyone, with del Rio playing the bully in the feud while also functioning as a soundboard of audience grievances. del Rio should never be a straight shooter — he’s a little too intense when the gloves come off (especially if it’s because someone in a mask hurt their “fingie”,) but he certainly has the talent to pull of the gimmick of operating in a slightly more realistic universe where he’s openly troubled with being held down without needing to give him so much shine to make it see untrue.

Losing to someone considered at or near the top of the business by the company — and, if the numbers are to be believed, the crowd, but that’s less relevant in terms of future progress for someone like del Rio — then getting after it against a talented young performer who has  a significantly shorter resume than you is a good thing for you, and when given time on screen, for him too.


At some point, the Multiverse idea of professional wrestling is something that will be fleshed out more, hopefully by me. But with things like Total Divas, Slam City, Camp WWE, a comic book series, YouTube videos they talk about on air and the canonized telling of the “story behind” _____ specials on the Network, the WWE has created a comic book universe not just in the sense of characters played by people working wrestling matches, but self-contained “characters” in the same way that Batman is a character played by Bruce Wayne. Without a mask, you couldn’t have anyone else other than Bruce Wayne “play” Batman, but other than that, writers basically have a wide berth to dump stories about Batman in different mediums.

The concept of Slam City, or Scooby Doo  are essentially doing the same thing, but instead of existing essentially in one medium — in with, they exist/existed largely in comic books like wrestler in a ring — because of not being able to just draw more John Cenas if necessary, they’ve begun turning John Cena into “John Cena, Auto Mechanic/Exiled Professional Wrestler” or “Friend of Scooby Doo who lives in WWE City and fights bears that are on fire”. And all of these will inform the “John Cena” that John Cena will play, in the same way that the Joker comic book effected how Heath Ledger played the character in The Dark Knight. This isn’t necessarily news, just the natural evolution of an “art form”. What is news, though, is that Summer Rae slapping Natalya will be one of the seminal in-universe applications of it.

The Stephanie McMahon-HHH video of all the careers that he’s “destroyed” was interesting for two things: one, it’s the biggest middle finger to what HHH thinks is the “internet” and an open acknowledgement by the company of how powerful of a selling tool that is.

It’s hard to tell if Cesaro raised Swagger’s game of if it was there all along and he just needed the right dancing partner to get it out of him. It’s reached a point where the break up of the Real Americans is both an incredibly exciting singles feud waiting to happen, and a massively depressing dissolution of the Steiner Warriors.

There’s always a concern with John Cena that he’s going to stumble into corny and turn his carefully constructed conquering hero persona into a poor man’s Hulk Hogan impression. But this feud has managed to pull him completely away from that, not because he’s any less himself, but that because “being himself” is currently what’s under attack, him reacting normally to a situation has inherent emotional resonance because it’s “true” and not just something he’s saying to sell the feud he is in. By wrestling the very unreality of professional wrestling that a character like Bray Wyatt represents, John Cena gets to actually appear “real” as opposed to “trying desperately to look that way.”

Naomi not getting to hit the split moonsault is travesty. Speaking of which, can I demand my money back because I didn’t get the ending I want on Sunday? How does that all work? Depending on what happens at WrestleMania, I want to know if there’s paperwork when Daniel Bryan wins the belt instead of Triple H.

Without a fourth member, it will always feel like the Shield is lacking something. Part of that is that is that they are essentially writing their own story and the best way to deal with a three-man autonomous stable. Their most logical comparison — the nWo, with the Shield playing “dues ex machina” in the way that the former played “chaotic evil” — reached a level of notoriety completely disproportionate with their actual accomplishments because of who they are and what they are doing. Not to mention that the nWo existed in large part to milk even more money out of wrestling for Hulk Hogan and vice-versa. The Shield is a standard professional wrestling stable in the way that the Four Horsemen, the Nation of Domination and Evolution were, but with one less person added to the dynamic. When you couple this with their age, it’s almost unprecedented for performers to be giving the studio space they’ve been allowed to explore. With the Wyatts, we are looking at essentially the first wave of historically important trios in the WWE, and the first ones built to make new stars completely through its own.

If the Big Show wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, does that mean that Andre was really the Father all along?

Between Stephanie, HHH, Batista and Orton, this was all anyone could ask for from this feud or this match up until the point that Daniel Bryan attacked Triple H while he was commentating, which — along with UNBELIEVABLE crowd reaction, and Stephanie losing her mind — is pretty much the best moment in the build up to a WrestleMania since JR was screaming TYSON! and AUSTIN!.

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