Due to the innate curiosity of pro wrestling fans coupled with the awesomely intimidating power of the IWC and the internet in general, the recent situation surrounding the personal lives of three WWE stars has become one of the biggest news stories in wrestling as of late. Matt Hardy, Amy Dumas, and Adam Copeland, better known as Matt Hardy, Lita, and Edge broke down another wall in the business we all know and love. On the July 11th edition of Raw, Matt (while supposedly not under a WWE contract) showed up at the arena and attacked Edge twice, cut a short but scathing promo against Edge and Lita, made derogatory comments about the WWE, and was then apprehended and escorted from the building, seemingly under arrest.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Reality Television
Immediately after Raw went off the air, I was surprised to see so much speculation among internet fans regarding whether or not the angle was a work or a shoot. Obviously, if WWE or Spike TV didn’t want to air a Matt Hardy appearance, they simply wouldn’t have. I won’t get into all the details about how an unauthorized renegade would have ever made his way backstage where he attacked a contracted wrestler, then attacked him again in the arena in front of “security”, got his hands on a microphone (and kept working it up to his mouth even as several men tried to hold him down), and got SO much camera time. Even if he HAD accomplished all of this without being planned to make an appearance, they could have simply gone to commercial, or thrown up an add for SummerSlam on the screen, rather than give publicity to a loose cannon who WWE didn’t want on the air. Of course he was planned to be there, but there are more interesting questions to be asked, such as:
Was Matt truly released and then hired back to play his current role, or was he never fired at all? Was the entire online road-rage routine by Matt a shoot that Vince capitalized upon by converting it to a work, or was the entire thing planned from day one? Did Amy and Adam really have an affair at all, or was the whole thing the first truly IWC-centric angle? Only Vince’s inner circle knows for sure.
I have a crazy vision of the entire thing being a work for us smarks, feeding us all the “inside” stuff we think we know. Can you imagine Vince approving Matt’s web-rants before Matt was allowed to post them? That would be truly amazing. The truth of the matter is, Matt is now and will continue to be a WWE contracted performer, at least as long as you see him on WWE television.
A recent phenomenon in our popular culture is the plague-like rise of so called reality television shows, from Survivor to American Idol, The Surreal Life to Hell’s Kitchen and countless others, including the brand new Rock Star: INXS. American audiences have been going ga-ga for voting ’em off, firing ’em, and laughing at ’em all.
I watch television to escape reality, not to see a dude who can’t sing getting put down by an arrogant nobody named Simon. I can make fun of bad singers who think they rock right here in Albuquerque, at any number of karaoke joints.
Bottom line: I don’t believe in reality television. Producers spend millions to create a show and sponsors secure advertising time for a pretty penny, so the network is not going to allow something unexpected or unplanned to air. These shows are either scripted outright and performed by actors, just like CSI and The Sopranos, or the studio does use “real” people but they set up situations to ensure the non-actors deliver the desired results. Do you really think all the backstabbing and arguments between reality TV characters occur naturally? I’m certain they’re “encouraged” to lose their tempers and act like morons, either through manipulation or promises of a future in television. Even in difficult situations, every day people bite their tongues far more often in the real world than on “The Real World”, if you know what I mean. The way people act on reality TV is far from realistic.
I’m sure if you recorded my activities 24/7 for a week and then edited the content to fill 52 minutes, it might seem like I lead quite an interesting life as well.
Pro wrestling isn’t innocent of involvement in reality TV, either. In fact, Tough Enough was quite a unique idea a few years ago. Although I haven’t summoned the strength to check out VH-1’s Hogan Knows Best just yet, so I’ll reserve judgment.
I don’t think the reality trend translates well to the pro wrestling genre. Fans must be able to suspend disbelief in order to accept certain things about pro wrestling, for example:
1. When a 250-pound, muscular man with 4 percent body fat punches another man in the face twenty times during a match Sunday night, the victim will show NO ill effects Monday night. No swelling, bruising, cuts or discoloration ANYWHERE on his face. Also, the puncher NEVER breaks his hand on the victim’s face.
2. When somebody commits a crime, the best way to settle the issue is via a pro wrestling match between the offender and the innocent victim. Why bother with the little things, like law enforcement?
3. Friends and family members ALWAYS take the word of an outsider, with negligible proof, and begin fighting with people they’ve trusted for years, at the drop of a hat.
4. Loose women who put out or show off their “assets” are fan favorites, but women who display virtues and old-fashioned family values are prudes, and the crowd hates them.
5. People in positions of power always serve their own evil agendas and never have to answer for their actions, unless the person to whom they answer has an even more evil agenda of his own.
Since wrestling fans need to accept these fantasies as well several others (too numerous to list here), inserting reality forces the viewer back to what’s real, and shatters the illusion of pro wrestling they had to establish in the first place. I want realistic storylines, not Katie Vick or the on again-off again-on again-off again-on again feudin’ McMahons, but I don’t want to see reality TV when I’m watching wrestling. I know this is a fine line, but I don’t think I’m asking too much.
To an outsider like me, writing good wrestling storylines seems like such a simple task: select two grapplers who can work good matches together, give them a reasonable explanation to battle, and send them to the ring! Between matches, let them cut promos that advance the feud. Let the heel cheat to win until the face gets the big blowoff victory. Rinse, repeat. Of course, if it were that easy, I’d be on the creative team.
Realistic wrestling storylines without reality TV. Is it possible? Let me know your thoughts at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – How come a “wise man” is not the same thing as a “wise guy”?