The Reality of Wrestling: The Best Soap Opera Angle in Wrestling is…?

The Reality of Wrestling: The Best Soap Opera Angle in Wrestling is…?

By Phil Clark & J.D. Speich

When Vince Russo came to the peak of his creative powers near the end of 1998, the one type of angle that he loved most was the one that brought him to the head of the E’s creative table. That angle is the soap opera angle. An angle when worked with any of the McMahon’s has been fairly successful whether it’s Russo booking it or not. However, the angle suffers when used with actual wrestlers in an actual wrestling situation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t occurred to anyone—especially Stephanie McMahon—that wrestling fans don’t care if Paul Bearer was Kane’s real father or if Matt Hardy was going to stop Kane and Lita’s wedding or if David Flair really was the father of Miss Hancock’s baby. In the WWE, a feeling of “if it worked in the attitude era, it’ll work now” has taken over and the soap opera angle is a prime example.

P.C. Says: The Edge/Lita/Matt Hardy infidelity angle is the best soap opera angle in wrestling

I’ll go a step farther and call it the best fake shoot angle in the past decade. It’s a soap opera angle simply because it involves relationships ending and beginning. And for those of you who doubt that this is an angle and not a shoot needs to take a step back and look at the angle as a whole from start to finish.

I’ll admit it so everyone can read it: I WAS FOOLED BY THIS ANGLE AND THOUGHT IT WAS A SHOOT. That’s right I said it. However, as it progressed, the whole thing seemed fishy. First off, the basics of the angle were believable as being a shoot: Lita cheats on Hardy, Hardy talks about it on his website, and gets fired because of it. That is all very believable because infidelity in relationships is an everyday thing and Hardy getting fired for venting isn’t the biggest miscarriage of justice firing ever (does the name Bret Hart ring a bell?). So it was believable that Vince would’ve fired Hardy for that reason.

People would say that Hardy doing Indy bookings in JAPW and ROH would vindicate this whole being a shoot. I think not. Vince has had pretty tight control of his wrestlers’ contracts in the past as well as today, so I have no doubt that he would allow Hardy to do these few bookings as Vince’s way of creating the illusion of a shoot.

The possibility of TNA snagging Hardy was the thing that had me at hello. I had no doubt at the time that if Hardy would’ve shown up on a TNA PPV, we would’ve gotten a Paul Heyman-like shoot interview. However, when he didn’t show up, that ugly word (angle) came into play. Sure, the rumor of Hardy showing up on TNA helped both companies in different ways: TNA got free internet publicity for their PPV and WWE was in the internet headlines with a controversy (always a favorite of Vince’s).

The supposed shoot appearances by Hardy in July furthered my belief that this was an angle from the beginning. Hardy running out and being “restrained” by security so quickly was the first sign. Had this been a real shoot, even good security would’ve had no way of knowing and the announcers didn’t sell it as being that much of a shoot. It sounded basically like any other run-in during the show.

And finally, Hardy “signing back” with WWE was the clincher. Not only that, but Vince being so damn cheerful over it was almost like holding up a sign saying, “This Is Not A Shoot.” Had this been a real shoot and had Hardy actually been disrupting shows in a jealous rage over losing his girlfriend of many years, even Vince wouldn’t have hired him back.

The fact that the angle was further used after SummerSlam should be the only proof anyone would need to conclude that this was an angle. Further proof lies with these two having matches of any kind against each other and Matt and Lita doing interviews together. There is no way that these three would be able to work together in a professional manner, no matter how much they were being paid, if this was all real. Bret and Shawn may have had problems backstage, but they were professionals (at least Bret was) something that goes out the window when love and sex is put into the mix. You’re telling me that a guy would be able to work a match with a guy who was boning his former girlfriend behind his back and not try to shoot on him? And that same guy would do interview segments with that former girlfriend? That’s a professionalism that I doubt exists in the wrestling business.

Not only that but didn’t those Edge and Lita make-out sessions seem just a bit forced? Maybe it’s just me. But hey, at least Hardy was able to finally get over as a babyface by himself without having to put himself through a table.

Because it was an angle and not a shoot, this gets my nod as the best soap opera angle in wrestling today.

J.D. Says: The Rey Mysterio/Eddie Guerrero child custody angle is the best soap opera angle in wrestling

The Eddie/Rey saga has been an ongoing feud that has lasted for about close to seven months now. This feud had all the makings of a great angle with a tag team partner trying to prove a point to another tag team partner about who was the better man. With a great (Wrestling) match at Wrestlemania this year this feud was off to great start and looked to be on the up and up. The feud is set up as follows for all who don’t know, the significant start to this feud is the debut of MNM demanding a challenge for the tag team titles against Eddie and Rey.

MNM ends up getting their challenge and defeats the tag champs in their first ever match in the WWE. The very next week on Smackdown Eddie and Rey get their rematch clause match and in the middle of the match Rey extends his hand for a tag and Eddie sits there staring and finally walks away leaving Rey to fend for himself. The very next week the main event for Smackdown is Rey vs Eddie’s cousin Chavo. At the end of the match Eddie comes down and starts to beat the hell out of Rey finishing him off with a brainbuster on to the steal steps. This series of events sets up a Rey vs Eddie match at Judgement Day. The match at JD is fairly decent and ends in disqualification when Eddie knocks Rey with a steal chair. A month of promos goes by between the two and climaxes with a huge Smackdown main event of Rey vs Eddie, which was given just about a half hour. Rey ends up picking up the win leaving Eddie in the ring with a sadistic smile on face and the soap opera feud begins.

This is where, in my opinion, the feud takes a turn for the worse. The next week on Smackdown Eddie explains to Rey that even though he may have lost the battle, he’ll never lose the war. This sets up a promo with Eddie and Rey’s son Dominic sitting on a playground with Eddie explaining that he and Rey have a secret and Eddie wants to tell it in the form of a bedtime story. With the possible unveiling of the secret hanging over Rey’s head he spends the month looking like a bitch always pleading to Eddie and doing Eddie’s bidding so that Eddie doesn’t unveil the secret. This works up to a point until Rey gets fed up and Eddie starts threatening and this sets up a match between Eddie vs Rey over whether or not Eddie is allowed to tell his secret. The match, from what I heard, wasn’t very good and Rey, once Again, wins. However, Eddie being the liar he is decides to tell the secret anyways and unveils a “shocker” that he, not Rey, is Dominic’s father the following week on Smackdown following the pay-per-view.

Here is the point in which Eddie starts telling all the chapters to his bedtime story. Chapter one is an explanation of how Dominic was given from Eddie to Rey. In chapter two Eddie brings out his lawyer to settle the whole legal dispute and makes Rey beg so that he can keep Dominic, Eddie doesn’t buy it. Chapter three is Eddie and a social worker coming out on Smackdown along with the whole Mysterio family. This turns into a verbal dispute on who should get Dominic and through this whole angle this is the only part when I had wished to be that kid because he spends his whole time in ring with his head between his mother’s breasts. After all of the bitching, moaning and crying in the ring the social worker makes the decision that it will be Eddie vs Rey at Summerslam for the custody of Dominic in a ladder match.

The match at Summerslam turns out to be very good with the exception of the ending. The ending to the match was terrible which is in thanks in large part to a certain booker who used to work for Nick Ni Ni Nick Nick Nick Nick, Nickelodeon. The match ends with Eddie’s wife knocking Eddie off of the ladder and when Rey starts to climb she holds her husband back so that Rey captures the custody papers for the rights to Dominic. This is where you would think the feud is over right, WRONG, once again Eddie comes out after Summerslam and says that he gets the last laugh.

The Finale- The ending to this feud happens at the first ever Friday Night Smachdown, a cage match between Eddie and Rey. The match happens to be okay with a great ending, Eddie starts to walk out of the ring and as he reaches the last step, turns and walks back into the ring and gives Rey a frogsplash and pins him for the win which proves that Eddie does really get the last laugh.

The Reality is…the Daytime Emmy for best soap opera angle in wrestling goes to…NEITHER. Both of these soap opera angles have turned out to be nothing that was expected of them. While they’ve had their moments, both angles have been poorly booked. Eddie and Rey started off as a purely wrestling angle that had the fans in the palm of their hands. The Edge/Lita/Hardy angle was designed basically as something to get the IWC’s attention and give WWE something more original and interesting to show on T.V. By the end, however, Rey lost a lot of his babyface credibility as he slowly became the stupid, sentimental babyface (one no one likes) and Matt Hardy was buried worse than when he was fired. What this shows is that maybe if something is working, it should be left alone. If a feud that is strictly wrestling is getting over, it’s a good thing that isn’t in need of a tune-up. In short, the soap opera angle isn’t one with a long lifespan as it is one that most of the time insults the audience’s intelligence and in a lot of ways, the wrestlers’ for agreeing to participate in the angle.