For Your Consideration…A Royal Disappointment

Welcome to week 58.

First off, exciting news for me as this Friday I will get to see our future president live and in person as Barack Obama is set to give a speech at the Bank Atlantic Center in “beautiful” Sunrise, Florida. So, if you live in the South Florida area and are free at 2 pm, you should swing by. It should be awesome.

Second, in the realm of wrestling, I will finally be getting a chance to see Ring of Honor live and in person. I missed out on getting to see ROH in Orlando during Wrestlemania weekend and was thrilled when I found out they were finally coming to South Florida in October. So for all of my ROH questioning in the past, it’s time for me to experience it live and see if the show really is different in person. However, knowing my luck, most of their roster will be injured or already WWE bound and I’ll get to see El Generico in the main event against some local worker.

    For Your Consideration…A Royal Disappointment

So, I got some feedback last week about my “positive” assessment of the WWE storylines and wanted to share an e-mail (sent to me at awheeler316@yahoo.com) with you:

I don’t normally respond to columns but felt compelled here:

A) Schiavone wasn’t a hack. This is mostly revisionist history that’s been propped up in recent years because wrestling writers only remember his bad years, which were generally bad for the entire WCW announce team. Even poor Bobby Heenan sounded second-rate after ’97. I can only guess this to be the result of fatigue and/or a general hatred for his job, because if you watch 24/7, and watch the old Crockett NWA shows or WWF shows that Schiavone announced on, he was quite good. And he was even fairly useful until the mid ’90s when the whole nWo schmozz started. So I have to think it was more Bischoff/Russo/whoever putting words into Schiavone’s mouth to “pretty up” the show with lots of talk about swerves and surprises, and as a result, Schiavone resenting what he was party to. Try comparing Schiavone circa ’86 and Schiavone circa late ’96. It’s a world of difference.

B) I never got the logic behind accusing fans of ruining wrestling storytelling. The market dictates what the consumer wants. Businesses act accordingly to maximize their profits. For good or bad, that’s how almost all markets work. Wrestling used to be no different. For the talk of crash TV and short attention spans, WWE had long-term booking in the Attitude era. Ignoring Austin/McMahon, there was Hart/Austin which ran for almost all of ’97 and pulled most of the roster in with it (Canadian Stampede’s main event), and Mankind/Rock which carried the WWE Title while Austin dicked around with McMahon. The best example even would’ve been Hunter’s rise to power from midcard comedy act to head of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, which provided a fair number of shocks but also compelling long-term storytelling (Hunter quitting an I Quit Match on RAW to protect Chyna only to turn on D-X a few weeks later). The main event generally had one big over-arching storyline to house most of its performers, be it Austin/McMahon or the higher power nonsense. Wrestling really isn’t that different.

The main reason people criticize it now is that it doesn’t have that pop it had before. It rings sort of hollow. John Cena (and this isn’t the normal I-hate-Cena diatribe), despite having an abundance of charisma and charm, hasn’t been able to define his own unique personality. Randy Orton, despite having a great look, is generally cast as just a slightly annoying jerk instead of a legitimate threat. Batista, despite showing early promise as a “clever” face, has become another lumbering big-man, leaving the audience no reason to feel sympathy for him. The problem with this generation of stars is that they’re not being portrayed as larger than life figures in the same way current top WWE stars like Triple H, The Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels were (Cena being Superman, and Cena being larger-than-life are two entirely different things). They have recognizable images, but it’s more in the “hey, that guy looks familiar” sort of way than in a “hey, that’s The Undertaker!” sort of way. WWE has/had potential to build them that way, especially Batista and Cena, but failed to capitalize, or just squandered the opportunity. I don’t know if it’s because the current product is not conducive to that, or what. But I find it hard to blame the fans in this situation. Especially when WWE has the possibility to build characters in that mold with people like Mr. Kennedy waiting in the wings, but have yet to finally pull the trigger (although, Kennedy might get the chance now). Even a low-card comedy act like Santino Marella has the chance to define a generation, given that he’s shown himself a stronger personality than some of the company’s bigger stars.

Really, I think it comes down to creating unique stars. You can build off of a certain prototype like the anti-authority face in the same way Austin took inspiration from people like The Sandman and especially Magnum TA, but when Cena is regurgitating the same schpiel Austin did a decade earlier, and Rock did only half a decade earlier, it’s hard to get excited. It gets the ten year olds hyped since they weren’t around to see the first go-around, but the rest of us are left thinking, “yeah, been there, done that.” That said, it’s not entirely a WWE problem since TNA has been running into the same obstacles.

C) King Regal is probably the best bit of booking they’ve done in a long-time. So it’s obvious they have the talent to accomplish what I was talking about in point B.

Well, there were some great points made in there, though the first point is off base and borderline blasphemous. Tony Schiavone is, was and will always be considered awful (and, to quote Vampire Weekend, who gives a fcuk about an Oxford Comma?) and that is not revisionist history, it’s a fact.

His second issue was my entire point; that the WWE used to do stellar storylines. During the Attitude Era, the WWE had overarching storylines that didn’t just sort of happen and then fizzle out. Now, with the absence of the tuning inertia created by the remote control, the WWE has been sort of twisting in the wind hoping something catches on quickly. The ratings will never reach the heights that they did during the Monday Night Wars, and that’s not pessimism but rather practicality. Not even the networks are pulling in the numbers that they used to, so the days of 8.0 ratings are gone. Now, finally, after years of suffering through middling storylines that were about as logical as the Iraq exit strategy, the WWE seems to be getting the gist of longterm storylines.

Well…that is until we get to letter C. I praised the WWE for their handling of the William Regal storyline, from building up a nothing power figure into the next McMahon character. Alas, the Wellness Policy struck again.

You know, that should be the thrust of the column here. I’m tossing out this week’s topic and going off about this. Look, I’m all in favor of the Wellness Policy. In fact, I think it might be the only thing keeping some guys from doing even more crap then they do now. But William Regal? Really?

Everyone knows that Regal has gone through some serious addiction problems in the past. His autobiography outlines years of substance abuse and while it has been all rah-rah for his comebacks, serious addiction is hard to kick. The Wellness Policy was supposed to be in place to stop steroid usage and to stop people from using hard narcotics, and if it is in fact true that Regal was using steroids, then suspend his ass. But for the narcotics, I think they need to do something quick to help him. Put him in a clinic. Get him rehab. Give him the support he needs. The suspension is going to do nothing more than serve as a punishment to a guy that has shown that a good kick in the ass isn’t going to automatically set him straight.

The WWE does not extend this Wellness Policy to non-active wrestlers. If it did, Theodore Long would have been fired years ago, as he is another of those open and notorious marijuana smokers. Since Regal appears to be shifting into a role as a non-wrestler, does this suspension really help anyone? Assuming that his violation was performance enhancing drugs, by no longer being an active competitor, he would no longer need to be taking steroids in the first place. And again, assuming that he was caught with narcotics, there wouldn’t be a need for the WWE to simply suspend him since he isn’t an active wrestler. The fear that the WWE has is that the hard drug use deteriorates the heart wall and increases the chance of cardiac arrest. If the guy isn’t wrestling, that fear is alleviated. More so, by allowing him to stay on the air while getting clean, it provides added incentive for him to clean himself up. By suspending him, you’re essentially removing the carrot from the stick.

In the end, we all hope that whatever demons William Regal is battling that he conquers them. I just feel that the goals of the Wellness Policy should serve to promote rehabilitation rather than punishment, especially for those that appear to be non-wrestling capacity superstars. King Regal was more than just a storyline arc, it was a character push that could have solidified Regal’s status in the WWE for years to come. Now, he has to start all over again. Yes, this is yet another example of how drugs ruin your life, but giving the man another reason to be down on himself isn’t the best way to put him on the road to recovery.

This has been for your consideration.

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