Suspension of Disbelief: Believing in Suspense (Hulk Hogan, Earthquake, Punk, Taker, Cena)

Before I get started…

I seem to have been stricken with some kind of horrid illness that the doctors are calling a “Middle Ear” infection. When I first heard this news I thought it meant Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits, but then Dr. K. spoke up and turns out to just mean antibiotics. I am currently on an antibiotic that could cause diarrhea as a charming side effect. So far I’ve taken four of these pills and have yet to experience this. I’m also on Tylenol Sinus but so far all that’s done is make me slightly less stuffy and slightly more dizzy.

Light headed with liquid poop in my future. That’s right, ladies. I’m single.

Anyway, before I go into the topic of tonight’s column, I just want to thank everyone who joined in on the discussions my last column created. I took a bunch of shots — some fair, some completely wackadoo — but to everyone who took the time to read my column I sincerely thank you. The only thing I will say is that anything I put on this site or anywhere else I write (itaintthatserious.wordpress.com, twitter @ElKatook) is exactly how I feel at the time I type it. I don’t write anything to troll or flame or whatever. I write how I feel. Sometimes it comes across crystal clear, and sometimes I capture only a fragment of a feeling and don’t flesh it out well enough.

As they say in the hood: My bad.

Suspension of Disbelief begins… Now!

Author’s note — Some of the ideas and theories in this column were generated as a result of conversations I’ve had with members of a Professinal Wrestling fan group I belong to on Facebook. I honestly don’t remember who said what, but some of this stuff is not mine — it comes from far sharper minds than my currently cold medicine’d up noodle — but the column idea and 90% of the ideas therein are mine, mine, mine!

The details are twenty plus years old by now but the feelings they generated get kicked up all the same.

I was in elementary school and the biggest hero in my whole entire life was one Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster was el mejor in my eyes. I was the proudest Hulkamaniac on Earth and I loved the guy. I was still licking my wounds from the loss to The Ultimate Warrior a few months prior…

*glares*

*glares some more*

*finishes glaring*

…when, if I recall correctly, Hulk Hogan befriended Tugboat, a pleasant rotund grappler that made me smile. Well, sure as shit, Tugboat betrayed my hero, and somewhere during the course of events, Earthquake got involved and ended up hitting Hulk Hogan with multiple Earthquake splashes. The Hulkster coughed up blood and was helped out with a stretcher and I was a wreck.

Months, years, decades went by and I was afraid Hogan’s career was over. I remember him having a special announcement on either WWF Superstars or WWF Wrestling Challenge or some such and saying words that inspired and delighted: “Hell no I’m not retiring!” Hulkamania was alive and well! In fact, he was going to battle Earthquake and get vengeance for the dastardly deeds he committed. Hulk got his revenge at SummerSlam ’90 and a storyline that hit all the right buttons was executed to perfection.

Fast forward about two decades and you have John Cena battling Wade Barrett and The Nexus. Cena gets ensnared into a series of events that will lead to his firing at the hands of Wade Barrett if Barrett was to lose a match to Randy Orton. As you might recall, Barrett lost and Cena was fired. Well, “fired.” Cena made his way to the arena the next night and cut a promo that was easily his best maybe ever. It was a sincere, heartfelt, masterfully delivered bit of promoifying that made people forget how much they hated John Cena The Unstoppable Juggernaut and recognize John Cena The Guy Who Really Does Care About The WWE. The arena bought in, I bought in, and it looked like the WWE was headed into uncharted waters:

Life without John Cena, at least for a little bit.

Well, we all know what happened there. Cena never missed a night of television and he single-handedly destroyed The Nexus and managed to piss off the entire world once again. There was no drama, no build-up, no intrigue, no What-Ifs, no suspense. The WWE went right into it’s Choose Your Own Adventure Book mode where every single chapter and every single choice landed on the same page: “And then John Cena wins.”

As I tried touching on in my last column, however unsuccessfully it was, was that the WWE Universe shat on Rocky vs Punk because they knew Rocky winning was a foregone conclusion. They shat on the Royal Rumble match itself because they knew John Cena winning was a foregone conclusion. Mind you, Rocky vs Punk wasn’t a great match, but the Royal Rumble match itself was as good as any number of them in the last few years in terms of logic and execution. I am convinced it was the inevitable outcomes of both matches that caused people to be so annoyed with an event that I happened to enjoy.

It’s because of those same foregone conclusions that make me wish, however fruitlessly, that the WWE Powers That Be decided to insert C.M. Punk into the WWE Title match with John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania XXIX rather than shoehorn Charles Montgomery Punk into a build and match with The Undertaker. I think that, after seeing Rock vs Cena I (a match I enjoyed because of the stakes and the shocking conclusion rather than the action), Rock vs Punk 1 and 2 (different stories in each match, different from Rock vs Cena, but still not great action-wise), and the most recent match between John Cena vs C.M. Punk from last Monday’s Raw, this match needs to be a triple threat. They need Punk to be that change of pace guy. They need Punk to use his mutant ability to vary up the signature moves of superstars to bust up match predictability. They need Punk to satisfyingly conclude two years worth of storylines:

1- John Cena, unstoppable SuperMan suddenly unable to win the big one any longer.

2- CM Punk, self-made superstar tired of playing second fiddle.

3- The Rock, veteran showman out for one last run to go out on his own terms.

What they don’t need is Punk to be the 2013 Sacrficial Lamb to “The Streak.” I don’t think the build up will go much past, “I’m the best in the world and I was champ for 440 days and I’m gonna prove that I’m still The Man by doing the impossible and defeating The Undertaker,” and/or “Hey Young World, you wanna climb into my yard and challenge The Phenom, you’re gonna take the last ride and I’ll write Rest in Peace on your Tombstone.” I think we’ll get the usual Undertaker WrestleMania build up, with the mind games and whatnot. I think we’ll get Punk cutting some good promos. I think both sides will give it the old college try, and ultimately the match will be enjoyable thanks to near falls and C.M. Punk’s gifts. I think ‘Taker will win and the streak will go to 21-0 and that’ll be that.

Enjoyable enough.

Predictable enough.

Forgettable enough.

I’m convinced that, aside from botching an InVasion angle that should’ve lead to a year-long build-up and flushing away buckets of money, the worst thing a professional wrestling company can do is be predictable. That’s part of what doomed WCW. First it was that the nWo kept winning, or kept not losing thanks to interference and never-ending run-ins. Then it was the continual burials of the “Vanilla Midgets.” It’s what doomed WWE to a slump in the early part of the last decade, only instead of “And then John Cena wins” the Choose Your Own Adventure Book read, “And then Hunter goes over.” It’s what makes John Cena so frustrating as a character and a little bit as a person (totally fair to say — he could say to Vince, Steph, or Hunter: “Hey, so, why don’t we switch it up a bit?” but he hasn’t). It’s what made this latest ride with The Rock somewhat less enjoyable.

There is no drama. There is no intrigue. There is no suspense. Having Punk lose to ‘Taker would accomplish nothing. Having him beat ‘Taker though? That would be pretty impressive and would absolutely be a game changer.

There’s an incredible story to be told with Taker wanting one last match and not being able to get the victory, but WWE only allows anger, jealousy, vengeance, and redemption as storylines. The story of a hero failing… They aren’t doing that even though it’d be powerful and compelling, with the New York area fans at MetLife Stadium for WrestleMania XXIX catapulting it into legend. I’m obviously still a “mark” in that I get emotionally involved in wrestlers and storylines, but I think even the most jaded of fans would go, “Holy shit, I can’t believe Taker lost.” That would be an incredible accomplishment for Punk, something that would echo on in way even his 400+ day title reign could not do.

***

We are on the road to WrestleMania. This road usually has twists and turns and bits of captivating television — Jericho vs The Legends, HBK vs Taker I and II, Randy Orton vs HHH (right up until the ill-conceived “Home Invasion” segment). This road is a road we’ve take 29 times, and it’s almost always a fun ride. We all get to sit shotgun and fiddle with the stations. We play license plate bingo, zitch dog, and laugh at the enjoyably bad signs heading to “South of the Border” (My favorite? Pedro’s Weather Report: Chili Today, Hot Tamale). We take the ride together and arrive at the same place, a place we knew we were going to all along. For the first time in a long time though, not only do we know where we’re headed, we’ve unfortunately been handed a device we can’t shut off:

A GPS that gives us a list of every direction we’re going to take on the way there.

This has been Suspension of Disbelief.

Rey Mundo hates being sick. Haaaaates it.

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