In the past month or so, the WWE has done something none of us who have been watching for a long time thought they remembered how to do – they have a wide-ranging story arc going that will take its time getting to its conclusion, and provided the conclusion is one where the good guy gets up in the end, this should be some of the best and most satisfying story-telling the WWE has done in quite a while. Everyone except the crowd is against Daniel Bryan, but he comes so close each time before sheer force of numbers overwhelms him. But they have already established that Big Show might well be some-one who’ll side with Bryan, and when Cody Rhodes comes back, that could be another. It’s actually intriguing.
And it’s got me thinking – where have I seen this before?
This is the Princess Bride story, but replace Princess Buttercup with the WWE Title. Bryan is Wesley, left for dead at the hands of Randy Orton, playing Count Rugen. But Randy already thinks he has taken care of Cody Rhodes, playing Inigo Montoya (“You killed my father. Prepare to die.”) while The Big Show (Fezzik) looks on helplessly. And of course, that leaves HHH as Prince Humperdinck. So, provided the story ends like the film, with the three heroes riding off with the WWE Buttercup in their possession, this will be a wonderful tale.
(Thanks to one of Australia’s finest comedians, Adam Hills, I have recently introduced my children to The Princess Bride and they love it, so I have seen it wa-a-a-ay too many times in the past 2 months to be healthy.)
What this shows, though, is that, really, in story-telling there is nothing new under the sun. If a story works, then it can be adapted and adopted and made to fit any scenario. And professional wrestling borrows all the time. It doesn’t matter if we know the outcome because we know the source material; the fun is in how we get to that ending and how the company takes us along for the ride.
So, a few other examples. If you go back far enough, most stories in the English world have some basis in that bane of school-children everywhere – Shakespeare. (Okay, I know nowadays Shakespeare is not as common at schools as he once was, but I studied 6 of his plays at high school and have seen many others; I even played Brutus in a high school version of Julius Caesar, and was really awful at it.) Old Bill seems to rear his head wherever stories appear, so, of course, this means his fingerprints can be found over professional wrestling as well.
Two examples stand out to me. Two Gentlemen of Verona was there at Wrestlemania XX; two best friends torn apart by a girl, in this case played by Chris Jericho and Christian with Trish Stratus in the role of Silvia (though the ending didn’t result in a double wedding).
Coriolanus concerned a hero of the people who switched sides – much like Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach 1996 (although the humility of Coriolanus is missing from Hogan); there was even the name change, as he added ‘Hollywood’ to his title, much like Caius Marcius added Coriolanus.
I feel that professional wrestling could do far worse than to take some more inspiration from the Bard.
But other stories have come from other sources. The Bible gave us the story of brotherly vengeance in Jacob and Esau, the favoured child story, the child who got everything. Sound familiar, wrestling fans? Of course – this was so brilliantly redone with Bret and Owen Hart.
(At this point in the discussion I will say that I will ignore all the so-called David and Goliath storylines. That’s a motif that predates the Bible and, quite frankly, has been done to death in all forms of story-telling, but remains pretty damn high in the cliché book of professional wrestling writers.)
Mythology gets a look in as well. The original Nexus invasion – the myth of the Seven Against Thebes. Hulk Hogan’s run from Wrestlemanias 1 through almost 4 – the labours of Herakles (Hercules to the Disney generation). Some stories are timeless, really.
Going back to films, try this one: Randy Savage won the Wrestlemania IV tournament and the world title to the joy of the audience, with the help of Hulk Hogan, who had become his mentor of sorts, and with the love of his life by his side. Replace Savage with Anakin Skywalker, Hulk Hogan with Obi-Wan kenobi, and call the film Attack of the Clones. Over the course of the next year his jealousy and emotions drove him over the edge so that at Wrestlemania V he fought Hulk Hogan, the man who had befriended him, and lost. He lost not only the title, but all he held dear, including the woman he loved. Now we’re in Revenge of the Sith territory. By Wrestlemania VI he was battling against the world, represented in the everyman character of Dusty Rhodes, The American Dream. And it was a battle he still could not win. Just like when the Death Star was destroyed at the end of Star Wars (A New Hope). Then he cost the Ultimate Warrior his title and his glory, leading to them facing off at Wrestlemania VII with so much more on the line – Savage’s career, his life. And he was defeated. But in this defeat came his ultimate triumph as he was reunited with Miss Elizabeth and the fans took him back into their hearts, a position that he never then gave up in the WWF/E (Return of the Jedi). Sure, this happened before the prequel films came out, so maybe turnaround is fair play.
Just a few examples, and there are so many more I could have mentioned here. Books, films, plays, myths and legends – wrestling has taken from the best (and worst) of them all. Which brings me back to where I started.
Already some people are complaining about the current Daniel Bryan storyline with the HHH/Orton power-trip. While HHH’s history in this sort of situation would indicate that DB may not get the final come-uppance the audience wants, hopefully he really does do what’s “best for the business” and we’ll get our Perseus holding the head of Medusa (WWE Title belt) aloft to the acclamation of the crowd.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, enjoy the ride, and hope that we get what we’re after. At heart we’re all marks for a good story. Hopefully, pro wrestling has remembered this and we’re going to get what we want.
Let’s just let this one play out.
Relax. It’s just wrestling.
(What other plot lines have you seen that come from other sources in pro wrasslin’? This list here is far from definitive, so add some more!)
[Warning: politics. Not wrestling.]
[Addendum: This was written on Friday. On Saturday, Australia had its Federal Election and, through the ineptitude of the former government, we have a new one, ruled by a man who makes George W Bush look untelligent, who thinks the Tea Party elements of the Republican Party don’t go far enough, and who has members of his bench that make Sarah Palin look positively sane. I am glad I wrote this beforehand, otherwise it would have been a lot darker and pessimistic. Unfortunately we had a choice of the 2 major parties between a chaotic rabble and a group of people who think the 1950s were a little racy. Australia’s f****d. I will now go and drown my sorrows with a beer or 24.]
Tags: big show, Bret Hart, chris jericho, christian, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, Hercules, HHH, Hulk Hogan, nexus, Owen Hart, randy orton, Randy Savage, Star Wars, Trish Stratus, wrestlemania, WWE, WWE Title