I hope everyone survived the 100th anniversary of Matron Guilt Day. Do not get me wrong, I love my mother dearly and appreciate everything she has done. I further appreciate she never wants a big deal made out of Mother’s Day. It is insane the way card companies, florists, jewelers, and other female oriented merchandisers go out of their way to shame you into bending over backwards to spend money on mothers. And forget going to a restaurant on that day. I think this commercial sum up my overall attitude on the ludicrousness of the tradition of Mother’s Day brunch. I talked to my mother yesterday, had a lovely conversation and we left it at that.
Ok, so I sent her some flowers as well.
Well in the last two weeks since I have written, Extreme Rules 2014 is in the books. I did not partake in the pay-per-view. Overall, it sounds like the Shield versus Evolution match was everything one could want from those six. Additionally, from the description, Daniel Bryan and Kane had a classic, Attitude Era extreme rules match that spilled into the back and involved the use of a host of weapons, a destroyed vehicle, and a forklift. John Cena versus Bray Wyatt was overbooked beyond belief and I feel like the WWE is losing focus on the shape of the feud. Wyatt is going from being cult leader with a plan to “creepy for the sake of being creepy.”
Extreme Rules also appears to have just been the second act for all of these feuds as Payback is shaping up to be nothing but rematches. Granted the name of the show sort of sets itself up for that, and Payback does sound better than Leftovers.
However, it is not the fact that the two shows are going to have similar cards that is the inspiration for this week’s column. Rather, it is the fact that the WWE Title match is rehashing an element of a storyline from three years ago that is my cause for concern. As noted by many a commentator here and across the web, creative appears to have pulled up Kane’s “Embrace the Hate” storyline from 2011/2012 with Bryan in the role of Zack Ryder and Brie Bella as Eve (short of her turning on Ryder as she tries to bag John Cena). It almost appears like the WWE is shameless in their recycling of this storyline as we even got a protracted segment last week on Raw where Bryan and Bella must escape the psycho Kane in their vehicle. Jim Cornette famously proclaimed you can recycle storylines after seven years due to fan turnover. However, it has not even been three years since Kane was this particularly psychotic and demonic.
The whole direction of this feud just feels off to me. They were doing some interesting things with Kane in his corporate, Director of Operations persona. His dialogue being carefully worded, corporate jargon delivered with all the passion and zeal of a TPS Report was fantastic as he was also able to convey a beautiful swarminess underneath it all. Their decision for him revert to his most recent masked persona feels very forced and almost like they were afraid of having too much similarities between the WWE Title feud and The Shield/Evolution feud. That is particularly ludicrous as these feuds were born out of the same moment (The Shield turning on The Authority the night after Wrestlemania). Therefore, I propose the following alternative to the Bryan/Kane feud that is a little more grounded in “reality” and does not call for Kane to go backwards in his development as a character.
Everything plays out pretty much as it did post-Wrestlemania. Stephanie does her condescending speech to Kane, looking to wake up the demon. Two weeks before Extreme Rules, Stephanie announces the match between Bryan and Kane, and Kane does his sneak attack on Bryan, coming out the crowd. However, I would have him dressed in his original costume, which was the suit that covered him from the neck down and the original mask that covered his entire face. The announcers could note that Stephanie apparently not only pushed Kane back to being a demon, but back to his original, uncontrollable version. He delivers the first two tombstone piledrivers dressed like this, and Stephanie tries to plead him off. However, before he goes for the last one, he pulls off the mask and wig and (if possible), peels off the top of the costume to reveal himself in a shirt and tie. He holds Bryan by the throat and gets in his face about him wanting to know he’s not going to be facing some cartoon character, but rather a man who is willing to do anything to get ahead in the company. He then delivers the last tombstone piledriver and Bryan is stretchered out.
The next week, Stephanie is out to deliver her apology to Bryan for Kane’s actions. She comments that while The Authority does not approve of what he did, their hands were tied as Kane is Director of Operations and his employment contract gives him significant leeway in taking actions necessary to ensure a first-rate product. Given the buzz on social media, and the ratings figures from his assault on Bryan, Kane performed his duties, therefore nothing could be done to admonish him. However, Stephanie does try to make it up Bryan and Bella by giving Brie a shot at the Diva’s Title against Paige. After Paige enters, but before the referee can start the match, Kane’s music plays. Bryan and Bella freak out as Kane walks out wearing referee gear. He comments that as Director of Operations, he feels such a significant title match requires a strong, impartial referee presence to prevent any outside interference and names himself referee. In the course of the match, he obviously shows bias and at one point, forcibly separates Brie from Paige. Bryan jumps up on the ring in anger and yells at him and Kane ejects him from ringside. The match continues and when Brie has the upper hand and looks to go for a high risk move, Kane gets into such a position so she ends up hitting him with it. Kane overreacts to the move and calls for the bell, disqualifying Brie for assaulting an official. After the match, he announces as Director of Operations, he has to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the officiating crew and make it clear to all the wrestlers that blatant attacks on the referees will not be tolerated. Therefore, he must administer significant discipline on Brie immediately. As he says this, he menaces her in the ring, backing her in a corner, and even grabbing her as if to deliver a chokeslam. Bryan races down to save his wife and they eventually make their escape, but not before Kane has gotten his shots in on the injured neck of Bryan. This of course replaces the whole Kane emerging from under the ring shtick.
Extreme Rules plays out pretty much as it did, with Bryan still emerging victorious. The next night on Raw, Stephanie and Kane are seen in her office backstage, where she again berates him for his inability to win. She comments that maybe Kane still has a soft spot for Bryan given their allegiance in Team Friendship. Or maybe, Kane does need the mask to be a true monster. Kane stands there, fuming, but keeps himself from exploding at his boss and promises her that she will see what kind of monster he can be in his role as Director of Operations.
That night, a handicapped tag team elimination match is announced as the Bellas must take on four opponents (let’s say Tamina, Summer Rae, Alicia Fox, and Aksana). After all six combatants are in the ring, Kane comes out onto the stage and announces there apparently was a mistake made by production. Kane did not book the Bellas in the match, he booked A Bella. He declares Nikki Bella as the competitor. Further, to ensure there is no chance of the Bellas engaging in an illegal substitution, he orders Brie onto the stage and stay within his presence for the duration of the entire match. Naturally, Nikki is pummeled by her opponents and is pinned and eliminated. Brie goes to run to check on her sister, but Kane grabs her and holds her. He then gets on the mic again and notes that apparently there was further confusion in his instructions. Since this is an elimination style match, it is not fair to Nikki with her being only one person that her opponents could win with just one shot. Therefore, he notes that her opponents must pin or make her submit a total of four times to win the match, since Nikki would have to eliminate all four of them. The match continues and Nikki is destroyed by her opponents over and over again, while Brie looks on in her best horrified and tearful look. After the final elimination, medical staff must attend to Nikki and wheel her out.
In the back, Bryan tries consoling Brie and looks to take her to the hospital to be with her sister, but Stephanie comes by and directs Bryan to the ring for his match against Alberto del Rio, and that if he fails to compete, he will be stripped of his title. Brie is in no shape to drive, so she must wait for Bryan. He competes and wins. After the match, the two try to leave the arena, but Kane emerges next to their car, demanding where they’re going. He then announces that, as Director of Operations, he has installed a new policy where Superstars are prohibited from leaving the arena prior to the end of a show, except in cases of dire emergencies. Since Nikki is receiving medical attention, and he has not been informed of any complications, their departure would not be deemed an emergency. Brie goes to make call the hospital, but Kane grabs her wrist and says that personal calls are not permitted during company time.
The following week on Raw, Bryan arrives late to the show, and is greeted by Kane, who notes his failure to appear on time. Bryan notes that he is late because he was booked for a promotional event in another state and unfortunately his plane was late. He notes that he has been on the road all week and he has not seen Brie that entire time because she was booked for different publicity events. In fact, she had no opportunity to see or care for Nikki all week. Kane comments that Bryan wanted to be WWE Champion, and that means fulfilling certain obligations. Given his failure to appear on time, Kane could suspend him, which would mean stripping him of the WWE Title. Instead, Kane schedules him for a series of matches throughout the night, ensuring that the company makes the most of his popularity and serves as a punishment for failure to appear on time. They include matches against the likes of Mark Henry, Rybaxel, and Alexander Rusev. Also on that show, Brie and Nikki Bella are put into a handicapped tag match (after Kane “found a doctor” that cleared Nikki to compete). Naturally, Nikki is in no state, which forces Brie to face the opposition single-handedly and suffer the consequences. At the end of the night, Bryan comes out and declares he’s tired of Kane’s efforts to bury him under The Authority’s power and challenges him to a match at Payback. Kane accepts, and announces it will be a Buried Alive match (the rumored stipulation for the match), so Bryan can learn what it truly means to be buried by Kane.
The week before Payback, Kane books himself and Bryan in a pair of gauntlet matches, as warm ups for their pay-per-view bout. Bryan faces a trio he is very familiar with in Evolution. Kane, in similar fashion, must take on the infamous and devastating threesome of 3MB. The night culminates with Bryan being savaged by Evolution and while The Shield make an effort to provide an assist, are also overpowered and the night ends with Kane, Stephanie, and Evolution standing proud. It is short-lived however for Kane as he is unceremoniously buried by Bryan. However, Bryan doesn’t just use dirt to cover Kane in the grave, but also a forklift full of all of the memos and directions issued by Kane over the past month.
The idea here is to let Kane flourish in his role as an evil authority figure. The way some companies create rules that seem to almost punish their employees is something everyone can relate to. Being forced to choose between your job or caring for a loved one is demonic. Being forced to watch someone you cared for suffer under the out of touch dictates of someone in power is real torture. This is a relatable storyline, exaggerated for the purposes of professional wrestling. It allows Kane to grow as a character, letting him be petty against his former friend, and come off as less hokey. It continues the overarching storyline that The Authority disapproves of Bryan as champion and go out of their way to make him, and those he holds dear, suffer. Best of all, it avoids the WWE from reusing a laughable storyline that flopped two years ago and keeps people from being reminded of it.
Until next time, I relinquish creative control.
Tags: Brie Bella, Daniel Bryan, extreme rules, kane, Nikki Bella, Payback, Stephanie McMahon