My Pinterest Is Piledrivers: The WWE’s Greatest Opponent (Vince McMahon, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan)

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Hello all and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers.  I am typing this from my first new laptop since 2008.  Poverty sucks.  To celebrate, I am doing an extra-long column.  Think JRR Tolkein, George RR Martin length.  And none of this “splitting up The Hobbit into three movies crap,” it’s all here so make sure to have liquids, a blanket and access to a bathroom.

First of all, let me say that I’m thrilled that Wrestlemania season is bringing back some old faces.  Jonah Kue has graced us for the first time in freakin’ forever, and did a heckuva job trying to explain to Rey that, no, the tall, good-looking rookie with a famous last name (in wrestling at least) is not, in fact, an underdog.  But I love ya Rey, glad you’re back as well.  And I have to check out some of these new guys, I understand one is a cokehead burglar or something.  As always, I immediately read whatever BD puts out whenever he can be arsed to do something, and David Spain is doing the best Smackdown recaps around.

Wrestling, moreso than any other medium, is a business that goes through cycles.  In the Eighties we had the Rock N Wrestling era with Captain Lou Albano in Cyndi Lauper videos (which would be like Rusev in Lady GaGa videos today, so in a word amazing), Hulk Hogan teaming with Mister T and the over the top comic book characters of the Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man Randy Savage, etc.  In the late Nineties/early Aughts, you had the Attitude Era which brought us the greatest crossover wrestling star in The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Goldberg making the “bald with a goatee” look cool even before Walter White, DX and crotch chops, Mick Foley falling onto tables and thumbtacks and mainstream exposure.

In recent times, against expectations, wrestling seems to be slowly slipping into the mainstream again.  The AVClub, my favorite pop culture website that I spend way too much time on, did a Wrestle Kingdom 9 writeup in January.  Now, they’re doing a fantastic review of RAW by the very talented LaToya Ferguson… at least until she grows insane with the exposure to WWE booking.  Rolling Stone regularly covers wrestling now.  (Hey Colt, how ya doin’?)  So does Grantland.  Vice has done some wrestling articles.  Matt Binder is an extremely smart and funny comedian who does a lot of great political pieces, and with that pedigree is also a big wrestling fan.  Yet another hip and smart writer is Douglas Martin who I found on Twitter, who tells me that he throws in some wrestling stuff in his work as an author.  The Mountain Goats are doing an LP completely filled with all wrestling themed songs!  (Not wrestling theme songs, sadly they shan’t be covering “Ass Man.”)  Max Landis, writer of “Chronicle” and four other movies all coming out this year, has done a short about Triple H’s career where all the wrestlers are played by women.  If it’s anything like his “Death and Return of Superman” short it should be really good.

Just remembered more examples.  Actor and comic Ron Funches is a huge fan that’s even donned wrestling shirts for his appearances on @midnight.  Jermaine Fowler just signed a pilot deal with NBC and again, big wrestling guy.  The Lucas Bros were two of the best things in “22 Jump Street” and have their own ADHD show full of wrestling references.  In the second season of Loiter Squad, the Adult Swim show by the Odd Future gang every episode had a title that was a wrestling hold, like the “Walls of Jericho.”  Wale and Jon Connor have released wrestling themed singles and mixtapes.  (Connor’s freestyle over Kanye’s “New Slaves” is trill as fuck.  Do kids still say trill?)

I don’t think it’s ever been as cool to be a wrestling fan, and I’m including the Attitude Era, nerds.  Look back over those two long-ass paragraphs, these aren’t C-level celebrities like Dennis Miller or some NASCAR bumfuck.  This isn’t TV Guide putting a wrestler in the magazine because “hey, I guess it’s hot now and those marks will buy all four collectible covers!”  These are smart, hip tastemakers, to use hideous corporate speak.  These are magazines and websites aimed at “those damn millennials.”  Mainstream comics with regular movie and network TV exposure.  Critically acclaimed musicians.  Gasp, people of different races and genders!  A wide variety of demographics and proof that wrestling fans aren’t just racist red state rednecks!

So why is the WWE having such an incredibly shitty period right now?  Why are things tanking so bad that I’d swear that Vince wants to nosedive the company to make Stephanie and Triple H “work for it” after he dies, or that he is selling short his own company in the stock market?

Seriously, I want lots of feedback and discussion on this.  I’ve got theories, but I want to hear from as many people as possible.

In a little over a year, they’ve pushed away CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio and there’s big hints that Brock Lesnar is not long for the ring.  Konnan has claimed that WWE manipulated t-shirt sales so that Punk never outsold Cena.  This is yet another in the list of grievances that Punk has against the WWE, so much so it filled two podcasts.  They fired Alberto Del Rio for slapping a racist social media guy.  One of the best wrestlers in the world was jettisoned for some bigoted idiot who does a job about 80,000 recent college grads could do.

WWE is not really nailing the aspects of a modern, socially conscious company.

The New Day.

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It’s 2015.  And despite that, it’s a miracle that Vince doesn’t make Darren Young come out in glittery purple tights and voguing to “Born This Way.”

I’ve been going on /r/SquaredCircle a lot lately, and it’s actually been making wrestling news with being the biggest home to the Bill DeMott story.  Rumors had been around for some time that General Rection was a creepy perv, but the extent of his complete assholiness wasn’t known until recently.  Click over that link and check out all those allegations.  There’s an old saying that if one person calls you a horse, ignore him.  If three people call you a horse, it’s a conspiracy.  If ten people call you a horse, go buy a saddle.

How a sexist, homophobic racist bully that had no qualms with slapping people with concussions and hitting people in the boot holding their broken leg worked for so long in that company, and still will in an office capacity, is beyond me.  The WWE wants us to Be A Star so they can Be A Hypocrite.  Although I guess in Hugh Morris, Vince found a kindred spirit.

The fans actually stood up and created a hashtag movement with #GiveDivasAChance.  I guess the WWE thinks it’s still 1999 and fans just want to see “puppies” and lingerie mud matches, but no.  The audience knows that AJ Lee, Paige, Emma and Natalya are really talented.  Furthermore, down in NXT I’ve had several dudes tell me that their favorite match last PPV was the women’s four-way for the championship with Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.  It’s 2015, we don’t need softcore eye candy.  These women are legitimate, real-deal badass athletes who the fans want to see tear the house down.  We should not be in a situation where the fans are trying to sell the company on their own goddamn roster.  That is the opposite of a how a company should operate.

These are all really troubling things about the corporate nature of the WWE.  I understand that to obliterate all of your major rivals that you usually have to have some kind of blood on your hands, but this is just pointless misanthropy.  Meanness for the sake of meanness.  The only people you’re hurting now are your own employees and the notion that everyone should be treated as equal.

And… it’s sure as hell not like the product is so fucking good to justify all this bullshit.

Fans like Bryan.  Ambrose.  Ziggler.  Orton.  They care about the heel characters of Rollins and Wyatt and Rusev.  Who wins the Rumble?  Reigns.  Someone that everybody telegraphed a year ago, and that has had less than twenty singles matches, who has half as much experience (at least) than ex-stablemates Rollins and Ambrose, who is expected to beat the man who beat the streak at Wrestlemania.  No one thinks this is a good idea.  Well, Vince and Rey Mundo.  Two people think this is a good idea.  But this is the new WWE-like it or lump it.

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Bray Wyatt will be facing The Undertaker this year… why?  So either Taker can lose, and it’s no big deal since he lost the last time and the shock value is gone, or Wyatt can lose and show that a wrestler in his twenties near the start of his career can’t beat a 50-year-old man.

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Daniel Bryan went from main eventing last year for the WWE World Championship to… possibly being one of seven guys competing for the secondary Intercontinental title?

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Dolph was credited with single-handedly defeating The Authority and being the sole survivor of last year’s Survivor Series… and yet he’s also one of seven competing for a belt currently being held by “I’m afraid I’ve got some Bad News… I job all the fucking time despite being champion” Barrett?

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Instead of the Divas (ugh) championship being defended… there’s going to be a tag match instead?

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Remember when Cesaro was getting huge face pops and beat the then WWE World Champion Randy Orton cleanly?

Then he became a Paul Heyman guy and… went absolutely nowhere until maybe two weeks ago when he finally won a championship with the similarly chronically overlooked Tyson Kidd.  Kidd, who is forced into storylines that revolve around an E! Entertainment “reality” show.

The WWE has a great roster of talent right now.  Hell, they’ve had a great roster of talent for years.  Remember this moment?  I believe it must have been from around December of 2011.

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This was when I was excited about the future.  When I was an evangelist for wrestling.  I had hipster yoga instructors in Brooklyn doing the “Yes!” chant.  Midwestern college girls were following CM Punk on Twitter because of how blunt and funny he was.  The champions were new, young, fresh faces… what the fuck happened?  Why is Kane and The Big Show still wrestling?  Why did they have to piss off Punk, fire Bourne, and bury Ryder, Kofi and do their damnedest to throw Bryan’s body in there too?!

It should not be this hard to run a wrestling company.  You should not need twenty writers to make an incomprehensible storyline that’s only gonna get worse when meddled with by a 70-year-old man with dementia.  NXT should not be so many leagues above your main product that getting sent down there would be seen as a promotion.  Your talent should not constantly be walking around on egg shells and wincing whenever they see the boss backstage.

Wrestling should be fun.  That’s the main job of wrestling.  Your audience should look forward to your shows, they should leave your live events with smiles on their faces and dying for you to come back to their city.  They should want to wear your shirts and talk around the water coolers and invite friends over to PPVs to convert them to fellow believers.  Your audience should not feel ashamed of the product, or embarrassed for the performers making it.  They should not look at people like Zack Ryder and remember that no matter how hard you work and how much you try your dreams can be utterly vanquished with an afterthought by a rich old white man with a petty streak.

I care about the WWE, and I imagine anyone involved in watching or performing professional wrestling cares about the WWE.  A healthy ‘E means that there’s a healthy industry.  They are, for better or for worse (now? worse) the face of pro wrestling.  They’re the most accessible company, the industry leader, the one that will be able to be named if you stop someone on the street and ask them about wrestling.  Even if your tastes run to the indy scene, a healthy WWE means more interest from bigger networks making it easier for someone to view ROH, PWG, NJPW or whatever your favorite is.

Konnan also related a story on how people were leaving during the Iron Man match between Bret Hart and HBK.  Paraphrasing, Vince talked about how he’d rather have an arena half-full cheering for who he wanted them to cheer for than a full house cheering for who they wanted.

Lately he’s been getting his wish.

 

Plugs/credits- I found great gifs and pics from ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com, booo-mekeuh.skyrock.com, wrestleenigma.com and http://www.reddit.com/r/SquaredCircle/.  LaToya Ferguson’s RAW reviews on the avclub.com (usually up by late Monday/Tuesday morning) are always well-written and smart.  If you’re on Twitter, go ahead and follow @BD_CRA, @jonahkue, @genericwhiteboy (Cracked columnist and indie wrestling referee), @MattBinder, @douglasmartini, @sarah_jacoby, @mistershedz, @trattire and @cwsanders39.  And follow some indie people, too.  They’re often the ones smart enough to stay away from all this aggravation.  I follow people like @OphidianCobra, @JohnnyGargano, @trentylocks, @JTG1284, @chasitytaylorr, and @HotYoungBriley.

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