Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Royal Rumble Fallout

I don’t talk wrestling much on the website.  For whatever reason I usually don’t have much to say about it.  I’ve thought a lot about the product over the past two nights and I wanted to get some of those thoughts out to the general public.  Before the comments come, yes I know wrestling is scripted.  I look at it as part scripted show and part stunt show.  I’ve seen enough matches close up I’m usually able to tell when a punch or kick really connects. 

Wrestling is unique in that its audience gives immediate feedback.  Sure, sports teams get cheered or booed but that isn’t scripted.  The players are out there trying to win the game; they weren’t told when they leave the locker room which team is going to win.  When wrestling fans don’t like something about the product, it’s heard.  Sunday night was the perfect example of that.

The character of Daniel Bryan is that of the underdog facing the evil corporation.  He doesn’t have the look that the WWE normally pushes.  But his charisma makes you like him.  His athleticism surprises you.  As far as storylines go, having when where you’re being kept down by the boss is a classic.  The people watching should rally behind you.  Daniel Bryan’s story of being kept down by “The Authority” has been going on for 5 or 6 months now. 

During the WWE’s latest PPV Bryan again put on an amazing match, but the focus of the PPV was the Royal Rumble.  The winner of the 30 person rumble goes on to headline WWE’s biggest PPV event, Wrestlemania.  Bryan’s match was the first one after the pre-show match.  Throughout the night the crowd booed title matches and chanted for Daniel Bryan either by chanting his name or his “Yes” catchphrase.  When it was revealed that he wasn’t in the Rumble the crowd was nasty. 

Last night’s Raw had “the Authority” mocking fans for not getting what they wanted.  I’m not an industry insider; I can’t tell you if this was the plan all along.  It’s entirely possible the WWE saw what was happening and had to make changes.  I honestly hope so.  The crowd reaction Bryan gets is amazing; the audience has already made him a champion.  If he keeps getting screwed over and neglected the fans are going to grow bitter (and there are plenty of bitter fans about this already).  At some point it becomes not the storyline holding your hero back, but the actually behind the scenes company. 

The winner of the Royal Rumble Sunday night was Batista, a wrestler who left four years ago to become an actor.  He has a part in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie; so he’ll like win the belt at some point so when he’s doing interviews about the movie he can be referred to as WWE Champion.  If that sounds ridiculous that is exactly what the Rock did last year around this time.  That too is part of the backlash.  It’s as if the company is saying forget about the men and women who travel four or five days a week and bust their asses for the audience.  Instead put all the attention on an actor who will be around for a couple of months and then take off again. 

The WWE network is launching at the end of February.  They are hoping people sign up for 6 months of service at 9.99 a month.  This is a huge risk for the company since it pretty much dismantles their old Pay Per View structure.  I would think when going towards kind of venture that they’d be more likely to give their audience what it is demanding, but what do I know?  It’s entirely possible I’ve been played by their writers; after all I just devoted today’s update to their product.

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