Then They Kayfabed For Me
I recently started reading Maziar Bahari’s prison memoir, “Then They Came For Me.” I’m about halfway through it. And, because of course it did, a main tenet of the story reminded me of a professional wrestling storyline. We’ll get back to this in a moment.
A common complaint from the so-called “IWC” has been an annoying number of “evil boss” story arcs. It’s a valid complaint, because almost all of them have been either a halfhearted attempt to recreate Austin v. McMahon, or have been too lazy to even try to make the same point.
Still, back to the book. The author, Bahari, is an Iranian-Canadian journalist/filmmaker who was arrested in 2009 while covering the Iran elections. He was imprisoned for 118 days while his main captor, a man he referred to as “Rosewater” (the name of the movie Jon Stewart directed this summer based on the book) because of his scent, accused him of the outrageous. Among other things, he said Bahari was the leader of a spy syndicate essentially because he wrote for Newsweek. (This is grossly oversimplified.) I’ve not read the whole book so I don’t know what further trumped-up nonsense Bahari faces or what brutality he deals with.
Regardless, somehow my mind drew a parallel to the current Triple H/Corporation/Daniel Bryan storyline. Triple H is representing Ahmadinejad, and Daniel Bryan is representing Bahari, or better yet a condensed version of every ordinary citizen who protested and resisted tyrannical rule. Much like a reasonable, rational journalist like Bahari represented a threat to the Islamic Republic, Daniel Bryan is also dealing with trumped-up charges because he in some way threatens the beliefs of the paranoid, irrational extremist. Triple H’s extremism, or I suppose extreme fundamentalism, is his belief in what the WWE Championship should represent and more importantly, who should represent it:
The trumped-up charges Bryan is guilty of in his metaphorical imprisonment: he’s too short. He has a shaggy beard. He doesn’t look like a champion. He’s not what’s best for business. He’s a B-plus trying to take over the A-list. Now, much as Bahari was accused of leading a Western spy cabal via the media, Bryan is framed of conspiring with a referee to throw the WWE title match.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying….this type of storyline has never bothered me; it’s repetitive because it’s the type of class war or ideological war that’s fought to one degree or another by billions of people, whether it’s something as mundane as a labor struggle or a totalitarian regime squashing its own people. Regardless of- no, because of- what you think of what Paul Levesque and Bryan Danielson represent in the WWE “universe,” Triple H and Daniel Bryan have been the perfect characters to play their respective roles of the best retelling of this timeless struggle WWE has done since McMahon v. Austin.
The locker room emptying out to show a sign of solidarity behind their leader against the dictatorship was a nice touch tonight. Trolling the smarks and marks alike into straight-up annoyance with the heel dominance is all fine and well, but you have to throw the babyfaces an occasional bone.
They Fed Them More
Two entities debuted to much hype and immediate rocket strapped to them in 2012: the one-man wrecking ball Ryback and the three-man wrecking crew, The Shield. A months-long undefeated streak accompanied both. Incidentally, The Shield caused the end of Ryback’s winning streak.
The latest development for both comes high on the card, with Ryback debuting as the newest Heyman guy last night and The Shield back in the upper-card spotlight with their association with Triple H and their bouts with Daniel Bryan.
Yet, it only feels like The Shield is moving in the right direction, even as they took another clean pin tonight; for one thing, the clean pin was to the top guy in the company at the moment, Daniel Bryan. For another, they got over enough from the very beginning that there was always more substance to their gimmick than simply not doing a job or two.
Further, after Ambrose and Rollins received chances to show their singles chops with the big boys, tonight felt like an audition of sorts for Reigns and he held his own in a one-on-one match with Daniel Bryan. He did more than look like a megastar for once: he performed like one. The men in black are back on track. (I won’t blame you if you stop reading here.)
Meanwhile, it already feels like another repackaging of Ryback isn’t working. I haven’t necessarily found him to be lacking in these roles, necessarily, and it’s a fair argument if he’s been the undeserved recipient of someone’s itchy trigger finger: he got neutered by Punk and The Shield when he was starting to get really over as a babyface. He jobbed repeatedly to Cena even as he was starting to hit his stride as the arrogant, Batista-in-2010 type of musclebound heel (though not nearly as awesome as Batista). Now he’s Punk’s next monster Heyman Guy to kill time with until it’s time for him to get his Lesnar retribution just as the school bully gimmick was starting to work.
It may be arguable that going to feuding with Punk is a promotion, and that’s probably the case. But it’s the third time they’ve called an audible on Ryback in less than a year when an iteration of his gimmick was beginning to find its way. If they have any hope for him has a top-level player- and if there’s any good reason for them to have hope- here’s hoping they give it time with him for once, or cycle him to the bottom and see if he can reinvent himself to get over own his own starting over.
Hot Shots, Part Trois
It’s often said, and usually correctly, that hot-shotting the title in quick succession multiple times devalues the belt. However, in some instances it portrays multiple people as being worth holders at each other’s throats over it. This is the third major time I can think of- and I’m sure there’s plenty of other good examples- in which I’ve found this to be the case, after 1998 and 2011.
1998, of course, found Austin being screwed out of the title by McMahon with the aide of Undertaker and Kane, both of whom of course wanted the title for themselves while working for, and then against, and…then for McMahon again, I think (Vince Russo was booking; don’t even pretend that you remember it exactly)? . Meanwhile, Mick Foley found himself on the screwed list while The Rock is hand-picked as the Corporate Champion, and those two battled into 1999 in a series of increasingly brutal bouts with Rocky, only to see Stone Cold claw his way back to the top. Three all-time greats traded the title nearly double-digit times from September to Wrestlemania, and it was one of the high points in the title’s history.
2011’s Summer of Punk may have gone off the rails, and the separation of the new title after Punk being gone with the original for barely a week may have been convoluted. But it, too, led to a series of events that saw Punk screwed out of the title, an incensed Cena coming after it, winning it, getting screwed out of it, before ultimately putting it back in the hands of Punk. Call this one a happy accident: sometimes bizarre, sometimes downright putrid booking luckily ended up launching CM Punk’s epic 434-day reign.
Now we have Daniel Bryan beating Cena clean to take the torch, only to have it essentially stolen from him twice. Having Randy Orton be presented as the McMahon errand boy is fine, because as I’ve said before this story isn’t about Randy Orton; someone warmed-over as a main event is perfect for the role because it’s about Daniel Bryan overcoming that to reclaim the title he deserves. Triple H cares so much about “his” title that he’ll make sure it’s in the hands of someone who meets his ideals. Daniel Bryan doesn’t care what’s thrown in front of him to get it back no matter how many times it’s snatched out of his hands or how many times he’s beaten down.
It’s not always an all-time great throwing 15 straight months of amazing at us to elevate the title. Sometimes it’s a bunch of powerful forces at each other’s throats to gain possession of it, and it being tugged in every direction until someone finally claims it for good.
Odds and Ends
I have no other big-picture thoughts tonight, so let’s empty out the notebook really quick:
-RVD and Ricardo was a cute pairing for a one-time go-round against Del Rio. I’ve quickly tired of it.
-Cleveland has The Miz, St. Louis has Randy Orton, Miami has The Rock and Chicago has CM Punk. These all kind of make sense, for one reason or another.
-Dusty Rhodes looks like Paul Bearer. By that I mean, what Paul Bearer looks like *now*.
-Call it the “Social scoreboard,” if you will. But the Twitter scroll doesn’t bother me. You watch a game on ESPN, and other scores and news from the sports world is scrolling the whole damn time. Same with the news, for that matter. In the WWE “universe,” (I’ll always put that in quotes to maintain an ironic detachment from that branding I probably don’t deserve to take) nothing counts for more than social relevancy and mainstream attention. So, yeah, those are their “scores.” Yes, the whole thing is contrived and fake and silly….and the Twitter stuff is weird, too.
See you next week on The Postgame.