Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Both Sides of the Coin

While we all knew this was coming I was hoping for a bit more leeway. It is fundamentally flawed in every way but the WWE has found a way to place a title into the hands of just about every single performer that truly is not ready, has not truly earned, or has no basis for being champion. With the exception of Matt Hardy, Triple H and the Miz/Morrison dynamic. The recent title changes are just painful to behold. Either watching, in theory or on paper. With the new addition of CM Punk to the championship arena I find myself just a little sick. CM Punk's crowd appeal is truly inexplicable to me. But I realize that I look for different things in wrestling than your average fan. I believe the appeal of Punk has more to do with the character and less to do with the performer or quality of work.

There are literally no figures in wrestling that can be appreciated in the same fashion as this character can be. In our media empire where the cool kids are the skater kids that say no to drugs, BMX bikers that down Red Bull instead of Bacardi. For older fans like myself that were raised during the 70's and early 80's it's against our 'party like a rock star' mentality inherited from our rebellious 60's parents. But for the next generation of mid to late 80's on to early 90's CM Punk is the proper avenue to be 'properly' subversive. All of the attitude and spunk, none of the 'rock star' lifestyle. It can be argued that this character feels real in comparison to some of the over done over worked angles that the sport has always been a victim of. How many guys can actually call themselves 'the King of Kings' and you buy it? What CM Punk represents is a way for a guy that doesn't have the intense cult of personality that some possess to pull people. He does it in pretty much the same way Stone Cold accomplished the feat without the insane fallout. He was just a guy that has made a somewhat unpopular lifestyle decision. But ironically enough is wildly popular.

My issues with CM Punk have nothing to do with the character and everything to do with his ring performance and etiquette. There is just always something lacking when he performs in the ring and also in cutting promos and just general 'face' appeal. Punk loses me because I can't respect someone that can't truly hold their own in a match. I have yet to see a Punk match where I didn't believe he was being carried for roughly 75% of it. Honestly that is really just disrespectful to the lifestyle that he prescribes to. Being that he tots himself as this figure, how can this choice in living be taken seriously if the man can't perform. For that he has to work harder than the other guys, he has to defend not just his own honor but the honor of his decisions. Right now it's just too much work to put over a guy that could probably fully participate in a match if he would just change his conditioning and training. And then he's the champ. I do believe that he's placeholder until the proper long term champ can be located just for storyline reasons. And hopefully this will lead to a heel turn for Punk, who just needs to add a preachy 'holier than thou' attitude to instigate that response. Because while it's okay to make subversive 'for the greater good' lifestyle changes, it is quite frowned upon to judge everyone else in the meantime.

Somehow you had to get a title back to Raw and Money in the Bank has always been the best engine for sudden title changes when unexpected injuries and suspensions occur. But this seems to be a move based solely on story. But I have to wonder whose storyline this really affects, CM Punk's . . . . .or Edge's. I don't know how many people read into the complete meltdown with Ryder and Hawkins on Raw last night, but I did. I hope the writers are on to something inspired instead of the same old hat trick. I recall feeling something that I didn't expect when Edge started smacking around his doppelgangers. It was for lack of a better term, very uncomfortable. As a heel, you can be a truly heinous, self-involved ego maniac. It is almost a gimmy; you beat people as a form of betrayal and are very stand-up about your lecherous intentions. It's all about you all of the time. There are few people in the business who emote like Edge when he's on. In case no one has noticed, he has been on for about a month now. With performers like him you have to pay attention to the nuances. There isn't much that he does without thought and intent. There was just something about watching a man beat and subjugate men that have an almost nihilistic form of hero worship for him down right evil. Especially since we have established a 'family' scenario. What will most likely happen is that he finally alienates all of those who he has used to get to the top now that the object of his obsession is gone. What would be great would be shaking up the entire scene on Smackdown.

Ideally this story should not be about Edge's obsession with the title; it should be about Vickie Guerrero's growing obsession with power. I vote that Vickie Guerrero ruins her own wedding, supplanting Edge with a man that she believes will be able to hold onto the title for the long haul. Perhaps the Undertaker? With the nearly inhuman status of icon that he has taken on this is the only move that could make him a heel instantaneously, because yes, the Vickie Guerrero angle is that good. So the audience discovers that Edge was obsessed with the title for one reason and one reason only. It was the only way to keep the love of his life Vickie Guerrero who had become accustomed to champions and will not be married to a loser. Edge doesn't lose steam; he doesn't even become a different character. After completely falling apart for a while, he should become obsessed with revenge and using the same old tricks to accomplish those ends. But now there is the side car of knowing that he is driven by love and mostly by that love being scorned. What you get in turn is a mutable character. An actual anti hero in the traditional sense that he is merely seeking his revenge, it just happens to be against those that scorned him. Who also happen to be the people everybody hates. This makes for strange and interesting bedfellows as he aligns himself with anyone that will help him stop the regime.

People tend to miss the underlying reasons why certain wrestling angles garner more attention and produce more results. It's very simple cause and effect. All of the great storylines have involved an invasive, liberty taking regime that was finally being confronted by something that played dirty enough to actually defeat it. But like any good tale, the hero or anti-hero is only as good as the villain. Some villains work, some don't. But the villain has to be nigh near unstoppable either to endless power or overwhelming moral corruption.

Stone Cold/ McMahon: It wasn't until Stone Cold proved what a tough SOB he really was did he stand a chance against such evil as Vince McMahon.

NOW/WCW: Not until Sting came back as the Crow, entering in darkness wielding a baseball bat did he stand a chance versus the constantly growing NWO.

Historically this is a theme that is repeated and works from so many different angles. This was something that the writers attempted with Randy Orton and Evolution. It was almost successful, and would've been if it had involved the Randy Orton that the WWE has now. The face Orton was too vanilla and it was just implausible that a mere "'legend killer" could take on the Cerebral Assassin, the Dirtiest Player in the Game and their pet Rockweiller Batista. The angle would've fared better had Triple H been the one betrayed because Ric Flair going with a younger buck to oust The Game carries weight and builds a fascinating story of student being betrayed by their master.

With that in mind I see this Edge/Guerrero angle and cry for a little internal regime betrayal. But the only figure in the mix that is strong enough in character and performance quality is Edge. Talk about biting the hand that feeds. Edge has taught Vickie Guerrero to be the manipulative, conniving vixen that she is. By months of building we have watched her take almost all of her queues from him and enact plans that he has hatched. The next step is obvious; 'La Familia' gets too big for their britches and turn on the Rated R Superstar. Effectively setting Edge up to tear down the house he built. It really is the only twist to this story that can truly save it and make it a tale for the ages. A betrayed heartbroken Vickie Guerrero is cheap and too easy. And honestly Vickie doesn't have the chops at this stage of the game to pull it off, neither does Ryder, Hawkins, or Neely. Chavo could, but there is no incentive for the family to turn on him. And it would be foolish for them to gear it so. The only personality strong enough to make this work and become a foil for Triple H in the battles that are sure to come from his move to Smackdown under the thumb of Vickie Guerrero, is Edge. Honestly the other members of 'La Familia' would all have to be involved to create a proper counterbalance. But they would need a new champ. And that is where things can get very, very interesting.

Here's to hoping that the next few months of wrestling do not disappoint.