Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reality That's Stranger Than Fiction

It has been interesting watching WWE as of late. Very interesting how now it seems the thing to do to come to wrestling fans to peddle your wares. This is in response to the new Jenny McCarty Autism benefit. I've always respected the fact that she has spearheaded this endeavor. In an image obsessed world it's very hard to admit to any imperfections and even harder to decide to try and make a difference. I have tons of respect for that. I find it interesting that when you place A-list Hollywood celebrities in the same room and scenes as wrestlers, they are the ones that look so completely fake. Then I wonder if I am the only person that has noticed. Or if in some ways Hollywood has noticed.

Film acting is as different from stage acting as black is different from white. One is the compass of color the other completely devoid of it. I'm a theatrical purist in a lot of ways. I'll take stage over film any day. But I am a sucker for great CGI and special effects because I'm also a 3D artist as well as a traditional studio artist. And some of the things that have been created with nothing but pixels and imagination are the best displays of art this side of Rembrandts. But I realize that most CGI artists would be a fish out of water if someone handed them a canvas and a paintbrush and asked that they recreate that killer fight scene in 'Transformers'. Not from lack of talent, they just don’t have the proper tools to complete the task. So it seems to go without saying, for most theater enthusiasts, most onscreen actors in Hollywood would be buried on a Broadway stage. A few have made the transition, but most have adapted to their medium in a way that they just can't change gears anymore. They can't emote more because they have no idea of where to start the gauge.

That being said, I'm relatively sure that most of these same people would be smote by the truly talented of the professional wrestling industry. As someone who has always sucked at improv, I understand the circles that have been ran around me in the past by those who had the gift of quick wit and even quicker delivery. I recall watching the truly entertaining chaos that Raw has become in the wake of losing their GM. Specifically the ring work by John Cena, Batista, JBL and CM Punk about two Mondays ago. I found it completely hysterical to watch the gab master JBL, the court jester Cena, and the street tough Batista talk circles around the green horn CM Punk. Don't get me wrong, CM Punks vocalization has improved dramatically. But it was painfully obvious when faced with his main contenders that he was sorely outmatched in verbal sparring and completely out of his league.

Let me clarify a few things. I think JBL was God's gift to color commentating. Not since the great Jesse "the Body" Ventura has there been such invasive, off the cuff but directly on the mark commentating by a broadcaster than was given by JBL during his stick on Smackdown. When I rated Smackdown then, I rated it by how en fuego JBL was. Naturally, I want JBL where he belongs, mic’ed at all times. I have never truly appreciated anything at all about John Cena. His ring work fluctuates, his gimmick is a little too real to be a gimmick which is why it works for him. But there just doesn't seem to be much imagination there. John Cena is truly being John Cena. But I have to begrudgingly admit that when he is verbally on, you will find a select few that can totally own a crowd like he can. Factor in his age and experience and the man is truly scary. What he has been able to accomplish in the time that he has is practically rude. Batista has developed a new level. Somewhere between losing Ric Flair and having to stand opposite the heartbreak Kid, he has come into his own. What was awkward and seemingly a little forced before has adapted into a truly believable and unique presence. Frankly it was the subtle yet suitable addition of silence. Well placed and well used. You don't have to hear what he says. The menace emanates from him better when not a word is spoken. If CM Punk could even be noticed in the ring with all of this going on at the same time than it was a miracle.

Reminds me of the Carol Burnett show. Specifically the skits that involved the big four, Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway and Harvey Corman. All were very talented performers, but I was always hard pressed to find Vickie Lawrence in any skit that wasn't her staple 'Mama's Family' where she could at least hold her own and not just become wallpaper for the heavyweights. Right now CM Punk is wallpaper for the heavyweights. Without an aggressive character modification and quick, he's going to lose the loyal contingent that he has built. At this stage of the game, his fans are starting to doubt his validity as champ. And for good reason, the past champs are showing them in truly unforgiving ways that he just doesn't measure up. Truly I'm hoping that this is just the result of the angle. Yet I don't know if the angle isn't being written this way because it's the God's honest truth.

And in the meantime Smackdown is becoming the greatest show on mat. Adding Triple H to the mix has proven to be inspired. I had my doubts but after this past Friday night viewing, I'm sold, hook, line and sinker and loving every minute of it. The tongue in cheek, the theatrics. I'm still laughing about the way the 'This is awkward' line was delivered during the unveiling of Edge's affair with the wedding planner. I've read the complaints on other sites and the nit picking of the 'knowledgeable' wrestling fan reviews and this just makes me laugh even harder. The things that were added and cut, the things that seemed suspect and flawed, all just fodder for the fan sites to point out in an attempt to enjoy less of what they profess to love. Just the WWE poking fun at itself.
I have my opinions, and everybody else has there's. Certain things that I can tolerate, and things that drive me nuts. We all just need to let it go, this is entertaining, for all the reasons that you thought it was wrong and all the reasons that I thought it was right.

In life you know a few things, you're never going to please anybody all of the time. When you have an audience as diverse as the WWE has and is trying to maintain, the things that Americans think are stupid may sell well in Europe, Australia or any of the other countries that this product is presented to. This involves a tricky process of mixing in a ton of elements to attract the most enjoyment, not the least. And in the case of what is going on in Smackdown right now the WWE is doing a killer job.

I have always expressed one statement about what makes something good art. No matter the medium, no matter the circumstances. The only qualifier for effective good art is this. Does it solicit a strong response? Whether positive or negative is irrelevant. The fact that I feel the need to write about it tells me. The only bad art is art that leaves you with nothing, not even indifference. People feel a lot of things about professional wrestling, but it's never nothing at all.