Monday, July 18, 2011

Had I Been Betting I Would've Lost The Bank!

There were twists and turns and surprises OH MY!! The Money in the Bank pay per view actually delivered on something the WWE hasn't been able to produce in a while. SURPRISES!! I don't think I've watched an offering in the past year or so that left me so dumbfounded. But this is not a bad thing and not in a bad way. The Achilles heel of professional wrestling is predictability. In a world where nothing is a surprise anymore, and even sports victories can be accurately predicated if you do enough research, professional wrestling and its fans have an unspoken rule with one another. Fool me once shame on you, fool me always and I'll love you forever. It's the ultimate trick. The magician knows that the fans know that what they do is a trick. Yet the fans are always trying to figure the trick out before the trick is over. The magician is then responsible for being able to make the trick as believable as possible. So believable that the fan doubts that what they guessed would happen would still happen. That's the key to good professional wrestling. The trick that deceives and lies about itself and yet still forces belief.

The opening entry of the Smackdown! ladder match was well received. While in the past I have balked at the idea of starting with a bang I realize it was more of a conditioned response that I was desperate to reinforce. The slow build has been the bread and butter for wrestling for years. However this new 'start with a bang' approach is growing on me. I'm actually starting to see the merit and value of it.

Even if a little birdie had sat on my shoulder and told me it was going to be Daniel Bryan, I wouldn't have believed it. If the birdie told me that Sin Cara would be wiped out in the first big bump I would've laughed at its stupidity. The other moments of the match were pretty expected. Like the brief Nexus/ Corre reunion only to turn on each other. I understand the historical appeal of this approach but it's kitschy and old. There has to be a better way to deal with and expound upon old relationships in a match like this. Why wasn't there some form of "I know you and your secrets" blackmailing going on between the disrupted Corre members? Some sidebar or agreements between gentlemen. They were seemingly thrown into the match without much back story or filler.
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And speaking of being back story, it seems Sheamus is relegated to being a berserker hitman of sorts blindly taking his rage out on all others around him. The one dimensional layer of this isn't going to work and will bury him faster than a constant loss record. Your scariest heels are not just mindless demolition machines. They are vindictive, opportunistic, predatory, and the scariest thing of all, intelligent. There has to be a little mad scientist in the mix because no one fears a storm trooper, only the emperor. The character Sheamus plays is going to have to show some highly evolved smarts and quick if he plans to be in the big title scene with any legitimacy.

I'm not sure how this Daniel Bryan Money in the Bank winner thing is going to play out, but I am fascinated by the idea that he has been given the chance. I was a big fan of Daniel Bryan when he first showed up because he felt fresh. I thought he was the beginning of a new era in the WWE where you would actually start to get athletes of all sizes giving the overall backdrop the variety it is sorely lacking. But then it seems he was instantly pushed into substandard hell and not a peep has been made since. Well as I've said before, this is a performance based industry and if you really want it, you need to get in there and take it. Just look at Zack Ryder. Let's see if D. Bryan is really ready to take it.

This is a brief note about the women's championship match and then I will say nothing else about it. One of my favorite local bands recently announced during a show that they were debuting a new song. While announcing it they told the fan base well this is a new style, and we were experimenting, and we're not sure if you'll like it but here it is. In a nutshell this is what the WWE has been doing to its women's division for years. Since the day they decided that the fans were stupid enough to only want to see commercially 'hot' women in skimpy clothes who don't really need to know how to wrestle but look a certain way while pretending that they can. They have taken a proud legacy and talked the fans into not liking or respecting it because they have made it so very obvious that they never really did. No offense to Kelly Kelly or the Bellas, but when was the last time you saw Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, or Natalya Niedhart wrestle? Yeah that's what I thought. As in most things, actions speak louder than words.

Mark Henry and Big Show was the big bruiser match that I expected. Not much finesse or style but a lot of strength displays and some pretty impressive grandstanding. With that being said why did it all feel so . . .wrong? It wasn't the style of match or what was to be accomplished. It was the feel. This was a mostly surface feud meaning that you could replace factor A with factor B and the emotional content doesn't change. This story did nothing to build any complexity into either man's character. Instead it actually scaled Big Show back from being a multi-dimensional character. Quite depressing because I feel like both men deserved better from this feud. So I wonder if it’s over. Dead and gone from lack of actual content or will it be built upon to make it what it should've been. They have left the door open but that isn't enough. You actually have to walk through it.

The Raw ladder match was a good one and for the first time in many pay per views the Raw match was not completely skunked by the Smackdown match. In fact I believe the Raw match was actually better. I'll decline to mention the former Smackdown! roster members in the match that are now Raw members that were crucial to the previous pay per view victories by Smackdown! It would make for a hollow victory. This match did well with building intrigue. When the Miz came hopping back to the ring you could almost hear the resigned sigh of those I was watching with as we all thought that it went without saying that he would now carry it away. Surprise surprise, Alberto Del Rio and it apparently was not his destiny. Ok, pointless backtrack, but appreciated none the less. I was not looking forward to another series of promos that spoke of his destiny and nothing really else. Now that he is the Money in the Bank winner I hope there is inspiration to take his character into another direction other than entitled mildly offensive Mexican aristocrat with a fetish for nice cars and a chip on his shoulder. Once again the good heel rule goes into play. He can't just be mean; he has to be smart about being mean.

I knew that the Randy Orton Christian match was going to be my favorite before it even started. I enjoy both performers and before the CM Punk Cena angle came into play they had the most fascinating story being offered. Snotty witty whining, an elitist attitude, enough smarminess to get it seen to with a hint of legal team. Ah yes, this my friends is a fine heel stew. The most interesting thing about this rivalry is that somehow Christian's heel has been able to almost legitimize Randy's face. Which as far as face's go, Randy is hard sell as a face. The issue is that his demeanor has only changed slightly and without being rebranded as something friendlier than an apex predatory, you can get anti-hero at best. However here is the thing. For the anti-hero to work there has to be an oppressive force that makes the normally self indulgent acts of this person for the greater good and not just this person. On his own in the benign world were Teddy Long is GM this is not happening. Then enter Christian and his illogical take of the entire situation with his feelings of being misused his entire career. He is the antithesis of the American Dream of going out and working hard for what you want. Instead he is demanding handouts and wants exceptions to be made for him. He has destroyed property, committed assault and defamation of character and has gotten away with it. Christian is a walking American political debate and I'm not sure if this was planned or just magically happened without anyone knowing. So Randy should now be exalted as the common man getting screwed over by the political grandstanding of a lunatic. I hope the WWE smells this and keeps this pot simmering. The result could be one of the best rivalries of the coming years and talked about in the chronicles of wrestling history.

By the way, the match was wonderful and the culmination absolutely perfect. The benign offering of weapons to be assaulted by, the posturing in the corner, and the ultimate spitting insult. A little Curt Henning with a splash of Cowboy Bob Orton, seasoned Eddie Guerrero style. Mmm, that's good soup.

Chicago made what should've been a pretty cut and dry entrance into one of the best I've ever seen, heard, or experienced. The reception that CM Punk got is the kind of thing that makes all the trials, tribulations, and accompanied bullshit with any career choice made out of love worth every sacrifice. This was a culmination of loyalty on the fans part, years of service on Punk's part, and a very well devised plot that erupted into a moment of wrestling legend. Witnessed right before your disbelieving eyes.

I wanted the match to be epic because after a beginning like that how could it not be. And so it was. I forgot about my dislike of John Cena and I saw a wrestler in a match. Not the marketing cash cow, or the 'safe' bumps only wrestler, but a character in a moving story. I let go of my aspirations for the future of the WWE and how unbelievable it would be if CM Punk actually won. I gave no consideration to where the story would go, or how would they reconcile this. I let go of all of it and was a victim to watching it unfold moment by moment, frame by frame with the same detached wonder that I used to experience when I watched as a child. This is why after all these years despite the ups and downs, I still watch. Because when these moments happen they are magic and very little in this world holds that type of dominion anymore. Just the pleasure of watching the passion of an artist at work. Nothing beats it, and last night Punk could not be beat.