Culture

On The Apron: Proletariat uprising, WWE style

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Every Tuesday, features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer talks about the latest developments in and around WWE.

(Pictured above: 3MB, who were not part of the events I’m discussing in this week’s column, but are the jobberiest jobbers that ever jobbed. It’ll make sense, I promise.)

Last night’s Raw ended in what might rival the Brooklyn episode’s ending for my favorite Raw stinger of the year. As we steeled ourselves for the fifth straight week or so of Daniel Bryan being drawn and quartered by The Man, the job squad appeared! Sadly, there was no Al Snow or Blue Meanie to be had this time. Instead, Kofi Kingston and The Usos led out a motley assortment of mid-to-lower-card wrestlers like Zach Ryder, R-Truth and Dolph Ziggler (how sad is it that Ziggler is part of this category for now, by the way?), along with Rob Van Dam and numerous others. The Shield and Randy Orton were given their due, Seth Rollins nearly died once again, and for once Raw concluded on a generally positive note.

Seriously, I can’t stress enough how much Seth Rollins turns me into a concerned mom. Just look at this bump:

Grousing about the physical well-being of The Shield aside, there are a few reasons that this segment worked so well. First of all, as mentioned above, it feels like it’s been forever since a Raw ended with the heel getting theirs. Sure, Bryan stood tall at the end of last week’s go-home show, but it was a fleeting moment because pretty much everybody assumed that he had no chance in hell at winning the WWE Championship at Night of Champions, and if he did there’d be some level of tomfoolery afoot. Sure enough, Bryan pinned Orton, only to have his newly-minted second title reign ended at the beginning of Raw because of everybody’s favorite plot contrivance, REF CONTROVERSY. So the pleasure of watching the face win out over the heel was offered with a huge asterisk.

With respect to last night’s turn, this could all well evaporate next week. It’s not particularly hard to fathom three hours of re-education training on the next Raw, where anybody who stepped into that ring last night is punished for their disobedience. Even there, the potential is astounding. Though I’ve enjoyed the HHH method of making the entire company watch what happens to the insolent from the top of the ramp, I do understand the counterargument that this also serves to punk out the entire WWE roster save for Daniel Bryan and, to an end, Big Show. The roster has been made to look like a passive body desperate to maintain gainful employment, but last night, the injustices were finally too much and boiled over. And until Cody Rhodes is back from his honeymoon with his unreasonably attractive soon-to-be wife, WWE needs a few more heroes to rise up and stop Dusty Rhodes from being punched in the face by a crying man.

By bringing the whole face roster into the fun, you a) have an instant foundation for lower-to-midcard feuds, the lack of which has been one of WWE’s weakest points over the past decade, and b) create instant feel-good moments with the crowd. Here’s the thing: People love their jobbers. It might not seem like it, and I’m sure Yoshi Tatsu shirts won’t be flying off the shelves anytime soon if those do in fact even exist, but there’s something comforting about the scrubs you watch on Smackdown or lower shows. Every generation gets their set, and that principle has allowed people like the Brooklyn Brawler to show up and still get moderate pops on occasion. And more than anything, the preordained nature of pro wrestling has taught audiences that upsets don’t generally happen. Even the supposed upsets, like Rey Mysterio’s first World Heavyweight Championship run, receive months of context and buildup.

By contrast, what last night offered was the opportunity to have some real upsets. I’m talking Santino’s Milan Miracle, or that one night where The Hurricane pinned The Rock in his prime. That moment still sticks out, and it’s not because the match was particularly good (it was a carnival of outside interference, if memory serves), but because of the “holy shit!” factor of watching a guy who’s been defined by WWE as Good Sometimes, But Not Elite get a win over Face Of Company Who Only Loses To Equally Ranked Peers. Because one of the most well-worn and beloved sports tropes of all is the underdog story, WWE needs to embrace their control over storytelling and use that for good. Instead of having Damien Sandow lose every goddamn week (my heart, it hurts), have somebody like Ziggler run the tables in a Shield gauntlet match. The jobber uprising doesn’t have to lead to some half-assed version of the Nexus, it just has to establish that all those faceless guys at the top of the ramp are interesting people worth watching as well. It’s not that hard. Right?