Culture

On The Apron: Holding patterns

goldust

Every week in On The Apron, features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer runs down the latest developments in WWE.

Ah, fall. The holding pattern season in which, with Survivor Series being a mid-to-late-November tradition, not a ton happens in WWE. Sometimes a guy puts on a mask and enacts TV-friendly necrophilia, but that’s more the exception than the rule. So, it’s time for another list of bullet points about WWE things that’ve been interesting of late, isolated of larger context! That’s doubly true when the larger context involves the wheel-spinningest A story the company’s offered in a while, a subject of much sadness when two months ago it was the hottest thing going.

1) Death to Los Matadores!?

I haven’t written about Los Matadores since their debut, so now is a good time to talk about why I feel weird about a thing that I should probably really enjoy. Back when I was writing for a dirtsheet and learning basic smarky things before developing my own set of adult tastes for pro wrestling, a friend of mine broke down why the early ‘90s are his favorite WWE era. Though much maligned by most fans and writers alike, this was the era of the gimmick, the totally nonsensical and “larger than life” characters that Vince McMahon fancied at the time as a seeming means of allowing wrestling to fulfill its own prophecy and become a sentient cartoon. He loved the era because it was ridiculous, and for once instead of listening to other people laugh at and look down upon wrestling, fans were in on the joke for a change. It was a balance that offset the more serious, central stories.

I’ve come to embrace the gimmick over time, but what I’ve discovered is that it’s easier to do this if you have an ear to the independents than it is with WWE. A big part of this is that a gimmick can be carried way further by a small company than WWE would ever allow. CHIKARA was an entire company that proved this; can you imagine the Estonian Thunder Frog trying to get over with a group of people that still cheers indiscriminately for Randy Orton? I’m not trying to be an elitist about this, mind you. WWE plays to a different, broader audience, and knows what will work to a fault. Because of this, and to return to the initial point, I don’t know what to do with Los Matadores. They’re fun, and Primo and Epico have shown renewed energy in the few matches they’ve had so far, and they have a legitimate mini-luchador as their bull associate. Normally I’d be all about something this nonsensical, but I’m wary that there’s an inherent ceiling for Los Matadores. I see them becoming tag team wrestling’s Santino if they’re lucky, and the next Tons of Funk if they aren’t. There is indeed mileage to be gained from what on paper is a horribly insensitive, more-than-a-bit racist gimmick, but I don’t think WWE will take it seriously enough to get there.

2) The Sons of the Son of the Plumber

I don’t know what’s more affirming: that Goldust, for all his troubles, holds a WWE title in 2013, or that Cody Rhodes and Goldust have become two of the most beloved characters on Raw. The answer is probably somewhere in the ballpark of “Goldust is acknowledged as Dusty’s son, but still dresses like Goldust,” and I couldn’t be more elated. While doing dirtsheet writing, my main beat was the WWE reincarnation of ECW, with the Zombie and the New Breed and Balls Mahoney trying to make a real go of televised weekly wrestling, but one of my fondest memories of that period is the discovery that Dustin Rhodes is really good at his job. He’s one of the few guys in WWE history to take a seemingly limited gimmick and run with it, against the trends I outlined in my first point. And now, The Shield finally has credible opposition for as long as WWE remains interested. All of this is great.

3) Beat the Clock?

I just have one question about all of this nonsense: Why does R-Truth have such a vested interest in protecting CM Punk? At least Punk’s IRL friendship with Kofi Kingston has been made canon by WWE documentaries. And also, after that: Ryback used to murderdeathkill two guys at a time, and now he can’t beat WWE’s favorite ethnically insensitive schizophrenic? Okay.

4) Evil Orton is Back

Other than the Bellas’ total miscue in reacting to the creepy, well-oiled man trapping them in a trainer’s room, I loved the whole progression of the Orton-Bryan story this week. My favorite version of Randy Orton is still the pre-WrestleMania 25 version, the one who attacked Triple H in his fake house and made out with his real wife after laying her out in the middle of the ring. He was unabashedly awful in a way more heels should be, and he’s showing signs of that again, and I’m all about it. Since Daniel Bryan’s time seems to be about up (BECAUSE CENA’S TIME IS NOW), their feud is probably about to peak until Bryan wins the Royal Rumble or something. At least it’ll be a fun finale.

5) Character progression!

This was going to be my main topic last week, but I didn’t have enough to sink my teeth into with WWE giving a shit about moving their main Evil Empire story along just yet. I got it in spades this week, and it’s wonderful. At some point in every good film or television series, the choice has to be made to either make your villain a true villain, or start turning them towards the light. And even if they just move from one tier of villainy to another, there has to be a progression, a change that shows you we’re finally moving in new directions. Last night’s Triple H-Stephanie McMahon wank fest finally created that movement. If the question was “How long can these people act like the fair, decent bosses when the crowd has been cued to understand that they are not?”, last night’s show proved that the solution is to send them spiraling into pure megalomania.

From the gratuitous backstage makeout session to the affirmation that Triple H is out to destroy anybody who dares utter the word “yes,” this was perfect. It made Show’s big assist in taking The Shield’s tag titles away a true moment of rebellion, to the point where I started hearing “Do You Hear The People Sing?” in my head. And now, stripped of all pretense, Triple H is out to ruin lives because he is the King of Kings and he damn well feels entitled to it. That’s a guy I’d pay money to watch as he receives his.