CHICAGO, USA —You can mark this episode of RAW, the one that aired on October 12, 2015, as the RAW with the weirdest twist ever. And knowing the WWE, that’s saying a lot.
This episode marks the first time a third party news expose’ completely derailed a wrestling storyline in such a way that WWE not only had to adapt, but they also had to bluntly acknowledge it onscreen.
Yesterday, TMZ broke a story that WWE superstars (and real-life lovers, known to many savvy wrestling fans) Lana and Rusev had actually been engaged since last month. This fact ran counter to the storyline unfolding on television; last week, Summer Rae had just proposed to Rusev, which the latter conditionally accepted. When Rusev finally won another championship, he said, then they could get married.
Most likely faced with no other choice in the face of this development, the WWE did something unusual: they actually incorporated the real-life engagement into the storyline, no matter how bizarrely abrupt it seemed. Lana, through a (most likely scripted) press release on WWE.com, detailed her reasons for saying yes to Rusev, saying that it was for “self-preservation.” Summer broke up publicly with Rusev after revealing the engagement and (rightfully) feeling hurt over being led on.
It’s only been a week since Summer proposed to Rusev, and last we checked, Lana and Dolph Ziggler were still technically together—even if he looked like he was fooling around with Summer Rae—because they hadn’t explicitly broken up (until now).
This isn’t the first time forces majeure has forced the WWE to change courses. Deaths and departures are usually the biggest reason for a sudden storyline change: Eddie Guerrero’s death back in 2005 prevented the Latino great’s first World Heavyweight Championship reign a week before it happened; Chris Benoit’s double murder-suicide not only came in the wake of what would have been an ECW Championship run for him in 2007, but it also negated the big storyline that happened prior, Vince McMahon apparently dying in a limousine explosion (yes, you read all those words); and the most recent example was CM Punk’s abrupt departure last year just after the Royal Rumble.
The difference between those situations and the one before us is that those were endings, and this one is a beginning. When someone leaves, the company can easily pretend he no longer exists. When someone dies, it’s easier; they just have to put on a memorial special and reset on the next show.
But how do you really deal when the often-different truth in the real world is shoved right in the face of kayfabe? It’s a situation the WWE’s never really found itself in, but it should have known better because it knows in the Reality Era. It should have prepared for this moment, especially when they knew they were forcing a real-life couple away from each other on TV.
Now while I have to admit that the writing is pulling this off with some remarkable aplomb, we also can’t help but acknowledge that the timing makes it awkward. But then again, although reality comes up with the most perfect contrivances, at other times it’s just as brutally random. This was one of those times. They just better not punish Rusev for being human.
And even though pro wrestling has always known how to roll with the punches whenever reality tried to usurp art, the business is gonna have to learn how to do that better in this Reality Era.
I like the New Day’s role as transcendent Tag Team Champions, being plot devices to help other stories get going. Last week they were the catalyst to John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler (more on that later) and now they’re the catalyst to Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton. Of course, even though the New Day is so over, if they’re still the champions, they still need to work in the tag division. The Dudleyz beat the lower-rung Ascension this week, so why couldn’t the New Day do the same?
Ziggler is slowly turning back over to the dark side, and even though he’s also over, that’s a nice breath of fresh air for him. He needs something new again as the love square wore him out.
I would really like to see either or both the teams of Cesaro and Neville and Sheamus and Barrett work in the tag division. The division needs a healthy boost of reliable midcarders, and with both the United States and Intercontinental Championship scenes busy, it wouldn’t hurt for the New Day to go up against better names (assuming they retain at Hell in a Cell).
I would just like to give Roman Reigns some well-deserved props for his promo against Bray Wyatt. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (considering that Chicago gave it “what” and “boring” chants) but the important thing to note is that Reigns delivered a solid promo. That’s a feat in itself when you consider that the Roman Reigns promo bar is set quite low: he never stumbled over a word, he dealt with the antagonistic crowd very well, and he infused some life and conviction into it. There’s just something to be said about a promo that’s clearly coming from the heart; no matter how bland the execution might be, if people can hear even a little bit of you in it, there is magic to be made. I’m not saying it’s the best promo ever, but right now it’s the best Roman Reigns promo ever.
Despite its hot start, the Kane/Seth Rollins feud is treading water until they get to Hell in a Cell. Kane is carrying the bulk of this angle with his fine acting prowess, but eventually things will get stale. Had they instead chosen to keep Rollins diabolical and portray Kane as being stuck in a moral dilemma over wearing the mask and becoming the Demon, this story would’ve been a lot better. Now they’re in a holding pattern.
The only thing worse right now is the Diva Revolution, and I’m talking about both stories. The only thing with some traction is Paige vs. Natalya, as Paige is getting more than just the cookie-cutter “jealous girl” trope. It’s clear that Team Bella vs. Team B.A.D. is heading into a feud with each other, but all this leaves the Divas Champion Charlotte slightly out in the cold with no clear contender to face. This is why the WWE needs a sensible ranking system.
If you are a fan wanting to propose to your girlfriend during a wrestling show, could you at least wait until a big match happening in front of you has wrapped up? It’s the ultimate sign of disrespect to perform such a huge gesture while two wrestlers are busting their butts in the ring trying to put on a barnburner for everyone—not only did you choose the middle of their efforts to go into business for yourself, but you end up distracting everyone else from the match regardless of whether they wanted to watch it or not.
I get that not everyone likes John Cena, but this is a matter of respect for everyone out there who’s trying. I’d like to think that when Cena stopped the match to congratulate the newly-engaged couple, he was actually trying to call them out in a passive-aggressive manner for being self-serving, attention-seeking douchebags. Any exposure the company gave them during the broadcast was also done for the same reason.
Do you like wrestling? Do you enjoy listening to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a podcast about wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person (and voice of PWR) Raf Camus! On their latest episode, ECW Original Chilly Willy joins them for a two-part interview and tells stories upon stories of how he made it in ECW, got in the army, and his time after being signed to the WWE! Listen to it here! – Rappler.com
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