RAW Deal: Did WWE go too far?

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis
RAW Deal: Did WWE go too far?
Did the WWE go overboard with its Divas segment where Paige says the late Reid Flair, who died of heroin overdose, 'didn't put up much of a fight'?

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA —Did the WWE go too far (again)?

Here’s the scene: Paige and Charlotte had their momentous contract-signing at the main event of this week’s RAW. A huge moment in the Divas closing the show notwithstanding (we haven’t seen that since the Bellas were feuding with Stephanie McMahon last year), Charlotte paid tribute to her late brother Reid Flair.

Flair died of an unfortunate heroin overdose, and is the reason why Charlotte is even a professional wrestler in the first place. Paige took a rather low blow at the entire Flair family by saying Reid “didn’t put up much of a fight.”

Of course, that line sparked a controversy.

Wrestling fans all over the world were offended that the WWE – take note, the WWE, not Paige – decided to go that far just to drive up interest in a, well, third-tier match at best on Survivor Series this Sunday. Because the reality the entirety of professional wrestling – including we who consume it exists in – is actual reality, where everyone’s vitriol is directed at the WWE. The puppeteers are holding the strings, with the puppet made to speak with words not her own. If this were 20 years ago, we’d all have rioted and gone after Paige as a lynch mob.

Here’s the thing, though: I loved that segment, and I believe we still need it. In fact, we need stuff like that now more than ever.

I loved that segment not because Paige took aim at a family member who died under rather unfortunate circumstances, but because it showed that the WWE was, in that case, willing to take a huge risk for the sake of a compelling story.

Yes, there were financial motivations behind it, but you cannot make money in any form of theater without telling a story that keeps people peeled.

Heels still need to be heels, and I believe Paige needed to go there to earn the boos her villainous persona needs. The reality we, as fans, have also forced pro wrestling to exist in, sees us cheering the bad guys because they wrestle well. So how will antagonists remain antagonists? This is why Kevin Owens wrestles the way he does, to get reactions like those of Melissa Joan Hart’s. This is why Paige had to say what she said.

Is it Machiavellian? I admit that it is, but again, this is the Universe we’ve created now. We have rejected the old foundations of the morality tale pro wrestling used to be all about. It’s unfortunate that we have to go this far just to get that old reaction again.

Also, people have to understand that the Divas division – and WWE characters in general – lack an aura with gravitas, simply because Creative doesn’t make enough effort to sculpt their personalities. This segment established Charlotte’s entire reason for being in this business and for being Divas champion, and established Paige as a very nasty heel. Up until this point, both women had been relatively toothless.

I believe angles like these are acceptable when they fulfill two major criteria: 1) that they be done after a period of time long enough for anyone affected to have moved on, and 2) they still respect what is good and what is evil.

The first one is met: it’s been two years since Reid’s death, and surely everyone affected is in a better place now. The second criterion is also met: since Paige, the antagonist in this story, is the one who disrespected the dead, the storytellers have shown it is a terrible thing to do. We’d have a bigger problem on our hands if, say, a guy like John Cena – the good guy – took that potshot. (He has been shown to do that on occasion.)

Not everyone might have liked the execution (let’s be honest, the Divas aren’t the best actresses in the world) but I believe we still need these kinds of stories, especially in a world that’s becoming increasingly oversensitive and politically correct.

Not because we need to flout those sensitivities, but because we need to remind people that the world they live in is a harsh place, and evil certainly exists in the hearts of men and women.

So long as the heroes still overcome the villains, our fiction will be just fine.

High spots:

  • All the tournament matches on this episode were top-notch. Yes, even Kalisto vs Alberto del Rio. Kalisto proved that he could hold his own in a singles program, if there was even any doubt he could.

  • If Cesaro, Neville, and Kalisto don’t emerge as new strong midcard contenders after Survivor Series, I’ll be very disappointed. You say you’re looking for new stars, WWE – here they are. Though I’m fine with Cesaro’s role as the workhorse anyone can get a good match out of, sooner or later, he’ll need to be rewarded.

  • Though everyone’s raving about Cesaro vs Roman Reigns, my personal favorite from this series is Dolph Ziggler vs Dean Ambrose, simply because they decided to wrestle a slower, more technically suave style of match. (It’s not on the same levels as stuff you’ll see on the indies right now, but the mere fact that they even went for it in the WWE is astounding.)

Low blows:

  • More of minor nitpicking, really. The tournament brackets wasted such great matchups they could’ve saved for the PPV on Sunday. Reigns/Cesaro was a match that was worthy of being a semifinal match, and if Reigns is to eventually win the whole thing, beating Cesaro in such a crazy match before winning the finals in the same night would’ve lent him a lot more credibility. If we were going to stick to these seeds, then I would have rather seen Reigns/Del Rio and Cesaro/Kalisto in the quarterfinal round.

In case you missed it: Philippine Wrestling Revolution is holding their next event, PWR Live, on November 28! This time, it’ll be at the iAcademy Auditorium in Makati! (Yes, now with aircon!) Tickets start at P250 – don’t miss out!

Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro 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, brand-new PWR superstar Rederick Mahaba visits the podcast to spread his message of love! Also, don’t miss out on the second half of their interview with TNA wrestler TJ Perkins! – Rappler.com

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