|Remember when it was RAW IS WAR...before we invaded two countries?|
Normally I would skip discussing Cena's segment this week because I would not have watched it, but I did catch the last ten minutes of it (I didn't listen to his opening speech because I can no longer endure his speeches or his matches, both are beyond predictable and dull. I can't even handle his entrance anymore, his happy little quips to the camera and his amped-up demeanor. And the crowd is more behind him nowadays so I don't even have the interesting dynamic between him being "The Man" and everyone hating him for it). I must say that there was a period of time where I was a Cena fan. I never thought he was an adequate follow-up to The Rock or that his character was that interesting, but from 2006 up until around 2009/2010, I rooted for Cena and respected him mostly because of how much everyone hated him. I went to a RAW and I was one of those people chanting "Let's go Cena!" Nowadays, despite my dislike of him, I would not be a "Cena Sucks!" chanter. When he appeared I would try to start a "Why am I watching this?!" or a "Hire new writers!" chant, because I don't hate him, I'm just utterly bored by him. Regardless, I found myself enthralled by Cena's lashing of Michael Cole, but not necessarily for the reasons the WWE would want.
While I've always hated Michael Cole for his blatant awfulness, I've slowly started to accept him, not because he's good at commentating, but simply because they have made his dynamic with Jerry The King Lawler and his relationship with the wrestlers more interesting. The company acknowledges his awfulness in a way that occasionally yields some interesting comments from the Cole and King characters. Knowing that McMahon is barking in Cole's ear also adds to the depth of both his character and the man. I wonder about Cole as a human, as I do many of the wrestlers. I feel sorry for them and wish them a level of happiness and artistic freedom I know they will never have. So hearing Cole and King chat, embrace the awfulness of the situation, and subtly break the forth wall with a shared chuckle every now and again makes me smile. I also like how King directly addresses the idiotic things Cole says now, especially how he calls Cole out about flip-flopping on his opinion of Daniel Bryan. Cole used to lambast Bryan nightly but now he sings his praises for seemingly no reason and normally this is the kind of thing that would happen in the past and we wrestling fans were supposed to just forget about it and it would never be addressed, but King's acknowledgement of the pointless transition adds a touch of depth to the commentator-characters and the entire brand. CM Punk has truly done a great thing by calling attention to the absurdity of the business. His "shoot heard round the world" has had a subtle trickle-down effect (from the commentary to even The Rock/Cena feud) where truth and honesty generates positive results. This philosophy has not been completely embraced by the company, of course, and that's why there are still terrible story lines and why a great wrestler and orator like Punk is relegated to the midcard.
But back to Cena/Cole. The reason I was enthralled by the following imagery...
|WWE: Inspiring children everywhere.|
I have never believed wrestling was suitable for children. Despite the PG rating, there is always a segment featuring the scantily clad, stripper-like divas, teaching children that women are nothing more than dumb sex-objects undeserving of well-written programming. The Bella-Twins, for example, came out and gyrated each and every night in an incredibly sensual fashion. Now we have Brodus Clay doing the same thing, even going so far as to involve the actual children in the dancing. This is absurd and downright strange. I probably sound like a right-wing Tea Party prude right now (believe me, I'm anything but. My favorite movies last year were Shame and Beginners, and I have no problem with half-nude gyrating women or violent fighting men so long as there is a proper context and the imagery is not subjected to impressionable young minds that don't need to worry about sex and shouldn't be exposed to violence or human degradation). The overly violent or inevitably offensive segments (offensive mostly to one's intelligence) have gone on even throughout the modern-day PG era which has only deepened my confusion and disgust with the product. This has been my fundamental issue with the PG era of wrestling (not that it's childish or that it doesn't allow for mature programming). It's a giant contradiction that produces unclear, uninteresting programming that lacks intelligence and courage, a strange middle-ground that is neither appropriate for the intelligent adult wrestling fan nor the enthusiastic child.
|Why can't I be more honest!|
All I want is consistency from my art. I want a clear philosophical perspective and a point of view. I want honesty and integrity. I've never liked the WWE segments where someone was humiliated by being doused with something or stripped down or made to kiss Vince's ass. It's simply awkward, poor-story-telling and I've never understood the backwards hickish wrestling fan that enjoyed such moments. All I want to see is the artful craft of wrestling, infused with the emotional tension of two rivals who know how to articulate their characters on the mic.
Wrestling can teach children to stand up for themselves, that being strong and confident and not allowing people to walk all over you is a virtue. The Rock taught me this when I was twelve and very impressionable. I drew confidence from his confidence, from how he never took any crap from Triple H and how he typically did the right thing. He was never supposed to be an idol for children in any capacity, he simply was himself and an excellent entertainer, and inspired a viewer through the quality of his performance. There was no mixed message, the character was consistent and free to do anything and you were free to judge it. But with Cena, we are supposed to think everything he does is good (all the while his actual performance is incredibly trite and cartoonish). As wrestling is today with his particular character, whatever virtues he possesses are lost when he does something like this and nothing good is taught to the impressionable children that adore him, who the WWE pretends to value.
But now...onto more important wrestling matters in the form of Sheamus & Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane & AJ.
I have never, nor do I think I will ever, like Sheamus. I don't like the big, blocky guys for a variety of reasons. They're typically slow, but more importantly I have a very hard time believing that anything can put them down for a three count. Cena, for example, barely ever breaks a sweat. At the end of his Wrestlemania match he was barely winded due to his excellent conditioning so it's hard for me to suspend my disbelief when The Rock pins him (especially when Dwayne looked ready to pass out). Sheamus is definitely big but he's surprisingly nimble. His mic-work doesn't interest me and I dislike nationality-gimmick wrestlers, but I have to admit that his match with Dolph this Monday was pretty spectacular. I was ready to skip it but realized that it was likely going to be good so I kept watching. They both did an excellent job countering and selling their moves, and told an adequate in-ring story with a pretty powerful Brogue-Kick climax. I look forward to seeing more of Dolph in the future, and even Sheamus' No Way Out match.
Now onto my wrestling hero...
|BEST IN THE WOOOOOOOOOORLD!|
His Kane match opened with a flurry of quick leaps and bounds. I don't think I've seen him go to the top rope so quickly and frequently before, adding an intensity and drama to a match that could have been very slow and predictable. His subtle variations to his most common moves (such as a high-knee to Kane as Kane stood upon the top rope) keeps the character fresh and demonstrates how inventive Punk is as an athlete and performer. Punk's devotion brings out the best in his opponents as well, even in the likes of someone like Mark Henry or Kane.
Initially dissatisfied with this Daniel Bryan feud (not because I dislike Bryan, quite the opposite, I simply dislike how this glorious pairing gets midcarded and poorly written), I've come around to it in large part because of the inclusion of Kane and the evolution of the AJ-character.
I've always liked Kane because the guy can be good in the ring and he's surprisingly excellent and even operatic on the mic, he's simply a tough character to use well. But his inclusion in this story has added something I can't quite articulate.
Then there's AJ, who apart from being irresistible and the perfect balance of painfully cute and ridiculously sexy, is a fun character that gels well with the likes of Bryan and Punk. It's fun to see a female wrestling character that, while exemplifying a certain kind of female stereotype, is, at the very least, a clearly defined character with a unique personality and an actual motivation. She is also short, with a realistic body, and a natural, approachable beauty that sets her apart from the other obnoxiously top-heavy, face-painted divas like Eve.
|Don't you just want to hug her and let her be crazy for you, threatening to cut herself unless you let her in for a late-night cuddle as she stands outside your window at 3am in the rain?|
I will close with my hopes and dreams for the coming months, that I fully expect to go unfulfilled.
I would love to see Kane win the WWE title at No Way Out. Yep. That's right. Kane should win. It's unexpected and would give this character a meaningful boost that would permit him to orate more. I think it would create a wonderfully interesting dynamic between all the characters. After Kane wins (possibly due to AJ's haphazard interference), AJ sides with him because he's the craziest and the victor. Punk and Bryan will continue their feud, both believing themselves the true and rightful champion and deserving of a rematch. This leads into a triple-threat rematch at the next PPV wherein Kane wins again! (I don't like one-month transitional title reigns).
The WWE seems to think that audiences will grow bored and impatient with an ongoing story, hence the swift destruction of a variety of angles that could have evolved into something spectacular (Punk/Jericho for example), but the truth is that any audience of any art form will remain enthralled so long as a story evolves and remains entertaining. After the triple-threat rematch continue the Punk/Bryan feud, with the two vying for the number-one-contendership (and maybe AJ's twisted, delicious little heart).
On some Monday Night Raw in the future have an epic Punk/Bryan match to determine who will be the number one contender. Perhaps have Bryan win, leading to a Bryan/Kane match at a PPV (perhaps with Punk as guest referee simply to keep him involved, with AJ as Kane's manager). Have Bryan win straight up with no funny business from anybody.
This then leads to the true Punk/Bryan feud we've all been craving, where Punk earns back the WWE Title and holds it into the next Wrestlemania. I don't know what PPV this three-way several month-long feud leads into, but I think this story and the matches it permits could be pretty amazing.
The inclusion of Kane almost certainly guarantees the Punk/Bryan feud will last at least one more month (if history tells us anything), so, at the very least, we have more matches between the two to look forward to. We almost want Punk to lose so that we can have a month or two of him trying to get it back. If he wins then the company will likely try to burry Bryan (whom they hate) and saddle Punk with a less interesting feud that permits them to continue to bury him in the card.
With these latest developments, and if one ignores 90% of the broadcast, and with the announcement of what could be the best wrestling game ever with WWE '13, good things are finally happening in the world of wrestling again due in no small part to this man:
|SIMPLY THE BEST. BETTER THAN ALL THE REST...|