Random Thoughts from the Office: October 29, 2010

"The more things change. The more they stay the same". Sounds like Snake Plisken was a prophet for the wrestling industry of 2010.

What an interesting few weeks it has been. There's no longer a official WrestleCrap forum, Brock Lesnar got knocked the fuck out and then the wrestling community lost their minds at the prospect of a Brock-Undertaker fight. As cool as their hell in a cell match was I feel the same way about a Brock vs Undertaker match as I do watching Kane vs Undertaker now. I've been there, I've done my time and it's not exactly high on the list of "Matches I want to see again".

Both companies have had pay per views and Bound for Glory was "Eh". I believe the term I would describe for it is a phrase that Scott Keith used in his reviews, that being "Entertaining Crap". I actually haven't seen Bragging Rights, the first wrestling pay per view since they were available I've ever missed, and to be quite honest there's nothing that makes me want to go out of my way to see it. I would say the Daniel(son) Bryan-Dolph Ziggler match, but really I've seen that twice already this week so why bother?

But for this week I'm going to go back to the door of TNA, and specifically the end of Bound for Glory and the reveal of THEY. We all knew it was going to be Hogan and Bischoff but the surprise was the Jeff Hardy heel turn. Surprising because no one would ever think TNA would be that stupid but surprising nonetheless.

The whole turn is an indication of something that really irritates the hell out of me in wrestling today in terms of how both companies, more often than not TNA but WWE are guilty of it too, book their shows. That thing being the writer/booker's incessant need to make things unpredictable, or to "swerve" the audience.

Again as I usually do right before I bash him, I have to say I love Vince Russo as a writer: A statement that would have a lot of people asking me to hand in my "Smart Mark" card. But the thing is he actually TRIES to be different and tries to include everyone rather than just the "Chosen Few". Some of his ideas have actually been quite novel, not always working but quite novel. Things like the King of the Mountain match became a trademark of TNA, the Main Event Mafia storyline was compelling television to me, the way he introduced Desmond Wolfe had people thinking he was the next breakout star of wrestling. I never get people who say Vince Russo is a bad writer, he has bad IDEAS yes, but he's not a bad writer.

Vince Russo though has one fatal character flaw, just like Stephanie McMahon has a fatal character flaw, just like Brian Gerwitz has a fatal character flaw and just like guys like Eric Bischoff have a fatal character flaw: They think they are smarter than the audience and as such they feel the need to make the unbelievable believable.

Let's go back in time to 1987 and the buildup to Wrestlemania 3. Andre ripping the cross off of Hogan on Piper's Pit. The whole fanbase believing Hogan didn't have a prayer of beating him, which was only backed up during the Battle Royal on Saturday Night's Main Event when Andre manhandled Hogan and sent him out of the match. Few people actually remember Andre didn't win that Battle Royal, he was ganged up on and eliminated shortly after but everyone remembers him eliminating Hogan.

It all built up to the big event at the Pontiac Silverdome, where Hogan slammed Andre and finally beat Andre clean in the ring. Was that predictable? Of course it was! But it made people suspend their disbelief and that is the key thing that will give you the keys to the kingdom.

Because even today as wrestling fans, we want to suspend our disbelief, we want to sit down for a couple of hours, forget how much our lives may or may not suck and lose ourselves in the world of wrestling. That's why Steve Austin was the biggest name in wrestling, because he was the everyman standing up to Corporate America. The fans suspended their disbelief and lived vicariously through him as he gave Vince McMahon hell on a weekly basis.

You want a more modern basis? Well let me ask you a couple of questions: How many of you...and be honest with yourself as you read through this. How many of you honestly with all your heart BELIEVED that Shawn Michaels was going to end the Undertaker's streak at Wrestlemania this year? Now I'm not trying to put words in people's mouths but I'm willing to bet that the answer is somewhat less than one in ten. Now, did knowing Shawn was going to lose and thus retire take away from your enjoyment of the match? Again without putting words in your mouths I'm guessing the majority of the answers are "No".

Now change this to Bound for Glory. You have two ready made storylines that while predictable are just sitting right there ready to go. Mr. Anderson, the Ultimate Asshole wins his way into TNA's fans hearts but has been focused on the one goal ever since he came in: The TNA Title and because he is an asshole, he gains Jeff's trust and right at the moment of his triumph takes him out and joins THEY. It's simple, it works, the fans want to kill him for using them. Jeff Hardy wants him for betraying his trust, the story writes itself.

On the other hand you have Kurt Angle. He has to win the gold or retire, there's no second chance for him, so to save his career and get what he so craves he does a deal with the devil and joins THEY to become the centerpiece of TNA once again. Hardy and Anderson, angered and hurt believing they're the new blood of TNA take the fight back to THEY and again, the story writes itself from there.

But Jeff Hardy, the guy who's a death-defying rebel. the man for whom there is no control, no limits, no motivation other than to give his heart and soul for TNA..he wants to join THEY why? Because no matter how stupid it seems, the powers that be think if you can see it coming you won't like it. Thus we always get the stupidest one of the three.

Now I know some people will say that the ring was pelted with garbage and such and it seemed to have heat and work. My answer to that is there's a difference between genuine heat and "This is Stupid" heat. Here's how you tell the difference for those playing the home game.

Hogan turning at Bash at the Beach '96 - Genuine Heat.
The whole fucking J-Woww segment - "This is Stupid" heat.

Just because a story is predictable doesn't mean it won't work, just because having someone turn because "They'll never see it coming" doesn't make it a good idea. The minute the fans can suspend their disbelief is the minute you'll start making money and the minute you stop talking down to your audience is the moment they stop walking away.

Clarence "Showstealer" Mason

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