My Pinterest Is Piledrivers: WWE-vamping The Industry II (Zack Ryder, The Miz, CM Punk)
by James Sawyer on April 11, 2012

Hello all, and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers, the very column that taught Lil Wayne how to love.  Last week’s column got more comments than any I’ve done since my opening salvo, so the idea of constructive criticism of the WWE really hit home, or the idea that the announcing team could really use some work, or both.

Since I’m doing these, I’ll probably miss current events going on around the wrestling world.  As Brock came back, I’ll say that he was hot when I wasn’t really keeping up with the product, so the only real experiences I have of him are of him getting booed out of MSG on his last night and of a botched shooting star press, now known as AirBourne… at least until the annual post-Wrestlemania purge (come back when you stop only buying apples for their bong capabilities, Evan).  The F5 never really struck me as that impressive of a move, too.  It’s of a similar vein as the Ultimate Warrior’s gorilla press slam, one of the most passive-aggressive moves in wrestling.  “I’ll lift you up and now… eh, I’ll just drop you.  I’m kinda going through some stuff right now, I don’t really want to plant you or drive you to the canvas.  Sigh.”

The wrestling business evolved from the days of carnydom, and in a lot of ways, retains that seamy, carny underbelly.  It’s kind of institutionalized now.  There’s a lot of stupid crap that goes on backstage and back office.  No, I’m not talking about the really creepy stuff that Blair touched on and that Google can share in graphic, skin-crawling detail.  This is the more PG-13 stuff, of how to deal with talent.  Punishing and/or hazing them.

This clip does a great job to demonstrate the effects of punishing talent.  When CM Punk first came to the WWE, it didn’t take long for him to have a huge wave of support from fans and a white-hot head of steam behind him.  Just listen to that crowd.  That’s the first year he got to the big show (not the Big Show, who would later squash him) and he was wrestling in ECW for God’s sake.  The crappy, corporate version.  So how did the WWE handle this?  By having Bob Holly beat him and jobbing him out to Umaga in his hometown, and consistently pulling the rug out from under him, the Straight Edge Society, the Nexus until at long last they gave him the ball in 2011 and it seems to be going pretty well.

It only took them five years.

The Rock might be one of the most over dudes in history.  People love him, and rightfully so.  He’s great on the mic, quick with the wit, has variety in the ring, sells like the most generous man in the world (I think he lives next to the happiest man in Springfield) and at least a couple of my fellow writers on this site would marry him if he was a woman, and even that might not stop them.  But at the last Survivor Series, New York demanded another WWE Superstar…

That’s right.  Zack Ryder chants during a Rock promo.  A Rock promo.  Well Hell, with all of that, the WWE would have to-

…oh.  Is that where this ended up?  I… okay.

I don’t know what the Hell happened.  Something.   Something happened.  A common theory (which I know is worth a cup of coffee when you throw it in with a quarter.  At least in 1957 when coffee cost that much) is that he’s being jerked around for daring to get over on his own and with calling out the WWE for “dropping the ball,” “putting him on the backburner,” “having him do all the jobs” among the other clever visual puns Ryder used in his YouTube series.

Matthew Harrak posted an interesting news tidbit in early March about the expectations of hazing.  You can relive it here.  Now, brutal, pointless cruelty has its uses.  Wait, what’s that?  Oh, right.  It doesn’t.  Only now are we realizing that bullying and hazing torments kids (and adults) and causes suicides in some cases, thus depriving the world of some kickass artists and entertainers.

I know The Miz was a heel here, but damned if he doesn’t show some face-like characteristics.  A determination to get through the early days of pure Hell, an everyman-esque relatable awkwardness and weakness, being the victim, being bullied… man, why didn’t they save this promo and this direction for his face turn?  And what’s more is that everything he said was pretty much true.  Colt Cabana, in his excellent podcast, related a story of being mocked mercilessly by the Brooklyn F’n Brawler of all people.  And it’s not just the wrestlers, I’ve read reports on how JR would be mocked on flights by Vince and the execs, and one of the writers here used to work for Titan Towers and wrote a column about the sometimes toxic atmosphere of that place.

Now, there’s going to be hazing and bullying everywhere, to some degree.  It’s human nature to be a dick to people beneath you.  But it seems weirdly prevalent in the WWE and it doesn’t have to be.  And it shouldn’t be.  And it’s counter-productive.  Why wrestle for the WWE when you can look forward to JBL and his homoerotic shower antics when you can just go to the UFC and not have to travel 366 days out of the year?  (Yes, that was intentional)

Punishing guys like CM Punk and Zack Ryder for doing your job for them literally takes money out of your pocket, and deprives fans of what they want.  Had CM Punk risen earlier, we could’ve had a feud with HBK to remember forever.  That’ll never happen.  If Ryder keeps losing and acting like a bitch around Eve, fans won’t be so proud to buy and wear his merchandise.  People want to root for an underdog, not a pathetic loser.  By giving guys like MVP, and now Drew McIntyre, losing-streak gimmicks, you just drive frustrated and talented guys to ask for their release so they can be awesome somewhere else.  It doesn’t build character.  It just shoots yourself in the foot.

Is it smart business to shoot yourself in the foot?  Is a company with a lax policy on hazing and bullying really ready for the major networks and big sponsorships like I know the McMahons dream of?



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James Sawyer

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  • CB40

    Man, I would have LOVED a Punk-HBK feud.

  • Ryan Alarie

    I would wonder whether the “losing streak” gimmick is itself part of the hazing. Losing all the time is something the fans notice, so having it be a story can lead to a redemption arc that eventually revitalizes the character. The problem (as is the case with a lot of angles in the ‘E) is in the follow through.

    A face on a losing streak can turn heel and thus turn their fortunes around. A heel on a losing streak may end up garnering sympathy and a face turn when they finally break their streak. If they don’t use the streak as a heel or face turn, it can be used to get someone over a hump and to a higher tier. A cowardly heel may develop a mean streak and thus be taken more seriously as the break out of their slump and make a run for the main event scene, etc.

    The important thing, of course, is that these angles need to be done with the intent of eventually getting someone over, instead of silly concepts like punishing people.

  • Zork

    I’ve always been really against the hazing and endless jobs given to people you know are good.

    Why not give somebody a chance? If you boot them out there and they crash and burn, oh well. No real harm done to the general fabric of the company. Pick someone else and try again.

    One thing that I feel doesn’t help in all this is that I don’t think a lot of the wrestlers, unless they’re high on the totem pole, don’t have contact with the writers. Back in the day, the people who would be called “writers” now were always backstage and could be approached by anyone with a simple idea.

  • Zork

    I’ve always been really against the hazing and endless jobs given to people you know are good.

    Why not give somebody a chance? If you boot them out there and they crash and burn, oh well. No real harm done to the general fabric of the company. Pick someone else and try again.

    One thing that I feel doesn’t help in all this is that I don’t think a lot of the wrestlers, unless they’re high on the totem pole, don’t have contact with the writers. Back in the day, the people who would be called “writers” now were always backstage and could be approached by anyone with a simple idea.

  • Quackity Quack Quack

    Wait a minute, you’re just NOW figuring out why Ryder is getting pushed down the card? It’s pretty simple man, the WWE decides who is over and who isn’t, and it’s as simple as that. Ryder dared to try something new and developed a huge fanbase, and his reward was Vince hijacking all of those ideas and giving him a cup of coffee run with the US Title…. and then sent him back down the card where the WWE brass had him in the first place. There’s nothing confusing about this, you just don’t go out there and get people to like you more than the main eventers or punishment of some kind will follow.

    You remember Moppy?? Or Pepper?? Both of those ideas, regardless of how stupid they were, started to gain the attention of fans well beyond what they were hoping for or expecting, and so as a result Saturn and Al Snow both started their quick trip back down the WWE ladder.

  • Joe DeSandre

    From what I’ve heard, the writers are the easiest to talk to, but they’re actually the bottom rung of “creative.” By the time an idea gets through the producers, agents, and Vince it could be completely changed.

  • JAdamC

    It also doesn’t help that apparently they’re big on hiring writers from shows that have nothing to do with wrestling, who don’t know the business. I was listening to a podcast with a former rapper-current museum curator on who talked about wanting to do a “Harry Potter” gimmick for some face because it’d be funny when he worked for the WWE briefly. Nothing against the guy, but that would have sucked. Sucked badly.

  • JAdamC

    Same. The closest we’ll ever get is their confrontation before the promo to end all promos.

  • JAdamC

    I remember hearing that MVP was being “tested” with losing all the time before he might’ve been shot up for a world title run, but what they keep forgetting is that fans have memories and logical abilities, and thus don’t take guys that lose all the time seriously. It’s why someone like Heath Slater or Alex Riley beating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania would cause a riot.

  • JAdamC

    Well, I don’t really remember ever wondering, at least in public, why Ryder is being de-pushed so I can’t rightfully say that I’m just NOW realizing something.

    However, it would be nice if Vince would realize he’d be screwed should Ryder not renew his contract and go to TNA or ROH as “Zac Rider” and basically make a ton of money for whoever hires him, and costing Vince a ton of money as all the endless, endless merch they now make would be unusable.

  • Ryan Alarie

    Well, true, but that’s a case of not thinking about how they can get from point A to point B.

    HHH was depushed, and treated as a bit of a joke early in his career. Mark F’n Henry and the Big Show were feuding over the World Title at the end of last year, and lost it to Daniel Bryan, the guy who debut’ed with a losing streak gimmick, losing to NXT guys (like Heath Slater!).

    Fans can get over things. The MVP character, before his losing streak gimmick, was an arrogant jerk who debuted as the highest paid guy, etc, etc, etc. So, breaking out the other end of the gimmick humbled, and turning face could have done a lot. In fact, he had brief moments where he showed some solid face work, talking about his past and such.

    There are examples of the people that never get that depush. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. You can get them extremely over, but if the person doesn’t actually LIKE Pro Wrestling, you may not have made a long term main event star, but someone who will just up and leave, and not necessarily help build any new stars along the way. And, in the case of Goldberg, they booked themselves into a corner where they couldn’t really have him lose without it being a let down (although, anything would have been better than a cattle prod probably … like with the Undertaker, the Streak eventually gets to a point where cheating to end it would be unacceptable).

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