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?