Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WWE needs to get out of the pocket universe and embrace reality

Vince McMahon just wants to tell stories his way, and doesn't care what you think. That much is obvious, and has been for years.

Right now, he's applying a creative full court press on other races & cultures, with two, soon to be three, storylines all running concurrently that will get people talking, but not in the way the senile chairman would like.

First, there is an American female playing the role of a Russian named Lana, who is the valet for Bulgarian strongman (Alexander) Rusev. The first name is in parenthesis because the lamebrains in the creative office decided Rusev only needed to be marketed with one name. Like, people will remember him 5 or 10 years from now. In the wake of a Malaysian Airlines jet getting shot down  over the weekend, with the media linking Russian president Vladimir Putin to the people responsible, WWE had to go into damage control after Lana cut a promo prior to Rusev's match on Sunday vs. American Jack Swagger. Critics felt it was in poor taste to let this angle continue. While Rusev has yet to lose a match since being called up from NXT, there are reports that he won't get a rematch vs. Swagger, whom he beat on Sunday.

For that reason, McMahon is pushing ahead with another reboot of his old Nation of Domination gimmick from the late 90's Attitude Era.

For those who came in late, the original Nation, in various increments, included the Rock, Ron "Faarooq" Simmons, Mark Henry, and the late Owen Hart as a token white member, added to the group after his brother, Bret, left for WCW. In 2002-3, Theodore Long started a new African-American heel group that included Henry and the husband & wife team of Rodney Mack & Jazz, with Mack having replaced D-Lo Brown after Brown's dismissal from the company.

The common thread is that the shelf life of these groups was kept short, no more than a year or so. In 2014, such a group would consist of Xavier Woods, Big E., & Kofi Kingston, with some dirt sheet sites reporting that----wait for it----Mark Henry would be added to the group. Talk about being unoriginal. It would work best if these guys would remain on the right side of the law, unlike the previous groups, but that's not how McMahon rolls. It wasn't that long ago that the now-defunct Prime Time Players, Titus O'Neil & Darren Young, were given Abraham Washington as their manager. He ran his mouth too often and said the wrong things one time too many, and Washington (Brian Jossie) was shown the door. Young's now on the DL nursing an injury, and O'Neil, one of a few former college athletes on the roster, might be part of the crowd forming here.

To prove they're equal opportunity offenders, the company has corporate heiress Stephanie McMahon, the public face of the Be A Star anti-bullying campaign, going hypocrite and playing a bully on TV. Her targets have included the Bella Twins, Brie & Nikki , who weren't exactly angels to start with themselves, but have become bigger stars because of 1) Total Divas and 2) their higher profile mates. Brie married Daniel Bryan earlier this year, and Nikki is linked with current champ John Cena.

On Monday Night Raw last night, Brie, who "quit" in storyline last month to be with her injured husband, was at ringside in Miami as Nikki was put in a 4-on-1 handicap match. Why? Because "on her way out", Brie slapped Stephanie. So Stephanie makes a point of coming down to ringside to confront Brie before the match. She collects a receipt with a slap of her own, inciting Brie into attempting to get at her soon-to-be-future opponent (it's going to happen), only to be sent away by security. Later in the show, after hosting a mini-concert by local star Flo Rida, Steph is in turn confronted by "local police" and "arrested" for "battery". Yeah, her dad went off to the pokey in a storyline 15 years ago, but unlike her mentally challenged pops, Stephanie wasn't shown going through the usual booking process.  In 11 years, she's gone from damsel in distress, feuding with pops, to being the WWE's answer to, say, Veronica Lodge (that would make Triple H more like Reggie Mantle than Archie Andrews, but I digress) at her worst.

The Bellas (real last name Garcia) and former figurehead executive Vickie Guerrero, who left last month, are Latina in background, and at least Brie sparked up in anger. Vickie had been a joke that had worn out its welcome long ago, compromising her faith to play her role as a power-mad villain. It's a wonder that there isn't as much of a backlash because of the hypocrisy, since off-camera, Stephanie leads a small group of wrestlers, heroes & villains both, to schools and libraries to tout Be A Star. She has tried to balance things out, explaining that what goes on TV is, after all, a story.

In order for that to work, maybe the disclaimer her father used to recite every week back in the 70's should come back into play, the sooner the better. The WWE cannot continue to exist in its own little pocket universe and think it's okay to do things as presently constituted. It's not. The downplaying of Lana was a first step. Ending the bullying is the next, and biggest one.

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