Saturday 5 October 2013

Realest Guys in the Room

Traditionally WWE is a company that promotes big men as its top stars. There are plenty of examples from the place several decades that could be pointed to, the approach is not a secret. It was, for a long time, the single most important criteria WWE looked for in its top performers.
The last few years has seen the likes of Heidenreich, Vladimir Koslov, Ezekiel Jackson and Snitsky pushed ahead of their means. Meanwhile Mark Henry and Big Show have been given the chance to make something of themselves time and time again long after smaller men would have been given up on. More talented but smaller men like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have had to patiently wait their turn for a crack at headlining.
That the Punks and Bryans of the world have made it with more limited exposure, treatment and chances is proof that WWE are willing to award smaller men top spots if they persevere and prove they deserve them. The success of these two, and others to a lesser extent, seems to have convinced WWE that handing out pushes based solely on size is not the best approach anymore. Modern audiences simply aren’t as awed by big lads as those of decades past.
There's a perfect example on the NXT roster. When Enzo Amore made his debut on the developmental show he almost immediately entered into a feud with Mason Ryan. ‘The Colossus of Cardiff’ may not be especially tall but he is muscular. He's exactly the sort of individual who five years ago would've been awarded a main roster push simply for looking so impressive. In fact he did net himself a couple of main roster stints in 2011. They were short lived and didn't give him anything to do beyond flex and wrestle basic matches, so there was no harm done, but they happened.
Enzo Amore: I'm a fan
Ryan has been booked in the style of most WWE babyfaces throughout his dispute with Enzo (and Big Cass). This treatment, which has included him dancing like a cretin with Brodus Clay and Sweet T, has been greeted with indifference by the regulars at the NXT Arena. They've been far more taken with Enzo.
What we can learn from this is that the modern audience is not going to cheer for someone just because they're big and can laugh at themselves in an incredibly trite manner. We knew that anyway, of course. It also indicates that fans are more likely to gravitate towards a wrestler who shows personality. In scripting Ryan to show off his personality all WWE have done is highlight the fact he doesn’t have one. Enzo has completely overshadowed his foe with his brash attitude and engaging mic work. He very clearly has a personality and that's what has attracted and entertained fans.
The crowd reactions to the two have really brought attention to the changed attitudes WWE has developed over the last few years with regards to the size of their stars. Five years ago they would have insisted on trying to keep Enzo and Cass as heels, which would have caused fans to revolt by booing Ryan.
Instead Enzo and Cass have switched to playing good guys, capitalising on fans' enthusiasm for them. Mason Ryan has been left alone, and fans have remained indifferent to him but dutifully played their part by half-heartedly cheering for him when they know they’re supposed to. The approach has created the new babyface WWE wanted, just not played by the man they thought it would be.
Finally size equality has come to wrestling’s lead promotion. It only took a few decades.

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