Saturday 19 April 2014

The Power of Names

Remember when nicknames in wrestling were just nicknames? Steve Austin was ‘Stone Cold’ because it reflected the merciless, uncaring personality he wanted to portray. The Rock was ‘The Great One’ because it reflected his heelish egomania and belief that he was better than everybody else. Triple H was ‘The Game’ because he told Jim Ross that’s what he was in an interview (which ended up being a surprise high point of his career). The Undertaker was ‘The Dead Man’ because he’s supposed to be a zombie. And so on. You get the idea.

WWE seems to have forgotten the reason nicknames and monikers were introduced in the first place. The build up to WrestleMania XXX saw Triple H telling Batista that if he didn’t rediscover ‘The Animal’ he didn’t think he’d be able to leave the event as champion. That’s the same Triple H who promised Daniel Bryan that he’d be facing ‘The Game’ as though sometimes people face Triple H but not ‘The Game’. Before that we had The Authority telling Randy Orton to rediscover ‘The Viper’, which was used as shorthand for his supposed sadistic streak (basically little more than him punting people in the head, but still).

The return of 'Y2J', apparently.
The earliest instance of the practice I can recall came in the summer of 2012. The August 10 episode of SmackDown featured Chris Jericho announcing that it was time to bring back ‘Y2J’, a signal that the audience should treat him as a babyface (which they’d been doing anyway). ‘Y2J’ was intended as his babyface persona, but the moniker had been used for years beforehand, regardless of whether he was seeking cheers or jeers.

It’s clear from the way in which these nicknames are being employed by WWE that they are no longer intended as mere nicknames that add to a wrestler’s character. They are now supposed to be taken as some sort of totem of power, something that can be gained and lost, switched on and off, depending on a wrestler’s drive, motivation and success (or something). Which is something that can work in wrestling but not in a promotion like WWE.

It does not come across well and it’s something I think WWE should drop before they go any further with it. A lot of what they’re doing recently has worked very well but the nicknames as superpowers approach has been a miss. Nobody has latched onto it and everyone sounds stupid talking about channelling their inner-nickname. Let nicknames be nicknames and use good booking to get guys abilities over.

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