Thursday 16 August 2012

Prime Time Comedy

Last Friday WWE released Brian ‘Abraham Washington’ Jossie from his contract. The only thing that surprises me about the situation is the amount of time it took.

The reason for his release is no secret. On the July 30th edition of Monday Night RAW (episode 1001, fact fans,) during a match between the Prime Time Players and Epico and Primo, AW made an inappropriate joke over the microphone about NBA player Kobe Bryant and rape. After realising how inappropriate the comment was AW fell silent for a few moments.

He eventually regained his composure and continued making less controversial remarks from his station at ringside. After the match he headed backstage and immediately apologised to WWE management and the performers who had been in the segment with him. Meanwhile the job of apologising to viewers was left to commentator Michael Cole. The promotion also released a formal apology after RAW went off the air via TMZ.

The brass were said to be furious with the All World proprietor, which is understandable, but the fact that he was wired up with a microphone headset at the following evening’s SmackDown taping indicated that no serious action would be taken against him.

AW has stated that there was no malicious intent behind the remark. I believe him. That still doesn’t mean it was something that could or should be overlooked.

Since being released on Friday Brian ‘AW’ Jossie has mentioned various instances of similarly controversial matterial broadcast by WWE. The examples he has given have included another comment made about Bryant by Big Show on a 2003 episode of SmackDown, John Cena making homophobic slurs (which he did regularly up until a year or so ago), fat jokes directed at Vickie Guerrero, and Vince McMahon poking fun at Bells Palsy sufferer Jim Ross.

He’s correct. None of the above should have been aired. But it doesn’t excuse his mistake, nor does pointing it out mean he will be rehired. The fact is that the above examples have not resulted in formal reprimands or firings for a reason.

Vince McMahon is the boss. As such he will do and say whatever he likes on WWE television. If he makes a comment that causes a severe backlash against the company he will issue an apology but won’t be fired. That covers the fat jokes too: they are made at Vince’s direction because it amuses him.

As for John Cena: it would take a lot for WWE to fire him. If he made a similar remark it’s likely the most he’d receive is a fine and a suspension. As WWE’s biggest merchandise seller his position within the promotion is as safe as an active wrestler’s can be.

As for Big Show making a similar comment: not only was he a more valuable performer to WWE in 2003 than Jossie is in 2012 but it was made before WWE’s shift to PG. It is the responsibility of the performer to think about whether what they’re saying will fit with the tone and direction of the company when they have a microphone in their hand.

AW wasn't an integral part of the act: he didn't even dance!

The comment had caused only a relatively minor media backlash against the federation but it wasn’t AW’s only blunder. He had also sent out a message via Twitter stating that he and the Prime Time Players supported Linda McMahon’s recent political campaign. He ended said tweet with the unorthodox hashtag “#voteordie4linda.”

Whether it was meant in jest or not doesn’t matter: it was a stupid thing to do and Jossie should understand that. He has been released in order to safeguard Linda’s political aspirations. All WWE employees are well aware of Linda’s senate campaign and should understand that it means WWE is being extra cautious regarding their media image. The guy has nobody to blame but himself.

I imagine Darren Young and Titus O’Neil will be largely unharmed by this unforeseen setback. Young is decent enough on the microphone to handle promo duties for the pair but if WWE is desperate for them to have a second then they can simply promote someone else from developmental. Byron Saxton could work in the role. Or perhaps Rosa Mendes could turn on Epico and Primo.

Whatever direction is taken with that unit I imagine it will be the original plan. The loss of a manager isn’t enough to alter WWE’s plans for the tag belts.
What’s next for Brian ‘AW’ Jossie? According to some the fact that he has been vocal about his release may help him to regain his job once things have blown over. Apparently Vince doesn’t rehire people who just accept a sacking. To me this seems unlikely, at least for the time being. While I can imagine this being Vince’s logic I just don’t think the promotion would be desperate to reintroduce a manager to TV.

AW’s promotion from developmental earlier in the year could be considered a test to see whether or not the manager role would still work in 2012. I believe AW did a good job in the position and made the Prime Time Players a more palatable act but he was far from a revelation. It’s difficult to imagine any decision makers in WWE desperate to have a bit-part player back on TV.

If he’s going to remain relevant within the wrestling business the most obvious place for him to seek employment is TNA. I think the chances of him getting a gig there are good. Not only is he a former WWE performer but he’s a decent talker and could perhaps attract some media attention (this is TNA, they don’t care whether media attention is good or bad).

Most importantly the soon-to-debut Aces and Eights faction provides an excellent way to introduce him. Apparently the gang is going to have a big role at Bound for Glory. AW’s no compete clause will expire around a month after that event. It would take very little effort for him to be built up as one of the mastermind’s of the angle and be revealed on an episode of IMPACT in mid-November.

The man himself has talked about pursuing a career in comedy. Judging by how well his comment on July 30th was received I’d advise against it.

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