Monday 12 May 2014

Story Time

Things seemed so promising on RAW the night after WrestleMania XXX. The show went off the air with new WWE champion Daniel Bryan standing in the ring with The Shield, facing down the old guard of Kane, Batista, Randy Orton, and, of course, Triple H. It hinted at a storyline that would see Bryan enter an uneasy, if informal and unstated, alliance with ‘The Hounds of Justice’ to face their common enemies. 

Earlier on in the night we’d seen Bray Wyatt’s Family defeat their number one foe John Cena (teaming with Sheamus and Big E for no stated or apparent reason), making it clear that series would continue. That in turn made it fairly clear Wyatt would be getting his much deserved win over the top boy at Extreme Rules and that a third singles instalment would be likely for Payback.
Unfortunately very little of what that episode seemed to tantalisingly hint at has materialised. The last month of WWE programming has been drab and uninspired. Wrestling television by the numbers designed more to keep the status quo than progress storylines.

This alliance could have been explored far more.
We could have had nuanced, multi-layered storylines. Just a few months before they’d saved him at the end of the April 7 RAW Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns had been beating up D-Bry on a weekly basis. A sense of mistrust on Bryan’s part could have been played up. On The Shield’s side there could have been frustration at Bryan not immediately warming up to his saviours, costing them victories against their more unified opposition. 

That said the Evolution reunion came about far too easily. Yes, all are heels and had been gradually getting cosier for around a month before ‘Mania. But ‘The Animal’ and ‘The Viper’ had faced one another for the championship. They’d worked together at various points against Bryan but they had also wrestled one another too. There was a grudge there, or at least there should have been, and both men were primarily motivated by regaining the WWE championship from Bryan, something only one could do. 

Are we to believe that Batista and ‘The Apex Predator’ are the sorts of men who will forget about what has motivated them for months simply because they’re attacked by The Shield? I’m not saying doing Evolution versus The Shield was a bad idea. It wasn’t. The Shield have reinvigorated six man tag matches in WWE and it was perfectly logical to pit them against one of the most prominent (if not actually accomplished) three man teams in company history. 

The decision to do Kane v Bryan and Evolution v The Shield should not have meant a split into two separate plots but that’s what we got. Triple H reformed Evolution, Orton and Batista completely forgot about their championship aspirations (Orton still hasn’t had the televised rematch he is almost certainly entitled to in kayfabe terms), and Bryan was pitted against Kane because there was nobody else for him to wrestle. Meanwhile Cena and Wyatt remained in their own little bubble.

It would have been so easy to keep Bryan and Kane attached to the Shield and Evolution story because both rivalries kicked off together. It would have created matches that people would have been interested in seeing, made it easier to spin off into new feuds once things were played out, and would have decreased the amount of filler on RAW. With eight guys (ostensibly in three factions of heels with a monster who’ll do their bidding, force of nature good guys, and a loner underdog champion who doesn’t feel he can fully trust anyone) the need to book meaningless matches that end in non-finishes just to setup staredowns would have been decreased. And there’s the layered storytelling I mentioned. Just off the top of my head the Evolution reunion would be far more interesting if Orton and Batista were both going along with ‘The Game’s’ desire for revenge in exchange for future title matches as opposed to… well, that’s the point isn’t it: we don’t know why they’ve happily fallen into line behind Triple H, do we?

I admit it would have been harder to work Cena and Wyatt into the big picture because they’re so far removed from the other two plots. But it wouldn’t have been impossible. Triple H could have tried using The Wyatt Family in The Shield’s old role as Authority hit men. That in itself could have started a new programme had the Wyatts, over a period of weeks, proven not as effective and been distanced from ‘The Cerebral Assassin’, ultimately leading to Evolution v The Wyatt Family. There would have been no need to make hard and fast plans to do that match, or any other, in however many months’ time. It would have been more about getting wrestlers interacting and creating things that could be called back to if stories developed in the right way.

At the very least WWE could have done an interesting six man tag by mixing the three feuds. Bryan teaming with a Shield member and Cena to face Kane, an Evolution member and Bray could have been an incredible main event to an episode of RAW. Extreme Rules would have looked a much hotter show if the April 28 RAW had ended with that match as the main event, having every player for each of the major feuds in a crazy ringside brawl as the show went off the air after the six man tag had broken down into anarchy. 

WWE’s reluctance to interweave its stories is hurting their long term storytelling and the progression of wrestlers. It’s unrealistic, not to mention dull, to see guys meaningfully interact only with the people they’re feuding with. Seeding in hints of future feuds, turns and allegiance shifts should be a standard part of wrestling programming. That WWE seem to be opposed to the concept is disheartening. Especially when we look at what could have been.

1 comment:

  1. the last paragraph sums it up pretty well. good article again, man.