Tuesday 8 September 2015

Booking an Icon

Since Sting started working for WWE last year the company's booking of him has been frustratingly hit and miss. He spent his first appearance trying hard to be mysterious and enigmatic while doing nothing more than interfering in a tag match. That was bad. He spent his first match holding his own with Triple H, one of the biggest stars in company history, and being granted access to all manner of shortcuts to disguise the fact that he is long past his prime. That was good.

Unfortunately nobody on the writing team has figured out what works and what doesn't with regard to 'The Stinger'. They're still experimenting, despite having found some good uses for him and owning the rights to the footage of Sting at his latter-half-of-the-nineties peak. The last two weeks have given us both good and bad things from him.

The August 24 episode of RAW saw Sting return from a lengthy, self-imposed hiatus (we didn't even get to see him chilling in the rafters - for shame!) to rile Seth Rollins by stealing a statue. Y'see, Rollins had earned a statue by defeating John Cena at SummerSlam the night before, a match in which both Rollins' WWE championship and Cena's United States championship had been up for grabs. The Authority had promised him a statue if he won (for some reason) and it was meant to be revealed on RAW before being moved to WWE HQ to join statues of Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino.

One of the most WCW segments that's ever gone down on RAW.
This being pro wrestling, the statue was brought down to the ring for the main event segment and the drape was pulled off to reveal... Sting. How he'd managed to not only steal a very heavy life size statue but smuggle himself onto its podium was, understandably, not addressed. The segment played out with Triple H awarding Sting's bizarre and illegal behaviour with a WWE title shot at Night of Champions. A decision which was also odd, for the record, because 'The Icon' had wrestled for the company only once and that was a loss. The September 7 RAW saw Sting holding the statue hostage before ending the night by throwing it into what's best described as a garbage truck.

This is the sort of behaviour WWE loves to book for its lead babyfaces and it's a problem. Both Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have had their momentum hampered by this sort of "loveable scamp" booking over the last year, Ambrose in his hotdog cart exploits and Reigns with his pre-'Mania RAW tug-o'-war with Brock Lesnar (amongst others, for both). In 2015 it's not funny and not relatable. There have been worse booking decisions from WWE this year but that doesn't negate the fact that Sting posing as a statue is silly. And silly is not an adjective that should be applied to someone getting ready for a WWE pay-per-view main event.

This man is 56.
But, like I said, there's been good stuff too. Specifically the wedge Sting has driven between Triple H and Seth Rollins. On the August 31 RAW Sting played 'The Game' and Rollins off against one another by putting the former over as a great wrestler whom he respects and stating that Rollins isn't quite as good. The best part of this was the subtlety of it and the way it played on the established character traits of the heels. Tripper, usually quick to talk Rollins up and boost his confidence, was never going to disagree with Sting on this point. His pride simply wouldn't allow it. Rollins, meanwhile, was clearly going to disagree with Sting because he's already gone on record stating that he's the greatest WWE champion ever (the reason he felt entitled to a statue in the first place). Sting, through nothing more than a well-placed comment, got allies to disagree with one another.

WWE would usually hammer its audience over the head with this sort of foreshadowing. Giving it space to breathe made it all the better and will make the inevitable pay off, in the form of a Triple H versus Seth Rollins match, all the sweeter.

This is how WWE should book their lead babyfaces. Outsmarting heels by pretending to be a statue doesn't make anyone look clever, it just makes those being outsmarted look like idiots. Having Sting drop subtle remarks about one man being a better wrestler than another though? That's good. That understandably drives a wedge between people and shows that the guy doing the remarking is intelligent enough to mentally outmanoeuvre his foes. More of that, please. Less of the statue malarkey. 

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