(raw)lite: the only bit that counts

I could recap all three hours of this week’s Raw. I could crack silly jokes about how the voting in this Cyber Sunday knock-off was rigged and speak about how the whole A-Team thing was sheer nonsense. But I won’t. There’s only one section of Raw that warrants any kind of comment and that’s the final segment. It’s the only bit that counts.

The public had chosen CM Punk to face John Cena in the main event. Nice. But some way into the match, NXT winner Wade Barrett appeared at the top of the ramp wearing an ‘N’ armband and looking like a true leader.  Then, the rest of the NXT rookies appeared from various points in the crowd and surrounded our more established heroes in the ring. From there here they went on to floor every member of WWE staff they could put their hands on. Not only did Cena and Punk take a beating, but the SES, Jerry Lawler, my mentor Matt Striker, the time-keeper, Justin Roberts and camera operators all got pummelled. The ring was trashed and was left looking like nothing but a pile of slackened rope and timber slats. It was shocking, remarkably brave and fantastic to see WWE going for something so gutsy. I had no idea they had it in them.

After I watched Raw on Tuesday evening, I had planned on coming on here and taking the line that “Well, if you force these young men to carry out ridiculous tasks and perform tricks like circus animals for your own petty amusement, something’s going to snap.” Think Siegfried and Roy. Unfortunately, when I sneaked a quick look at Twitter yesterday morning, I realised those jokes weren’t going to work. What Vince McMahon giveth, he taketh away. All reports were that Bryan Danielson had been released from the WWE. At first I was pretty sure it was all a work. The entire NXT set-up is a work. But as the day went on I started thinking it probably was the real deal.

Sure, this could be the most elaborate and successful work  in many a year. And I’ll be thrilled to have been sucked in by it, should it be fake. But that’s looking unlikely. Andrew and I got a little suspicious on Wednesday when we noticed some heavy editing on the repeat play of the ambush on NXT. We assumed it was a timing issue. Now, it makes sense. The primary rumour is that Danielson’s choking of Justin Roberts with his own tie was a step too far for some of the child-friendly sponsors and someone had to take the fall. If this happens to be the case, it’s disappointing.

Children are regularly informed that they shouldn’t copy anything they see in the ring. Surely that’s enough of a disclaimer. But in watching WWE programming we’re not watching wrestling as such, but supporting a global business. Whether you like it or not, all that glitz and pyro doesn’t pay for itself. It’s business first, wrestling storylines later. You could go down the road of saying that the WWE can’t have it all ways. The rookies were sent out to do a disturbing and convincing job of taking over the show. They can’t then say it was too convincing, can they? Actually, they can.

The good news is that Bryan Danielson will be absolutely fine. He was the only NXT rookie who isn’t actually a rookie. The indie wrestling community will open their arms and welcome him back into their warm bosom, and all will be well again. I can hear the Wel-come ho-me” chants as we speak. I will be most disappointed if I don’t see him wearing one of these…….

By the way, you can buy this shirt from Yolanda Jernigans Gimick$! Wrestling Tees. She’s great!

If tomorrow proves us all to be fools, so be it. But for now I’ll leave you with my favourite Saturday tweet from my favourite wrestling people.

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6 thoughts on “(raw)lite: the only bit that counts

  1. I. Don’t. Understand. F*cked up, this is. Danielson was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to the WWE… ever. Ugh 😐

  2. Hey Ray and whatever you call your subordinates,

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seriously wrote about teh wresslin’, but this is something I feel worth chiming in on, because it’s one of those EVENTS everyone is chiming in on. Although most of us view Danielson’s release as being legitimate at this point, there are some who insist that it’s a work still, and well, that’s stupid (COMMAS!). But here’s a question addressing something you (and others) are writing: why would this be a successful work?

    For a minute let’s assume this is a work. In storyline, Daniel Bryan can’t be fired. He doesn’t work for WWE. He was eliminated from NXT, thus, he’s a renegade outlaw. Michael Cole cut that promo about how he couldn’t cut it in WWE, etc. Thus, putting up a notice on WWE.com at midnight on Friday doesn’t make narrative sense. Of course, when has that stopped WWE creative before?

    Well, never. But why fire Bryan? Is it because he’s the best of the group? I doubt they’d bury Wade Barret/the NXT concept like that. If anything, taking him away from The NXT(wo) just eliminates the heat from the group.

    SIDE NOTE: I really hope they don’t now add an established star (or worse, Vince) to the group to “mentor” them/glom the heat away. There’s a lot of mileage in them just running roughshod over people and maybe making someone like Jack Swagger drink 8 sodas “because that’s what being a WWE superstar is about, right?” and just deriding all the dumb obstacle course things they had to do.

    The mere fact that it makes no narrative sense probably should be enough to have us think it’s a shoot, but let’s look at this from an organizational stand point. Many reports indicate that the segment was virtually unknown to everyone except the writers, NXT guys, Vince, John Cena, and possibly CM Punk. The format sheet simply said “Barret/Cena altercation.” This certainly added a sense of realism we haven’t seen in YEARS in wrestling and everyone should be commended for creating some buzz and keeping a secret. However, are they continuing this again by working the employees even more? That’s no way to run a business. Once shakes things up. Twice and people start questioning their responsibilities.

    Ultimately, I tend to agree with the reports of the violence of the segment against WWE’s TV-PG direction (and with that comes a fat Mattell contract). Of course, the most guilty culprit in Danielson’s release is former WWE CEO Linda McMahon’s run for Senate.

    Why must the McMahon’s always want more? Haven’t they learned at this point that they understand the wrestling business, and nothing else? Restaurants, casinos, WWE Films, WWE Classics on Demand, World Bodybuilding Federation, The XFL all failed. Beyond that though, why can’t the McMahon’s be comfortable in their accomplishments? How, they were almost bankrupt 15 years ago, and are now worth just short of a billion dollars? Must being a mark for yourself and LOSING a Senate campaign really be important enough? Is sabotaging the company that you intend to give to your children (when one of them left recently) really worth the footnote in political history you won’t be?

    Letting go of Bryan Danielson will not ruin WWE. But it is an incredible example of short sightedness and/or cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even more alarming may be how WWE really doesn’t control their product anymore. Was Mattel really that abhorred by a tie choke, when a week earlier Edge assaulted Randy Orton with a door? Is it really the Benoit thing? If WWE is concerned with people being reminded of Chris Benoit they should just close up shop, because everything in wrestling is a Benoit reminder. It’s part of the history.

    As for Danielson- he’s gold. He’s hitting the indies with the last image of him being him kicking the WWE champion in the head. He won’t go to TNA, because I’m sure there’s a no compete clause for 2 months and there’s no point in burning the bridge. Danielson is taking a political bullet. I’m sure he knows. Hell, I’m sure he was TOLD that. Let Linda lose in November and he’ll be brought right back in a FAT contract. I think he earned it.

    However, you know who the real casualty is here? Morale in the locker room. Here’s creative showing off a hot angle that could really involve EVERYONE. And now, the best worker in that group, who has done nothing but what he was told to do (due to the secrecy of the angle, I doubt he was given the memo “Oh, and don’t choke Justin Roberts out with a tie”), and shown a helluva a lot of aptitude in his job, get the boot for reasons beyond his control. That can happen to anyone now. I doubt anyone in that locker room really feels that safe/valued right about now.

    Still, if Danielson is truly culpable in this, and for all we know rule #1 in the company is “no strangling with a rope/tie/wire/etc because it could remind people of the psychotic midget with T-Rex arms who murdered his family”, then he should have been released. But so should have been the camera man for shooting it. Or the director for going to that shot. Or Heath Slater for unsuccessfully trying to strangle John Cena with the middle rope.

    Regardless, it’s a bad situation for all around, but it could very wel be the best thing that ever happened to Danielson.

    • This is the greatest ‘comment’ I’ve ever had on this blog. Less of a comment, more of a short essay. Excellent points. Remind me why you don’t write about wrestling anymore? 😛

      After I initially thought it was a work I realised, like you said, that Danielson had no kayfabe contract with the WWE. He had a one-night contract to fight The Miz. That’s it. He’ll go back to the indies the all-conquering hero and that’ll be the end of it. But bloody hell, what a waste by WWE for the sake of some low-rent politics and sponsorship. All these off-shoot businesses are fine but when they dictate who gets hired and fired on the wrestling roster, something’s gone off the rails.

      • It’s really just endemic of everything that is wrong with American business right now. There is no management or plan; it’s purely reactionary to whatever crisis arises today.

        To take it even deeper, the concepts of workers’ rights here is completely absent. In a poor economy the work force is anxious enough, but to know that someone (who in this particular case is a highly trained specialist) can be let go over other’s failings is ridiculous. Problems aren’t solved anymore; it’s simply who can we blame for this problem, and eliminating the cause somehow fixes it. That’s the most piss poor logic and management style, but it’s unfortunately the prevalent mindset in today’s economic climate.

        We all scream at the top of our lungs about how wrestlers need to unionize and that Vince would never let it happen because he’d blacklist the wrestlers, but you know what? They don’t want it. Because the pension plans and the health insurance and the paid vacation and all the other benefits take out of the bottom line salary. And these carnies are too infatuated with the dollar amount to realize that. Or maybe it’s the opposite? Maybe these geniuses know what a disgusting culture they’re a part of (and help perpetuate) and know that they’ll be dead by 40 anyway. Randy the Ram is a cautionary tale, but many don’t even get that glamorous a life. Seriously, these men who kowtow to Vince McMahon might be the most brilliant people alive. They get it. They get how worthless they are and they’re lives are about getting as much as they can. Because ultimately, WE don’t care. There are no advocacy groups that speak up for the wrestlers. Hell, wrestlers aren’t even allowed in the Screen Actor’s Guild, despite being actor’s on a weekly television series. If even SAG would allow them in, a lot of problems in the industry would at least be lessened. Sure, Vince may blackball someone if he needs time off, but he wouldn’t be helpless. Until we care, we can’t expect them to really have the energy to support themselves. But no one cares. No one cares about the American worker.

        To fully address your comment: The firing of Danielson is not a waste. It’s simply adding to his legend and will get him even more over by the time he returns. If he’s not back in WWE by the end of the year I’d be surprised. But any wrestler in any locker room has to be extremely despondent right now. They can now be fired for being clean, being a vegan, doing the right thing, AND having the potential to make the promoter boatloads of cash.

        The McMahon’s don’t want to protect the company for Linda’s campaign; they want to protect the company from government intervention of their unsafe working conditions. For as much as they strive for mainstream attention, it’s only promote the show. So that’s how powerful this little SNAFU by Danielson was; they turned away the chance to make some serious cash. I take back earlier about what I said about it being short-sighted. It’s very calculated. After all, the entire industry’s history is how the mafia would “fix” fights. That’s the history of professional wrestling. It was run by the mob before it even got too low class for them. Now, no-class carnies run it. So why should we ever expect anything to change?

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