Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoot - At Least for One Night (Okay Ten Minutes) I Thought I was Back in the Late 90s

As usual, things become a little more interesting on the "Road to WrestleMania" and this year is no different. As the WWE prepares for it's yearly megashow, the storylines take different twists and turns from the monotonous angles that we're accustom to these days. Brand crossovers, mainstream entertainers, wrestling legends returning, anticipation of the upcoming draft, etc. make the weeks leading up to 'Mania at least watchable from a viewer's perspective.

Don't get me wrong... with Vince McMahon's monopoly on the business, the industry has a LONG way to go to get back to it's renaissance of the mid to late 1990s and the Monday Night Wars. This period marked a time of daring writing and surprises each and every week. The day Scott Hall, coming in from the crowd, interrupted a match on WCW television and "shot" about, among other things, how "we" [WWF a the time] were declaring war marked a rebirth of the industry. The (first) Invasion Angle, which led to the birth of the Outsiders, and then the NWO revolutionized the sport. Shooting became customary. Talking about other companies (which was never done before) was a weekly formality. And breaking kayfabe (breaking character) to advance a storyline was used more than ever... which leads us to last night's Raw.

As I stated before... wrestling has become stale because of what I attribute to lack of real competition from another rival company. WWE is over-saturated as well, and breaking into three "brands" seemed like a good idea at the time, but I feel actually LIMITS angle development. Ironically, this is what makes the Road to WrestleMania (the weeks leading up to the event) interesting.

Road to WrestleMania "unofficially" starts at No Way Out, a second level Pay Per View that is the PPV prior to WrestleMania... and this year's did not disappoint from what I've read. SmackDown's Edge lost his WWE Title 18 minutes into his Elimination Chamber Match (and 18 minutes into the show), and then shocked the world by jumping a Raw superstar and taking his place in Raw's Elimination Chamber World Title Match, eventually winning their World Championship Title. So now what? A SmackDown star has the Raw belt. And Triple H (another SmackDown star) has that brand's title by winning THEIR Elimination Chamber (the one Edge lost). Oh, what a predicament!

This unpredictability continued on Raw as Edge was challenged by former champ John Cena, whether as Cena put it, it be on Raw or SmackDown.

Then we get Rowdy Roddy Piper, a continuation of a storyline being developed between retired Ric Flair and Chris Jericho (originally with Mickey Rourke involved). Roddy comes to the ring and tells Jericho he's going to "shoot" here. INSTANT CLASSIC!

But the final event that solidified the show as the best Raw in years came at the end. Ever since "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton kicked Vince McMahon in the head, Vince's son Shane (along with his sister Stephanie) have been in an on-going feud that included a fight at No Way Out and continued on Raw last night. Shane was (kayfabe) taken to a hospital the night before after his match, challenges Orton to a street fight.... no rules... fight until someone isn't standing. Stephanie pleads with him not to do it and later is on the phone begging someone to hurry and get there because Shane won't listen. Who could that be on the phone? Vince? Her mother Linda?

Before I continue... in real life Stephanie is married to Triple HHH (with 2 young babies). A few years ago Trips and Steph were a married couple on-camera until (as wrestling gimmick marriage's usually go) they had a big falling out and subsequent "program". After that Triple HHH (with DX partner HBK) tormented Steph and her family, especially Vince. Trips would insult her, call her a slut, etc... all the typical things that come with the territory of working with your wife in the world of professional wrestling.

Anyway, as the years have gone on, and programs evolved (and Stephanie was off-camera having babies) Triple HHH's character evolved as well. When Steph would make occasional appearances, Trips would make innuendos about their real life marriage with comments about Steph's husband having a big you-know-what, slipping her a kiss on camera to infuriate Vince, etc.

So last night on Raw was the Coupe de Grace. Orton beat down Shane, kicked him in the head, and when Stephanie ran to the ring to check on Shane with the paramedics , he delivers a hellacious RKO to her! Suddenly there's a huge pop (a favorable crowd reaction) and Triple HHH (wearing street clothes and apparently who Steph was talking to on the phone about his brother-in-law Shane) flies to the ring, checks on an unconscious Stephanie, and becomes irate... Kayfabe is "broken" as WWE admits to their real-life marriage. In actuality, this is 100% pure kayfabe at it's best. The wrestling characters have been replaced by real life.

We have our next big feud leading to WrestleMania.... Orton vs. Triple HHH... and remember when I said SmackDown had two champions? My guess is Triple HHH will becoming to Raw, "officially" transferred by Stephanie McMahon or the McMahon family.

For a brief time, wrestling was unpredictable again... and it was memorable enough for me to shoot (write this).