The WWE Weekly Recap: 10/18/2015
Despite the promise of a hellacious main event, our road to Hell in a Cell has been more a quiet drive through the Vermont backwoods than anything else. Two huge stories occurring outside the ring dominated WWE this week, with little substantive action taking place on WWE television. This week, we will focus on the events that made WWE the talk of the town among sports media.
WWE and ESPN Announce New Partnership
Earlier this week, a cryptic tweet from a WWE alum promised an announcement that WWE fans would find particularly interesting. This past Tuesday, all became clear as for nearly ten minutes, WWE became the focus of ESPN's flagship program, SportsCenter.
Flanked by WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins, SportCenter ran down a recap of the week's events in the squared circle while Seth Rollins provided his own brand of commentary, calling himself the “New England Patriots,” of professional wrestling. The segment, complete with highlights and commentary felt right at home on SportsCenter and the addition of WWE talent further added credence to WWE's desire to return to the forefront of the casual sports fan's attention.
This is hardly the first time ESPN has worked with WWE in recent memory. At the high of the Brock Lesnar contract controversy, it was on SportsCenter that "The Beast Incarnate" announced his decision to resign with WWE, a mere weeks before Wrestlemania 31. At the time, Lesnar treated the segment with the big fight feel that 'Mania deserved, stating his intentions to walk out of the big dance the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Earlier this year, during the build up for SummerSlam, ESPN spent time covering the venue and the SummerSlam weekend experience. Randy Orton would take the helm, spreading the good word of SummerSlam and WWE as a whole. While the event was treated more as spectacle and sport, ESPN did their part in promoting WWE and their product. WWE however, would not take as much care.
If memory serves you, SummerSlam would see a championship match decided by the Special Guest Host, Jon Stewart hitting the then Champion, John Cena in the gut with a chair. Also taking place at Summerslam: Ryback won the Intercontinental Championship in five minutes against the Miz and Big Show and Dolph Ziggler and Rusev wrestled to a double count-out.
With the eyes of the sports world at large fixated on WWE's second most important pay-per-view of the year, the opportunity to remind or even introduce the audience of the sport of professional wrestling seemed wasted. Considering that what was delivered was hardly sport, and ratings haven't seen much of bump, I wouldn't consider ESPN's prior interest in WWE a success.
For this new partnership to bear any fruit, WWE must shift focus from spectacle, to sport. Even in this, the age of reality, the idea of honor of kayfabe must be reestablished. WWE can no longer be content with the constraints of parental guidance dictating the direction of the product.
Sport is a gritty, inherently violent and adult form of entertainment. Even Golf can contain complex rivalries and events that only adults can understand. While I'm not suggestion WWE return to the days of a wrestling pimp that enters the ring on the arms of three dozen prostitutes, I'm merely posing the idea that the product can no longer rely on a story line in which the WWE World Heavyweight Champion loses eleven of his last twelve matches.
Lana Ruins Everything
While on the subject of “attractive white women who don't understand the business they work for,” this week, Lana essentially threw away months of story telling by posting pictures of her engagement ring on social media. The lucky suitor, one Rusev. While the story that was thrown away was a shitty one to begin with, the outright carelessness and disrespect of kayfabe is no less remarkable.
For the unenlightened, here's a recap of what happened: On October 2nd, a photo was posted to Lana's Instagram, featuring a expensive new ring. It was an open secret that Rusev and Lana were an item in the real world and reports began making the rounds that the two were engaged. On that weeks Raw, as you may remember, Summer Rae proposed to Rusev. As a fun aside, this spawned an event in which yours truly correctly predicted that Dolph Ziggler would wrestle for the United States Championship.
This past Sunday, TMZ ran a report in which the Lana/Rusev engagement was made official. The very next day on WWE.com, a story appeared confirming the TMZ report and giving a halfassed explanation as to why Lana rushed back into the arms of her previous abuser. Certain wrestling blogs and respected wrestling reporters have claimed that WWE fed TMZ the story, however the hasty manner in which this all has gone down leads me to believe otherwise.
While the love rectangle angle was doomed from day one, it did provide Rusev a chance to grow as a character. His shift from abuser to victim through the wonder of happenstance actually gave me a reason to care about him as a character. Even Summer Rae received a bump from this entire ordeal, playing the perfect rebound girl along side Rusev in his quest to make his old prisoner jealous.
It would seem that the only one losing here was Lana. Lana's relationship to Ziggler was never believable in kayfabe, nor was it very interesting. Where Lana could have appeared as a strong independent woman, now free from her attacker, she failed. Instead, in running to the arms of another body with a penis attached to it, she proved once and for all that women are only as strong as the men they are attached to. If that is what WWE saw in her as a role model during this feud, I shudder to think what plans they have for the rest of the divas.
While I'm certainly not chastising Lana for pursuing love, in light of the announcement of the ESPN partnership, this is a huge embarrassment for WWE. WWE has shown to hardcore fans that keeping story lines consistent has been a problem, now with such a high profile flub, what reason to casual fans have to get engaged in the product if it's only going to change a week later.
History has shown that poor judgement can sink even the greatest of partnerships and ideas. This ESPN partnership can be what saves the good ship WWE. However, if faux paus such as Lana's continue to occur in the public eye, WWE coverage may be more appropriate on ESPN 3 than on their flagship network.