Top-Down Smackdown: Facts and Factions in WWE
Okay, so you’re WWE. One of your year’s biggest events traditionally centers on a gimmick that involves matches of four people against four people. To engender viewer interest, do you…
(a) Put some of your top superstars into storylines that naturally sees them aligning with three like-minded comrades, so that it’ll mean something when they fight?
(b) Make your main event a two-on-two match in which one side has already beaten twice as many guys the week before?
(c) Not announce what most of your matches will actually be, and add some 4-on-4 bouts at the last minute?
(d) Wait until AFTER the event, and then begin a storyline in which every major star in the company joins a team of four.
If you haven’t been watching, WWE chose ALL those options except (a). Because nothing revives a brand like faction warfare. Remember the glory days of the Boricuas, D.O.A., Truth Commission and The Nation? Aside for The Rock and Owen Hart, what stars can you name that truly benefited from that whole deal?
Oh, and “The League of Nations” is a terrible name for anyone with a sense of history, but then Franz Ferdinand is a terrible band name for the same reason and nobody cares. Look it up. But seeing Sheamus do the Four Horsemen gesture while wearing a Steve Austin rip-off shirt…Dhia me.
Do I really need to tell people who work in wrestling why the Four Horsemen angle worked so well? I guess I do. Step 1: center the group on a genuine talent, but one who might seem like a bit of an underdog next to up-and-coming heroes. Make it clear that if he busts his ass he can still hold on to his title, but he doesn’t want to bust his ass every night, and is afraid of being beaten. Confront him with a good guy who looks like a superhero by comparison, and make it clear that the superhero is capable of beating anybody. Then surround the champ with a gang to ensure that if all else fails, they will beat down the hero and keep him from the goal. Maybe two years into this, the hero figures he needs a back-up gang of his own…but they are ONLY there to ensure fair play, not to fight fire with fire.
Old-fashioned? Maybe. But the point of a bad-guy clique is to make your hero an underdog. What part of last night made Roman Reigns look anything other than entitled in both script and character?
The only interesting thing about Roman Reigns last night is that the way he picked his partners could, if handled well, become a potentially great identity-crisis angle down the line. Who are you, Roman – are you badass Shield lone wolf, or are you Samoan family? Having him either go full Samoa with bare feet, skirt, Warrior-esque facepaint and that whole deal; OR have him turn on the Usos violently (and better yet, The Rock) while loudly proclaiming “My race does not define me!” I’d watch both. What I don’t want to watch is a guy booked as a heroic badass smirking and sniggering about Sheamus having testes like Tater Tots.
I’m delighted to see Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno back, though Dreamer’s new fake Alice in Chains theme is more horrible than the last one. And if you’re going to pay tribute to Dusty Rhodes, wear cowboy boots…not polka dots. Dreamer’s pants were always faves of mine so I hate to see them go neon yellow spot. Dreamer, like Dean Ambrose, fills an essential audience identification role as the hard-working regular guy who won’t quit. There haven’t been enough of those since Steve Austin took that character type to the top.
And wow, TLC already? These are really coming too soon without enough build-up. But I guess for the actual League of Nations, World War II did as well.