On the Fizzling of Promising Story

I’m struggling to read wrestling these past couple weeks. Sure, one week I was out in the sticks without even a viable internet connection, so that threw me off my rhythm. But the more pressing problem is the shite state of affairs in the current threads of WWE’s narrative.

I’ve been listening to some podcasts. It’s not just me. I’m feeling stagnant, and the smarks are getting ticked off. We’re all starting to balk about one after another promising WWE character or storyline build up its potential and then fizzle like a sad balloon.

Take Bray Wyatt. He had the crowd mesmerized and was orating masterful monologues to rival Shakespeare’s Iago (I was straight up transcribing him, even). He was tweening Cena, calling Cena out on his dogged refusal to grow the hell up and turn heel, legitimizing the portion of the audience who doth protest the tendency of WWE to appeal to little kids with a corporate barrage of colorful T-shirts, positive affirmation slogans, Scooby Doo specials and endorsements for unhealthy sugar cereals. He told us that Cena “plays the role of hero while everything around him burns,” and that notion resonated. Folks lit up the stadiums for him with their lighter flame apps. And this whole situation was good for Cena. In fact, by dragging Cena down a peg, Bray Wyatt helped us find the overly branded champion more interesting! Cena showed moral complexity in confronting Wyatt, and his own shortcomings. Before that I had no use for John Cena, found him boring. But he was beginning to impress me, even. The situation gave him the opportunity to say, “My name is John Cena. I am not a god, I am a man.” What an heroic line!

And then what happened? One week Wyatt was a dark messiah wowing us with artful manifestos, the next he was a creepy southern thug yammering on about a house on a hill with a picket fence or some shit. Like a sad balloon, there he went. It was as though the Bray Wyatt character took off in ways the writers couldn’t imagine, and instead of hopping on for the ride, they got scared of him and shut him down. Cena fizzled, too — he kept his belt through that fatal four-way match even though it was a perfect moment for Roman Reigns, and then he totally choked against Brock Lesnar. He lost so badly it was implausible, and now we’re supposed to believe he might win in a rematch? Just because of the “Never Give Up” towel and the Hulk Hogan colors on his new merch?

But it isn’t just them. Masterful warrior Roman Reigns is stagnating, and his match with Randy Orton this week was booooooring! Paige and AJ were knocking it out of the park, but now they’re just repeating themselves. The Stephanie/Brie feud had promise as a storyline but it blew a tire with that pathetic physical therapist gag and then devolved into a rather tedious sister fight. Rusev and Jack Swagger are starting to bore me, much as I love Lana and Rusev. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have been carrying the show, but Dean Ambrose’s movie-filming hiatus brought that feud to a grinding halt, with that asinine “eulogy” they made Seth Rollins give. Almost everything sucks eggs right now, and I don’t really feel like writing about it.

I generally have more fun writing about the stuff that wows me (though I’ve got half a mind to write some more about Jack Swagger — he’s such a sad patriot character, with that stupid hand-outline-across-the-heart on his shirt and all). So I’ve been turning my thoughts elsewhere from the WWE, returning to my lit-(s)mark roots, rereading Roland Barthes’ “Wrestling” essay. He’s also got a piece called “From Work to Text” which I’m trying to wrap my brains around to see if perhaps “work” in wrestling’s jargon fits into Barthes’ thinking about the relationship between “the work” and text. I’m also fixing to reread Joseph Campbell, because more often than not I find myself writing about heroes.  I’ve written a more thinky post on wrestling’s continuous narrative. It needs work, but maybe I’ll work on it. And I’ve been discovering some wonderful wrestling blogs, podcasts, a marvelous wrestling portrait artist, and the archival historians of sport-art. Maybe I’ll reach out and talk to some of these cool people, who know wrestling inside out and upside down, by the way! I bow down to their pop culture chops. Basically, I may stray from literary criticism of the current WWE product and survey the broader scene for a while.

Oh, and a short story I wrote about indy professional wrestling hits a small but feisty corner of the internet tomorrow! Details shortly!

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