Quoth New Day on Smackdown 9/3/2015 (or, On Tables)

I have been thinking about the deeper meaning of tables in professional wrestling for nigh on fifteen years, my friends. So I’m watching with interest as New Day further develops their “Save the Tables” gimmick. My last post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Somewhat. A thought experiment, shall we say. But I’m serious about tables, and so is the New Day. Here is a transcript of their “Save the Tables” promo from Smackdown this week:

Xavier Woods: A table is a terrible thing to waste.

Kofi Kingston: That’s right. Tables, like that one right there, are the backbone of human achievement. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the support of good, honest, hardworking American tables.

Xavier Woods: They bring people together, I mean, think about it. The Pilgrims and the Indians had the very first Thanksgiving, where? At a table!

Big E: The Declaration of Independence was written on… a table!

Kofi Kingston: Yo, yo, hey–Walter Cronkite announced the moon landing… while sitting… at… a table!

Xavier Woods: And the New Day–Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods, my brothers, my family–we signed our WWE contracts which allow us to be your WWE tag team champions while we were at… a table!

Big E: You see, the problem is the Dudley Boys have zero regard for a table’s place in history. But we can change all of that. You can change that! We all can change that! And that happens by standing up–go ahead, stand up, get up on your feet–stand up and join a movement that is sweeping the nation. Save the Tables! Come on now, altogether. [Chanting] Save-the-Tables! Save-the-Tables! Save-the-Tables!

It’s wonderfully absurd that the New Day is equating tables with American exceptionalism, isn’t it? As though our country wouldn’t be iconic if there weren’t intact tables on which to set our historical documents and dinners upon. They’re being goofy, yes. They’re cheerful tricksters, making up silly causes to champion, finding loud and bouncy ways to taunt their opponents and draw heat from the audience. But once again — wait for it — they’re political! These ring preachers, if you will, are inserting yet another political message into their boisterous comedic shtick of ridiculous picket signs, clapping, skipping and prancing, funny hairstyles and a trombone for no apparent reason.

But if we’re to move beyond the New Day’s curiously political agenda, let us ask ourselves: what is it about tables in professional wrestling? Why is it so very gratifying to watch wrestlers crash through them? It is part, of course, of a troika of brutal metaphorical workplace prop items that allow a more tangible violence to enter the dance-like display of fighting that is professional wrestling. The ladder has become a fairly straightforward metaphor in WWE: it is the path upward in the company, the corporate thing that must be climbed to attain a championship belt. It is a one lane vertical path before which the workers jockey for position to traverse. It can also become an unforgiving weapon not unlike a battering ram, and a harsh, altar-like structure on which bodies are slammed and sacrificed. The metal folding chair is a strange one, stemming, I would guess, from a tradition of wrestling matches in high school auditoriums. It is much beloved as a weapon because of the audible smack it makes when it hits somebody, as well as for its versatility: it can be sit upon, thrown, or its folding mechanism utilized to entangle an opponent in some hilarious, if painful, debacle. The chair’s metaphor, I think, is about a wrestler’s inability rest on the laurels of his achievements; that which he rests upon will ultimately be used against him.

But the table is neither a means to an end like the ladder or a loose cannon like the chair. I think the New Day is right: the table is the benevolent furniture item of the wrestling’s violent prop troika. Sure, the more industrial model of table used by the WWE has those legs that fold in and out for convenient storage and transport, but unlike the trickster chair, the folding legs come equipped with a dependable locking mechanism you can count on not collapse in the middle of your Thanksgiving dinner or contract signing. Of T, L, and C, only the table is used by wrestlers with the intent of utterly destroying it, of breaking it in half and hearing its wood crunch as it splits and splinters, to revel in the mangled dangling of the protective strip that encircles its wood. The noble table is truly a victim in the professional wrestling prop narrative: it wants only to provide us with a space, for our business, our meals, or just to set our stuff down, and yet we cheer heartily for its demise when Bubba Ray Dudley roars, “Devon, get the tables!”

I find myself intellectually concurring with Xavier Woods: a table is indeed a terrible thing to waste. But I can’t help myself — the promise of a body crunching through a table stirs in me a primal thrill, that feeling that ripples through the crowd and transforms a modern audience into the watchers of a gladiator sport, reveling in an instance of genuine violence amidst the otherwise choreographed performance of violent gestures.

In the spectacle of excess, we revel in just this sort of wasteful display, channeling the emotions of our plodding, difficult days into the delicious, senseless sacrifice of a useful, practical item. In the end, we cheer the creative destruction of practicality in the wresting ring because our lives become gridlocked by practicality, sound judgement, and good sense. A body crashing through a table represents freedom, if only for a moment, from these constraints that shackle us all to our jobs, our living arrangements, and our material possessions. It is one of those mobius strip moments in wrestling, in which the cheerful message of positivity and furniture preservation espoused by the New Day twists into an delightfully annoying breed of villainy. They demand we retain the daytime composure of practicality from which we have sought refuge in our evening entertainment. So in conclusion I will always side with Bubba Ray: Devon, GET THE TABLES!

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