We-ell now, some interesting developments in the world of WWE have prompted me to resurrect Wrestleitall. I haven’t posted anything new in the last little while mostly because the news has been “Roman still champ, literally no one happy about it, see you next week” and then this happened:
As of Sunday at about midnight the Roman era ended and initially I was like “Cool, new champ, Seth v. Roman next PPV, right?” And that was good, definitely a lot of build up and I was happy with the result. And then Dean Ambrose’s music hits and my expectations were defied.
But I try to stay away from reporting the news here, I’m more of an “implications” kind of guy. And the implications of this development are great. And not just because I finally get to see the Roddy Piper title run that I wanted as a small child but never got. Although that’s part of it… let me explain.
Way, way back in early 2016 I was watching the Royal Rumble. At the time I wasn’t thinking anything of it. I use the Rumble and ‘Mania like most people use the SuperBowl. I didn’t follow wrestling but it was a nice excuse to have snacks with friends for a few hours on a Sunday. A few things impressed me but nothing more than a generic looking sort of blond guy and a kind of chubby lad who had a dynamite Last Man Standing match before going into the big Battle Royal and putting up a better showing than the fresh AJ Styles. I thought “Who are these guys and where can I see more of them?” And of course they were Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose and, together with the New Day and Becky Lynch, they were the reason I gave the WWE the third try that is still going on to this day.
I saw in those competitors something that was lacking in the 80’s and 90’s/early 2000’s. I saw people onto which I could project myself. I can’t relate to a 265 pound Samoan bad-ass or someone with 23 inch pythons or even to a moderately sized charismatic jock. The attitude era introduced quite a few variations but they were mostly outlaws and fringe dwellers; the overtly sexual people, the drug-abusers, the buckers of authority. They were definitely for someone, but not for me. But a chubby guy, someone with a screw loose, a few geeks and a steampunk cosplayer who, somehow despite all odds, work hard enough to earn a spot in a business they love? I can fit in with them.
And that was already great. That I was represented in that way on a program that had a history of targeting the edgy and the jock showed that my people were taking over in a way that I had been told would happen but of which I had yet to see any real evidence. Through the power of social media and our dollars and willingness to consume their product we, the geeks and nerds of the world, had carved a place for ourselves in professional wrestling. It was like Moneyball for wrestling and the feeling was good. But I was fine with just that.
People like Kevin Owens or Big E or Dean Ambrose might get shots at midcard titles, they might be tag champs for a while, but I was starting to give up hope of someone like Becky Lynch even getting the Women’s title (a title that could only be one by maybe six or seven total people in the roster). On Sunday I expected to see New Day drop their belts to a more traditional tag-team (like most people, I assumed it was Gallows and Anderson’s time, with a small possibility of Enzo and Cass) and I expected to watch Kevin Owens or Del Rio get a contract they held onto for a few months and, in Owen’s case, maybe lost while vying for a US or IC title shot. And I expected the title to stay on the traditional giant jock characters of either Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins, as has been the history of the title with precious few exceptions.
But the New Day retained (and now may just beat the record for longest time as Tag Champs) and, yes, Becky lost, but Dean Ambrose, when the smoke had cleared, was now the face of the company.
Now, granted, Dean Ambrose is in far better shape than me. But his character isn’t defined by his athleticism or his size or how good he is a making fun of people. It’s defined by the fact that, despite being a little crazy and frequently making poor choices, he manages to succeed. And if you can’t relate to that then you are a better person than I.
There have been some issues in the past few months that seems to have left WWE creative scratching their heads. Specifically it was that despite solid booking and stellar matches and… not terrible promos the fans were having none of Roman Reigns as champion. But I’m thinking they were forgetting an axiom that we learned from a young man named Dwayne Johnson alias The Rock. In order for an champion to be respected he has to be The People’s Champion. And The People, circa the 90’s/00’s, were edgy jocks, or at least wished they were, so they cheered for a giant Samoan god spouting clever catch phrases written by a nerd. But times have changed. We geeks and nerds have learned to embrace who we are and now we want the catch phrases written by a nerd to be spoken by a nerd. Or at least someone that we’d be proud to be ourselves and not the people that bullied us.
Now I can’t speak directly about what sort of person Roman Reigns is. I don’t know the man. I do know the character, however, and the character seems like the kind of person who relies on his size to get what he wants, who only works with people who are just like him, who maybe spends too much time in the gym and not enough time trying to relate to his fans and might, I don’t know, use drugs to get ahead. Roman’s recent Wellness policy violation would work really nicely as a work. I imagine it is not that, since WWE takes that kind of thing fairly seriously, but the fact that I’d believe that (*snicker*) means that Roman isn’t the type of champion I can get behind. Which makes him a great heel and were the company to embrace that I would line up to watch good guys beat him up.
Oh, so yes, in case you get your news from Wrestleitall, Roman is suspended for 30 days for Wellness policy violations. Now this could be as simple as “failure to provide a sample” or as serious as “dude was totally juicing to get ahead”. And I don’t care. Those are his decisions and he’s an adult and not my responsibility. What I care about is whether or not the WWE sees fit to include him in the Battleground PPV after his 30 days. In a perfect world we would see him lose that spot, since a big part of being in the main event of a PPV is doing a great job building the audience for that PPV and Roman is not in a position to do that. His presence on that show would have “implications” to the direction of the product with which I would not be happy. If they’re rewarding hard work and giving spots to people that take all aspects of the performance seriously then I’d see a one on one between Dean and Seth and maybe even a number one contender match involving John Cena, meaning Roman would be waiting two months to get another title shot. If they’re rewarding people that look really good on paper and who do what they’re told and only what they’re told and, lets face it, have consistently failed at getting over for five months (a task that Stephanie MacMahon, a much bigger heel than Roman Reigns ever was, managed in about three weeks) then I guess we’ll have our Shield Triple Threat.
And make no mistake, Roman has failed at getting over. You can blame the smarks and you can blame X-Pac heat and you can blame the booker or the writers but a wrestler’s destiny is in their own hands, especially a wrestler who is given the opportunities and TV time given to Roman Reigns. Sometimes a wrestler is dealt a rough hand. I’m sure Sparky Plug or Duke the Dumpster Droese would have had a hard time getting over regardless of their knowledge of the business and wrestling skills. But Roman was world champion with a reasonable amount of control over at least how his matches went if not the actual outcomes of said matches. And he did it for literal months and the fans hate him just as much as they did when he got the shot at the Rumble. No change. There comes a time when you stop blaming circumstance and admit that maybe someone else can do a better job with those opportunities. And, personally, I think Dean Ambrose is the right man for the job.
Oh, shoot, the Roddy Piper thing, long article is long, what I meant by that, real quick, is that back in the 80’s someone like Roddy Piper (or Jake Roberts, more famously) wasn’t going to get the title because Hulk Hogan was champion or number one contender for about ten years. We were told that Hulk was what a champion looked like and we accepted it because we were sheep and we believed the boss knew what was best for us. We aren’t sheep anymore and Roddy is dead and I’m very happy that his legacy is being honored indirectly by Dean Ambrose and I’m even more happy that we’re able to voice what we want and that someone is listening. That’s all, article over.