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Inside the Mind of a Wrestling Columnist,
Volume 1   

May 1, 2003

by Matt Hocking    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


After observing recent weeks of WWE programming, I've come to the realization that there are quite a few people who are secretly really enjoying the shows. They may not admit it to anyone else, they may not even admit it to themselves; but I do believe that as many people (if not more) are enjoying RAW and Smackdown, than aren't.

I don't get many e-mails regarding the Satire. I guess there are only so many ways to say "U R Funnay" before people get tired of saying it. (I get my fair share of hate mail, or at least I think I do, I just delete anything that's questionable.  Can't have a bruised ego now can I?) However, the few e-mails I do get, often tell me that it is the little things about RAW makes it watchable.

What, I asked myself, are these people missing? After all, I was enjoying the show, and I was paying more attention to what the WWE was doing wrong than anybody else, because I had to mock it. After agreeing to switch spots with Jeb this week, I was, after months of paying close attention to what sign was on what door and what color shirt Rico was wearing (a tally I still keep up despite the fact that I've never actually used the joke), I was just a common fan, sitting in my chair and watching the show.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to hold myself above anyone by saying that my experience watching RAW is any more pure or right than anyone else's. But I certainly can say, now, that I understand where a lot of you are coming from. RAW, can be, from a subjective point of view, a rather weak show. A cursory viewing of the program makes the errors positively glaring and hides many of the positive strides the company is making.

This happens to me every week while watching Smackdown. I've sworn up and down to everyone that will listen that Smackdown has been the WWE's poorer flagship show since the brand split, and certainly since November of last year. Am I right? Not really. I've actually found, that in hindsight, Smackdown has been about on par in terms of overall show enjoyment.

I thought, then, about what it is that makes me any different than the fans who have been lambasting every decision that the WWE makes. After all, I'm just like them. I like being cynical, pointing out mistakes, pure wrestling, Booker T, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and all that stuff. In fact, I've increasingly found, thanks to my presence in e-mail and message board chats that I even share the same interests and passions as many in the self-important IWC. So what makes me any different? Why is it that I'm always surprised to find that I'm one of a small number that every week enjoys the RAW brand show? Am I easily pleased? Did my name get left off the list to get injections of Teddy Long's Haterade? No, the answer is simple and twofold. I want to be entertained, and I am forced to pay attention to the details.

Now, I hear you typing already, "But Matt, I DO want to be entertained, it's not MY fault that the WWE is putting out such a bad product." I want you to close your eyes, count to ten, and relax. Now open them up again. I'm probably not talking about you. However, I am talking about a minority of fans out there, who do exist. The ones who watch the RAW show "knowing" it will suck. How one can offer criticism to a show that has not yet aired, I'll never know.

Many of them would try to point out that they know it will be bad because of the cast of characters involved. After all, one does not need to be a football expert to tell you that the Cincinnati Bengals will have a poor year, and I don't need to be a TV critic to tell you that an episode of The Bachelor will be poorly produced and trite. However, what many of these people forget is that Wrestling is an altogether different animal, and one that is not so easily predictable.

OnlineOnslaught's own Eoghann Irving pointed this out a few weeks ago: the story writing in the last few months isn't a whole lot worse than it was when the WWE was at its peak. Nobody is trying to crucify or enbalm anybody; Kane no longer has superpowers, and Undertaker isn't convinced that he can marry Stephanie just because he says he can. If nothing else, the storylines are much more realistic now than before, which if one wants to talk about suspending one's disbelief, should be key. I can BELIEVE that the Clique are former friends who are squabbling. I cannot believe that Mick Foley saying his name is Cactus Jack makes him anymore powerful than saying it is Mankind. As for necrophilia? As bad an idea for an angle as it was, may I remind you that according to late 1990s WWE logic, anyone who had sex with Undertaker was a necrophiliac? Sorry, Sara.

What makes the bad stories, poor wrestling, and insane character schemes work is something we've lost sight of over the years. Wrestling is a TV show, and it's NEVER been a very good one. As a fan of the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I tune in every week, realizing that the characters and events depicted on the show are so far out of the realm of reality, that I'm going to have to suspend my belief. A lot. And I don't watch the show for the main character, or even the sometimes hokey storylines. I watch it for the parts that entertain me. Sometimes it's an off color joke by one of the comedy characters, others it's an incredibly deep and moving moment with one of the other characters. But more often than not the draw is seeing this specific set of characters and what adventures they get themselves into week after week.

The same is true with wrestling. I can't be bothered half the time to care about HHH, but it's always interesting to me to see what they've got lined up for him to do week after week. Sometimes the story is poor, sometimes it's not. But even if it is, I know there is something or someone to be entertained by somewhere else on the card. HHH is the headline act, but so what? I'd rather watch the whole show and find ways to be entertained by guys like Hurricane, Rock, Booker, and Jericho than bother to complain about the few things I didn't like. Yes, they're worth talking about, but they don't make or break an entire show. I mean, just this week Hunter was involved in some iffy segments, but that took nothing away from some entertaining work from guys like Goldberg, Jericho, Bischoff, and to a lesser extent Austin. However, the problem is that there are people who will watch the show to watch for one or two things. The old adage says, "You're not seeing the forest for the trees." If you're only watching the segments closely to see what's wrong with them, you miss the bigger picture of a mostly entertaining show.

Which is why, as a columnist, I feel I like the shows better than most. Having to sit through and meticulously recap segment by segment for myself, I have to pay full attention to every segment, good, bad, or ugly. Also, given the nature of my column, I'm able to pick out what about the bad segments was worthwhile or useful. If Test and Stacy have a "bad acting contest," I'm right there to see what is funny about that. Heck, the main reason I got the idea for the Satire in the first place was that I thought that HHH humping a mannequin could have been comedic gold with a touch or two more to the script.

In a way, subconsciously, I think people are picking up on this, and if I'm the medicine that brings it to them, then all the better. Again, I'm not so high on myself that I believe that I can double your enjoyment of RAW, or that I can turn around all you die-hard smarks and make you pay attention to what you're missing. But, if I can, all the better. My only hope is that somebody somewhere gets a kick out of the Satire, and some day, when they're watching RAW, they forget about whatever they thought coming in, whatever the endings were or who has the belt, and takes away from it the simpler pleasures that I can see in the show.

Now is the best time for this too. The writers are paying attention, at least a little bit, to what you've been saying all along. Maybe they're not pushing the people you want pushed, but they're certainly making tremendous strides in logical stories and continuity. The fact that they're referencing storylines throughout the show that are over a year old goes to show that they're starting to take their fans intelligence seriously once again. Personally, I think it will only get better from here.

One final thing to keep in mind: for those of you who say WWE is turning into WCW, feel free to go back and watch Nitro a few years ago or read the reports. In WWE, there's nobody running around believing they are a Dog; there's no pinata on a pole match where the pinata falls down two minutes into the match; there are no prerecorded promos in which Luger and Liz are clearly overdubbing their lines, or an obviously fake Sting jumping off things while on fire. Give the WWE some credit. The worst we've had lately is Goldberg stalling his car and Nash being unable to break some shatterproof glass. One of these things is worse than the other.


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