When people decide to buy a pay-per-view, they base their decision on one of three factors. The storyline, the matches, or the mark factor.
I’m a storyline guy. I don’t make any bones about it. I’m certainly not ashamed of it. I like a good story when it comes to my professional wrestling.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good match as much as the next geek. And since becoming a “smart”, the mark out factor doesn’t happen very often. So when two guys enter the ring for a big match, I get excited when I have a nice, juicy background to chew on.
Storylines are at the heart of any great feud. The greatest one of all time is widely considered to be the Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat classic. And while you may say, “Well, those were great matches,” I say the storyline was great too. It was just a simple thing. The aging, flamboyant champ desperately tries to prove himself against the young, conservative up-and-comer. Simple, effective, and built around a title. Another great feud was the Hogan/Savage/Elizabeth affair of the late eighties. The champ, a jealous husband, misinterprets his best friends relationship with his wife (or did he?). Simple, effective, and built around a woman and the title. A final example would be the Austin/Hart feud. A proud champion finds himself disenchanted with the fans when they cheer the vicious rival. Simple, effective, and built around the title and a changing world. The matches these rivalries wrought were memorable not only because of the workrate, but also because of the storyline that fed it.
On Sunday, RAW presents Unforgiven. And as I contemplated the matches that are on the card, I found myself disheartened by the futile way they have been put together. On paper, the matches seem fair, if not above-average. But the storylines leave something to be desired.
Let’s review the card one-by-one, shall we?
Trish Stratus and Lita vs. Gail Kim and Molly
The storyline to this match showed promise. Gail Kim, the newcomer, wins the Women’s Title upon her debut by winning a battle royal. She and Trish become quick friends with a bit of a healthy rivalry for the belt. Yet, after a few short weeks, Molly enters the picture and beats Kim and takes the title away. All good so far. Three women, one belt. Then, Gail Kim turns on Trish for no discernable reason and sides with Molly. The two of them then actively seek out to destroy Trish. And just when they may accomplish this goal, a returning Lita saves the day.
Here is the problem with this storyline: Why is Molly upset with Trish? Because she wants her belt? Well, all of the women on the roster are supposed to want that belt. Plus, it seems odd to me that the champion is going after the number one contender rather than vice-versa. And with the woman she beat for the title to boot. I’m not saying that this match won’t be fun, as the women’s division has tended to be for quite a while now, but I’m not understanding the storyline here.
Steiner vs. Test (For Stacey and Something Else)
The storyline for this has gone on for months now. Former tag partners, Steiner and Test split over the treatment of their manager, Stacey. Test objectifies her like the jerk ex-boyfriend that all women leave guys for and Steiner kinda does the same thing, only he’s nice when he talks to her. Test beat Scott after pulling out a fake injury and has her as his “exclusive” manager. Of course, Steiner wants her back now. So, the challenge was made for her services, but something else was thrown into the mix. If Test wins (and hopefully I’m understanding this correctly), Scott has to watch them have sex? At least, that’s what I gathered from what Andrew Martin said.
Remember what I said above about simple, effective storylines? This one had it for a while, but now it’s gone on so long that they threw in a new wrinkle. And that makes it dumb. Did the Noble/Nidia/Torrie/Gunn swinging singles storyline work so well on Smackdown that they need to replicate it on RAW? This current storyline lends itself to so many questions regarding the Test character that it boggles my mind. Not to mention the fact that so little has been said about it since that I wonder if they decided to scrap the whole thing. This isn’t so much interesting as it is frightening.
The Dudley Boys vs. La Resistance and Rob Conway (Tables Match)
The French Guys hate America. They won the tag belts. The Dudley boys want the belts and want to defend America. Conway is a French sympathizer that may or may not have been in the Air Force. Spike is a family member that took a sick bump.
Storylines should be simple. This one is but it isn’t effective. And the real problem is that 1) It’s dated and 2) It’s way too simple. It’s so simple that it insults the audience’s intelligence. This isn’t a storyline created to delve into the various aspects of politics but rather just an excuse to get the crowd to chant “USA! USA!”. I’m even putting my disdain for the Dudley Boys aside for this and I still can’t see it as a good storyline. Whatever happened to letting the belts be an important aspect to a good feud?
Coach and Al Snow vs. JR and Jerry Lawler (Winners Announce RAW)
JR gets burned by Kane and has to take some time off, so Coachman gets the call to fill in. Week after week, Lawler tells Coach how he isn’t as good as JR and wishes for his return. When JR does come back, he gives an evil glare to Coach for sitting in his chair and Coachman, the nice guy, pauses a bit but then relinquishes the seat. At Summerslam, Coachman hits Shane McMahon with a chair to help Eric Bischoff, whom he is now aligned himself with. The plan failed and Shane won (which hurt the turn), but now Coach set his sights on JR. He wants JR’s job. Lawler defends JR’s honor and the two have a match. Coach’s announcing partner on Heat, Al Snow, helps Coach score the win on Lawler and the two challenge JR and Lawler to a match for the announcing positions on RAW (actually, Bischoff sets up the match, but you get the point). And on this past Monday, Coach laid JR out with a chair shot.
Now, put your thoughts about non-wrestlers wrestling aside for a moment and look at that storyline. It’s simple. It’s effective. So, where is the problem? In the execution. Coach has been shown as a weakling who can’t beat up an old man who had a stroke without taking cheap shots. JR even punched him out. This storyline would have been a thousand times more interesting had Coach played up his being unceremoniously ousted from his duties as announcer by Steve Austin, Jerry Lawler, and JR. The truth of this situation is that the faces treated him very poorly for no reason and never thanked him for filling in. There was a tremendous gray area for the writers to play with, but they dropped the ball in executing it.
Kane vs. Shane McMahon (Last Man Standing)
We all know Kane’s storyline here. The psychologically deranged monster goes on a path of destruction but goes too far when he takes out CEO Linda McMahon. Her son, Shane comes back to seek revenge. Simple and effective so far.
The problem for me in this storyline is two-fold. First, Bischoff’s involvement. What is his purpose in all of this? So he hates the McMahon’s. So what? Who doesn’t in the storyline world? Vince is maniacal, Linda lets Austin get away with murder, Shane is a spoiled rich kid, and Stephanie’s a power hungry witch. Kane doesn’t need his help. I love Bischoff’s character and he is very fluid on the microphone, but Shane’s beef should be with Kane and Kane alone. There is no need for further interference. Second, Shane has been made to look like too much of a threat. This is a classic David vs. Goliath type of feud, but if you make David look like a stud over and over, Goliath starts to lose his mystic. And so has this match.
Christian vs. RVD vs. Chris Jericho (Intercontinental Championship)
Boy, this one is all over the place. Christian beats Booker T at a house show to regain the title and then gets left off the Summerslam card. He’s mad at Austin. Jericho is always getting up in Austin’s business so Austin puts Christian and Jericho in a match against each other. Christian retains by cheating. The next week Christian suggests that he be given his own talk show because he is better than Jericho. Jericho comes out, teases a face turn, decks Christian, and drinks with Austin before accidentally touching Stone Cold and getting a stunner. This prompts a protest from Jericho and Christian. Austin shuts them both up by giving Christian a match at Unforgiven against the winner of the number one contender’s match between Jericho and RVD (who had just been destroyed by Kane in a cage the week before). Christian knocks both guys out with his belt, causing a DQ and Austin to make a three-way dance for the belt. Whew!
Look, I have no problem with all three of these guys. They can all go in the ring and it will probably be an entertaining match. But, what’s really the deal here? Do we really need this much of a jumbled up storyline to get us interested for a match? And doesn’t it really feel like they wanted to go with a Christian vs. Jericho match but suddenly remembered that RVD wasn’t on the card yet? The IC belt should speak for itself. It is supposed to be the second most prestigious belt there is.
Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton
HBK is a legend. He’s done it all. He’s beaten the best of the best, including the current World Champion (the only one to do it). Randy Orton is a young stud in the hottest stable going. He has the look, the charisma, and the ability. He also fancies himself a “legend killer”.
Good storyline. Simple. Effective. My only complaint is the amount of television time it has gotten for a build up. I bet if you ask your average fan which match he’s most excited about seeing besides the Main Event, he would tell you this one. Why? Because its founded on basic mat principles that appeal to the audience. Storylines don’t have to be complex to be good.
Goldberg vs. Triple H (Career vs. World Title)
The set up? Unstoppable Monster vs. Unbeatable Champion.
This is the very definition of what I have been talking about. You can even throw out the stipulation of Goldberg’s career being on the line because although it’s unnecessary, the match itself makes up for it. I don’t care what you may be thinking, this is an excellent story; one of the best to come out of RAW in quite some time. So, what’s the problem? Why does it seem like so many people could care less about it? Improper use of a stellar storyline. And its really due to Hunter getting hurt. Since he can’t really fight, there hasn’t been a whole lot they could do to build this thing up to it crescendo. The bloody beatdown two weeks ago was okay but the bad promo this past Monday was simply filler. Had they waited on that six man tag match from three weeks ago where Goldberg made mince meat out of Orton while Hunter stared helplessly on and done it this week, I would be as fired up as anyone to see this money match. As it stands, it’s really just been in a holding pattern for too long.
So, there you have it. While it seems that there hasn’t been much done right to build for this pay-per-view, the main event still stacks up nicely. The only question regarding that is, will Triple H be able to actually wrestle?
I remember previewing Vengeance and lamenting the horrendous storylines for that and it ended up being the best PPV this year. So, try to remember that when you make your decision this weekend to either keep your $35 or pay it. And let me give you this advice as well: if you do get it, don’t be afraid to mark out every chance you get. That’s what’s fun about wrestling.
I’m Roland s
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