Monday, June 11, 2007

WWE Draft and McMahon Appreciation Night

One aspect of myself I haven't gone into - one aspect of my relationship with my wife, actually - is that when we got together, we both fell hard for one another's favorite television programs. I've made a Trekkie out of Jen, and she's made a wrestling fan out of me. Before me, she never cared much about Star Trek, and before her, I never could dig wrestling. But what started as me keeping tabs on her favorite superstars became a fandom in its own right.

Tonight was the WWE Draft, which means that superstars tied to the WWE's three brands - Monday Night RAW, Friday Night SmackDown!, and ECW - are all up for trading. Each match was interbranded, and the winner would receive a draft pick - at "random" - for his or her brand. It started out weak - Great Khali going (back) to SmackDown, Boogeyman going to ECW... yawn, yawn. King Booker going to RAW would have been hot six months ago when he was the SmackDown champ, but now he's pretty much a nobody. Then Bobby Lashley was drafted to RAW (where he started, before going to SmackDown and then ECW) and therefore stripped of the ECW championship. (I'm sure that was Vince McMahon's doing, as Vince took the title a while ago and Lashley brutally won it back.) I was quite mad to find out the legendary Ric Flair was drafted to SmackDown, which I can't watch because of work. Also, Chris Benoit, one of the most talented guys up there, went from SmackDown to ECW, which I can watch (that, and RAW). So that's good. And the night ended with a 15-man battle royal, which means it's every man for himself, people are eliminated by being thrown out of the ring. A win for RAW's Randy Orton got RAW not 1 but two draft picks - ECW's Snitsky and SmackDown's Mr. Kennedy. So it was an OK night, perhaps one of the better RAW episodes lately. But maybe it didn't need to be 3 hours long. They made an animation for the Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night, which they showed no less than a dozen times. That could have been scrapped, and as always I felt they could have gotten on with some of the elaborate introductions and history lessons, but I know they need that time to set things up.

Now, just to be clear, I'm not exactly what they call a mark, in the industry. Yes, I suspend disbelief and enjoy the show as intended, but I'm also aware it's not all real, thank you very much. Fake isn't the right word - someone else put it better: "It's not fake, it's controlled." Indeed, many of the hazards are real. The matches are scripted and practiced, the outcomes all predetermined. Nothing at all up there is left to chance, nothing at all. The voting for the Cyber Sunday pay-per-view? All rigged and decided ahead of time. Same thing with the Diva Search voting. But for the record, American Idol is likely no different. Or Survivor. It's all television, and like other television programs, good or otherwise, it's for entertainment only. It only looks like a sport, emulates a real bona-fide sport. Some of those guys out there - Chris Benoit for one, Shelton Benjamin is another, Carlito, Randy Orton - they can actually wrestle as is done in bona-fide matches, but that doesn't change the fact that their matches' outcomes are predetermined.

That said, Vince McMahon gets a lot of hell. The first thing most people who know about him say when asked about him is that he's a jerk, or some more colorful foul term. The thing he makes it so easy to forget is that like everybody up there, he's playing a character. Characters you may like may in fact turn out to be jerks in real life. I've never met Mr. McMahon, but according to Mick Foley's second biography, "Foley is Good", he's supposed to actually be very professional, soft-spoken and kind, only playing the evil dictator for the sake of the show. In any case, the guy's as much a legend in the entertainment industry as anyone similar you can think of. Directors, writers, concept creators, whatever. He's got to be at least as influential as Star Trek's own creator, Gene Roddenbery, easily. Roddenberry's creation was much more intelligent, but whose made more money, has more fans? Easily McMahon's. Well, Vince McMahon didn't create "Pro" Wrestling, nor did he create the WWE, or WWF as it used to be called - I believe that honor goes to his grandfather, who passed it down to his father, who in turn passed it to him. (His own son Shane is still the supervillain's sidekick, though.) But it was Vince who brought it where it is today, into the mainstream and on cable TV - when his father ran it, it was pay-per-view only, no cable TV show. So it's come a long way since. Like it or not, if you're a fan of his products, you have to at least acknowledge what he's done for you and your entertainment. Oh, and he's what the industry calls a Heel, which means he's supposed to make you dislike him. Vince McMahon is probably the best heel that's ever performed in the ring. So if you really hate him, you then have to acknowledge that he does his job at least as good as anyone up there.

Well, that's all today. Didn't shoot any pool, unfortunately, but I still got one more day off.

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