By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
At some point in my life, I decided to love professional wrestling.
At some point in my life, I decided to love professional wrestling, despite the stories wrestling often tells. It’s rare to see a beautiful or well-crafted story on any level of professional wrestling and especially in WWE. I usually use this space to lament WWE’s lack of storytelling consistency, two dimensional characters, and overall lack of creativity. This week, I will use this space to tell you why I love and still watch professional wrestling (and WWE).
The first time I saw Kevin Steen live at a show, he almost threw a Young Buck at my wife. It was both frightening and amazing. He was captivating to the 400 people crammed into the American Legion Hall in Reseda, California on this Saturday night in December 2011. I watched him, undoubtedly the biggest star on the show, interact with fans before and after. I saw a genuinely nice and grateful person. I saw an insanely talented and funny person proving to be a gifted entertainer.
I watched Kevin Steen go through the ups and downs of life as a wrestler. I saw him reach the peak of Ring of Honor, only to be held back by a regressive booking strategy from an out-of-date wrestling personality. Even when Steen overcame this, it wasn’t what it could be.
I celebrated with Kevin Steen as star after star performed at their last PWG show before going to WWE. I saw Steen shed real tears and show real pride when El Generico was sent off. I saw Steen offer heartfelt congratulations to Sami Callihan and Samuray Del Sol. I heard people say Steen would never make it to WWE or that he had peaked already in his career. At times, I believed this myself.
When WWE finally signed Kevin Steen and rechristened him Kevin Owens, I was afraid. WWE has a history of mocking and exploiting overweight stars and Owens could still be classified as overweight. I wondered what WWE would do with a wrestler who wore gym shorts and a t-shirt in the ring. I wondered if Owens would be comfortable with WWE’s style of wrestling.
Owens came into NXT as a star. Soon, Owens found himself on the main roster being made into a star by defeating John Cena and participating in a major feud with him. He made it, but I still had questions. Could Owens be a true top star in WWE? Could he win a top title?
Last night, those questions were answered as Owens won the WWE Universal Championship. My heart soared with joy as one of the nicest and most genuine people in professional wrestling reached another career goal many thought he never could.
I don’t love wrestling for the convoluted and, often terrible stories WWE tells. I love wrestling for the real life stories. I love wrestling for the joy of watching men and women play heroes and achieve dreams they’ve had since they were children. I love wrestling because wrestling brings us real moments amidst the chaos. Wrestling brings us real emotion amidst the fiction. Wrestling creates reality where there was nothing.
Today, I love professional wrestling because Kevin Owens’ dream came true.
Perhaps the elephant in the room in the Kevin Owens story is the involvement of Triple H. WWE reintroduced “The Authority’s” Triple H on this show having him assist in defeating Roman Reigns and turn on Seth Rollins. This does cause a little bit of fear to sneak into my joy-filled heart.
Authority figure drama in WWE has been going on for 19 years. Authority figure drama in WWE has been tired and played out for 17 of those years. Continuing with authority figure drama overshadowing the top title and story in WWE (or, more accurately, on Raw) is detrimental to any and all efforts WWE undertakes (especially brand-building efforts).
With this said, I did find Triple H’s involvement intriguing. He has been a missing piece of television since Roman Reigns assaulted his wife in the main event of WrestleMania. Was Triple H here to avenge his loss to Reigns? Was he here to defeat Rollins and setup the feud we assumed WrestleMania would bring both men prior to Rollins’ injury? Was this more about Stephanie McMahon’s awkward character consistency since the brand split began?
Good stories tend to start with a ton of questions, and this one did! I now have to wonder how WWE will play it going forward. It’s my hope that this doesn’t overshadow Kevin Owens, but I’m not optimistic in this hope.
And now for some random thoughts:
– The combination of Bayley and The New Day brought a shot of pure joy to my sometimes-too-cynical heart. I enjoyed the Bayley character showing up and being in awe of other wrestlers backstage. This is very much what NXT did when they introduced Bayley. I also enjoyed the inclusion of a men’s and a women’s story in the same match.
– Dana Brooke fit rather well with Gallows and Anderson. She also had another good performance in the ring here. I was happy to see this.
– My one concern with week two of Bayley on the main roster is WWE giving her too many wins too soon. Bayley’s character works best when there is something to overcome and, if she continues to win, she may not have enough to overcome.
– The video packages on each of the four WWE Universal Championship competitors were fantastic. WWE made the main event of the show feel important by showing these personality profiles. Honestly, I would love to see these for everyone on the roster as a regular part of Raw. Even main eventers can use the extra little bit of definition for their characters.
– Speaking of character definition, WWE continued to define Roman Reigns as a bad person on this show. In the opening segment, he randomly hit wrestlers not currently posing a physical threat to him. Why? What did Roman need to prove? Good people do good things and Roman Reigns (the character) is certainly not a good person.
– The opening promo between Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, and Big Cass was middling at best.
– Sheamus vs. Cesaro in match two of their best of seven series was compelling. With Cesaro down two matches, it’ll be interesting to see how they change up their match format for the next one. I enjoy both guys in the ring, so I’m really enjoying seeing both guys get a chance to shine.
– How bad was the Stephanie McMahon and Paul Heyman segment? It was non-sequitur after non-sequitur adding up to a segment without any sense of logic. I know this is supposed to build towards Shane McMahon vs. Brock Lesnar somehow, but I can’t figure out the point of this exchange at all. Heyman’s truly disappointing 2016 continues. He hasn’t been involved in a compelling segment all year.
– Sasha Banks’ promo about her injury was also fairly illogical.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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