By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
It’s my personal belief that bringing real life elements into a storyline can enhance the character of a performer. We’ve all heard over the years that Steve Austin got over like he did because he was essentially playing himself turned up to eleven. And there are countless additional examples of moments that the fans feel totally immersed in the story of a character because the performer can totally engage with the storyline basing their inspiration on real life emotions. I’ve always found myself enjoying and immersing myself in a storyline that I feel is real, even if it’s just within the confines of a wrestling universe. It’s the same with any scripted TV show, if you feel the character is real within the confines of that universe then you engage more with that particular show.
In more recent years, the general feeling has been because the fans are now in on the secret of pro wrestling being pre-determined, it’s an effective storyline tool to bring real life elements into storyline feuds. People would argue that as long as all parties involved are comfortable with real life issues to be exploited then it’s fine, and I would agree. Look at how effective the Nikki Bella and Ronda Rousey feud was based on real life relationships being brought into the mix. I’m also perfectly fine with Nia Jax and WWE playing up the situation with Becky Lynch as long as Becky has given her full blessing. Ultimately that’s all that matters, if Nia genuinely apologized to Becky, and if Lynch gave her bless for her injury to exploited, as they are the only parties involved. I get the argument that WWE needs to resolve the issue of Nia injuring people, but that’s another subject for another day. Besides, I’m sure WWE dealt with the situation in whatever way they felt was appropriate based on the accounts of the wrestlers involved.
All of that said, WWE went too far in their attempt to make something feel real on Monday Night Raw this week. Dean Ambrose’s comments on how Roman Reigns is essentially being punished by the man upstairs, a reference to Reigns’s real life battle with leukemia. I appreciate that a heel has to say and do things which incite the crowd and get a negative reaction. But when you start using a legitimate illness Reigns has, one that millions of people around the world are also battling in some form, and it’s all to further a storyline, then it’s not just in poor taste, it’s sick.
The counter argument as I’ve already stated is that as long as Roman’s comfortable with this then what’s the big deal? Well, in this circumstance it’s not just an issue that Roman is dealing with, but it’s concerning a disease that children and adults watching at home may also be battling, in which case you have to be sensitive to the topic and I would argue you should just simply stay away from it. To say on international television that this is God’s punishment for something Roman’s character did is just plain wrong. How many kids are battling this terrible disease and are now asking their parents “why is God punishing me? What did I do wrong?” Heck, some of these kids may have had a Make A Wish granted by WWE in the past. Think about that for a minute. Roman may or may not have signed off on his illness being exploited for storyline fodder, but the usage was just plain wrong.
By the way, what kind of person would actually ask someone battling leukemia if it’s okay to exploit their illness?
As always, feel free to reach out to me on twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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