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WWE likes to boast that it is more than a wrestling company. The company proclaims to be a mainstream entertainment conglomerate and an episodic soap opera. Can you think of any genre of entertainment product that has such inconsistent characters, lack of internal logic, and total disregard for their own stories?
Former PWTorch columnist and Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden said it best when he declared that despite all the “creative writers,” the thing WWE could benefit from most is a strong Quality Control Specialist.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the embarrassing mess that is leading to the WrestleMania match between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. Here are ten reasons I feel that this jumbled storyline is the dumbest build to a match in the history of wrestling.
(10) Shane McMahon was a goofy mid-card sideshow stuntman even in his prime.
When I first heard from former Dot Net staffer Rich Twilling that Shane McMahon was returning to the ring to face Undertaker, I was traveling overseas, and I assumed that it was a joke. When this news was confirmed, I knew it was a joke because the mere concept is so stupid. He was a likeable character and took some amazing risks in the ring, but the reaction to Shane’s initial return showcases how bored fans are with the current product and are excited by any nostalgic act that shakes the status quo. Shane never received reactions close to that level even in his prime. Shane O Mac was a goofy mid-card stuntman who was fun to watch but had no gravitas as a performer or character.
I am not one of those people who will not suspend disbelief to see a non-wrestler in the ring. Vince McMahon has had some of the more enjoyable brawls I have ever seen, but it is because he is a larger than life character with a powerful presence that gives his in-ring battles some gravitas. Shane is essentially a dork that is willing to take outlandish chances to prove himself in the ring, but he has no real presence that allows me to take him seriously. From his cheesy music to awful tracksuits, I always felt that Shane made a mockery of the actual wrestlers he tried to pay tribute to.
(9) Why is this being presented as an even match-up?
This match could have made slightly more sense if WWE had a team of credible commentators that fans connect with to frame the story as the ultimate David Versus Goliath struggle. Instead we have the team of corporate tool announcers presenting Shane as if he is Muhammad Ali in his prime. They should be incensed that this match is even made because not only is Shane not a wrestler, but he has not been in the ring in years. The entire tone of the program loses all credibility because of the way this match has been built and presented by both combatants and announcers.
(8) What happened to the “lock box?”
This idiotic storyline was triggered because Shane proclaimed he had some type of secret that could destroy his father and end The Authority. In response, Vince puts him in a match against Undertaker. We will get to how stupid the idea of Taker being put in this position is later, but why in the world would Shane agree to anything Vince tells him if he supposedly has the leverage of a secret that logically will give him the power in the situation? Even worse, this has not even been mentioned the last few weeks, even though it was the entire reason why the match was put in motion! This is mind-bogglingly moronic even by WWE standards.
(7) Why would Vince McMahon choose the Undertaker?
Vince and The Undertaker have had very little connection as characters in nearly two decades. How does McMahon suddenly feel that his ace-in-the-hole to combat the “secret in the lock box” is Undertaker, the most independent, uncontrollable force in the entire company? It would be understandable if it was during the Ministry of Darkness where Undertaker felt like a gun-for-hire, but I cannot understand why the Chairman with no conscience would choose the wrestler who is the conscience of the WWE. The very idea is utterly ludicrous but nowhere near as idiotic as Undertaker actually accepting the order!
(6) Why would Undertaker accept the match?
Over the past decade, The Undertaker may be the strongest character in the entire company. In an era where maniacal cult-leaders like Bray Wyatt and egotistical powermongers regularly break character with friendly public tweets and charity appearances on television, the Dead Man has retained a mystique. Why would the Last Outlaw blindly accept a match with Shane just because Vince wants to teach his son a lesson? It makes absolutely no sense.
We hoped that some logic would be inserted when Taker returned to face off against the Owner, but it only got worse. What was his response to combat Vince’s tyrannical order? “Shane’s blood is on your hands.” What?! That is exactly what McMahon wants in the first place and is the very reason he created the match so essentially Taker is combating him by acquiescing to Vince’s precise wishes. It would be the equivalent of him agreeing to join the Kiss My Ass Club by rebelliously responding, “Sure, but my lips will be on your butt!” Stupid.
(5) Why would Shane be so eager to fight Undertaker?
In the WWE Universe, Shane is the dorky son who could never measure up to his father. He attempts to compensate for his lack of in-ring skills with tremendous resilience. Why is he suddenly a badass who treats the prospect of fighting the most frightening force in company history in a Hell in a Cell as if he was put in a backyard brawl with Heath Slater? Shane O Mac’s nonchalant acceptance of Vince’s maniacal match concept was utterly absurd. By the way, Shane, I’ve got two words for you. Lock box.
(4) Shane looks great…for a 60-year-old.
It would not excuse the lunacy of this angle, but it would be one thing if Shane came back in the best shape of his life and looked cooler than ever, but he has the appearance of a goofy dad embarrassing his son at his high school football game. He looks as old as Greg Gagne, and Greg is old enough to be Shane’s father. This should be a universal rule in wrestling. If you have gray hair, you should be forced to dye it before returning to the ring.
(3) Shane should NOT be portrayed like a fearless warrior.
After the initial buzz wore off, in the last two weeks we have really been exposed to Shane’s myriad weaknesses. Unlike his father and sister, he is an awful promo with terrible delivery as was on full display in his face-to-face with Undertaker this week. It was one of the worst segments I have ever seen in two decades of watching wrestling. It was bad enough we were subject to the traumatizing sight of the gray-haired goofball throwing third-grade level jabs at security guards last week. Seeing Shane do his embarrassing shuffle as he unleashed a flurry of punches that would not even hurt a toddler against the most mythical character in wrestling history made me want to Tombstone Piledriver my television.
(2) What are fans supposed to feel?
In my opinion, anybody in the audience that was pumping their fists as if they were seeing Steve Austin in his prime when Shane returned is a sheep that will cheer for anything. That being said, with the initial shock worn off, what are fans supposed to feel about the match? I thought the worst part of Monday’s messy segment was Shane talking down to Undertaker as if he were Biff Tanner in Back to the Future. Referring to the Phenom as a “b—-” is something nobody wants to see, especially because the statement rings true from a storyline perspective. Again, can anybody explain to me why Undertaker is accepting this match so eagerly?
No one has any logical motivation in this match. None of the characters have a real historical connection on-screen that would lead to this contest so it was up to WWE “Creative” to create a compelling storyline that could logically tie the pieces in place to build anticipation for this showdown. Instead, the more we see the less sense it makes. Shane and Undertaker are both supposed to be good guys, but you have Shane “showcasing” an embarrassing offense and displaying utter disrespect to one of the all-time fan favorites.
On the other end you have the mythical Taker accepting commands like he is a middle school point guard and “rebelling” by saying his objective is exactly what the boss wants in the first place. These are both wrestlers fans want to cheer, but watching this storyline makes me want Vince to come out and tell them, “You’re fired.”
(1) This was a great opportunity to make a star.
The overwhelming reaction to Shane McMahon’s surprise appearance must have shocked everybody, but he could have gotten that same memorable moment placed in a more logical match with a wrestler he could have a more logical feud with, Triple H, for example. I understand that this is a spectacle match, and despite my battering of the build to this contest, I feel it will likely be very entertaining. It is obvious from the last three weeks, and the diminishing reaction from fans, that this match has already lost the initial freak-show luster.
Just imagine if you had a debuting A.J. Styles or Samoa Joe in a potential star-making showdown with The Undertaker in the Cell at WrestleMania. You would still have the special moment of a widely-known Superstar making a surprise appearance on Raw, but you would also have a new wrestler that could make a splash debut with a classic match with the Phenom on the Grand Stage. The follow-up and build would undoubtedly be better than the jumbled mess we have seen the last few weeks, and the match could set up a top superstar for the next five years of programming.
A Star Wars Analogy
Let me conclude with a movie analogy that most can understand. Let us put these characters in the Star Wars Universe. Imagine if Vince is Darth Vader, Shane is a young Luke prior to training, and Undertaker is Yoda.
Can you imagine if Luke comes to face Vader for the first time in years to end the Dark Side and claims to have a secret that can blow up the Death Star and shatter the Empire. Vader responds by saying he must face off against Jedi legend Yoda. Like a complete moron, Luke does not even question it and agrees, even though he has a secret that can finish the Empire! Instead of using the plans to destroy the evil Empire he stupidly decides to fight the most powerful and respected Jedi on his own side!
Then the wise, all-powerful Yoda comes to Vader later and instead of doing the logical thing and refusing to fight Luke, he merely agrees to his arch-nemesis Vader’s demands, the one who stands against everything the Jedi believe in. His explanation is that Luke’s blood is in Vader’s hands, which is exactly what Vader wants and is the reason he is ordering them to fight. Then Luke does the Ewok shuffle and starts talking down to Yoda and calling him Vader’s bitch, which is essentially what he is in the context of the story. This would make even the most ardent Star Wars fans want to strike themselves with a Lightsaber.
I have watched wrestling for over 20 years, and I have been subject to some of the most illogical, inconsistent storytelling imaginable, but this has to be the dumbest storyline I have ever seen.
And again, Shane, I have two words for you. Lock box!