< Part #1
It’s hard to decide if Daniel Bryan’s switch from “Yes, yes, yes” to “No, no, no” is an inspired way for a popular heel to avoid being cheered, or a rather tragic showcase of a creative team struggling desperately to avoid the opinions of their audience. At first viewing, Bryan’s anti-yes anger seems a wonderful solution to the post-WrestleMania problem of one of the company’s biggest heels being almost universally cheered. To the untrained eye, it works; the fans are chanting something, and the heel doesn’t like it. But the pretence falls apart somewhat when the match itself starts and it becomes evident that almost everyone wants Bryan to win.
Unlike your average John Cena match, this says significantly more about Bryan than it does about Kane. Kane is the ultimate teflon gimmick. There isn’t another wrestler who comes to mind who has been through so many ridiculous storylines yet is still so popular as a character. His fireworks still scare the hell out of the entire crowd and the chokeslam is still the coolest move ever. But, it’s Bryan who’s being cheered here, and it’s with that that the “Yes/No” gimmick starts to fall apart. The fans use of the chant in relation to the in-ring action clearly shows that they aren’t shouting “Yes” to annoy Daniel Bryan, they chanting it because it’s, one; a fun chant, and, two; they love him. No one in this crowd, absolutely no one, is buying that Bryan doesn’t want to hear that chant anymore. How can you tell? Because every time Kane goes onto the offence, the crowd chants what Bryan claims he wants to hear; “No”. They sympathise with him, they’re positive in his successes and negative in his failures.
Indeed, the fact that he wins by the heel staple of a small package, and is still hailed like a hero is telling of just how loved Bryan is by the fans. It should be added that this is now New York, no Toronto, no Chicago, this is Los Angeles, a town than, up to this point, has cheered every face and booed every heel. They’ve played the role WWE wants them to a tee, but even fans this obedient and compliant in their opinions still refuses to boo Daniel Bryan.
The match in itself is a wholly acceptable one. The audience is yet to really recover from the Jericho/Ziggler match (which would go on to be the match of the night). There’s a lot to be said for a strong, gimmick-less, ‘rasslin’ match to open the show, but there’s also the negative side effect of what comes next paling in comparison. It’ll go on to be the story of the show as attentions begin to wane as the event goes on.
Our next match is Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz, and my immediate thought is that I wish I’d asked some of the Angelenos I’ve met on this trip how they feel about San Diego. I’m relatively, if not entirely, ignorant on the subject of west-coast city rivalries, so, when Mysterio didn’t receive half the reaction I was expecting, I instantly began wondering if his overt relationship with the city of San Diego damaged his image in potential local rivals Los Angeles. Still, it came as a shock. Not only is there the obvious connection to the state of California, but I can’t help but notice how a hugely disproportionate about of the fans tonight are of Hispanic (and, it being California, I’d assume Mexican) heritage. Wikipedia lists the Hispanic population of California as making up 38% of the state, with all but 1% of that number being of either Mexican birth or heritage, but, in the Staples Centre, it’s los chicanos who make up the vast majority of fans, and Spanish is boarding on the majority language of the in-stadium banter. As an enormous fan of Mexican lucha-libre wrestling, and as an admirer of Latin American, and specifically Mexican culture in general, the idea of seeing perhaps the most successful luchador north of the Chichuahuan Desert in history is an exciting one, which quickly gives way to a rather disappointing reality.
Despite looking like an eight year old boy with a bizarre muscle growth deficiency, Mysterio is deceptively old. At 37, he’s past the retirement age of many of his peers. This is a man who’s been wrestling since his mid-teens and, live, it shows in the most depressing way possible. Perhaps it’s a transformation that’s lost on many of the younger fans who disproportionately make up Mysterio’s fan base, but to an old AAA fan, this match is just depressing. It’s nothing to do with the transition from the Mexican style to the American style or anything as unreasonably perfectionist as that, it’s just that Mysterio is evidently incapable of doing any of the moves that made him famous. His move set is one defined by his own body. In a way it always was, but the context has completely switched.
This sounds like a series of insults against Mysterio, but it really isn’t, it’s just the lamentations of someone who remembers maybe not better, but certainly different times. It’s commendable that Mysterio has not only adjusted to the sport-entertainment style since his time in the WCW cruiserweight division (the last time I believe he worked as a pure luchador), but he’s also adjusted to his age and health, and is still able to perform at the highest level.
That said, this is an awkward match. Live, it’s be considerably awkward from before it even started thanks to the abundantly unneeded bother surrounding Miz’s giant, inflatable “Awesome”.
I’m sure this was invisible to the viewers at home, but, to the live crowd, it was like the balloon letters were being erected by Buster Keaton. Mysterio is barely down the ramp before terrifying looking men in white leotards rush from the back clutching an array of flaccid letters. You can almost hear Vince McMahon’s ever increasingly erratic screaming as some of the letters fail to inflate, and the white-leotarded stooges are forced to tumble around over each other like the playing-card soldiers in Alice in Wonderland trying to please their unreasonably demanding queen. Eventually, the ever growing team to stage hands resort to simply standing behind the letters and physically holding them up. The entire spectacle is made all the funnier when Miz finally emerges and the shot lasts approximately half a second before cutting to something else as ever more stage hands burst onto the scene in a desperate scramble to drag the erectiley dysfunctional characters backstage, leading to several WWE employees tumbling over each other. The entire thing is farcical, and to a significantly lesser extent, it sets us up for the match.
It’s a tough start for me, because I soon realise that I’m paying far too much attention to Mysterio’s mask. At first, in my own fantasy inspired smarkish brain, I think the mask is a reference to Eddie Guerrero’s Black Tiger mask from the early and mid 1990’s. That doesn’t take too long for me to realise that that’s a ridiculous idea, and it’s far more likely that a black mask with prominent ears is related to the latest Batman film. Fine, he’s Batman. Or is he? Is extended ears make him look a little bit more like Catwoman. Black Tiger? Batman? Catwoman? Is the first shot of The Miz’s entrance video a picture of Charles Manson’s eyes? Why am I paying attention to such minute details?
Why AM I paying attention to such minor details? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, this isn’t a bad match, it really isn’t, it’s actually pretty good. There’s a little bit of awkwardness in some of the moves and transitions, and Mysterio’s constant mask re-arranging is as distracting as ever, but the underwhelmingness here isn’t either man’s fault, it’s Ziggler and Jericho’s fault, and perhaps even Bryan and Kane’s fault. In terms of a mildly technical, transition based match, this is no Jericho/Ziggler, and, in terms of the small plucky guy using his speed and agility against a bigger opponent, this is no Kane/Bryan. That’s the problem here for me; in terms of this show, no part of this match is new, and no part is done any better than the previous two matches did it. That’s perhaps overly harsh and negative, and I don’t want it to be because I can’t say this enough; THIS ISN’T A BAD MATCH. This is a good match following two great matches and, as such, it suffers by comparison and comes across to the live crowd as considerably worse than it actually is.
I know that sort of choppy, live coverage style isn’t what there’s articles are about, but, seriously, springboard power-bomb, credit where it’s due. Springboard power-bomb. I could watch that all day. After such a beautiful move, it’s a shame that the finish itself is a mess. Maybe the cameras cut it cleverly, but, live, miscommunication ruins the finish, as Mysterio clearly walks backwards into the Miz, who doesn’t set his move up correctly and, as such, forces Mysterio to have to walk forward and back again. It looks pretty ridiculous and undermines the match, which is a shame, because the last thing this match needed was anymore undermining, what with floppy inflatables, ambiguous masks and trailing two almost unfollowably superior matches.