< Part #4
So, the main event. The main event’s been worrying me for a very personal reason and one I should make clear;
I REALLY don’t like Triple H and, scared as I am that this will mark me out as, well, a mark, I think it’s that I don’t like him as a person. It’s not his character that bothers me, it’s him. I don’t like his lame macho-persona, I don’t like his insecurity, I don’t like his semi-Nazi imagery, I don’t like his stupid beard, I don’t like his awful theme music. I just don’t like him.
I do, however, like Brock Lesnar. Actually, no, I don’t like Brock Lesnar, Brock Lesnar, as a man, is an idiot. The reality is that I really like MMA and the UFC and that I have some weird, unresolved personal issues with professional wrestling where I sometimes have over-riding pleasure in seeing it do badly as punishment for not entertaining me anymore. So, when I say I like Lesnar, what I’m actually saying is that I like any mixed martial artist who comes into American professional wrestling company because f*ck American professional wrestling companies.
So it bothered me that, at Fan Axxess, Triple H’s name was universally cheered during a public run-down of the card. I thought I was with like minded people. Everyone loved CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, they liked Kane and Alberto del Rio, they hated John Cena and not a single one of them cared in the slightest about Sheamus. They found Jim Ross genuinely heroic, Damien Sandow genuinely funny, and A.J. Lee genuinely the most attractive woman in modern wrestling. They’re my kind of people. Or so I thought until Triple H was mentioned, and EVERYONE went mental.
I was heart broken.
Cynic that I am, I’d already given up on this match. I’d already convinced myself that Trips was winning. My only hope, my only possibility of pleasure here, would be to see Trips being universally booed, and now, the people of Los Angeles, who’s wrestling taste, well fitted bikinis and fantastic talent for mixing margaritas had made me so happy over the past three days, had snatched that possibility away from me. I would be forced to watch Triple H winning and, even worse, I’d be forced to watch people like him for it.
It’s for this reason that I instantly stopped caring. Before the entrances are over, I’ve already been distracted by joining a game organised by a near-by Hollywood agent in which we aim to identify which members of the audience are, or are not gay, and then ask them. Very soon, the game divulged into simply telling straight people that they were, against their knowledge, clearly gay, and that their denial was ruining our very important game.
Funnily enough, none of this made anyone reply that we were ruining their very important show, and so I started to look around. No one is paying attention. I bring the topic up with a friend I’ve made on the trip who is, for his sins, a Triple H fan;
“This match is boring.”
So sayeth the Triple H fan. I try to find a differing opinion, but there aren’t any. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by journalists who’s attention span is, at best, anaemic, or maybe it’s because it’s been a long day for us, and a long weekend in general.
But it’s not just us, it’s everyone. As I look around the arena, seats are emptying, eyes are wandering, voices are muting. What happened? Was it the confusion of the finish between Sheamus and Del Rio? Was it the relative underwhelming-ness of Punk/Show/Cena? Is it that, like me, everyone has already written this match off as a forgone conclusion?
If so, then that’s a cruel twist for the WWE. As soon as the bell rings and Brock Lesnar is announced as the winning via submission, everyone’s attention instantly returns to the ring. It’s a mixture of surprise at the result, happiness that the WWE didn’t make the same mistake twice and, strangely, given Triple H’s earlier reception, mockery.
As a, very much in quotation marks, “RETIRED” Triple H heads to the back, the rising chorus of Bananarama’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” crushes any sense of seriousness, any sense of anguish or of pain or of tragedy. And yes, it’s cruel. The WWE did the right thing, the right man won. The man many, myself included, have dismissed so many times as self-destructively insecure jobbed like a man and did what was right for business, putting over the big-money name at his own expense. Yet no one cares.
They haven’t cared for several matches. They sniggered when the Miz’s inflatable “Awesome” flapped around, they raised eyebrows when the finish to the World Title match left them in unresolved confusion, they had booed the WWE Champion, they had jeered the main event baby face, and I had too. I’d been a part of it too.
So many times, I’ve lamented the modern WWE audience for it’s lack of passion, it’s lack of engagement, it’s lack of playing along. I’ve always felt that, if you care so little, why are you at the shows? Yet here I am, and I’m behaving just as the people I insult do. I haven’t taken a second of this show seriously, I haven’t given an ounce of attention to who I should or shouldn’t be cheering, I haven’t treated anyone with even a slither of professional respect. Would I do this at a movie, at a play? Would I even do this at a UFC event? But then at least I haven’t paid to be here, at least I have that. There are people here who paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege of laughing in the face of an actor portraying a man who broke his arm defending the honour of his family. An actor they were vocally praising just 24 hours earlier.
Are their any other industries where this happens? Any other forms of entertainment where fans can be this dismissive and flippant about a product they are so clear, so deeply involved in?
And, on the other side, is they’re any other company in the world who could look at this happening and do nothing about it? Who could hear their champion being booed, their main-eventer being mocked, where the loudest, most passionate, and most genuine reaction of the night was to the very first match of the pay-per-view
Tonight, everything functioned in reverse. From the first match to the last, passion, interest, involvement and even kayfabe itself declined. There’s is hope and there is hopelessness. In Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Santino Marella and CM Punk, the WWE have wrestlers the fans truly love and truly care for, but, in Triple H, John Cena, The Miz and Sheamus, they have disjointed, alienated characters that, in Los Angeles at least, it’s clear are not connecting with their audience in a positive way. It’s a crossroads, there’s potential for greatness and for disaster, two things that were both on show here tonight (almost strictly in that order).
We can only wait to see which path the WWE takes.