THE RAW REVIEW
Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns is a positively flaccid main event.
We are limping into WrestleMania, the card sapped of energy, sapped of life, the entire company appearing withered, vulnerable, and sad at the time of this writing.
As hard as he tried, Paul Heyman’s promos could not salvage WrestleMania.
He did his job yet again on the latest episode of Monday Night Raw, transforming the simple “I Can/You Can’t” narrative that has defined Reigns versus Lesnar into something interesting…purely from the perspective of appreciating the spoken word. His wordplay continually expanded upon the phrase, inverting it, twisting it, maintaining the sentiment as a running theme, all the while making Brock Lesnar appear like an athletic God.
He set the stage for an epic encounter between Brock and Roman, an important moment before their WrestleMania match.
And then Brock and Roman played tug of war with the title - literally - in the weakest pre-Mania RAW finale I've ever seen.
Following Heyman’s promo, The Beast and The Powerhouse, two hulking, athletic men destined to do battle on “the grandest stage of them all”, clutched a toy and stared awkwardly into each other’s eyes.
That is the last thing people saw of Brock & Roman on this year’s sickening Road To WrestleMania. The WWE has steadily become more and more contrived over the years, to the point where Michael Cole transparently announces "historic moments" as meticulously crafted "historic moments" happen right before your eyes.
This final image of Brock & Reigns is no different - instead of creating a genuinely memorable, entertaining pre-Mania encounter that consisted of anything slightly meaningful, anything that contributed to the intensity of that match, the WWE opted to craft a promotional photo, a nifty still that symbolically represents the main event.
Apart from creating future promotional material, I imagine the thought-process behind permitting this terrible scene to see the light of day was to save an actual conflict for Mania and still try to make Roman appear strong.
Roman did get a good pop when he first yanked the title away from Brock.
But does Roman appear strong in those final moments of the show, pursed lips and shivering eyes as he's unable to snatch the belt away from Brock?
And what does The Beast look like?
That mythic "conquerer" who was going to take Roman Reigns' entire family at WrestleMania (according to Paul Heyman) can't grab his title back from this kid?
Forget that moronic quality of the imagery.
Let's ask the WWE - is that how Brock Lesnar would actually react to his title being taken in that way? Would Brock Lesnar...the character the WWE has created for the past few years (not the human being...I'm not even going to bother arguing for realism, I'm remaining firmly in the WWE's fiction for this argument)...would The Beast Incarnate who defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 and John Cena at SummerSlam and John Cena & Seth Rollins at The Royal Rumble even attempt to grab his title back from Roman or would he just smash Roman Reigns' face in and then walk away?
I'm willing to believe Roman would grab the title (despite the fact that no man would ever do that) but I believe it only because the WWE has done nothing to create a legitimate character in Roman. He's empty, so anything he does or says, no matter how stupid, is plausible given he's such a regrettably blank slate. He's characterized by utter randomness; the WWE's inability to settle on who Roman Reigns is and how he came to be. His state as a performer and a character in the company is that of a perpetually fiddled-with gimmick, a character that represents the weakness of the WWE, the complete lack of confidence of the WWE, the complete lack of ability of the WWE.
One week he was cutting unforgettably terrible promos about Jack and the Bean Stalk, the next week he was flying over the top rope taking out The Authority. One week Roman was staring blankly into the camera because he couldn't remember his lines, the next week Roman was sitting quietly in the back taping his fists as he sat on a crate (an image I very clearly described back in July as the way to tell this character's story).
Watch This Short Video I Made in JULY 2014 About What the WWE Should Do With Roman
One week Roman was cutting interesting promos alongside Paul Heyman. The next week Roman was spearing Mark Henry through the barricade. One week it appeared as though the WWE was attempting to create a character with some form of desire, the next week Roman waltzed off-screen, disinterested in his own story, handing the spotlight over to Randy Orton.
The WWE tried very hard to make that last image sensible and emotionally powerful - notice how Paul Heyman emphasized the importance of the belt throughout his speech, how Brock Lesnar loves that title. And that was a fool's errand, a segment that was destined to fail because it sprang forth from a flawed, outdated, despicable sales philosophy that doesn't even come close to good salesmanship let along good storytelling.
That image is damaging, almost completely negating any of the infinitesimal positive strides the company made in building the match.
That image perfectly represents Vince McMahon’s disconnect from reality.
That image perfectly represents everything that is flawed with the WWE’s perspective on professional wrestling.
That image perfectly represents the WWE’s inability to understand not only what human beings actually want to see in 2015, but the WWE’s inability to understand what storytelling actually is.
That image, that RAW ending, is something to be ashamed of.
This pitiful build into WrestleMania is something to be ashamed of.
Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns has become something to be ashamed of, and not because a bunch of angry dweebs protected by their computer screens booed the match or booed Roman Reigns or booed Brock Lesnar’s part-time status or booed anything the WWE ever does.
The WWE should be ashamed of what they’ve created because they have failed - completely, utterly, undeniably failed to create something entertaining in Reigns versus Lesnar.
Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns could have been one of the biggest, most exciting WrestleMania main events of all time given the heat Reigns and Lesnar had following The Royal Rumble.
It could have been one of the most fascinating matches anyone had ever seen, if only the minds behind the match were tapped into the modern public consciousness and the fundamentals of good storytelling.
Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns could have represented a transition into a true Reality Era, where the WWE presented their fiction as truth, presented their UFC/WWE Champion as a beastly, vicious fighter going up against the next crop of beastly, vicious fighters.
Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns could have been anything. It could have, at the very least, been fun.
Instead…it is nothing, a sad excuse of a main event that allows the IWC to go on thinking they’re right about everything. And that’s what’s most frustrating of all.
You see, WWE, I’m trying to help you with my vicious little RAW REVIEW. I do not align myself with those who thrive on hate, who reject a well-told story in the name of chastising unbeatable babyfaces. I write overwhelmingly positive reviews of your shows when you do things well.
I write overwhelmingly negative reviews of your shows when you do things horribly.
I do my best to focus on the truth, on reality. I do not relentlessly praise, just as I do not relentlessly chastise. I accurately praise and accurately criticize so as to keep everything grounded in the real, in the righteous truth, the great equalizer that pushes us all to be better.
And you need a reality-check, WWE.
Beyond sharing my individual reactions to particular shows, it is my goal to convince others, as well as you, that you’re dealing in an art-form. It is my goal to raise up this medium, to demonstrate how it is an incredibly important, emotionally resonant example of the human tradition of storytelling. I want to do this so that we all might treat this pro-wrestling tradition with a little more respect. I want you to know you’re creating an art and I want the fans to know you’re creating an art, because I want RAW to be watchable. I want this three-hour monstrosity that dictates a large portion of my life to be bearable.
You clearly do not regard your art as art - you regard it as stuff to push on fools with open wallets. If you regarded your "entertainment" with some semblance of respect, it would be better. And, ironically, you'd make more money.
I also want the most important moment of your calendar year to posses the narrative significance of a third-act. I want your WrestleMania to remain the climax it’s supposed to be so that the importance of the event and the tradition of your medium is preserved. Without Mania, without the main event meaning anything, your year falls to pieces.
In many of your detractors I hear the voice of angry inexperience - kids shouting at the world without a deeper understanding of the world or a deeper interest in the world. And that’s fine. Go on screaming, kids.
The fact that you allow those kids to perceive their screams as correct is more infuriating than the ignorant screams of those kids. The fact that you regard those screams as important enough to get angry at reveals your own lack of maturity. The fact that you poke and prod those childish screamers, the fact that you let them irritate you makes me lose confidence in you.
You undermine my efforts, WWE. You undermine yourself week after week after week, when you refuse to accept what you are.
In proceeding as you have, in remaining steadfast to a business model and a creative style that is clearly not working in the way you seem to think it’s working, you just add fuel to an incredibly obnoxious fire. You behave like a stubborn child, fighting stubborn children, instead of actually putting those stubborn children in their place by creating a good television show.
Several years in a row, your fans have not been happy about your desired WrestleMania main event. Are you not tired of this process?
The talent was there.
Roman is talented.
Brock is talented.
That is the the unavoidable, undeniable, incredibly inconvenient truth that the IWC chooses to ignore.
You had gold staring you in the face and, through your voodoo, you transformed that gold into maggots.
The histories were there, staring you in the face, begging you to do anything worthwhile.
And yet you allowed the match to become something that’s easy to make fun of.
You’ve allowed the most important moment of your year to become a litany of memes, a relentless stream of hateful Tweets, and something people have to apologize for.
People in your employ and people who want to remain in your good graces will have to completely ignore the realities of your categorically botched WrestleMania 31-build, they will have to go on saying, “Give Roman a chance!” and “Wait and see what Roman does!” and “I’m so excited for WrestleMania!”
Lies. This WrestleMania season is a lie.
You’ve allowed the most obnoxious, impossible-to-please people to be right.
You’ve done nothing but give everyone ammunition against you, week after week after week as you charged into Mania with blinders on. Not one Monday Night Raw on The Road To WrestleMania contributed to a sense of rising interest or emotional momentum.
I do not feel like WrestleMania is even happening this year.
Watching these two men whom you want to present as beastly warriors fumble in a pitiful fashion with that belt is, very simply, unacceptable.
Having a WrestleMania match about nothing more than one person saying “I can” and the other person saying “You can’t” is unacceptable. It's unacceptable because, apart from not being a story, it's not something Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar would ever say.
The reason you should be ashamed, and drastically reconsider every facet of your business is that you have forsaken what you have always portended to care about - storytelling.
You have forsaken what the WWE/WWF stood for.
You have forsaken what you consistently claim differentiates your business from UFC, the NFL, the MLB and any other legitimate, organized sport.
Story. A narrative that you want people to believe in.
You have allowed your roomful of limp-writers, in conjunction with your mad Wizard of Oz, to simperingly rest on the name WrestleMania.
Not one match on your card is supported by a recognizable narrative that was told consistently over the course of several shows…let alone several months. Not one.
We've watched the IC title become a trading card.
We've watched Daniel Bryan fade in and out of the title picture (and now job, twice, to Dolph Ziggler), after returning from one of the most crushing injuries in the history of the medium.
We've not really heard from Brock. We've not really heard from Roman. We've seen a couple vignettes, but they were disconnected, isolated incidents of goodness that had no bearing on the greater significance of a bloated three-hour broadcast, a broadcast that completely ignores the need for a narrative through-line.
We've watched Bray Wyatt talk to a chair.
Instead of sitting Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns down in front of a camera for more interviews, instead of delving into what makes those two characters who they are, instead of explaining why Roman Reigns even wants to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion, instead of giving Roman important main event matches on RAW, you passed a minuscule baton to Paul Heyman and told Paul to talk.
You made tee-shirts.
You replayed the two vignettes you made.
You were lazy.
People don't enjoy…lazy.
Your talent is too good for…lazy.
Your name is too good for…lazy.
You need a massive injection of youth, passion, compassion, and reality.
WrestleMania is too good an idea to be reduced a joke.
WrestleMania is too good an idea to become nothing more than an assembly line of cheaply made products.
WrestleMania and the WWE is too good an idea to have devolved into the incredibly contentious, angry beast its become. Not one week goes by without the WWE doing something undeniably imbecilic. Not one week goes by without the fans screaming at the company to change.
Not one week goes by without the company revealing its prejudices, phobias, jadedness, cynicism, and disdain for its own audience.
It's tiresome and unnecessary, WWE. You look the brutish fool. You look the out of touch bully, the insane dictator whose unchecked power is eating away at any semblance of a soul.
You can give the people Daniel Bryan versus Dolph Ziggler on RAW all you want.
You can give the people better Divas matches all you want.
You can pacify people as often as you like, but in so doing you fail yourself even more than you fail those people.
Until you cure the sickness that results in the relentless, undeniable issues that plague your company, all positive steps you take will remain momentary salves on ever-open wounds.
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