THE RAW REVIEW
The best critique I can offer this week is that Sting should have been the guy to physically push the button on the trash compacter that destroyed Seth Rollins’ chocolate statue.
That's how horribly innocuous this RAW was (save the quality match between Sasha Banks & Paige).
The fact that Sting wasn’t the guy to push the button to destroy Seth’s statue snatches the power of that moment away from Sting. He had a nameless trash-henchman put the final exclamation point on the sentence he’d been writing all night. Any satisfaction the audience might experience at this climax is inevitably less than if Sting had jumped down and punched the button himself.
And let’s delve a little deeper and consider the logistics of this scene beyond the missed opportunity for a more fulfilling conclusion.
Sting, setting his plan in motion weeks in advance, planned to work out some kind of deal with the Baltimore Public Works. On an off day, perhaps after having deposited Seth’s statue in his hotel room for safe-keeping (remember Sting has been traveling with Seth’s statue for two weeks now - sneaking it through customs or jammed into his Station Wagon), Sting sought to obtain “refuse disposal authorization” after filling out the requisite forms and contacting the Bureau of Solid Waste Management directly.
Now typically you need to submit your request fourteen days in advance of the date you wish to dispose of your waste, and you need to bring that waste to a designated waste disposal drop-off facility. Not to mention that Sting isn’t a Baltimore resident.
Faced with these complications Sting decides to contact Apple Valley Waste and falsely represent himself as a Business. Sting Inc. Let’s just say Apple Valley believes Sting or, the director is such a big Sting-fan that he’s willing to overlook the legal snafus and sneak his truck directly into the arena during RAW.
Is Seth Rollins’ statue not WWE property?
Has Apple Valley not just willing aided in the destruction of private property? Or did the employee who pushed the button for Sting and the driver of the truck go rouge? Are they all riding off together - the great Seth Rollins statue heist complete - to leave their families and live with Sting on a European beachside for the rest of their days?
How are Triple H and Stephanie McMahon going to deal with this infraction? Surely they will take action given how often the legal semantics of their characters have been emphasized in the past. Surely these details have been considered given how often characters on RAW, heel or face, have threatened to sue one another. Next week we'll surely see a vignette that documents the case of The Authority vs Apple Valley Waste, examining how Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Seth Rollins, and Vince McMahon seek damages for one chocolate statue.
If you feel your fingers moving toward the keyboard to type out a comment like, “That would be stupid. You’re not supposed to think about this stuff”, then allow me to preemptively reply, “I understand that. And I agree”.
Clearly no one should be thinking about what Sting had to do to get that truck in the back of the arena. But we’ve entered an age where the WWE has become so nitpicky with its fiction, with the semantics of its blurred-lines reality, that it’s worth pointing out when the storytellers choose to completely disregard the logistics of their scenes in the name of reaching their desired, simpleton climax. There are other scenes where the storytellers are far-too dead-set on emphasizing the corporate reality of the WWE brand. This creates an environment where it’s far too easy to completely unravel the company’s narrative ball of yarn with the slightest of tugs on the thread.
Someone, in real-life, had to contact Apple Valley to explain that a garbage truck was needed for the final segment on RAW. Papers needed to be signed. Conversations needed to be had. A wide-assortment of steps needed to be taken before Seth’s statue could reach its demise in the back of that truck. Some poor assistant or intern actually knows what I’m writing about. That reality could sit far too comfortably in the WWE’s programming today where, far too often, we’re watching businessmen conduct business, not wrestlers wrestling.
This logistical can of worms is entirely resultant from Sting not being the guy who pushed the button. The fact that there was a garbage man aiding him is the thing that brings reality into the scene’s equation, making it possible for me to even think, “Well how did he get the truck and why is an Apple Valley Waste employee helping him?”
If there’s no garbage man aiding Sting, then I can safely assume, “He stole the truck”. And if Sting “stole the truck” then that makes Sting a more active, capable, intelligent, crafty, and interesting character.
If you feel your fingers moving toward the keyboard to type out why it’s perfectly fine for Sting to have not pushed the button, then allow me to preemptively respond: all of this assumes that Sting crushing Seth Rollins’ chocolate statue in a garbage truck is a good story in the first place.
And it is not.
And it is certainly not a story worth staying up until 11:00pm on a Monday Night for. The kitsch factor fades around hour two.
All criticisms or defenses of the scene go to the wayside when we consider that thoughtful human beings actually do watch this three-hour variety-show, and that these thoughtful human beings have no interest in watching the PG-Era self-consciously try its hardest to emulate similar scenes from The Attitude Era.
This is a story played as a gag, meant to make people laugh, and meant to make Seth appear foolish.
But watching cartoon-Sting destroy a statue isn’t actually funny.
George Carlin is funny.
Watching a cartoon-Sting destroy a statue isn’t satisfying.
Good wrestling matches are satisfying.
We’ve been trained to watch these cartoons and chuckle, trained to find them inoffensive fun and, as a result, our ability to develop a taste for things that are actually good and actually bad has been worn to shreds. We've accepted the ceiling placed upon pro-wrestling by the WWE. We've accepted that sometimes a really bad segment is actually really fun because of how bad it is. That perspective epitomizes the problem of irony and leads to a disconnect from reality.
Sure, it's fun to watch a bad movie or bad TV show every now and again, just as it's fun to eat a number 1 at Mcdonalds. You know what you're getting. You don't even need to take a long time describing what you want. You shout a number into a box, and then what you asked for comes out a window.
There's value in these brief distractions, relishing in something's vapidity or superficial charm. But that's not a healthy, sustainable diet. And WWE's form of storytelling is too often thoughtless, fast-food entertainment. And it's fast-food entertainment presented on the scale of a seven course meal that takes hours upon hours to consume.
Wrestling shouldn’t be this way.
This is the kind of moment that springs forth from the carnival-spectacle-what-a-maneuver-mind that birthed Sports Entertainment. And Sports Entertainment cartoons are often in bad taste, and tend to succeed only when talented improvisational actors are free to inject their personalities and their creativity into that scene.
We seem to think there’s a massive difference between The Attitude Era and the PG-Era. There isn’t, save the PG-Era has been dealt a more heavy-handed script.
The basic perspective on what pro-wrestling is and should be (a terribly flawed, infantile perspective) remains entirely unchanged. And a generation who’s grown up watching Sports Entertainment will go on creating it because they know nothing better.
That’s why stories like Seth’s statue are so painful.
How many times did The Rock or Stone Cold take something the other wanted and hide it away, culminating in a surprisingly fun, satisfying climax? How many backstage segments actually did result in laughter, embedding themselves into our millennial brains for all time?
What we watch on RAW today comes out of the same tradition, only with zero freedom for the performers, and zero daring on the part of the writers.
These inherently flawed scenes cannot become successes despite themselves.
And that’s exactly what Sports Entertainment has been historically - a success despite itself.
Pro-wrestling succeeds because of itself, as evidenced by all those matches we'll remember for all time.
For the PG-Era to truly be a success, then the mind that even conceives of statue-destruction bits needs to vanish. The mind that remains beholden to the shadows of a bygone era needs to find liberation.
What I watched last night should not only not make it to air, it shouldn’t have been a thought someone had in the first place.
The fact that it was thought-up gives me pause, demonstrating that the Sports Entertainment-Mind continues to live on, and that it may continue to live on for those fans who grew up believing that such was simply the way pro-wrestling is supposed to be.
So don’t let it be.
Thank you for reading. Be sure to subscribe to The Work of Wrestling podcast in iTunes. I go into more detail about the "Sports Entertainment Mind" in the latest episode.