Monday, February 26, 2007

War is Raw'ng

A diary of a first-timer trying to apply theory to practice.

So one day, I was watching Raw. Despite the reminder that Dusty Rhodes would be accepting his hall-of-fame nomination during that show, I'd forgotten to look up relevant channel/time info. Would have missed it entirely except someone had left the TV on an unusual station during dinner, and a housemate had sparked conversation around the table by deciding to uncharacteristically watch wrestling. We each knew a little bit, making the experience an entertaining string of 'what the hell?'s and 'oh... I guess they don't like each other so much's.

The first couple matches, the tag team with women, and the big guy versus little guy were really short. By the time I started to get a feel for who was on which team, and was looking forwards to interesting overturns of power, the matches were over. The big guy trounced, without any suspense for his downfall, which was unsatisfying. Perhaps this was one in a string of matches supporting his brute superiority, and a later storyline will serve to reverse this. More what I was thinking at the time was that these were 'freak show' matches – the curiosity of the women in the ring and the massively big guy forming the basis of the interest rather than the history of character and story pervading everything else that was happening in the show.

Apart from the above points of confusion, Raw was reassuringly similar in format to any other cast based drama. Characters or groups of characters have their own 'scenes' in which they demonstrate their own personalities within the context of a wrestling storyline (the four 'non-headliners' who were to go against the four 'headliners') or a more character centered storyline (the conflict between the younger wrestler and the old guy who insulted his spirit). None of these gripped us in particular, but I can see how watching the show over time would lead me to have vested interest in at least a few of the characters or plots, which is what we see in shows like ER. This jives with other's experiences, when they enter into the wrestling fan community through affinity with a specific wrestler or team. The other thing we noted while watching, and that differs substantially from the way one watches ER, is the extended introduction of wrestlers entering the ring provides little in the way of story, but allows a perfect break for talking.

The one place where I was actively engaged with the show was non-coincidentially when Roddy Piper and Dusty Rhodes were on. Since at that point I knew a bit about them from class, and had seen them before, I had a sense of ownership regarding their stories. Which is why I was actually upset when they were quickly interrupted and beaten up, not to return. Sam later explained that this event builds up Umanga as a big bad and perfect stand in for Vince during WrestleMania. But it also (literally) stomps on wrestling history. No one even jumped into the ring to help them, which really confused me. All I can think is that during the actual induction for the hall of fame, they will be back and unscathed. And yet... During the show, even though the fans boo'd, the entire event was treated as no big deal. Leaving me going 'what the hell? ... I guess....'

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Tess, interesting firsthand account of an outsider's perspective on the wrestling text. Right now, WWE is in the midst of building for thier biggest wrestling show of the year, Wrestlemania, so they are trying to build up some of their villains to look exceptionally unbeatable for these big showdowns, hence the strong positioning of The Great Khali and Umaga, for instance. But I think you make a good point about the wrestling text having something unbelievable happen and then almost moving right on along. Since the show is programmed storyline-by-storyline for each segment, there is often a tendency to move on to another storyline in the next segment and never return to things that happen earlier in the show. While wrestling is very much serialized, this is one of the ways in which that seriality is often somewhat ignored within one particular show.

These stories may stretch from week-to-week, but they often aren't referred to again later in the program, unless it's building for the main event match on that particular card.