Christian Valencio’s take on WWE and Postmodernism
One of my students in the Popular Culture class wrote a brilliant essay about the changing structure of storyline of World Wrestling Entertainment. In this article, The Aspects of Postmodernism and its effects on Professional Wrestling, Christian P. Valencio (BINUSIAN ID: 1501181366) discusses how the Wrestling Entertainment is detaching it selves from the traditional style of narration where usually a good guy fights a bad guy, the good guy wins, and the crowd cheers for the good guy. Roland Barthes in Mythologies (2009, p.17) once talked about the wrestling entertainment, that it is a play that is constructed as well as depicting a traditional myth of the fight between good and evil. Christian, through this article, discusses how it might no longer be that way. Below is a part of the essay, summarized by Christian himself.
The Aspects of Postmodernism and its effects on Professional Wrestling
By Christian P. Valencio
Humans are always hungry of entertainment and one of the entertainments that never seem to gets old, other than movie and music, is professional wrestling. Different with pure sports that does not follow a certain scripts, or movies that will totally follow the script no matter what happened on the set, pro wrestling is a theatrical athletic performance that involves athletic and theatrical performance. Showcased live on national cable television network, the live audience played a major factor on a pro wrestling show. And if something is not following a certain structure that the fans or the backstage crew expected, it might lead to a major shake-up during or after that live episode. Using the theory of postmodernism, the writer of this paper, who has been a big fan of professional wrestling for years, made this paper with the intention of uncovering the structuralism of professional wrestling, knowing how it works, and how it is broken. All of the wrestling-related event that were mentioned further on was based on the writer’s knowledge of professional wrestling, both backstage and in-ring, as he has been a big fan of wrestling and watched wrestling shows for years, and at least twice a week (WWE Raw and WWE NXT).
To put it briefly about postmodernism, it is a theory which some of its aspects may include a certain things that could break a planned structure of something. We live in a day and age when people don’t want to see things as black and white. They would prefer to just see lots of shades of grey. We live in a day in which the idea of “truth” is not that important – or even considered to be irrelevant. You cannot say what is good and what is bad. Just because you don’t like it or approve of it does not mean it is bad. We have to be tolerant of the views, beliefs and practices of others. The theory could be applied on the analysis and the example that will be put below because that what the wrestling fans did, which is against a structure that they supposed to see, had happened and influenced the wrestling reality. A saying related with postmodernism and/or structuralism that said “the reader is the writer” is really happening on the universe of professional wrestling since the “smart” fans has decided to voice their opinion, loudly and rudely, to see something that they specifically wants to see to create a “better world” of professional wrestling.
In professional wrestling, the normal structure of the storylines mostly goes in a three-step cycle.
1. The bad guy and the good guy starting to have a feud
2. At first, the good guy loses, the bad guy wins
3. Later on, the good guy wins and put the bad guy out of the picture to end the feud
It happened in a most of the cases. The fans are used (or technically forced) to cheer for the good guy and booed the bad guy, therefore supporting the planned storyline. However, it did not happened that much during the last 10 years, especially the last 3 years. The fans are also relied to the internet so much that what happened on the internet will affect them and the products, as well as the fact that some of them has already gotten sick of “good guy wins, bad guy loses” theme, therefore demanding a change.
One of the biggest and most relevant examples is on 2013-2014, which is the year of the American Dragon, Bryan Danielson, who is better known as Daniel Bryan on WWE. A 5 ft 10, 95 kilograms Bryan is far from what WWE hoped their face of the company would be. His appearance also could not be described as well-groomed or hot since he did not don a well-cut hair or a six-pack abs, instead a long untreated hair and a huge volumes of beard. However, when it comes to in-ring techniques, he is the best that WWE has ever got. The fans knew that and decided to heavily cheer him, and he got the loudest cheer compared to the other superstars (or even, he got cheered louder than all of the other superstar’s cheers combined). December 2013, it was announced that Batista will make his return on the next Royal Rumble event after 4 years being out of the wrestling scene. The next month, on January 2014 where the annual Royal Rumble event was held, the crowd was expecting the winner to be Daniel Bryan. However, the creative team did not put Bryan on the Rumble match. During the match, the crowd hoped for Bryan to appear and chanting “We want Bryan!” over and over again. Until the entrant #29 was out, Bryan still not appeared and when the entrant #30 was out, which the crowd expecting would be Bryan, turns out it was Rey Mysterio, thus confirming that Bryan is not competing. Mysterio, who never got booed, got his biggest boo ever that night by the crowd. The final two of the match were Roman Reigns who portrayed a bad guy, and Batista, a good guy. The crowd, however, cheered heavily towards Reigns. The match ended with Batista throwing Reigns out of the ring and the crowd booed him like never before. The crowd expecting a hard-working Bryan to win the match, only to get Batista who has been out of the ring for 4 years, as the winner. As the show went off air, Batista who was surprised by the crowd’s reaction flipped off the crowd. The next following weeks, Batista got booed harder and Bryan got more support. The main-event of Wrestlemania 31 was supposed to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton against the Royal Rumble winner Batista, and the plan for Daniel Bryan is to either continue his feud with Bray Wyatt and let both of them have a feud-ending match on Wrestlemania, or have him faced off against Sheamus, but the creative team decided to think about a change thanks to the crowd’s reaction, who made the creative team really worried about the sales of Wrestlemania if the fans did not get what they want. So in storyline, it was decided that Bryan will faced off against the legendary Triple H, who is a big supporter of Batista and Orton, on the opening of Wrestlemania 31. The stipulation of the match is that if Bryan wins, he will went on to the main-event of that night, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, changing it into a triple-threat between himself, Batista, and Orton. Adding favor to the crowd, the creative team decided to change Batista character from a good guy to a bad guy weeks prior to the long-awaited event. On the event, Bryan pulled the two biggest wins on his career and the fans were happy, leading to the event being hailed as one of the greatest Wrestlemania ever. This is another example of how the fans helped a certain character to break through the structuralism that is planned for him. If the fans did not yell their hearts out, then some of the matches on Wrestlemania 31 would be Daniel Bryan vs either Bray Wyatt or Sheamus, and WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and Batista, and the outcome could be really bad for WWE. But since the fans did, WWE decided to scrap their planned structure, and in the process succeeded in pleasing the fans and getting universal acclaim on the progress of Daniel Bryan’s journey as well as the Wrestlemania 31 event.
The next year, similar event happened, this time involving Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. Brock Lesnar was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the winner of the Royal Rumble was Roman Reigns. However, different with last year, this time the crowd turned on Reigns due to the fact that the creative team has trying so hard to make him as the best wrestler while he is clearly not. Reigns was loved when he was a part of a stable named The Shield, since at that group he does not have to talk because another member, Dean Ambrose, was really good on the mic. Since the group splits, Reigns flaw which is terrible when he is on the mic doing promo was exposed to the crowd, causing the crowd to then-hate him. The fans who still love Daniel Bryan keep supporting for Bryan in hope for what happened last year would happen this year. Turns out, it will not happen again. At one point, the crowd’s boos were really loud toward Reigns, which was supposed to be the good guy. The creative team thought that if they are still planning to put the title on Reigns, it will hurt him due to the pressure that he got, as well as the dropping sales of the Wrestlemania. Seth Rollins, who has the Money In The Bank contract (a contract that could make him have a title match whenever he wants and anywhere he wants), decided to cash-in his contract during the Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns title match on the main-event of Wrestlemania and since both Lesnar and Reigns had been really tired by wrestling for more than 10 minutes, all Rollins had to was to pick up where they left off and he left the event as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. When he was cashing in his contract, the crowds goes nuts and totally in support for him, something that is not supposed to happened considering that he is the bad guy and his participation on the match was not supposed to happen. In two consecutive years, the winner of the Royal Rumble did not get the fans support since they did not win the people’s hearts, and the crowd decided to support who they love the most while in the process, declining what the creative team force fed them.
The structure of pro wrestling’s storyline was pretty one-dimensional and repetitive, until recently the fans had voiced their opinion and technically “hijacked” the show, and making the as the “writer” of the story even though they are just the “reader”. Postmodernism theory involves an aspect where it may include a certain things that could break a planned structure, which made this phenomenon in the world of professional wrestling nowadays where the fans forcing the creative team to fed them with what they want, related with the theory. It shows how in the last couple of years, for example, a supposed nobody like Daniel Bryan manage to reach a spot that he would never get, and all of it was thanks to the fans. The fans action that managed to change major things might be seen as an example of how dangerous and influential postmodernism theory and a movement are.
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