Thursday, August 4, 2011

Selling Insults: Why Promos Need to Hurt Too

Your attitude is not needed, Mr. H
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When RAW opened Monday, and the barbs flew between Triple H and CM Punk, I had a good feeling that we were going to be headed towards another stellar edition of the WWE's flagship programming. Then we went backstage, and Trips pretty much undermined the whole segment, at least apparently, by basically shrugging and going "no biggie" at the whole arsenal of Punk's insults. I was nonplussed at this first, but acting like you're mad isn't the only way to show that a person's words affect you in some way. Maybe when he made his announcement later, he'd stack the deck against CM Punk and really put the wheels in motion towards a Austin/McMahon-esque feud between the new COO and the rising co-WWE Champion.

But no, he came out, put John Cena in his place, and made a match between his two fractured Champions for unification at SummerSlam. There was no hint of plot advancement, no hint of conflict, even though the first segment conveyed it, which turned Trips' denial of anything Punk having to say to him meaning anything into a blowoff for what was a compelling 20 minute open to the show.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to non-traditional storytelling, nor am I clamoring for a NPC to get involved in the main event feud for the third biggest PPV of the year (let's be honest, the Rumble is #2, and I'm not sure it's even close anymore). However, when you've got a guy who has a notorious history of being too cool for school when dealing with people who aren't his best friend, his mentor or Big Dave Batista, then maybe it's not the best idea to be trotting him out there against two guys he's not going to take seriously, especially when they're the centerpiece of the most important feud in the company right now.

A promo is only partly effective thanks to the things that the guy cutting it is saying. Granted, a guy like CM Punk has a lot more gravitas behind his words than, say, Evan Bourne even. However, even if he's cutting the most scathing promo, and Triple H doesn't sell it, and he continues not to do so? Yeah, then we have a problem. What Punk says doesn't resonate because it doesn't matter. Fuck, at least with the Anonymous RAW GM (pbuh), he/she/it reacted to the things the wrestlers said or did towards it (or towards its proxy, Michael Cole). But no, God forbid Triple H, especially in a role where right now, it's not really known whether he'll be going back into the ring for a payoff, he's not in a position to deliver an in-ring payoff.

That's why him showing ass is so important. It wouldn't kill him, and it would help not just Punk, but Cena as well. Yeah, I know none of you out there want to read about Cena needing any help in storyline, but at the same time, isn't a story/feud/whatever much better when both guys aren't looking like feeble jackasses?

Now, honestly, we don't know where the story is going from here. Obviously, with WWE though, you could append that sentence to ANY criticism of their short-term booking decisions because Vince McMahon is batshit crazy, and unless you're Darren Rovell, you know that he's still got a hand in the pot. For all we know, they're building to a point where Trips snaps and starts taking drastic measures to make sure that CM Punk stops turning his microphones into pipe bombs, especially ones lobbed in his direction. But again, I bring up Triple H's track record. If he's going to waltz into the ring and tell the biggest star in the company, the one who has the most equity built up in him by the booking team, to RESPECT HIS AUTHORITAH, then what hope does anyone else, save the Undertaker, have?

If I wanted to watch douchebags be too cool for school, I'd go to my local frat house. But since I don't want that, and I want story development and conflict, I want my wrestling TV not to have characters like Triple H smugging it up on camera, no-selling the words of one of the greatest promos in history just to make himself look good. Selling isn't just something you do in the ring, it's something that's ongoing whenever you're in character. Just like I hate watching Davey Richards take a million kicks in the ring and shrug it off like he was just standing in front of an air conditioner, I want people who aren't supposed to like each other have the words they say to each other mean something. They won't mean anything if they're shrugged off like nothing ever happened in the first place.

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