No, this isn’t a Charles Dickens novel, but I figured it was a clever title so work with me here. Professional wrestling, for as much as it’s parsed and debated online, is still rather simplistic at its foundation. It’s a theoretical athletic competition and within the sport there are narratives that play out. The aspects of storytelling are the same across the board because in any genre of entertainment, the narrative is based on the emotional investment into the key figures of the story. Of course, heroes vs. heels is the easiest story to be told because there are heroes and heels in real life so the narrative translates to an audience. Mr. Rogers vs. OJ Simpson will have all of Fred’s neighbors cheering him to victory.
Along with the heroes and heels dynamic, there are other very easy stories that can be told that can maximize the results. Sometimes the simplest option is the best option.
One of those is when a wrestler is in their hometown because they garner the crowd support of being the local favorite. Intrinsically, the audience can identify with the performer because the competitor started their journey in the same place as the fans in the crowd. At a time when many comparisons between WWE and All Elite Wrestling are being made, the difference of how the hometown favorite was booked might explain why the momentum has shifted within the industry in recent months.
It became almost an infamous joke that WWE would embarrass those on the roster in their hometown, seemingly for no other reason than just to make someone look bad in the process. Jim Ross’ autobiographies suggest just how rude the writing team was in this situations, and let’s be clear, Jim Ross never deserved to be humiliated in his hometown or anywhere else. For whatever reasons, WWE brass passed on the chance to create a moment with a hometown ovation so that Vince McMahon could cackle about it backstage. “That’s good stuff, pal!”
Last night’s edition of Smackdown from Knoxville, Tennessee was no exception to the WWE rule Bianca Belair, who dropped the Women’s title to Becky Lynch in roughly thirty seconds at Summer Slam, was in her hometown, and was given the key to the city by Kane, who is known at the real-life mayor of the city, Glen Jacobs. There was a WWE tie-in with the mayor of the city that hosted Smackdown and it gave Bianca a chance to get a moment on Smackdown. After such an abrupt halt to her title run, it makes sense to give her this type of reaction to help build toward the rematch with Lynch. Of course, Becky goes to the ring and the show goes off the air with Bianca beaten down with the heel posing on the stage. It was even more puzzling that the baby face started the confrontation and was then beaten down so Bianca looks foolish. How exactly is making the hometown baby face look silly good business? How does this put Bianca over as a star or hype the title rematch?
On the flip side, All Elite Wrestling used its recent stop in Cincinnati to add some sizzle to a main event match, as well as to set up a scenario that could get a younger talent to the next level. Jon Moxley had a main event match against the legendary Minoru Suzuki in Cincinnati, and while it looked like the match was rushed because of a timing issue, it created atmosphere that looked like the place to be, which can be very useful to create the perception of a brand.
More importantly, Brain Pillman Jr. was spotlighted in his hometown and it set up for a featured match against MJF. Granted, it remains to be seen if or how this angle will elevate Pillman, but it certainly gives him a chance to make a name for himself. Considering the talent and the potential that Pillman brings to the table, AEW maximized the opportunity it had in Cincinnati to make progress with one of the young stars on the roster. Plus, Aunt Linda, a wonderful lady that cared for Brian during a turbulent childhood, was given the chance to receive some well-deserved recognition. Aunt Linda is similar to Uncle Phil on the Fresh Prince of Belair, she’s just Aunt Linda to wrestling fans.
The point being, the story writes itself in these scenarios and it’s usually a wise decision to to attempt to utilize it in the most productive way possible. It’s ironic that the sports entertainment business, despite being built on heat, is supposed to provide the entertainment to the audience. Sure, there’s a time for the heat, but when there’s an easy option for the nice moments, why not give the audience the nice moment? Pro wrestling is supposed to be fun for the fans. Granted, fun doesn’t mean goofy gimmicks or ridiculous segments, but the fans are supposed to enjoy the product. There are jaded fans that will complain about everything just to be contrarian, but the vast majority of the audience just wants to enjoy the show. It’s rather odd that as certain points in the past several years, it almost seemed like WWE management had a level of hostility toward its audience because the fans didn’t agree with the corporate agenda, and thus some of the fan favorites were squashed. When there’s another option for fans, it’s much easier to dismiss the WWE’s corporate agenda in favor of a product that’s more fun. That’s not to say that AEW is perfect because it’s not, but to point out that an AEW broadcast usually has a more positive viewing experience based on what the audience wants to see on television. Big E. winning the title, something that was booked in response to the momentum of All Elite, was one of the few positive moments of the product this year. More than anything, the use of hometown baby faces says a lot about the philosophy of each company. With Raw ratings under 2 million viewers, prehaps WWE brass should consider if the shows are actually fun to watch.
When the home team wins, the fans celebrate.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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