Hello everyone and thanks for reading Planet Kayfabe. Today I'm going to talk about some of the major storylines in WWE leading up to Wrestlemania and how in one or two weeks I went from fairly optimistic to already a bit disappointed. A lot of that has to due with the random, fly by the seat of their asses, nature of WWE's booking and story telling where NOTHING connects. NOTHING makes sense. NOTHING matters week-to-week. Its all just a bunch of random stuff that happens. Then the next week more stuff will happen. Then the next week someone will turn heel and their explanation will be "I don't owe you an explanation" and a babyface turn is just someone who randomly starts wrestling against heels. I'm already f***ing pissed off. Let's just start with the big one.
This Kofi Kingston angle.
What the f*** is the WWE thinking...
I know some of you like the more "edgy" angle this whole underdog on a hot streak story has taken, but I don't. Nor do I think it is a good idea. I'll explain. In case you haven't noticed, the silent racial overtones of this angle that was mere fan speculation are now boldly being stated by the superstars themselves. Yes, I said SUPERSTARS because it is a work.
On Smackdown Kofi Kingston was in a Gauntlet Match, which that's another thing... I'd rather shit in a bag and eat it whole than see another Gauntlet Match again after this past year in WWE, but whatever. On Twitter I joked that after Kofi won Vince would come out the next week and say it was not good enough and that he had to run another gauntlet. I was close. Vince came out with 5 minutes left in the show and immediately put Kofi in another match with WWE Champion Daniel Bryan saying he also had now beat the champion himself to earn this match. Kofi lost and that's how the show ended. The people booed on what really should have been a night of celebrating with Kofi, but nope... WWE's waiting at least another week. By next week's Smackdown Wrestlemania will be less than two weeks away and Vince, who is so worried about "marquee match-ups" and "giving the people what they want" hasn't even booked his promotion's namesake world title in a f***ing match yet in the final week of March.
So, Bryan wins. Kofi is out. The people boo. Of course no one hates Bryan for this though. They are booing Vince who is taking all the heat here because in 2019 that's all that matters still is which member of the McMahon family is getting heat. There's an argument to be made that WWE waited one week too long for Kofi to have his moment and I agree. If they were going to do this, they should have had him just get screwed in the actual Gauntlet Match itself instead of beating your US Champion Samoa Joe and Randy Orton who began a pretty hot story with AJ Styles recently. But no... We must see another McMahon screwjob.
By now the subtle racial overtones can't be ignored. Big E took to Twitter to talk about how now and historically "people like us" ("us" being the New Day and the implication being other black wrestlers) are only kept at a certain level. I find it weird that WWE is really going there. They MUST be working a swerve here. I can't imagine a writer going "hey Vince I have a great idea. We are going to make you racist on television for heat!" and him actually going through with it. I mean, it is weird since in real life it is Vince McMahon who will be booking Kofi in a WWE title match with Bryan and probably book him to win as well.
The reason why I don't like this type of angle is because first of all WWE are not clever, careful or creative enough to pull this type of topic off. The real-world (which Vince ignores) political climate couldn't be worse for this type of commentary. Instead of the fan-favorite veteran finally getting his shot, we are going to get beat over the head with an awkward race angle that I just feel is in poor taste. Fans watch this and watch wrestling to turn their brain off and be happy. Instead they are being told the owner of the very promotion they support doesn't like black people. It's the type of angle the could, and has, pissed off their older fans and just down right confuses the younger fans who may not fully understand racism the way that they get "good guy who plays by the rules, beats up asshole who cheats". The choice to have Vince in this sort of role on TV confuses me as well. On the latest NoDQ Review Virtue made a point about there being racist characters on other shows who get their's in the end, but those are usually just one-off stories with one-off characters who tell their story and it is wrapped up in a half hour or an hour. Vince McMahon is the owner of the company who is going to be on TV until he dies and will probably be a babyface again after Wrestlemania. So when Kofi overcomes the racist owner what happens next? Vince comes out and says "you proved me wrong Kofi. Because you won a match I denounce a lifetime of racial bias"? What? I'm surprised instead WWE didn't have an authority figure to portray as racist and then in the end the big babyface Vince McMahon comes out to say this is wrong and puts Kofi in the match because he earned it and because the fans want it.
However, there is an "out" in this mess. Big E released this video saying "people like us" without exactly saying what he meant. In recent columns I proposed an idea where Big E turns and he instead becomes WWE Champion under Kofi's feet and then Kofi has to continue to chase and take the title from his old partner. Once Kofi is in the match with Bryan, Big E could be out there with Woods. Towards the end, Big E turns and Bryan wins and then perhaps shakes hands with Vince afterwards kind of like how Austin did at Wrestlemania 17. The following Smackdown Big E and Vince come out together. Big E says something to the effect of "what did you think I meant by 'people like us'? I mean people like you, Kofi. Weak, friendly, smiling, joking nice guys like you that could never measure up to me" and goes on about how his size carried The New Day to success. Aligning Big E with Vince who is still a heel but you avoid a potential PR hit by portraying the owner as a racist on television and then having guys on Twitter "shooting" to make it seem like they are speaking out against their real-life employer.
If you're a fan of this angle, great, but I'm not and even in the Attitude Era this stuff didn't work. Its uncomfortable. WWE is too tone deaf to the outside world and current society to truly pull it off in a thought-provoking way and it is simply just a topic they're better off staying away from. So, Vince, if you're reading I just gave you an easy out and a program to carry the Smackdown main event scene into the summer. You're welcome.
One last thing to cap it off, I'm not trying to spark a debate about if Vince McMahon the person is actually racist or not. I'm just saying I don't think it is wise to portray his television persona in that manner if that is indeed the direction they are going to go in as we head to his company's biggest event of the year. I think if they explicitly say Vince is racist more people would boycott the company and tell Kofi and The New Day they should walk out instead of buy a ticket or subscribe to the WWE Network to watch him wrestle for a fake belt that is going to be in the middle of the card somewhere.
Speaking of fake, the one person who is not fake and want you to know, Ronda Rousey, is in the middle of her turn and is pretty much exactly what she always should have been coming in. A couple months ago I'd say the storyline for the Raw Women's Championship was carrying my interest for Wrestlemania. I may have even said that a month ago, however my interest has waned a bit. Luckily for WWE Becky Lynch is so popular that people are just willing to accept anything they throw at them as long as it means watching her beat Ronda and become champion. I guess that is all that matters, but a lot of that "Stone Cold" chatter has died down. Shit, if anything I think Ronda was the most "Stone Cold" on Raw this past week.
Since Ronda has turned I think she has taken the title of most bad-ass woman in the company. Sorry. I know it's a hard pill to swallow for the Becky fans (which I'm one of if you have read ANY of my columns since last summer) but its true. Instead of beating Charlotte at Fastlane, Becky smiled, laughed and accepted a cheap DQ to victory all the while still having to sell this hokey knee injury despite being CLEARED in storyline already. Maybe it's just how I watch it, but it seems almost obvious that Becky is done with this knee angle, too. Ronda's heel turn has injected some life into this story which was starting to lose steam, though even if I don't fully agree with all the explicit references to "kayfabe" and "the script" on social media. At least they've avoided that on TV. On Raw Ronda got a cool segment where she beat Dana Brooke in less than half a minute and took out officials and security. I think it was funny how that ref bitched at her for being late when for 25 years we have seen wrestlers arrive to the show late, sometimes arriving just for the final segment, and no one ever complains about it. Ronda misses seg. 1 and OH NO! She's out of control!
On Smackdown we had a KO Show segment with Becky and Charlotte and to be honest I thought this was pretty poor and the subsequent brawl was average. Kevin as a babyface did some light comedy. It was ok. Charlotte did all the talking and Becky said nothing which I think is weird since Becky's high spot is basically her zingers in her promos. Kevin Owens was basically Jerry Springer instigating a cat fight here. Becky and Charlotte brawled but it was like a half-hearted brawl that I doubt any of you remembered after the show was over. There is so much going on that what was a simple story has gotten a bit confusing. Now Ronda kind of has the hot hand since turning. However, like I said, the fans still love Becky Lynch and WWE is LUCKY because they've done almost everything wrong since the Rumble with Becky. I really feel like the fans have turned their brains off and are just waiting to see her win so they can cheer and get it over with.
Kurt Angle a couple weeks ago on Raw announced he would be having his retirement match at Wrestlemania. We were told this past week he would announce his hand-picked opponent (in storyline... lol) on Raw live in Chicago. Ya know... Chicago... Where a certain someone challenged Angle in the name of "Ruthless Aggression". Well, we all speculated on who could be Kurt's big final opponent. Many of us thought that opponent would be John Cena. Well... we didn't see him on Raw. Instead Kurt informed us that his opponent that he chose all by himself *WINK f***ING WINK* is none other than, who else: Baron Corbin.
You could feel the crowd deflate as Kurt had his match with Chad Gable which was on okay 15 minute match but was a bit overshadowed by Kurt's decision to want yet another match with Baron Corbin of all people. This also sparked the fans to chant "we want Cena". The backlash was incredible and apparently this was the plan, but given the backlash there's a chance WWE changes plans and puts Cena in the match somehow. If they do lock up Cena for the match, they have to announce it by the go-home Raw. I do not like the idea of Cena appearing as a surprise at Wrestlemania when he could be a bit of a difference maker in people watching the event. As it stands Kurt's last match is basically a bathroom break which is obviously a sad way for him to end his career.
As far as Kurt's retirement goes, it is the right time. He's one of my favorites and obviously one of the best wrestlers ever but he is too old, slow and clunky now to keep up with today's stars and his own standards and the standards the fans have set for him. For those of you who think this is good heat for Corbin... did you hear the crowd? Not one single person there gives a f*** about Corbin. No one wants to see Corbin beat Angle in his last match and no one wants to watch Angle wrestle Corbin at all. It's not like a match with Cena would be much better but it is a much better story. When people are chanting "we want Cena" at the company after the babyface chose his own opponent that is not good heat on Corbin. That is clear as day go-away heat and I'm not kidding when I said as it stands now Kurt's farewell match is basically a bathroom break.
Batista was on Raw via satellite or taped segment or whatever. This is another feud that took a dip for me. It's another case of "I know the match will suck but at least give me a good story". When Evolution had their reunion on Smackdown 1,000 I was all for Batista vs. Triple H when Dave cut that promo. Since then Batista made a hot return taking out Ric Flair on his 70th birthday, ok cool... The next week Triple H cut a pretty good promo on Batista saying he'd give him anything he wanted if he showed up to Raw. Batista showed up the next week and Triple H took it back and they had this weird arguing back-and-forth. It was fine. Not bad but not great. In the end Batista got his match. This past week Cole interviewed Batista with the same dumb WWE questions you'd expect. Again, it was just fine. I want more than "just fine" though.
This isn't that big of a deal, though. There's two Raw episodes left before Wrestlemania and there's nothing one hot segment can't fix to heat this angle up a bit. Its not too late for Batista to inject some real feelings here. Instead of "I just don't like him" he should talk more about how he felt betrayed by his friend when he wouldn't return his calls to make a comeback to the company sooner. That's a pretty simple story especially since Batista's whole thing when he came back was that he wanted Hunter's attention. Why did he want it? Because he doesn't like him? That makes no sense.
Of course part, and perhaps the largest part, of why the Raw ratings go down every year is because the show is too long but its also for year now fans see no incentive to watch every week. Stuff we laugh off as being just how WWE operates turn off casual viewers. There's very little actual pay off to the stories. It's like one week things happen. The next week more stuff happens. They advertise stuff and then something entirely different happens. A stipulation is put on a match and completely ignored. Guys just turn out of nowhere to pop a crowd reaction and then they write on the seat of their ass to try and explain it and sometimes don't even bother. Its like you're just watch masturbation. You can just tune in whenever and it doesn't matter. There's no reason to watch every week. Its like the actual GOOD stories they back into on accident and still try to battle with their own audience because they didn't react the way the company wanted them to. This same company is run by an old man who is so out of touch that he thought Becky Lynch would get booed after being attacked by the company's golden girl, Charlotte Flair, from behind, in the finish of their SummerSlam title match. Its not like this is anything new. The same guy thought CM Punk's famous "pipebomb" promo from almost 8 years ago would get Punk over as a heel for trash talking WWE. This is the same guy we are now trusting to put the delicate touch and careful attention to detail to pull off a racial based storyline in WWE?
Fans aren't just complaining because they like to complain or out of hate of the company. Just like how fans of a losing sports team don't "hate" their team when they complain about poor play or coaching. Never-the-less, its a social media age where thin skinned wrestlers go on Twitter and bitch when fans aren't swinging from their nuts and telling them everything they do is the best thing ever. Especially in WWE, but a lot of indy wrestlers do that as well. Even heels that you think would welcome a negative reaction feel the need to validate some angry troll with 54 followers and tell them what a shitty fan they are for not liking whatever stupid spot they do in some high school gym just to hang their hat on how many re-tweets it got. No, it's the age of being told to "just enjoy it" which makes no sense. Do you know what I enjoy? Things that are good and things that make sense. I don't choose to enjoy things. A good product of any sort is the cause, my enjoyment is the effect. If one of my favorite bands puts out a shitty album and I think it sucks and the fans think it sucks and the press thinks that it sucks should the band come out and say "just enjoy it"? Oh... I'll just DECIDE to enjoy something. Why didn't I think of that. Okay. Sensitive modern day wrestlers, you win. I have decided to enjoy everything even though there is no reward for the fans who watch your weekly television show. There's little to no payoff to stories. There's no reason to pay attention to detail. There's no reason to care about stipulations. There's no reason to care about who wins and who loses. But hey... Let's "just enjoy it". That's a fun theory. If by some chance anyone in WWE is reading this and they don't like what I had to say about any of the ridiculous decisions they've made the past month alone... ahh ahh ahh well... uhh Just enjoy it!
There's my thoughts on some of the recent angles as we inch closer to Wrestlemania. I was really looking forward to this past week's television and in the end I was a bit let down. The Miz came on Smackdown and cut an alright promo but even that story makes no sense and I think Miz's promo was a bit overrated. Some nonsense about how he had to earn his father's love. What? It was more WWE scripted nonsense that doesn't sound like anything that anyone in real life would really say. Rey Mysterio is randomly facing Samoa Joe for the United States title which is fine, I guess, but what about all that build up they've been doing for Rey and Andrade "Cien" Almas? POOF! Gone. Andrade is in the nothing battle royal for geeks. How about the Smackdown Women's Champion Asuka? Remember she tapped out Becky Lynch at a point where you could say Becky was the hottest star in the company? What is she doing at Wrestlemania? We still don't know.
The rumored card is 17 matches. That is insane. There's also going to be a lot of multi-person matches and it seems like the Women's Tag Team Championship match could even be a Four Way Tag Team match... Yeah The IIconics apparently have earned a spot by cheating to win I think the first match they've won all year less than 3 weeks before Wrestlemania. But hey. Just enjoy it. Nia and Tamina who already lost clean to the champs and weren't even in the finals of the Elimination Chamber are just in the picture because... they are. Just enjoy it though. Oh... Natalya and Beth Phoenix are in the match, too. They're "legends" apparently or some shit. Sure, whatever. You're all legends.
Seven-teen matches and all these multi-person matches just screams clusterf*** to me. Right now if I had to rank what I'm looking forward to the most, first would ne AJ Styles vs Randy Orton. I've enjoyed their promos and I hope they get at least 20 minutes together. It could end up being Randy's best work since his feud with Christian. After that I'd go Kofimania, Raw Women's title and then Hunter and Batista and even that is starting to lose me a bit. I like Seth Rollins but this story with Brock is just more of the same old shit, plus, given recent history of WWE its no guarantee that Seth is even going to win. I don't hate Brock Lesnar at all, but it feels like WWE has done all they can with him and now every program he's in is more of the same. Plus, Seth has been made out to be a bit of a geek at times. Eating multiple F-5's a few weeks back and this past week when he, like every other dipshit babyface in WWE lost to the sound of music on the Title Tron. I feel like I've said it a thousand times, but making your babyfaces out to be idiots and geeks doesn't make them more likable. Your babyfaces should actually be portrayed more like Ronda Rousey who would probably be getting cheered like crazy right now if she wasn't in a feud with Becky Lynch. Seriously. If THIS version of Ronda was facing a babyface Charlotte who do you think would be cheered going into Wrestlemania? Actually... it would probably just end up being drowned out in "Becky" chants so maybe I'm not entirely right here.
Thanks again for reading. I hope you all have a great weekend. I hope for a better week of television. Last week I gave Raw a 2.5/10 and Smackdown a 4.5/10. Its not like recent Wrestlemania's have been much different. The older fans expect the shows to pick up this time of year and I'm not sure why. Since the WWE Network the importance of a strong go-home show has gone out the window and it seems like every year the company is more and more content on just walking through these TV shows with more promos, backstage segments, video packages and random angles to run out the clock and just make it to Wrestlemania.
But hey... Just enjoy it.
Take care, everyone. Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe God bless and see you next week.