MITCHELL'S TAKE MITCHELL: Open Field Running: Why Paul Heyman and the Game Are Right (10 Yrs. Ago Flashback)
Oct 3, 2012 - 6:35:23 PM
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(This article was originally published on PWTorch.com ten years ago this week.)
By Bruce Mitchell, PWTorch senior columnist
The difference between Raw and Smackdown becomes more pronounced every week, thanks to the estimated two or so whole hours a week Vince McMahon devotes to the creative direction of his company. McMahon is really, really busy trying to figure out what changes in the menu will turn around his Times Square White Elephant and whether he's crooked enough to be a successful record promoter. He hasn't got time to work on wrestling programs, what with having to testify in Nicole Bass's "Who's He Kidding?" lawsuit and fume to his remaining stockholders about last week's accurate SI Scorecard. The boss has got things on his mind
That leaves the field open for heir apparent Stephanie McMahon to court worthless mainstream publicity and fruitlessly appeal to the same women's demographic that has rejected pro wrestling for decades, and for good reason. Stephanie's concept of propping herself up as some sort of businesswoman's role model to hit that target female demographic is a misguided waste of resources.
Women wrestling fans want the same things male wrestling fans: wrestlers with star power having exciting matches that logically build to exciting climaxes. (That's right. Women want to clim...uh...co..uh..watch wrestling. Whew? Is it hot in here?) If they want a role model who ruthlessly runs an entertainment empire and uses gay rights to get publicity there's always Rosie O'Donnell. Even the Queen of Nice would be given a better line reading than Steph did of this week's key Smackdown phrase. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar were too nice to snicker when she brayed the immortal words " HELL IN THE CELL!", at least to her face.
Which is probably smart, since Paul Heyman needs his Smackdown pulpit to bolster his crusade for entry into Promoter/Booker Valhalla. There's too much competition for the Confidential soapbox, and Heyman needs more forums to get out his message than your average megalomanic.
Heyman keeps busy playing off all the good-to-great mid card wrestlers in the company off each other in Even Steven competition for several reasons, as befits a true worker. It keeps the better wrestlers' work ethic occupied, instead of having it rubbed in their face that ultimately they're just cannon fodder for the Big Two. It makes the best (if unlikely) candidates for Next Breakout Star beholden to him. It keeps the Dead Man happy, since he is portrayed as a cut above all these great workers. (Yeah, yeah, yeah the Dead Man laid down for Matt Hardy but then again he had to. According to Post Modern Booking 101 it qualified him for a shot at the WWE Title in his own specialty match, just like RVD's loss six days before qualified him to lose to the Other World Champion at the last pay-per-view.)
Thankfully, and most importantly, it makes for some darn good free wrestling shows. That helps Stephanie McMahon look like she's the wrestling prodigy her father wants her to be to anyone who doesn't know better, and if Vince McMahon knows one thing, it's that there's no difference.
Which leaves the Raw pulpit to the man who earned it, the guy who worked harder than anyone else, the one who lives and breathes it, who waited patiently while the Paranoiac and the Movie Star (who deserved it almost as much as he did) took their star turns.
The Last Raw was a darn near perfect example of Gamesmanship. The only two weak-kneed threats to the Raw Papacy were relegated to usher status as Booker T managed to get pinned in a cheesy tag match in his own home town while Mr. Monday Night, well, I remember he was on the show somewhere.
In the meantime The Game was more like a Whole Season. He got to beat up his Critic Surrogate, Bubba Ray Dudley, the babyface who "guaranteed" Triple H was going through a table. Not on The Game's Special night, he wasn't.
Triple H wasn't getting splintered. The Game had better things to do, like play Nature Boy with two "fitness models" in the shower. (Did he know that Nicole Bass was going to accuse him of being a shower "peeker" at the trial this week? Hunter should have claimed he wasn't paying attention and just "followed him in.")
What a world. One minute a guy is laying there reading his Pro Wrestling Illustrated and dreaming of Ric Flair and the next minute he's actually the Champ, with the real life real thing over his shoulder playing muse. The Raw Board was then set up to allow him beat the Other Dead Guy and retire the Intercontinental belt to his mantle.
It may be deadly to watch, but you can't blame The Game. He'll make more money main-eventing for a fading national company than putting over new stars in the semi-mains.
Much more money.
(Bruce Mitchell has been a Torch columnist since September 1990. His feature-length columns are published in the Torch Newsletter about once per month. His shorter Takes are published about two times per week on PWTorch.com. You can reach him by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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