Friday, July 1, 2011

World Wrestling Entertainment

WWE RAW was in Sydney at the Acer Arena on 1 July 2011. It will play at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on 2 July, the Burswood Dome in Perth on 3 July, the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide on 4 July and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane on 5 July. Presented by Dainty Group.

Not all theatre is highbrow, and not all theatre aspires to it. Some theatre is pretty much ashamed to admit that it is theatre, or indeed staged in any way. Oh no. It is all real, and it is sport, damn it. And from this, you get the glory that is World Wrestling Entertainment - the WWE.

My sister and I attended this NIGHT OF GLORY together. This is not our normal scene. We were very far out of our comfort zones. Both of us had several existential crises, complemented by out of body experiences... which then had out of body experiences of their own. We shared/suffered through/loved this experience together so we're writing this review together, conversation style. So... here you are.

JOJO: Hi, Hazzabangerz.

BANG: Hello, Jodi. It's been such a lovely night at the theatre!

JOJO: That's an interesting point you raise there, Bang Bang. WWE calls itself 'sport' and people steadfastly refuse to admit it is scripted, when it obviously is. I refuse to believe real life dialogue would ever be that a) awful, and b) hilarious. So do you think that WWE really is 'theatre' per se?

BANG: Of course it's theatre. The entire event is about the audience's suspension of disbelief, knowledge of catchphrases, signature 'moves', and the storyline is dense. Each wrestler is a caricature of a real athlete and - I may be making a sweeping genalisation here - behaves more melodramatically and narcissistically than Ridge Forrester (on crack).

JOJO: I think the Ridge analogy is a good one, because at the end of the day, let's face it, WWE is a giant soap opera about men wearing no pants and women dressed as 80s superheroes pretending to punch each other. Personally, I could use less punching and more of the hilarious talking. I could have listened to CM Punk's opening rant 'calling out' (another WWE favourite thing to do) corporate America and the WWE execs a lot longer. But no, Rey Mysterio HAD to go and punch him in the face.

BANG: Oh, CM Punk! My favourite wrestler of all! Technically, he's a villain - but he cares in a meaningful way about grammar!

JOJO: The heroes/villains thing is really weird, actually. It is obvious to both you and I that CM Punk is the coolest of all the wrestlers, and yet he is cast as a villain with an evil cult that rallies around him. He's also militantly straight edge (which he has tattooed to his stomach) ...but yeah, that isn't terribly relevant to my point - which is that in normal sport, you have your team or your individual or whoever that you pull for, with little real outside involvement. For example, I like Roger Federer and barrack for him because I think he's awesome. But in WWE, because of the theatricalised, scripted elements of it, the writers (well, 'writers') can lead you to like or dislike certain characters by casting them as heroes or villains and then give you a guaranteed happy ending (ie. the good guy beats the bad guy while you shout a lot). It's very safe to barrack for a hero in WWE.

BANG: Imma stop you there, Jojo! It's safe to be on the winning team... until R-Truth steps onto the scene! Tonight's MAIN EVENT featured reigning WWE champion John Cena (hero) and the recently-insane challenger R-Truth (villain). Truth has 'SHUT UP!' written on the back of his jeans, breaks through audience barriers, threatens small children ('Little Jimmies'), and tells Sydneysiders they smell like 'doo-doo'. He also stole someone's drink. Very poor form indeed.

JOJO: And yet until recently, R-Truth was portrayed as a hero-figure in the WWE universe. Character/actor/wrestler/whatever-you-want-to-call-thems can cycle through both the hero and villain spectrums, but you always know who you should be going for. It's like reading a romance novel or a crime novel. You know there will be some kind of payoff at the end where good defeats evil. Though for us this is obviously troubling in the case of technically evil CM Punk, who is - problematically for the entire WWE - obviously a freaking legend.

BANG: I prefer the villains, in the end. I don't care about the emotional pay-off. I want to see plots, schemes, hitting people with steel chairs!

JOJO: Agreed. The actual wrestling aspect of wrestling is not particularly interesting. In fact, it looks even faker in real life (if that is possible). It's stunningly obvious when someone has landed on the floor next to someone's head rather than on their head, that kind of thing. And the acting level was often not high... someone would get kicked in the head and then clutch their knee, that kind of thing.

BANG: The part that really gets me is when the scripted narcissism gets in the way of winning a fight. When The Miz manages to get his ex-apprentice-now-nemesis Alex Riley on the ground, he's so easily distracted by the crowd calling him a wanker. 'I am NOT a wanker!' yelleth The Miz, upon which occasion Alex Riley punches him in the head. Miz also falls victim to the wrestling trend of dancing around in anticipation of a signature move. It is neither big nor clever to pretend you are a magpie looking for worms, or whatever it is he's intending.

JOJO: On that subject, why were those Nexus dudes so terrified when Santino Morella was chasing them round and round the ring doing a Lleyton Hewitt style emu hand? Is that really such a powerful move? EMU PECK! OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW THE PAINZ.

BANG: Yeah, I wonder why Santino lost that match. There were also some top-quality wardrobe decisions in this part of the show - I particularly enjoyed David Otunga's bedazzled speedos.

JOJO: They were indeed dazzling. There's something very spesh about all WWE fashion and its peculiar brand of pantlessness. I regularly find myself barracking for the ones that wear pants PURELY BECAUSE they are wearing pants and not some bizarre speedo/gogo boot combination (or worse, a unitard). CM Punk is obviously an exception to this rule, but those black and pink speedos are not going to win him best-dressed dude in the WWE.

BANG: I'm a little sad Dolph Ziggler has ditched his old outfit, the inside-out-and-backwards pleather hotpants. Now he's advertising himself as Mr. Perfection, an interesting move considering he's 99% chin. 99% chin, 1% pants. 100% peasant.

JOJO: I'm a bit sad that his WWE girlfriend (not to be confused with any real girlfriend he might have) Vickie Guerrero didn't make the trip to Australia. One of my favourite parts of WWE is the fake relationships and all the shenanigans that go on there. Fake relationships, fake engagements, fake weddings, fake adultery... I'm pretty sure there was a fake pregnancy one time... It really is a soap opera. Let's face it - WWE would be totally boring if it were really about wrestling. It's more theatre than sport - much more about the characters than the punching.

BANG: Let's not forget the audience involvement! No fourth wall here! What would WWE be without a whole stadium of people shouting 'YOU CAN'T SEE ME!' whilst waving their hands in front of their faces like windscreen wipers? In fact, one of the highlights of tonight's show was the audience volunteer dance-off, orchestrated by diva Kelly Kelly.

JOJO: Yes! That was SUPREMELY excellent. I love watching total strangers completely humiliate themselves in front of an entire stadium of people just for the chance to meet a WWE superstar. (The winner chose to meet John Cena, if anyone cares. I don't. I'd venture Bang doesn't either.) And people were scrambling and screaming to be in this dance-off! It was like one of those maniacal religious riots you read about in ancient myths - vaguely Dionysian. And Dionysus was, as we know, the god of theatre.

BANG: Dionysus would have loved this party! He would have taken a shine to contestant number three, who had the good taste to wear some Nexus (CM Punk's cult) merchandise but the bad taste to wear his pants around his ankles. Wardrobe malfunction almost became human sacrifice. He also introduced himself to Kelly Kelly as 'Dave Baby'.

JOJO: What a charming young fellow he was. I am SO SURPRISED he didn't win. Even in the genuinely unscripted part of the WWE show, the whole hero/villain thing orchestrated by the writers behind the scenes paid off. As soon as he got up there in that Nexus shirt, he was doomed. Of course, his self-pantsing probably didn't help.

BANG: Why don't any wrestlers 'pants' each other? It seems like a sensible tactic. I also wanted to see some hair-pulling (particularly from the divas who had all that weave flying around), but the closest we came was Dolph Ziggler chinning Kofi Kingston in the ponytail. Thanks Dolph Ziggler, Lord of the Chin-stand.

JOJO: That chin-stand was pretty spesh. Another moment of which I was particularly fond, because of the excellent writing demonstrated - seriously, SUCH SKILL - is when villainous The Miz took the microphone and told the crowd, 'shut up, I want to say my catchphrase'. I WONDER WHAT THE WRITERS THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT. Certainly not five minutes of The Miz putting the microphone to his mouth only to be interrupted by the crowd going GISDHFLSHFKUHWKFHKIUSHFDKJH at him. (His catchphrase is 'Because I'm The Miz... and I'm awesome!' if anyone is interested. I could not see anything particularly awesome about him... even his speedos and gogo boots were dull by WWE standards.)

BANG: It was really obvious who was written as a villain because they all initiated their monologues with a generalised insult towards Australia. Even CM Punk. I cried.

JOJO: It's okay, Bang Bang. It's theatre. He didn't mean it. We know he's a freaking legend.

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