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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Prime Time's Avatar
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    Prime Time on Wrestling XIX - The Morality of Wrestling




    This column began as a result of a conversation between Mizfan and myself on Twitter back in the spring. After a while it just sat there, unfinished, but prompted by other comments I've seen online since I was inspired to finish it off. It's a product of a few different months, a few different mental states and influences, but I think I've done a reasonable job of bringing it all together into something pretty coherent.I hope you enjoy it.


    If nothing else it's a chance to break out the PTOW banner, which hasn't been seen for a long time.





    Sometimes wrestling gets called a soap opera. It's not, but it probably has enough similarities that at times it helps to think about it in those terms. And sometimes wrestling gets called a morality play. And it's not, but it has enough similarities that at times it helps to think about it in those terms, too.

    Why am I telling you this? Stick around, this could be a fun, circular little trip.


    *

    To summarise artistic critique with the subtlety of a brick, there are basically two ways of doing criticism. You can either read with the grain of a text or against it. This isn't a purely straightforward choice between two equal options, but rather something that will lead to a radically different way of assessing the text; or, to put that another way, you need to choose the right tool for the job because each method can only really accomplish one goal.

    The earliest history of the various disciplines of artistic appraisal all began from the same premise, which is that they taught something that we might call the appreciation of art. Basically, someone who knew more about it than you did would tell you why some things were good or bad. That was one way of reading with the grain, although it's not the only way and there's more to it than that.

    When that came to be challenged in the twentieth century, various methods of reading against the grain of a text came to be recognized as valid ways of ‘doing' literary or artistic criticism. Racial and ethnic perspectives, feminist perspectives, class perspectives, ideas brought in from across the scientific and political spectra – basically the traditional Anglo-American fortress of criticism was stormed by all these new ways of looking at texts, which challenged a hierarchy dominated at the time by upper-middle class white men.

    What often gets missed is that those new ways of doing criticism do something fundamentally different from the older method, and those newer methods that hold some sympathy with it (like, say, those inspired by French theory). Someone I worked with once said to me that a lot of criticism takes an idea that is already out there in the world and then does something to the text using that framework, but to do something like that is actually an attack on the text itself. The best form of criticism is not one in which you change the text, but one in which you come to the text in the most open way imaginable and are in turn changed by it.

    That's probably too passive a thought for many in the paranoid age in which we find ourselves, but nonetheless, is a pretty decent rule of thumb. No one can come to any text as a completely free agent, but that doesn't mean that you junk the entire concept. That's an overcorrection. To bring too much of yourself, your preconceived ideas, to the text before you start will mean that – like a cave on Dagobah – you only ever find in the text what you take in with you.


    *

    At this point, you probably have four questions. Yeah? And? So? What?

    Well, if you want to take those two ways of doing criticism and apply them to wrestling you find that you have much the same sort of dichotomy at work. It's completely possible to write something against the grain of a storyline in order to expose something about it. One of the most memorable columns I can recall in the history of the forums was by my Champion Sound and LoP Championship committee colleague, Uncle Joe, who essentially re-read the early years of the Nation of Domination angle as babyfaces to expose a lot of the ideological fault-lines on which the stable rested.

    It was a great column, but I don't think it takes a genius to see that it involves essentially breaking aspects of the story in order to make its point. While I agree on the actual point Joe was trying to make, what I don't think you can really say is that a reading in which Faarooq was a babyface in 1996 or 1997 holds water. If you actually want to understand the wrestling scene at that time, thinking of Faarooq as a heel and his subsequent place in the angles would be pretty essential.

    This is where the reference to morality plays comes into things. If you think about it this way, how insightful do you think a reading of a medieval morality play would be if you were to turn it around and say that, actually, the devil or the demon is the good guy in this scenario? The short answer is not a lot. It might show you something about religion or in the society in which it is made that you wouldn't have otherwise expected to see, but when it comes to the story itself you'd learn virtually nothing from that kind of inversion.

    The medieval morality play is a fairly simplistic, and, as a result, an extreme, example. But the same thing holds true for any text. High Noon doesn't work if you think Gary Cooper is a dick and you side with the people who let him down. King Lear pretty much falls apart if you think Cordelia should have been two-faced for practical reasons and sucked up to her dad as her elder sisters' did. I'm guessing Apollo 13 has no jeopardy if you think they faked the moon missions and they were really in a film studio somewhere. In short, the narrative lines of all texts operate on some kind of moral framework that are part of the reason that they have meaning.

    And what that means in practice is that for a reading of a wrestling angle or character to be valid, it must necessarily first be in sympathy with the ethical frame prescribed within that narrative. Or, put another way, any interpretation is wrong on the face of it if it doesn't acknowledge that the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad. It's an incredibly simple point and should be self-evident but it is one that, remarkably, seems to need repeating more and more often nowadays.


    *

    When I first had the idea for this column – some two months ago, now – it occurred to me that if you were watching in the right way there were only really four reasons for liking the heels and booing the babyfaces. There is, of course, a fifth way, which is just to like who you like regardless of the story. But as that renders any consideration of narrative moot on the face of it there's no place for it here. Hence, the four reasons are:

    1) The writing is bad

    If people are working against what a promotion is attempting and it is nothing to do with the crowd being contrarian, then the short and long is that what people are being asked to do is probably not very good in the first place. This one applies more to the dislike for the babyfaces, I think. Certainly, I think it's something that can be brought into the conversation when talking about both John Cena and Roman Reigns, and probably explains The Rock's difficulties as a babyface at various points despite his obvious talent. I'd add that this can apply to specific plot points, but also to the idea that someone could be misaligned – working face when they should be heel or vice versa. Sometimes I think people twist the babyface into the heel role to maintain their interest despite some poor writing, when the more honest answer would just be to own up to the weakness of what the performer is being asked to do.

    That said, this can't be invoked just at any point. In the case of something like Hogan and Andre, it's quite clear that Andre betrayed Hogan with no real cause. The arguments that Hogan was ‘asking for it' by hogging Andre's spotlight are spurious, and based on selective evidence. They're much the same as arguing that Owen Hart was justified for his actions against Bret Hart in 1994. Neither argument holds even a fluid ounce of water. Both tell you nothing about the angle: merely that the person making the case doesn't like Hulk Hogan, or prefers Owen to Bret, and has come up with slightly less than half a justification for it.

    However, in the Hogan and Savage feud, when Hogan implies that he might be playing with himself to a poster of Liz, or the following year when Warrior says he is going to crash Hogan's plane on the way to Wrestlemania? Those are examples of some real suspect shit and can be subsumed under the notion of bad writing.

    2) The promotion operates on a ‘non-standard' moral framework

    I think this one applies to a lot of contemporary wrestling and is typical of my own experience with NJPW. This is a promotion in which people are constantly battling out into the crowd, disqualifications are at a premium, and in which the good guys are as likely to cheat to win as the villains. It doesn't operate on a standard wrestling model. ‘Good' and ‘bad' are less fixed coordinates, everyone does what they have to do to win, and there is more of a ‘wild west' vibe. In this case, I think you're essentially able to do what you like without running into any interpretive difficulties. A similar example might be the Harts vs the US story through the Summer of 1997, in which almost everyone involved was a cheating swine and your allegiance usually came down to nationality, or which wrestlers you liked best, and little more than that.

    These are less common than you might think, though. I imagine a lot of people immediately think of the Attitude era as this kind of Wild West environment, but in moral terms, it was fairly obvious that Steve Austin and Mick Foley were good, and that McMahon and his corporation were bad. Just because the moral framework was not the same as it had been in 1990 doesn't mean it didn't exist.

    3) that you'd actually treat people like that in real life. Basically, because you're a piece of shit.

    Self-explanatory, really. If you're a bit of a sociopath expecting you to comprehend something as inherently social as morality is a fool's errand. You'll be wrong about wrestling but frankly, that'll be the least of your worries.

    4) the simplest cause of all: being just plain wrong about it.

    This is the oldest explanation in the book, and the one that explains most instances the most neatly. But if I’m going to do more than just pronounce this, this one requires more than a few words before it can sit with the others satisfactorily.


    *

    In the vast majority of the wrestling I have seen, whether in America, Britain, Japan, Mexico, Germany, or wherever, the ethical structures of wrestling are essentially the same. This is true of anything that can be called professional wrestling, rather than more properly being thought of as ‘sports entertainment', while even in a lot of the latter the same things would apply. The reason that people do find themselves out of sympathy with the line of a show is that they bring their own framework to the show and attempt to apply it. That's something they have the right to do, of course, but it also means that whatever they produce will be less valid as an interpretation because it will necessarily exist out of alignment with the text.

    What is interesting, though, is that in most cases there is a shortcut that you can take into understanding the ethics of the situation onscreen. The lead announcer essentially acts as the narrator of wrestling. They are imperfect narrators, of course, and at times I think that leads people to overcorrect and throw everything about them out of the window – this character is imperfect, therefore they are unreliable, and therefore I trust nothing they say.

    Criticism used as such a blunt instrument will never yield results. It should be a scalpel, not a truncheon.

    The wrestling announcer is an imperfect being because they are not omnipotent. They are actually fairly minor agents in the wrestling world for the most part and can have little effect on a narrative's trajectory. They are also far from omniscient – the wrestling announcer who knows too much can actually be a drawback, as I find whenever I listen to Bill Watts call his own product. They need to be taken in on occasion, just like the rest of us, and ‘not knowing' and waiting for a resolution was traditionally a big part of the appeal of pro wrestling.

    But with the exception of the few uniformly-disastrous occasions where promotions have flirted with turning their lead announcer heel, they are omnibenevolent. This figure – whether you like them or not, whether it's Gorilla Monsoon or Tony Schiavone or Jim Ross or Mike Tenay – is a moral anchor in the middle of the show, a reference point from which the bearings of other events and characters are taken. They are the people that we hear from most and, importantly, we know that for the most part, they are fairly uncomplicated babyfaces, who outwardly reflect the values of the promotion – more so, in some cases, than the onscreen manifestations of the promotion themselves who can also act as similar kinds of ethical compass points, though do so with less consistency. But there's a straightforward relationship, and that is when the lead announcer finds themselves advocating something that seems less than moral, either there's a complexity there that you are missing or they've been twisted into looking like an idiot by bad writing, or a bad performance on the part of the wrestlers in the match.


    *

    What, then, are the ethics of wrestling? It seems to me that the biggest mistake that people make is that they approach it on an absolutist or a deontological basis. Put simply, that means that what is right is right in all cases, and this is governed by certain rules.

    This simply isn't the case. One of the most important things to remember is that wrestling narratives unfold and as they do say, they change, and one of the things that changes includes what is morally permissible. Wrestling is not a world for Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and the universalizability principle.

    Instead, the ethical laws of wrestling are constructed out of a number of other theoretical positions. For example, generally speaking, as wrestling is supposed to be a contest it is considered right that the participants fully comply with the rulebook. However, if your opponent is breaking the rules and it requires you to take advantage of an opportunity in order to avoid defeat, this is fine. This is an instance of a kind of moral particularism in which it would be worse to allow the real cheater to prosper. A far simpler version of this theory is often espoused in wrestling: ‘turnabout is fair play'.

    This is dependent on chronology, as is wrestling's dependence on something akin to virtue theory. We forget in this age of dipping in and out that wrestling is supposed to be followed in full from week to week. That's the way most of the wrestling that has ever been created was designed. People, then, do not enter a wrestling ring in a vacuum, but as part of an unfolding narrative in which aspects of their character have already been related. As simplistic as it might seem, it is therefore right to treat an established good man as if he is good and a bad man as if he is bad. If you've seen a manager get involved in matches before there is no moral prohibition against pre-emptive action if they place themselves on the ring apron, in the same way that there might be if you were to, say, pull him up from the floor unprovoked. In the latter case you have pre-empted his intention but, in the former, knowing his intention you do not have to wait for him to actively disadvantage you before taking action. It is also by this logic that things such as Hogan knocking out Sherri were excused – something that almost certainly wouldn't be allowed today but that was justified within the period's internal schema through her constant interventions. As unpalatable as it might be for some people, the ethical justification for Hogan at the time was that Sherri, through her own actions, 'was asking for it'.

    There's also an element of reciprocity involved, in that you are expected to give as good as you get. That can mean you are allowed to do things to a vicious heel that wouldn't be acceptable against a young fresh-faced jobber, but it also has other, more complex components too. To return to Hogan and Andre briefly, when Hogan won the title Andre burst into his locker room and the two celebrated, together. In 1987, when Hogan came out to celebrate with Andre, the jealous giant turned on his former friend. Andre is in the wrong here because he broke the implied code established by his own conduct earlier in their shared narrative.

    I could obviously go on forever on this, and touch on things like patriotism, family, tag-team partners and how you treat them, the morality of what happens after a win or a loss, but space is a constant constraint in column writing, and I already know this thing is going to be as long as an essay. But the key thing is that in all cases it will come down to who is involved, how have they conducted themselves to this point, and how are they interacting with each other now?


    *

    One thing I've said a number of times here is that interpretations that involve cheering the heels are wrong. I've a feeling that is going to get some out there riled up, but before you start stomping your little Buster Browns and get all angry at me there's one last point I want you to consider.

    Not all readings are as valid as all others, especially not if we're trying to judge them as informed criticism. Moby Dick is not a parable of Vietnam. Hamlet is not a story about a computerized pig. Valid readings are informed and governed by textual detail, and not only details but an understanding of the internal logic and sympathies of the text – including its ethical structure. This is a necessary condition.

    We seem to live in a world in which everyone has a phobia of being wrong, that somehow it is an attack on your ‘right' to be considered right. For me, it's a simple truth that while you have an automatic right to your opinion, you don't automatically have the right that it be presumed correct, but that is something that is earned instead. The sad irony about such a phobia is that each of us will be wrong, in part or in total, at least twenty times a day, on pretty much every subject under the sun.

    But more to the point, it doesn't really matter – because while you may not have the right to be right, you have the right to your take, however bat-shit as it might be. And the truth is that there have always been wrestling fans that are selectively wrong, wrong because they want to be, who cheer things that they know to be wrong because they like the people who do it. There have always been fans who are wrong simply because they enjoy it more when they are wrong. There's a dipshit version of that where people just do it to cause trouble, but that's not what all fans who cheer the heels are doing.

    In some cases, those fans are involved in something altogether more creative. They've generated a whole other world, a parallel text if you like, one that sits beside the original and operates on a framework more to their liking. Yes, it might well be an act of great violence against the original narrative, but great creativity can emerge from such violent eruptions. Just think of Heiner Muller's treatment of Hamlet, or even something like the overall oeuvre of Punk. It'll never replace the actual text, and it'll never be right, but if you enjoy it, who cares? It's far better to get something out of anything than to be left cold. If the reason you get a kick out of wrestling is that kind of world-building then all power to you.

    It's just not going to tell us anything about the actual angle – so don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  2. #2
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    First and foremost, in my personal opinion I don't think it's truly fair to criticize anything unless you've had a fair share of experience in whatever you decide to criticize. Without any experience I'd say that all criticism could be rendered moot. However, what you can criticize is how you view a product based on your personal preference. That I believe, without valid experience, is the only way you can criticize.

    When it comes to good guys and bad guys, in my opinion I think it's all about perception. For example, the Punk/Hardy storyline of 2009. Punk criticized Hardy for being a drug addict when he was strait-edged. That should mean that Hardy is the bad guy based on his previous drug addicition. However, based on your perception you could also view that story as Hardy trying to overcome his history of drug abuse and succeeding whilst Punk acts like a self-righteous prick. But like you said it's all about morality and I think people's views views are based on their morality.

    Finally, if say that the line between heels and faces have become so blurred that some fans just decide to ignore a wrestlers alignment altogether. This that divide by hearing cheers and boos for a face. From character perspective this is great as it creates more fleshed out personas, but some fans might get confused and this perhaps confuses WWE with who they feel is most popular amongst fans.

    I really enjoyed this column, Prime. Fantastic work here.

  3. #3
    The Brain
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    I was hoping this column would eventually surface! As we've discussed, I love your take on this, and you've articulating it spectacularly, even if I still can't quite agree with all you've said. I think the crux of where we differ may come down to what you term "bad writing".

    For example, take the Andre/Hogan story you mentioned. To you, it's clear cut. Andre celebrated with Hogan when he won the title, so Hogan coming out to celebrate with Andre when he was awarded is all well and good, and Andre had no cause to take any action that he did. But when Andre came to celebrate, Hogan clearly welcomed him, and Andre never looked to dominate the frame or make a speech of his own over Hogan, whereas Hogan's intrusion clearly made Andre uncomfortable from the first, and rattling on the way he did while not even noticing that Andre had departed clearly indicates Hogan had his own interests at heart over Andre. The facts also remain clear, though Hogan protests that he loves Andre with all his heart, he never gave any hint as to being willing to defend his title against the Giant. Indeed, all that Andre does is stand next to Heenan, and Hogan is ready to cast him in the worst possible light. His reaction may be understood to a point considering his past with the Brain, but even so Andre attempts no dirty tricks or vicious attacks, only demands a title shot and tears Hogan's shirt a bit. If Hogan's protestations that he loved Andre like a father or a brother were sincere, this is something that could be worked through, yet after a week of introspection he is ready to condemn Andre to the lowest depths, and directs all his followers to follow his lead. For years Gorilla Monsoon claimed to be a close personal friend of Andre, but the moment he ran afoul of Hogan, Monsoon abandoned him utterly and condemned him at every word. On WWF: The Legacy Series, Shane called this behavior cult like, assigning Hogan the power to cast people in and out of the light at will. Hogan's own jealousy and insecurity is exposed through his actions, though it is not the narrative pushed at the time. And that doesn't even touch on the rarely spoken of scenario leading to Andre's return, where he was unjustly suspended and Hogan never made any public attempt to help his friend be reinstated, whereas Heenan is the one who actually brought him back into the fold (granted that Heenan played a part in suspending him in the first place).

    What's the point of all this long winded recap? Beyond saying again that I sympathize with Andre, at least in part, I also don't assign that sympathy to bad writing or to my own biases taking over. Like you say, we can't leave ourselves out of the picture entirely, but simply by interpreting events as they unfolded within the story I find there are faults on both sides. To me, "bad writing" is when we get into something like Russo, where it's no longer clear why people are doing what they're doing or what they're meant to stand for. If a story reads to me differently than the author intended then maybe they weren't good at convincing me with their writing, but as long as the story unfolds in an interesting way and the characters are clearly defined and motivated, I can't call that bad.

    But I suppose in your mind I'll always fall into that group that creates their own false narrative in order to enjoy the story more, and I suppose that's probably true to a point. I'm not the type to go with the grain as a matter of course, my own kind of analysis demands only accepting a story as it's told if it's well earned, which I guess ties into your "bad writing" idea. I think a story can have just as much value with an against the grain interpretation, and sometimes more, but I think on that point I may be treading into waters so muddled that I'm not even sure we're disagreeing anymore.

    Basically yeah, I loved this. Your columns dissecting the deep inner workings of wrestling and of storytelling itself are always brilliant, bravo Pete!
    Last edited by mizfan; 2 Weeks Ago at 03:57 PM.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Prime Time's Avatar
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    First, thank you both for the great feedback. I'm going to get that in before I start replying individually. I know a column like this can be a bit of a slog but I'm glad there were people who got something out of it.

    Don Franc - I think the word 'criticism' to describe what I do for a living is a bit unfortunate, because it has a really negative connotation. Analysis is probably better, and in terms of what people think of when they hear it, more accurate. We're not critics the way that a reviewer in a magazine or newspaper would be. But actually, when it comes to wrestling, I agree with you. I've come around to the idea in the last few years that there's something unique about wrestling that means it isn't just like other art forms, and I don't think it's as easy to judge without experience as a book or a film. Obviously even in those cases practical experience of writing or making a movie can widen your perspective, but in wrestling I think it's pretty much impossible to really judge as a novice.

    I don't really think it's all about perception, though that might influence how individuals react. I don't know the Punk and Hardy angle well because I quit watching for a while in 2008, but from what I've heard I think it's a good example of what I'm talking about here. See, the benefit of Punk's character, for a booker, is that the straight-edge thing can be played both ways - dial up one aspect and he's a kinda rebellious but ultimately safe role-model babyface, while you play up the other and he's a self-righteous prig who talks down to people about their human failings. But I think, by implication, the story will have self-contained morality within it - as in, you're not really supposed to cheer Punk when he's tipped too far that way. The morality of the story then calls for an empathy - or even just sympathy - that Punk does not display. If the same is true of the audience member their interpretation of the narrative will be necessarily true.

    I'm not a big believer in the idea that the line between faces and heels being blurred is a good thing - I believe there were always some fairly simple and crude babyfaces and heels, but there were also some people within those lines who were really complex figures and well booked. Y'know, in 1989 Flair goes from being the heel against Steamboat to the babyface against Terry Funk, but through it all he's Ric Flair, and the character doesn't change all that much. And I just think it's handled so well, so much better than most of what we've seen over the past twenty years. So yeah, that's my take on it - I think the current trend has been bad for wrestling, not really because the line has been blurred so much as people cheering for who they want has led to far fewer genuinely red hot crowds - even the ones who are into it don't have the same feeling that they used to, and it's massively to wrestling's detriment.


    Mizfan - Yes, it did eventually surface. It might help with the term 'bad writing' if I add that by it I purely mean this is a kind of writing that aims to convince, and if it doesn't do that then it's failed in it's aim. I don't mean to imply that it can't still be entertaining, merely that in most wrestling through history the goal has been to get you on the babyface's side, and if you're not, then one of the reasons could be that the material hasn't worked as intended. If it's not attempting to convince you of something, then that wouldn't be a concern - which is why I wouldn't count it against the 'ambiguous moral order' wrestling that you sometimes come across.

    Y'know, the funny thing is I do get where you're coming from on Hogan and Andre, so I'd have to reply by saying that I don't think to me it's clear cut so much as it is to the story. Like, you make the point here and I'd probably agree with you, but when I watch that story I know that's not the way the narrative is constructed. I think the issue is probably that we're looking at it through the eyes of 2018 rather than 1987 - and while we might expect Hogan to notice something like that now, back then the fact of Andre's being uncomfortable in the first place is a symptom of the moral failing that turns him heel. Quite simply, he should not be uncomfortable for someone doing something that he himself has done, and acting on that feeling - certainly to join forces with Heenan, who even by the jokey-Bobby standards of the 1980s is still someone outside of the moral order - puts him beyond the pale. I can't go into too much of the recap because you've probably watched it more recently than I have - but just to check, didn't the Andre appearance with Heenan come after weeks of Heenan instigating on Prime Time Wrestling, making claims about Andre that Gorilla dismissed as ludicrous, so when he actually appeared with Bobby it wasn't an immediate thing but a confirmation? That's how I remember it, anyway. Needless to say, I'm going to say that you're massively underplaying the act on Hogan, because the point isn't that he tears his shirt, it's that he rips his cross from his chest, and I'm sure I don't need to point out just how far outside the moral order that act places Andre in the context of the 1980s WWF.

    The point about a cult-like aura is an interesting one - but my immediate reaction to that is just to think is that not actually the best summary for what every promoter has tried to achieve with their top babyface? It seems like a decent metaphor to me, instinctively. It might well be the case that the only reason we don't see it is that no one sees the cult they are in as a cult....

    I do agree with you on things still having value, absolutely, but I feel like there's a real headfuck of a column on the difference between right and value, one that even I don't have the stomach to attempt!



    Thanks again gentlemen. Your feedback has made writing this worthwhile!
    Last edited by Prime Time; 2 Weeks Ago at 05:40 AM.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  5. #5
    The Brain
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    Haha, I suppose I did undersell Andre roughing up Hogan. And you're partly right about Heenan, he made no allegations about aligning forces with him but he did start speaking positively of him and taking his side when he seemed uncomfortable with Hogan, and blaming Hogan for not giving him a title shot, which Monsoon of course dismissed out of hand. The thing is, Hogan and his cronies full defense is Andre never wanted a title shot, but when he does come ask for one (roughly, I'll admit) that makes him the bad guy after all! I probably am using 2018 morality, as you say, but if Hogan loved Andre the way he claimed to, you'd think he would say ok big man, if you've changed your mind about a title shot you've got it, you don't have to align with the Weasel to get it, let's go one on one and see who the better man is. But he never even tries, he's just horrified that he would stand next to Heenan and still never offers him a shot or even mentions it, just tells him who to be. For the morality of the era I can see that it's cut and dry, but I just can't engage like that!

    It's a fair question if every promotion builds a cult around their top babyface. I think that may be true to some extent but perhaps nowhere more so than in Hogan's WWF!

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Prime Time's Avatar
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    I think a big point is that Andre doesn't ask for a title until he turns up with Heenan. It's a bit like saying you never asked for a date and then asking for one after you've set off a nuclear weapon. And rest assured, in this framework aligning yourself with Heenan is not just standing next to someone, it's the nuclear option. It is to abandon everything good in pursuit of your own ambition. The instinct is to save his soul, first and foremost - and the confirmation that it's needed comes when he rips the cross from his former best friend's chest. By that point the title match is the least of the concerns.

    I think the way I see it resolves a lot of those questions - Andre goes from being OK, to challenging Hogan and stood by the side of the most evil man in the company, who is obsessed with taking the title - is it not the most obvious explanation that all Andre's objections were caused by Bobby's manipulation? That he preyed on a moral weakness in Andre and drove a wedge between the two babyfaces? That it's not really a story of ambition, but of two best friends being ripped apart by the machinations of a trickster who had failed with every preceeding gambit?

    But yeah we may never agree. I do think I added the last paragraph largely because of the point you make about not wanting to watch like that, because I do think it's more important to be engaged than to be right - it's all just about knowing what we're doing as audience members, I think.


    Something went through my head while watching Summerslam and thinking about this, which is in the Lynch/Charlotte angle. Truth is, Charlotte is clearly 'in the right' at Summerslam with how it's figured, but they're at such pains to remove any moral censure from Becky Lynch. Surely no wonder you get a split crowd and a load of smarks chanting that Charlotte deserves to be beaten down by her best friend.

    See, that's bollocks. I'm more of a Lynch guy, but it's bollocks. Understanding Becky's frustration is not the same thing as letting her off the moral hook, and that kind of bullshit equivalency is part of why there's so little real emotional investment in any stories. It necessarily collapses the idea of any serious consequences from events. If you don't treat things with a real moral framework, then everything else fails to have any serious consequence, too.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  7. #7
    The Brain
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    I think you also have to view it in the perspective of the world of professional wrestling too. In the Charlotte/Becky example, yes, morally you shouldn't physically attack someone even if you're understandably frustrated. But in the world of wrestling, especially these days, that's rather like saying "hello, I have a grievance to discuss". It's just so expected it barely qualifies as an immoral action. I'm pretty sure you see that fact as an indictment of modern wrestling as a whole, and I don't even necessarily disagree, but it's the reality of things. Maybe the base of it is what the audience considers "immoral" is pretty much nil nowadays.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Prime Time's Avatar
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    You're right, I do see it as an indictment of modern wrestling!

    I don't think we massively disagree here so perhaps we come to different conclusions. Because I agree with you that in the modern wrestling world, Lynch's reaction is too common too be truly immoral. But they've written a story that clearly relies on that for it's emotional connection. And yet, we're surprised that there's a disconnect between fans and the product - even though you write a story that calls for you to condemn someone for something that is treated as routine. No wonder people just cheer who they want to cheer, because they're not given a coherent reason to do anything else.

    In the case of Lynch/Charlotte I'd call it bad writing, but it's not the feud itself that is bad writing so much as that feud being hindered by wider issues in the rest of the product, and the two not matching up well.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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