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WWE: Killing Serial Entertainment?

I was really interested in watching The Messengers on the CW Network. It looked intriguing, and I forgot all about the CW’s disaster called The Tomorrow People, it’s penchant for politically motivated inclusions and that it was another retelling of Apocalyptic tales (something Sleepy Hollow did well, but also plays into the theme of this piece).

[adinserter block=”1″]Tomorrow People was a pretty cool concept, but played out a lot less like Jack Kirby and a lot more like Vince Russo, which may or may not have been caused by it not getting enough traction, by it not being quite “super-heroic” enough or maybe the casting of teenagers with older looking actors was a huge disconnect that doomed it from the start.

Tomorrow People was definitively of the modern era of episodic, serialized entertainment. It threw too many plot twists, had too many character decisions that weren’t character-driven, and plot holes the size of a Jack Kirby Celestial. Those details are long forgotten, but delving into details rarely makes a good point.

It just gives enough for dismissing the criticism.

The big picture is the problem. Having all this secretive, evolutionary, end-of-the-world dynamics, and then revealing that everyone that you thought didn’t know, knew, just blew out the believability. It wasn’t quite Heroes-like (where the Petrelli family was all but the McMahon family of the WWE Universe, everyone else didn’t matter, and anyone that did matter ended up being related).

But it went in that direction.

What’s worse, things happened so quickly that missing a show meant missing what should have been six episodes. (To speed up to pro wrestling relevance, there really was a good reason why ECW repeated scenes and moments from the last show. That of course is reason enough (and resonance to this theme) as to why the WWE rarely tells you what happened last week). Episodes of a TV series need to build upon each other, stick to established characteristics and make each storyline twist meaningful.

Which is not done by making everything over-the-top and overly done and having too many of them.

That’s the Russo theory of booking pro wrestling, and strangely enough it pervades other serialized entertainment forms.

Getting back to The Message Messengers, that show reeked of potential and of pitfalls. A more Biblical approach to Sleep Hollow seemed great, but within a few shows there were Horsemen defeated and undefeated and beaten-but-not-beaten and within a few more shows it seemed like the Apocalypse was averted, but then the Horsemen “turned on” THE DEVIL, and made him sympathetic (but then again, really not so since he just doesn’t want to see the END OF TIMES, since that would be boring).

The problem with averting the Apocalypse is … what happens next.

Swerving the audience into thinking/believing the end is done is like a match with no inherent storytelling, and a hundred false finishes. Unfortunately the audience that remains truly believes that a dozen false finishes makes for a great match.

And no one can tell them otherwise?

It’s bad enough that a show based on Biblical stories makes the religious characters sound hideous, makes all the characters morally ambivalent (no true heels or faces here!) and otherwise beats senselessness into the fundamental tapestry of it all (everything is coincidence, nothing is coincidental, but the details …. well, let’s just ignore those).

Seems like these days the producers want people to watch On-Demand and show-after-show. I’m thinking that makes it all a lot more palatable, but whatever happened to “must see” TV, watching it as it aired, enjoying it the way it was intended?

Getting this to wrestling, let’s talk WWE and a surprising and well anticipating turn to booking of yesteryear. In the intrigues of Cena vs Owens, has everyone overlooked the “programming” of it all? This is a distinct trilogy, this is an ongoing series of matches, and along the way the heel is built up and the hero is built up and it makes the third match all the more interesting.

It’s awesome to see that Owens isn’t being a tweener, that what I saw with Machine Gun Kelly screamed “angle alert” but beating up the home-town musician wasn’t anywhere near taken with a positive crowd response, and Owens isn’t smirking and winking and nodding his way to anyone’s hearts.

He’s being a true heel.

Meanwhile Cena is being Cena and based on being Cena for a decade. He doesn’t need to exchange barbs and diminish himself while combating the threat. That’s what I find interesting. That’s what I hope is the fulfillment of what was said to a friend of mine a year and a half ago. (I think it was that long ago).

Meanwhile, there’s a long story involving the Bellas and Paige, and now Paige can’t find anyone to back her. It’s interesting, character-driven on many levels, and plays off of WWE Universe and old school mentality.

By the way, did JBL really say Saraya Knight?

While the other glittering jewels of internet commentary speculate on who gets called up, they obviously have no clue who Saraya Knight is, or that she’s twice the talent of her daughter, five times the presence, and since Paige is so much superior to the Divas roster, what does that mean?

I’d explain the booking of the last time I watched those two in the ring, but I don’t want to spoil what I hope to happen on TV.

In episodes.

With a properly told storyline that lasts weeks and months, not segments and commercial breaks.

Meanwhile, over in ROH land, I watched with mixed expectations. After all, Joe Koff touted his writers and his producers, so I had to see what is going on.

ROH announce crew overhyped the Jay Briscoe vs Jay Lethal match, but the Colby Corino stuff is really, really good. Putting on a tag team match with ROH’s best high flyer of the past few years and the current best, against one of the best in the world, and another top Japanese star – well, that’s American booking and ROH at its usual – great match, diminished by no build-up, pathetically giving a guy a pinfall loss who shouldn’t be seen losing, and in the end, what’s next for them all?

If the Japanese crew is going to be a big part of ROH, that’s great.

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Championship match is full of talent, great promos (I love the signing, which went from “not this” to great lines from both in a duel o words and an explanation of why there’s not going to be physicality at-this-moment. That was awesome.

The crowd, awesome.

[adinserter block=”2″]The resonance of having two belts being fought over, having meaningless tag matches (no matter how great in the ring) and having announcers over-hype the “Biggest match in ROH” was blah.

Biggest match? What about Homicide, Eddie Guerrero, CM Punk, Samoa Joe; CZW vs ROH, various angles in the past, various belts changing hands after long runs?

What’s going to happen next week to top this?

That’s the problem with Serialized Entertainment from comic books (yeah, I’m not going to even start with that) to TV shows, with professional wrestling over the past 15 years. There’s a lot of hype, and a lot of good things, but the big things get blown out of proportion, so more things get thrown out, and less things matter.

And next week it seems so…. anticlimactic.

But I have hope for ROH. And for what the WWE may be doing. So let’s just wait and see.

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Joe Babinsack
Joe Babinsack can be reached at Thanks to Eric for giving me a platform to talk about my passions, and look for reviews (like Vintage Quebec wrestling) coming soon.


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