Shane McMahon was indefinitely suspended on the September 5 edition of SmackDown Live. The Commissioner of the blue brand received the news from General Manager Daniel Bryan in the middle of the ring. To sum it up: oh boy, here we go again.
It’s no secret that WWE has been building toward a match with Shane versus Kevin Owens. From the moment that KO began blaming Shane for all of his recent misfortune, fans have been waiting for the inevitable to happen. This suspension is just the next step on the road to the showdown.
The question is do fans care about this? If Shane were heel and the match was against Sami Zayn, would the anticipation still be there? Perhaps. Or does this have more to do with Shane’s popularity carrying him through everything he does in the company?
Maybe the better question is why does the company insist on putting its corporate authority figures in the line of fire, especially when the figure’s last name is McMahon? Shane’s match at WrestleMania 32 with The Undertaker came from out of nowhere, as it seemed to be an excuse to just get him on the card, and give The Deadman someone to work.
Shane’s match with AJ Styles at WrestleMania 33 seemed to be for the same reason. Instead of booking Styles in a main event match for the WWE Championship, he worked Shane in a match that just didn’t need to happen.
So what gives? Is it that Shane himself loves getting in the ring and wants to work as much as possible, or does WWE just keep pulling him back in? Shane doesn’t need to compete, as it serves no other purpose but to fill a spot on the card. So why do it?
He’s respected for his heart, and he should be. Shane has pulled off more daring stunts in his career than some talents do in a lifetime. Of course Shane’s working punch and overall ring work isn’t exactly the most impressive bit of offense the business has ever seen, but he always gets a pass. After all, fans do love him.
Maybe that’s the point here. The buzz around the brand split has always been that there’s not enough top talent to carry each program. The aforementioned Zayn can’t get out of neutral, and Shinsuke Nakamura’s booking has been nothing short of horrendous. Both examples prove that WWE has tried to fill the roster with little to no planning ahead of time.
Shane is already over. He has history in the company and fans love him despite what role he’s playing. He doesn’t need to cut a promo or have five-star matches to connect with the crowd; he’s already connected. He’s a babyface that doesn’t wrestle, and he doesn’t need to, but he fills a spot that WWE needs filled.
Shane’s standing with the WWE faithful comes from a very simple place. Fans want to love him because the rest of his family is just so evil. Vince is unpredictable, and can turn the crowd on him in a heartbeat. Stephanie tries so hard at being bad that she overdoes it, and she’s hated because of it. Triple H is hailed as the maestro of NXT, but the legendary shovel he supposedly buries talent with is still talked about though his full-time career is long since over.
But Shane is different. No matter how many times he’s been a heel in the past, fans just don’t seem to buy it. At age 47, he still has a boyish face, and a trusting expression that seems to say “hey, I won’t let you down, I’m not like them.” Fans see this, and respond to it.
More importantly, they respect it. The fact that the McMahon family is surely not overrun with heartless monsters that want to rule the world is irrelevant. Shane is believed to be above the drama of it all, and perception is reality for fans. Shane could be the most heartless McMahon in the entire clan, but fans have a very hard time believing that.
Even as critics question the reasoning behind Shane versus Owens, it can be said that the other meaningless match on Monday Night Raw is in much worse shape. Roman Reigns versus John Cena, like Shane versus KO, is a match that just doesn’t need to happen. Fans know why it is, and understand it had to take place sooner or later. But no one is really happy about it. Roman and John have been exchanging barbs for two weeks on Raw, and it’s caused the buzz to increase, but it’s not been enough to cause the majority to change its mind.
The problem is Reigns and Cena have no real basis for heat, while Shane and Owens do. KO not only insulted Shane on the September 5 SmackDown Live, he brought Shane’s kids into it. Once that happened, it all began to make sense.
Owens’ gameplan had worked to perfection. He’s a heel that makes excuses, and runs from a fight. There’s nothing wrong with that, as many guys have made a very good living over the years doing exactly that. KO’s character knows how to push buttons, and he knows what to say to get his way. He knew that mentioning Shane’s family would be the spark that lights the fuse, and he was right. Shane may be suspended, and Owens may be threatening to burn SmackDown to the ground, but fans know it’s not over yet.
There’s a story here. There’s a reason for these two men to face off. This is not about two guys working for the top spot, or working to squash each other’s ego. This is about a good man trying to do the right thing being pushed by a coward that cares only about himself.
Shane doesn’t need to wrestle again, and he didn’t need to wrestle in the first place. But maybe that doesn’t matter now. Maybe all that matters is fans are getting a story that has their interest, and makes them care about what happens next. Shane will be used as long as fans care about him.