The Anti-Antagonist: Size Matters

Adam Gorzelsky

RybackA few months ago, Kevin Nash set off a bit of a firestorm when he claimed that Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit essentially killed professional wrestling at Wrestlemania XX. While he didn’t necessarily indict Guerrero and Benoit as wrestlers, his overall premise was that placing ordinary looking individuals at the top of the mountain kills the notion that the business is larger than life.

On a macro scale, I couldn’t disagree more with Kevin’s statements. While there is no question that the current popularity of wrestling pales in comparison to the buzz felt during the Attitude Era, to lay this decline at the feet of undersized competitors is extremely short-sighted (no pun intended).

Simply put, relatively average looking individuals such as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels carried the business up to and throughout wrestling’s popularity boom…As such, it is incredibly difficult to pinpoint size or the lack thereof as a major determinative factor in the success or failure of the product.

With that said, while I disagree with Kevin’s statement on a macro scale, there certainly is truth behind his assertions in specific situations. The CM Punks and Daniel Bryans of this world have flourished on the back of pure talent, work ethic, and a culture of fans that again have grown to love and appreciate the art of wrestling.

However, at the end of the day, they’ve also benefitted from a form of entertainment that insulates their characters from the most obvious of threats…Only in professional wrestling can a 6’2” 220 pound competitor reign supreme amid a roster consisting of individuals of freakish size and strength…I love the opportunities for guys of all shapes and sizes, but occasionally this insulation becomes exposed.

Two particular situations currently unfolding in WWE and TNA illustrate this concept with precision…Situations in which dominate big men have been cast in a light that would render their failure to reach the top inexplicable and unacceptable…even in a kayfabe world.

In WWE, the most obvious and logically executed example has been Ryback. I initially disagreed with his rapid ascension to the main event, but upon further review, it had to be done. When you bill a character as an unstoppable monster, anything less than an assault on the WWE Title picture is insulting to the intelligence of the audience…In short, the creation of Ryback left little room to backpedal.

WWE also has done an admirable job of protecting this dominant persona while ensuring that the belt stays around the waist of CM Punk. By necessity, Punk has played the cowardly heel to perfection…taking punishment when necessary while brilliantly projecting a realistic level of concern that is to be expected when facing an individual of Ryback’s size and level of intensity.

An extremely personal and physical feud may be on the horizon as a mechanism to temporarily remove Ryback from the title picture on the road to Wrestlemania….Nevertheless, as long as the Ryback character is intended to remain in its current state, this absence from the top should not and will not be prolonged.

This brings me to the TNA situation referenced earlier in this piece…After months of speculation, Matt Morgan has returned to television with a renewed purpose and a level of aggression that matches his immense size…For anyone who has followed his career, it is readily apparent that this type of dominant persona is long overdue and wholly necessary to fully utilize the talent packed into this rare physical specimen.

Nevertheless, no matter how necessary this dominant attitude may be to Matt from a personal standpoint, it’s only as believable and effective as TNA allows it to be. Given the current state of the TNA World Title picture, a failure to follow through on this character in a logical fashion can be devastating.

Not to take anything away from the accomplishments of either Jeff Hardy or Austin Aries, but the simple fact remains that these are two individuals whom Kevin Nash would describe as being no larger than the referee…In a professional wrestling vacuum, I have no problem with this situation from an entertainment standpoint…However, with a giant running around hell bent on domination, there is an incredibly short shelf life on the ability to avoid the logical inevitability.

Simply put: if TNA truly believes in Matt Morgan, the time is now to push him to the top. No reasonable individual with his size or on-screen desire would sit idly by as two individuals nearly half his size stake claim to the company’s richest prize…His character wouldn’t buy  it and nor should we.

Ultimately, you don’t bring Matt back with a vengeance without an intention to follow through fully…Such a failure would be an insult to the credibility of the booking and frankly would be a slap in the face to the intelligence of the fans. Make Hardy and/or Aries afraid of the monster…Make it legitimate….More importantly, make it quick.

I have no idea what TNA has planned for Matt Morgan in the near future, but I can say that his return has created a window of opportunity to establish a truly believable unstoppable force. Regardless of the talent and accomplishments of guys like Jeff Hardy and Austin Aries, their presence at the top has rendered this window perilously small.

Ask yourself one question…How long is a giant’s mission of destruction believable if he doesn’t attempt to squash every physically inferior competitor in his wake? To its credit, WWE realized the obvious answer to this question quickly as it relates to Ryback.

Regardless of how you feel about Matt, there is no question that TNA slowly is creating a similar situation for itself with an exceedingly more experienced competitor. Larger than life superstars may not be the catalyst in spiking wrestling’s popularity, but repeatedly ignoring the obvious physical and logical realities of their presence certainly can be its downfall.

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