Bait & Switch

Mike Killam

WWE has this problem in its writing department where, more often than not, they are incapable of finishing one story before beginning another. All the plots have to overlap, to keep you coming back month after month, from PPV to PPV. It’s a story-telling device, and one that works, but it’s one that has to be executed by brilliant creative minds that can weave stories together into a finished quilt, without ruining the individual pieces that its made up of. 

The ending to last night’s Night of Champions is a good example of how NOT to weave two stories together. 

The same thing happens in Hollywood all the time. There is nothing worse than investing in a movie financially and emotionally, only for one terrible writing decision to snatch you back to reality ten seconds before the end credits. It’s like trying to force yourself back to sleep to recover an amazing dream you were having. The illusion is snapped – you can’t go back. 

“We have to go back, Kate!” 

In Cast Away, Tom Hanks spends four years trapped on a desert island. When he finally gets home, his family and friends have moved on without him. His girlfriend is married, and we never get to see what’s inside the package he’d been carrying around for most of the film. I appreciate William Broyles Jr. attempt at allegory, but it ruins the overall experience. We’re left feeling frustrated for Tom’s situation, rather than relieved he survived at all.

TitanicThe conclusion of Titanic should have been painfully obvious. The actually RMS Titanic was the most famous ship to have ever crashed, killing more than 1,500 people at the start of the 20th century – odds are the film wasn’t going to have a happy ending. Jack turns into a popsicle, and Rose gets to live a full and happy life. We get to see her die “an old lady warm in her bed”, just like she promised. The perfect, satisfying ending to a tragic film. Except that’s not the ending. At all. Rose and Jack meet up at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by all the other dead popsicles, in a moment so mindbogglingly stupid it almost ruins my love for Leonardo DiCaprio. Almost. 

Let me first start out by saying that I completely understand why WWE booked Seth Rollins to interfere in a perfectly decent main event title match on live PPV. 

Objective: John Cena is protected by not losing to Brock Lesnar twice. Check. 
Objective: Brock Lesnar is protected by not being pinned or made to submit. Check. 
Objective: Seth Rollins is protected because he’s still Mr. Money in the Bank. Check. 

Everyone is safe. Nothing happened. The status quo is maintained. 

By a show of hands – who watches pro wrestling because it’s “safe” entertainment? Even in today’s PG-friendly environment, the whole concept is that it’s two guys (or girls) beating the hell out of each other to determine which one is more badass. That’s it. Right down to the foundation of the business, that’s what the whole industry is about. Even without blood, a decision I fully support, nothing about pro wrestling is, or should ever be considered “safe” entertainment. 

WWE is still booked like a soap opera in an era where most of the long-running soap operas are dead, or taking their final breath. 

You know who benefited from the last few minutes of Night of Champions? NOBODY!  

Cena and Brock were telling a phenomenal story in the ring last night. Lesnar was dominant as ever, but Cena showed more aggression than last time, coming into the match with more experience, knowing what to expect. Lesnar kicked out of not one, but two Attitude Adjustments with ease. The third showed more signs of slowing him down. Each STF further put a dent in his armor. John Cena took a massive beating, but continued to get back up. How many suplexes was it going to take this time? It was the perfect follow-up to SummerSlam. The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Right down to that last AA I was on the edge of my seat, totally locked into what was happening on my TV screen, swept up in the atmosphere of the match. 

Seth Rollins running down and causing that DQ was like somebody walking in on you and your significant other at the peak of orgasm. I felt like somebody threw a bucket of ice water on me. By the time he actually tried to cash in Money in the Bank, I just wasn’t “in the mood” anymore. 

I think the goal was to make me want to see Cena vs. Rollins, so WWE can write Lesnar off television again. That’s a really stupid goal, considering they reignited the Rollins vs. Ambrose feud about an hour before the main event. 

It’s worth pointing out that I do like twist endings, and I do like the occasional interference. They just have to be done with purpose, and executed properly. This was neither of those things. 

The problem is, now I don’t want to see anything. If they do Cena/Lesnar III at Hell in a Cell, what incentive do I have to watch that match? I already paid to see the match, and they took it away from me. If the only reason was to sell me on another match, what the hell was the point? It’s like waiting in line to get to another line. When are we going to get to the ride? Does the ride even exist anymore, or is WWE just trying to distract us in the parking lot of an amusement park that was torn down ten years ago? 

I like metaphors. 

One very, very simple thing could have made Night of Champions a near-perfect PPV. It’s not complicated, convoluted, and it doesn’t take a creative genius to book it.

Are you ready, WWE?

You finish the main event. Then you end the show. 

If you want to sell me on next month’s show, do it in the 24+ hours of programming you give away for free every month.

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