How many of you heard/watched Vince McMahon on Steve Austin’s podcast? It was a great example of a well-trained performer pretending to be candid without veering from script, even as the intimidating, no-nonsense host tried to steer him adrift. Yes, Vince said he would work with CM Punk again, but that’s not what I want to talk about. It was on the subject of why we have a champion we barely see on TV in Brock Lesnar that Vince responded to the effect that he’s a special attraction, and showing him all the time would make him less special.
Firstly, Vince, apply that fucking logic to John Cena if you mean it. Secondly…the phrase “special attraction” usually applies to someone like The Great Khali, or El Torito; somebody strange that you don’t see every day. The “special attraction” of Lesnar is that he’s one of the best fighters in the world – he’s good at wrestling. Are you honestly saying that having a good wrestler on the show is something special and unusual? Because that doesn’t speak highly of the show.
Then Vince made an even weirder comparison by bringing up Jake the Snake Roberts. He said that the first couple of times you saw Jake dump a snake onto his victim, it was special, but that eventually it became boring. Now, I was never the world’s biggest fan of Jake the Snake, but that seems to me to be doing the man an incredible disservice. At the end of the ’80s, Vince himself considered Jake to be the third most popular good guy, behind Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior (how do I know this? Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura say it explicitly in the pilot-that-never-became-a-show Tag Team).
Not only that, but Jake’s role in his prime was explicitly to prepare opponents to face Hulk Hogan. When his prime started to slip, he became the guy they feuded with after Hogan beat them, as the formerly indestructible villain – be it Earthquake, Andre, or whoever – would suddenly develop an intense fear of snakes. And even after the Hogan era, do we forget that it was Jake who put over Stone Cold Steve Austin at the King of the Ring, in similar fashion to the Iron Sheik putting over Hogan in 1984?
The snake was the special attraction, but Jake himself never was. Nor is Lesnar. You just don’t want to pay him for more dates.
And I think if you want to argue that scarcity makes somebody more appealing somehow, you have to look at last year, when WWE made the mistake of assuming that everyone wanted to see Batista make a comeback after years of absence, and leapfrog over everybody on the roster to score the WrestleMania main event. Fans reacted poorly to say the least, and the day was saved at the last minute by adding Daniel Bryan to the match.
Yet they’re doing the same thing all over again.
Roman Reigns isn’t quite Batista, in that he has been paying his dues on the roster, and earning his cheers. But he is a lot like Batista in that he’s big, limited, and awkward at interviews – “Believe that” is a terrible catchphrase, and “the Juggernaut” is a horrible nickname, though it’s probably not his fault. Nor is the fact that he’s been on the shelf for a while, yet is primed to immediately take the top slot and probably head to WrestleMania and beat Lesnar. Even though it’s not clear there’s a Bryan type who’d be preferred by fans, the apparent foregone conclusion of it all could very easily inspire the same kind of backlash.
For my money, Ambrose deserves the push. He can do it all, and has had the best matches not only of any former Shield members, but anyone on TV lately. Yet he’s still caught in a feud with Bray Wyatt that makes very little sense beyond the fact that they both look and act like ECW guys, and therefore must fight. Reigns versus Cena is a match I’d be excited by, but Reigns versus Lesnar, less so. Lesnar versus Bryan, however, would be amazing, and it’s a shame Bryan probably can’t make it happen.
All of which has me thinking that this will be the year ‘Mania ends with a Money in the Bank cash-in, with Seth Rollins cashing in his anytime-anywhere contract and becoming the champ at the end of the night. We’re overdue for a heel-ending, and I don’t see much else that can be done with the briefcase storyline.