WWE: Trolling Your Fans Just a Joke or Biting the Hand That Feeds?
For the record, I do troll once in a while.
In my opinion, selective trolling with a pin-point target can bring about changes for the betterment of the world. Are evil methods really evil if they are accomplished for a greater good?
Trolling itself is an old art form that dates back to Heaven's knows when. For good or for ill, for the right reasons or harmful intents, and just "for the lulz" is simply irrelevant. A hammer is can be used to create homes or destroy them.
In the end, it is just a tool. The ends define the purpose, never the tool itself.
Trolling is more prevalent in the world of Social Media than else where in the world. Of course, Social Media is the WWE's most recent fascination. The concept of trolling is usually referred to as "cheap heat" in wrestling parlance.
It is as old as professional wrestling. It is as old as time itself. Whether its done by insulting a town to evoke an emotional response or someone reading a list of 1004 holds, it's been before and is expected for various reasons.
However, the WWE has taken this idea to rather ludicrous extremes as of late.
Starting in late December with John Laurinaitis' massive troll job on Chicago by coming out in Punk's shirt and music, the WWE has really opened up the can of worms.
The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Trollah
The return of Chris Jericho to the WWE has seen the "Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rollah" use this. His return was marked by the fact that Jericho played the crowd's emotional response to him, or as we know it, just "marking out."
Massively cheered as a babyface, he left the arena without saying a word and drawing the the ire of the fans in attendance.
Cue this week's Raw broadcast and Jericho, more or less, did the same thing. While he played the crying bit well, he was simply rehashing the same idea as last week.
To what point and purpose is all this? To prove how massive a heel he is? It seems likely. In some respects, it is original. But the novelty of the situation is wearing thin.
On a personal level, I love Jericho and think he's one one of the most underrated talents of all time. But for all that fanboy admiration I have for "Y2J," even I admit his act is wearing thin.
There needs to be a defined method to his madness and it needs become clear sooner rather than later. For all the hype the WWE created in for his return, they are losing whatever momentum they had going.
"Trollasaurus" Brodus Clay
Speaking of lost momentum, how about Brodus Clay? Do you remember his promo videos? Where he talked about how he would be the fall of humanity? I'm glad you did because the WWE sure didn't seem to remember.
Brodus spent a long time off TV. Long enough that most folks don't remember him, right? The WWE did a series of videos for his re-debut, promising a massive heel which Raw sorely needed.
The problem was he didn't debut. For various reasons, his debut was consistently pushed back this past Monday's Raw broadcast.
I'll be blunt when I say I don't like Clay overly much. He's never done a single thing to impress me in the ring. But because I don't like the guy now doesn't mean I won't down the line.
In any case, what we got tonight was a reincarnation of Ernest "The Cat" Miller during his funky phase.
As Big Nasty put it, Clay's "396 pounds of stopping power was recycled into a gluttonous, dancing funky pebble."
On some level, the WWE Creative Team had to be messing with the fans.
Aside from the fact that Clay's career is probably over before it really began, the entire thing resulted in the end-all-be-all of stupid humor. In other words, they used an emotional response again to mess with their fans.
Even our favorite Interim Raw General Manager has gotten his kicks with this as of late.
However, he's more an example of trolling done correctly for a wrestling program.
Up through tonight, he's used it time and again to egg WWE Champion CM Punk and rib him in various ways. Punk, on his part, has done the exact same thing to Laurinaitis.
However, there is a different context here. Characters on a screen are messing with each other while not directly hamstringing the audience.
In this context, both Punk and Laurinaitis have messed with the audience to a fair degree, like John's famous example in Chicago a few weeks ago. However, he was brief, to the point and entirely in character while doing it.
This week? He didn't do it at all. He simply went to the ring, prevented Ziggler from taking advantage of a fallen Punk and called it good.
Some might argue his announcement of his name and title before the match started was a minor bit of it, but that's just his shtick. Its what he does.
There is a difference when a character insults the fans and when the program itself does it. One is part of the metaphor of the program. We watch wrestling with the suspension of disbelief already done. It's scripted. We know that.
Professional Wrestling is a gladiatorial soap opera that tours the country. If a character picks it up as an enduring part of their gimmick, like Eddie Guerrero or John Laurinaitis, then that's fine.
However, when the program goes out of its way to insult your intelligence, that's an entirely different matter.
Once in a while, it is fine to mess with the fans. A twist from the normal day-to-day expectations of the shows is fine. Such antics spice up the current storylines and add some flavor to the heels or anti-heroes of the day.
If done well, trolling provides memorable examples of why we love wrestling the way we do. Over abuse of it, however, makes the audience emotional numb to the experience that the antic is meaning to convey.
Eventually, the audience becomes bored and changes the channel. I know I did.
On Monday night, the WWE went all-in with the recent glorification of a time-honored tradition. For me, personally, there is a time when enough is enough and you let it go. Here's hoping the WWE realizes the same.
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