“You know what? I am sick of sports entertainment. I am sick of our Chairman. Most of all, I am sick of you fans who actually buy into that crap, this sports entertainment circus!”
Who dropped this little pipe bomb? If you guessed CM Punk, you guessed wrong.
Six years ago, Joey Styles set the wrestling world ablaze with his comments against WWE on Monday Night Raw. His nearly four-minute promo cut to the very heart of the company, and his disgust with its presentation of professional wrestling as sports entertainment.
For longtime fans, we knew right away that this was not a true shoot in the sense of the word. Any talent who suddenly decided to go off on his own without Vince McMahon’s knowledge, would likely find himself holding a dead mic as the program goes to commercial.
And he may very well be looking for work the next day.
But this did not happen to Styles, of course. The basics of the promo were worked out ahead of time and then he elaborated, verbally ripping WWE apart.
A very cool moment.
Why? Again, we understood it was a work. And we also know that 90 percent of the time everything we see is simply just a part of the program.
If anything we should been offended by this spot, frustrated that WWE would very openly patronize us, in a public admission that they understood what our complaints were, yet had no intention of changing their M.O.
Yet, we loved it. We ate it up. Much in the same way we latched onto CM Punk’s promo on Raw five years later, we could not get enough of the concept that one lone voice can cause a real stir and make a difference.
To be honest, it’s a very American proposition, that one man can stand up and fight injustice. One man can speak against the abusive authority that seeks to silence him, and simply just tell the truth. There’s no wonder why it works in pro wrestling. Fans don’t want to be worked. They want the truth.
And a good many of them just want some dirt.
As romantic as the lone revolutionary idea is, let’s be honest about it. Getting to peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of WWE, or for that matter TNA, is something that is just too good to pass up.
Wrestling fans view themselves as not merely spectators, but participators. Everyone wants to know everything. Everyone wants to feel as if they are truly connected to the product.
Perhaps this is why shoot interviews are as popular as they are. They have become a very big deal, especially online, where fans can watch some of their old favorites shoot about their days in the industry. They talk about their matches, the men they worked for, and most importantly, other workers.
How many of us watched the Ultimate Warrior completely tear down the image of Hulk Hogan on YouTube? We knew about some of Hogan’s past history, but Warrior gave fans a side of Hulk that many of us have never known.
Is he telling the truth? His videos were from his standpoint, after all. They were not in debate form where Hogan could quickly provide a rebuttal.
But the fact is, that didn’t matter. Love him or hate him, Warrior created real controversy by divulging inside information, stories that the general public had never been made aware of.
And yes, fans could not stop talking about it.
It’s human nature to be curious. And it’s only natural that fans want to get as much “real” content from an industry predicated on fiction that they can possibly have.
We just love the dirt.
That is why the “worked shoots” always get over with the crowd. Because despite the fact that we know it is being done in a controlled environment, we often find ourselves agreeing with everything being said.
We sit, we listen, hoping that at least a portion of the promo is real, words that perhaps Vince did not know were going to be said.
How over is the concept?
John Cena’s feud with The Rock became must-see TV, due in large part to the jabs that were thrown on the part of both men. Cena’s very public criticism of Rocky’s non involvement in WWE over the years hit home for many fans, who had been of the same opinion.
Rocky’s assertion that John was a phony, a guy whose career was based on running the same tired routine for years, echoed the sentiments of Cena critics everywhere. For them, it seemed as if Cena was finally being put in his place.
Had WWE played this rivalry as a straight up feud, centered around manufactured pro-wrestling heat, it may not have done the huge business that it eventually did. The WrestleMania payoff was immense, heavily fueled by the apparent “real” animosity that existed between both men.
The aforementioned CM Punk’s entire current run was built upon that promo from last year. WWE creative knew that it would spark the fire that would cause Punk to get red hot, allowing them to build on it, and here we are, over 300 days into his WWE Title reign.
Reality, or even just the slightest glimpse of it, is such an attractive notion for fans, that when it happens, it gets over. It always does.
That is the power of the promo. That is the power of the shoot angle. It has always worked, and it always will.
And that’s not a work.