Examining Stephanie McMahon's Improvement as a Performer
in the last couple months, with WWE's top storyline being the McMahon family's power trip and crusade against Daniel Bryan and others, a lot of praise as been thrown in Triple H's direction. Typically, reactions to Triple H had been divisive, split between diehard WWE fans who see him as a legendary all-around performer, and others who see him as talented but flawed, droning on in boring promos for too long as well as being an inconsistent in-ring wrestler.
Now? He's stepped up his game and is easily cutting the best promos of his career. He's brilliant at getting across the idea that he's not evil as much as he believes he's doing the right thing and is being misunderstood. The sit-down interviews Michael Cole has conducted with him for WWE.com may be even better than his TV work.
In light of all that, his wife has come out of nowhere, suddenly every bit as good as he is, and realistically, she is even better.
For someone who has been a performer as long as Stephanie McMahon, she was never especially good at it. She carried herself well and fit into the spoiled boss's daughter role she played after she first turned heel in December 1999, but she lacked polish and her later work was noticeably inferior. Since becoming a mother in 2006, she's drastically reduced her schedule, with her main priorities being parenting her daughters and overseeing the creative team.
With that in mind, it came as a shock when she returned to a weekly TV role and was suddenly a fantastic talker. It first became apparent in the segment after SummerSlam where she faced off with Daniel Bryan and famously declared him to be "a solid B+" as a wrestler:
It's not the best of her recent work, but she had certainly made strides since the last time she was regularly on television. She's so smarmy and condescending, yet she clearly believes in what she's saying, that she's doing the right thing and that it's just business.
Still, at that point, I wouldn't say she was great, just significantly better than before. She didn't wow me until last week, when she confronted Dusty Rhodes:
Dusty Rhodes is probably the best candidate for being the best talker in the history of pro wrestling. The Rock was certainly a bigger star, but he was not the type of traditional promo Dusty was. At the absolute worst, Dusty is in the top five. He went out on Raw, cut his best promo in years, and Stephanie had to not only follow him, but hold her own against him.
She passed with flying colors. It was impressive how she was able to insert humor that fit both her character and the storyline, attempting a peace offering by giving Dusty a Bed, Bath and Beyond gift certificate to pass on to his son Cody and Cody's fiance ("What? That's where they're registered...").
She has a way of making her character come off as being (and I apologize for the inelegant phrasing) sincere and ridiculously insincere at the same time. I believe that somehow, her warped mind thinks this is all "best for business," but she's also such an obvious phony when she expresses sympathy for the choice she's trying to force on Dusty.
She also does a great job verbalizing the threat to Dusty and why Big Show's choice to knock him out was supposed to be "saving him." Sure, knocking out a nearly 70-year-old legend is awful, but being "dismembered by the Shield," as she put it and subjected to a lengthy beating was the more viscerally disturbing scenario.
Her way with words also enhanced her appearance with Big Show on MizTV this week, which I think was her best performance so far:
Not a lot of people could sell a line like, "You're living on your own cul-de-sac of disappointment," but she did. While the angle does come off as a bit of a burial of Miz (at least as a babyface), she does an incredible job selling just how cruel she's being by dressing him down like that, but the truth of what she's saying sells her self-righteous belief in what she's doing.
I also love how she's so into acting like she thinks she's a babyface. Look at something like the way she always tries to hype up the crowd when she mentions Rob Van Dam. She's so aloof, but the crowd feeds into her delusions by chanting along with her, so she has no reason to think differently.
I never pictured myself saying this, but I now look forward to Stephanie McMahon's promos more than anyone else's when I watch Raw. What does everyone else think? Even if you're not as impressed by her as I am, do you think she's improved? If not, then why? Let us know in the comments.
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