Last night on Raw, for the first time in a while, there was a special guest host in the form of Michael Strahan. There's no middle ground with the guest hosts: They're either great (Bob Barker, The Muppets and wrestling fans like Mike Tyson) or incredibly awful (just about everyone else).
Not surprisingly, Strahan was incredibly awful. He's already an incredibly awkward TV personality for someone who's onscreen every day. Take someone like that and put him on Raw, and it's not pretty.
He was in three segments, the main one being MizTV. The segment got weird before Strahan came out, as Miz brought out Titus O'Neil as "Michael Strahan." Even though Miz just turned heel a couple of weeks ago and was making fun of the guest host, a babyface was helping him out—I guess because he's the only wrestler on the roster who they could use as "fake Michael Strahan."
After they made fun of Strahan and Titus put himself over the way a heel would, the real Strahan came out and they argued awkwardly. They tried to hip-toss him, but he blocked both of them and hit his own hip tosses.
At that point, aside from the weirdness of Titus' role, it was your basic angle where a visiting celebrity athlete gets a pop and clip to take with him where he does wrestling moves.
Then it went from bad to insulting.
They all smiled, hugged, raised each others' hands and did The Prime Time Players' "millions of dollars" dance together. Cut to commercial.
To summarize all that: So Strahan could have a "Look how much fun I had last night!" clip to show on Live with Kelly and Michael this morning, WWE put a featured segment on Raw that screamed, "HEY EVERYBODY! THIS THING RIGHT HERE? IT"S NOT REAL!"
Pro wrestling is not a real sport, it's a genre of fiction about a sport that doesn't really exist in real life. That is actually the problem with what happened.
It wasn't as egregious as the Vince Russo WCW storylines where wrestlers "wouldn't cooperate" and would have to improvise if "the script" was thrown out the window, but it was still the characters on a TV show randomly breaking character in a way that doesn't fit the show's house style.
That last caveat is for shows that regularly bend genre conventions in a way that works within their own framework. It doesn't work for pro wrestling.
While the scope of pro wrestling is slowly shifting towards television broadcast rights fees being the most lucrative part of the business over live event tickets and pay-per-views, the business is still built around getting fans to spend money in a way regular TV shows don't.
Sure, other, more traditional comedies and dramas have DVDs, T-shirts, etc., but they're not any kind of priority.
In wrestling, success is dependent on getting fans to develop a real—for lack of a better term—connection. The goal is to get you invested enough in the characters to get you to buy their merchandise, see them on $45-to-$55 monthly special episodes of the TV shows and so on.
If you just go on the show and say, "LOL, we're just kidding," you lose that connection.
And for what? A clip of Strahan talking about the fun he had on Raw when he's yakking about it on his insipid morning talk show?
Even if WWE truly feels that there's a legitimate value to something like that, why do it that way? Why couldn't The Miz just interview Strahan on MizTV and run into a hip toss at the end when he gets mad?
Strahan could provide the same narrative when he shows the clip without the stupid curtain call at the end. The "This was fun and we're all friends" narrative is fine when the performers are on other programming. Why go in that direction on Raw?
Sometimes, WWE is so concerned with establishing itself in celebrity culture and "putting smiles on people's faces" that it forgets how to produce a pro wrestling show.
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