If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

posted by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

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With the rather, er “racially charged” angle developing on WWE television with Jack Swagger’s new “Real American” character & the speech given by Dutch “Zeb Coulter” Mantell on the Feb 11th Raw, I thought I’d take some time to offer up my opinion on the use of “cheap heat” and while outside of wrestling I strongly disagree with such notions, within the parallel universe of Wrestling, I have very little issue with it.

For me, Wrestling is at it’s best when it garners a reaction, be it what’s happening in a match, a promo, a catchphrase, an ongoing angle, whether the reaction is positive or negative is irrelevant, I love 5 star mat classics just as much as I love The Great Khali singing Shawn Michaels’ theme. Wrestling is never more a chore than when I don’t care about what I’m watching. That is when Wrestling for me can be considered “bad”.

I’ve noticed these slightly “un-pc” tones crop up in the recent weeks that I’ve been watching WWE more closely since being involved with 4CR, first in a Big Show promo describing Alberto Del Rio as a cockroach that “crawled across the border”, and before that the Big Show accused Smackdown’s “managing manager” Booker T of pandering to the Hispanic audience, and booking him in disadvantageous situations to put and keep the World Heavyweight Championship on the face turning Del Rio. In any other workplace, such talk would be a one way ticket to an industrial tribunal, but in a universe where broken bones heal in a week and duct tape is nigh-on indestructible, saying these things gets you a high profile match on PPV, and I’m okay with that,as long as it’s not massively overt and with a few caveats.

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First, such talk should be reserved for the heel and ONLY the heel, and when that heel is delusional, all the better. Although in the case of Big Show/Del Rio, it’s not the only thing the feud is built on, it does add to Show’s delusional bully character, arguably the best villainous incarnation of Show to date.

Second, the heel’s rhetoric should never be shown to be right or justified, WWE treads a fine line with a media that holds a steadfast view that professional wrestling is an immature, lascivious spectacle aimed at the lowest common denominator, and the on air denigration of it’s “minority” (god, I hate that term) employees would only add fuel to the flames.

An example of using these kind of tactics in the wrong way is Lex Luger’s WWF championship challenge in the summer of 1993. Yokozuna was the foreign monster on top of the WWF, squashing all before him on a path to Bret Hart’s title (with a weird detour at Wrestlemania IX in which Yoko won the belt, and quickly lost it to Hulk Hogan before relying on an evil cameraman to dethrone the Hulkster). Luger turned from a narcissistic heel into a flag waving, stars & stripes, mom’s apple pie ‘Merican Super-Patriot almost overnight. That in itself is fine, Hogan used patriotism to great effect, but I never remember Hogan using “sushi-eating” jibes or some such. Although I was too young to notice at the time (all my issues with Luger were based around the facts that a) I thought he was a knock off Hogan and b) he wasn’t Bret Hart). Watching it later makes Luger seem like an uncultured dolt, using lazy racism as a crutch. Mid-90’s WWF wasn’t exactly a golden age of creative scripting.

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Which brings me to the “Real American American” Jack Swagger & Zeb Coulter. Zeb’s promo may have come straight out of a right wing survivalist manifesto, and may seem old hat & out of place, but it does give a direction to the Swagger character beyond “Kurt Angle with a lisp”, and puts him in line to feud with the popular Del Rio (who is clearly relishing his new Hero persona) either for the title or not, with Ricardo & Zeb in each man’s corner and booked sensitively, this could be enjoyable. Sensitively mind you, casting Swagger & Coulter as curmudgeons, clinging to ideas of an America that has moved on, before Del Rio and Rodriguez outsmart them & show them up as cultural dinosaurs would make good wrestling television. Both men can go in the ring, both men are decent orators, and Alberto is flanked by one of Wrestling’s great sidekicks, so while a racial element would be present (and possibly unpleasant) it could add a little certain something to hang the feud upon, to help Del Rio and WWE catch a larger Market, by playing to them.

I only hold these views when it comes to Wrestling, I’m of the opinion that racism, implied or practised is wrong in the real world, but wrestling is a parallel universe that we as viewers can escape to, and as long as there are on-screen consequences of these acts, I don’t mind it. WWE in particular is centred around stories, and there’s no better story than “triumph over adversity” right?

I may be alone in holding this opinion about wrestling, and may deserve all kinds of “heat” over this, but I’d be remiss not to use the platform 4crwrestling.com has afforded me, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for hearing me out, and I welcome the discussions that may come out of this. But please keep one thing in mind: This is my viewpoint & my viewpoint alone. I don’t claim to speak for my co-contributors. I’m just a rogue Englishman, with all the tea-addiction & bad teeth that comes with the term. Ah stereotyping.

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