Before I commence with my weekly opinions, I would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Lance Cade; very tragically dead at the premature age of twenty-nine. Better (and more qualified) men than me doubtless will, in their own time, bring you their memories, stories and personal musings of a gifted and passionate servant of the wrestling industry. For my part, I mourn yet another young man added to a grim, desperate and always expanding list. How sad that a life be reduced to a political footnote – and it will be – in a pointless and despicable race for vanity. There will be another time for that though… Lance Cade RIP.
One of the prevailing theories bandied about by pro wrestling apologists is that of cyclical audience tastes. Proffered at varying times by those incapable of grasping the finer points of variety and society, the notion that audiences simply drift in and out of tastes and moods is a rather simplistic way of excusing someone from the rigours of creativity. Stephanie McMahon is one of the foremost proponents of this notion, and although for the most part intellectually dishonest, the cyclical debate can at least be applied (in a general sense) to the overarching creative theme of a given creative mood.
In the case of WWE, the gangs are back in town. Ever since the blueprint was confirmed by the original Four Horsemen, writers and creative bods have routinely turned to the omnipotent heel unit as a means of anchoring major storylines. The most recent example in WWE – up until now of course – had been high-grade Horsemen clone Evolution, which succeeded in protecting the fading Ric Flair and broken-down Triple H, and made stars of Randy Orton and Batista.
The overall success of Evolution is a perfect illustration of why gangs are a popular and much repeated booking method. They can ally the established with the promising and make stars – or even bigger stars – of them both, and they allow for the establishment of a galvanising force for the various babyfaces, all of whom must unite or die in the face of superior numbers. In classic wrestling tradition, a strong gang allows for both entertainment and the cutting of corners. Time and again, wrestling promotions have turned to the gang as a means of shaking up the roster and establishing new, revenge-motivated feuds as the once invulnerable gang eventually implodes and/or disintegrates.
In recent months, WWE has done a frankly phenomenal job of building and establishing The Nexus as a genuine threat to the very foundations of the company. Eight years ago, WWE made a colossal balls-up of its own version of the New World Order when it declined to present the group as a revolutionary threat. Naturally, in establishing its own creation WWE has presented Nexus as utterly unstoppable, totally ruthless and without controls. Though none of the members are completely over in their own right, as a collective the Nexus has been successfully built into an unignorable force. It just goes to show that when done properly, a gang war garners considerable attention very quickly, and can last for months or even years.
WWE is at a delicate point in the Nexus saga. At Summerslam, the group should be allowed to prosper in its war with Team WWE, as the time is not yet right for the divided Raw wrestlers to offer decisive resistance. Much more can be done to enhance the saga with the addition of new names and feuds, and the greater purpose of the anonymous Raw General Manager – probably the architect of the Nexus invasion – is yet to be revealed. For WWE, it is important not to rush things. If patience is applied, the Nexus can become a cycle within a cycle as new layers of intrigue emerge. If the trigger is pulled too early, the hottest WWE angle of the last five years could be prematurely squandered.
In this writer’s opinion, one company devising a gangs-based storyline is not enough to declare “gang wars”; you need the reciprocation of another. Under this criterion, the last gang war was during the last wrestling boom, when WCW was flourishing off the back of the behemoth known as the NWO, and WWF/E were gaining new fans everyday with the second, fan-friendly version of D-Generation X. Though WCW is dearly departed and WWE is unrecognisable from those glorious days, the baton of gangland competition has been assumed by TNA wrestling, firstly with Ric Flair’s new Horsemen (Fortune) and Tommy Dreamer’s ECW tribute troupe EV2.0.
As a long-standing and passionate fan of the original ECW, my feelings on the TNA/ECW tribute are mixed. On the one hand, any attempt to erase from memory the appalling WWE version of the group deserves at least my passive support. However, the tribute routine was nonetheless done by WWE five years ago, in a much more authentic setting and manner to boot. That TNA cannot even use the term “ECW” without the threat of a lawsuit somewhat dents the aura of the presentation, and to be brutally honest I think the time has come for ECW to depart into posterity. Though the intentions of Dreamer and co are undoubtedly noble, the name of ECW has been permanently sullied by the ignorance and stupidity of Vince McMahon, and no amount of reminiscences will change that fact. Like so many in wrestling, the architects of this latest exhumation must learn to let go.
That being said, I am cautiously optimistic about the potential for an ECW/Fortune feud. The novelty of a maniacal and crazed Ric Flair – pitting the powers of tradition against the so-called seedy rebellion of yesteryear – is undeniable, and how I wish Jim Cornette were something other than TNA public enemy number one. An embittered Corny would be a riot cutting promos and making waves alongside Flair, in what could be an absolutely brutal saga. The intrigue and potential is definitely there, it’s just I’m not so sure the public will embrace TNA in the requisite numbers simply because, metaphorically speaking, a notorious rape victim suddenly finds themselves being indecently assaulted. I’d love to be wrong but with ECW, Vinny Mac and his minions did their work well. As usual though, time will tell us all.
Daniel R. Browne.