Rather than being typified by strange and/or earth-shattering events, this week has represented more a shift towards a quality of expression seldom seen in professional wrestling. It’s presence is often felt when the likes of Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn are within spitting distance of a Dictaphone, yet it is most unusual for a WWE superstar to be guilty of it. As for Kurt Angle, the lines between fantasy and reality irrevocably blurred a long time ago. For those missing the beat, I?m talking about good, old fashioned candour.
In a business that is in such deep denial about itself, honesty in any form is considered not only exceptional but dangerous. Fundamentally, kayfabe is nothing more than a smokescreen designed to perpetuate the manufactured reality of professional wrestling. Certain individuals have spent so long submerged in the rabbit-hole that the line ceases to exist.
A fabulous example of this phenomenon is Terry ?Hulk Hogan? Bollea. This man has spent so long in a multitude of scripted and outlandish worlds that the concept of a ?real world? is alien to him. Put simply, every single statement made by Hogan must be taken with a metric ton of salt. From claiming from 1993 onwards that he?d never work for Vince McMahon again (he did) to lying about his steroid usage on Arsenio Hall (he had) right through to claiming he?d been offered the lead in The Wrestler (he wasn?t). Hulk Hogan is full of deluded, fantastical and downright mendacious shit.
As Munchausen’s tendencies go, Kurt Angle isn?t far behind ?The Mountain of Molten Desire? (Rocky 3, for those who don?t know). Indeed, Angle has proffered so many fairytales in the last three years that one must conclude he’s either brain-damaged or vigorously chasing the dragon on a daily basis. Some of my favourites among his pantheon of whoppers include his claim that John Cena is a great wrestler. This was the same interview in which he claimed the Carter family are wealthier than the McMahon family (they aren?t). Claiming he quit WWE when he was canned (for a being a life-threatening liability) was dumb in a spirited way. Telling Vince to kiss his Olympic ass, then proceeding to pucker up for a smooch of Vince’s own rectum (whilst ostensibly promoting a TNA pay-per-view) was dumb in a very dumb way.
Kurt Angle should be barred from public discourse for the rest of his natural life, such is the bedlam he unleashes every time he chooses to peer out of the wardrobe from Narnia. It was hardly surprising then to learn of Kurt’s latest dalliance with the more unseemly aspects of his celebrity, this time for an apparent violation of a protection from abuse order obtained by Trenesha ?Rhaka Kahn? Biggers, Kurt’s then-girlfriend. Reading the transcript of Kurt’s interview with Bubba The Love Sponge (and if Kurt’s version of events is to be believed) then I have a certain amount of sympathy for him. As usual with Angle though, certain things don?t add up.
For starters, Angle’s claim that he could not get her to leave is tenuous at best. The Pennsylvania law pertaining to cohabitation has no legal basis until either intent to marry is established or marriage itself takes place and, change of address or not, unless Angle signed over ownership of his house to Biggers in some form or another he could have told her to leave his property and involved the police if she refused. Lord knows what Angle, in his infinite wisdom, might have said or signed. A forty-year old man with one already failed marriage and a young daughter should have a greater understanding of his responsibilities. Blaming it all on some ego-laced stupor is tantamount to an insult and, at best, displays a staggering naivety.
The second thing that bothers me is the human-growth hormone. It is a little too convenient that a man with a known history of drug issues would happen to be found with a two year-old vial of HGH in an ?old bag?. I don?t rule out the possibility of Kurt telling the truth because I?m a nice person. However, with the ex-Mrs Angle/Double-J revelation and Angle’s forthcoming contract negotiations, a little hiatus from wanton celebrity chicanery and a period wrapped in cotton-wool would do everyone, especially Kurt Angle, the power of good. As Kurt and ?Hollywood? prove, some candour is even more dangerous than the lie?
What was surprising this week was the unbridled candour of one Chris Jericho. Punctuated by self-serving interludes though it may have been, a sanctioned WWE Superstar interview and the word ?crisis? do not generally co-exist. Nevertheless, that is the term Jericho applied to describe the current state of RAW. He is of course spot-on. A look at the proposed main-event of Summerslam only highlights the continued malaise facing WWE at this juncture, as the monumental failure to build new stars (and the cataclysmic burial of the few, viable prospects) reaps it’s poisoned fruit. Something drastic is required and by that I don?t mean a bloody DX reunion.
Now, allow me my day’s candour. At the risk of repeating myself, the answers to all the problems of WWE lay upon the otherwise inept shoulders of John Cena. Anyone who thinks a Cena heel-turn is a bad idea, albeit financially (what is lost in short-term will be quadrupled in the long-term) creatively or personally is guilty of a mind-blowing lack of imagination. Cena is a robotic, kid-oriented cash-cow who will always do what he’s told. He’s not, however, cool. Think that’s irrelevant? Let’s do a little word association. The New World Order: Unstoppable, revolutionary, cool. ?Stone Cold? Steve Austin: Rebellious, badass, cool. The Rock: Slick, entertaining, cool. John Cena? Terminally un-cool?
The only way Cena will become the mega-draw WWE seeks is to obey the oldest, most prescient adage in all of entertainment: Give the people what they want. The WWE must tear down the fawning, lightweight rube and his crappy spinning championship and erase them from memory. In their place must go a ruthless, hell raising thug who does whatever he pleases to whoever he likes whenever he so desires. A vile, unambiguous 21st century re-imagining of Stone Cold. He must shake the very foundations of WWE, breaking every rule until the only rule is there are no rules. When was the last time Cena was cool? 2003. What was he doing? I?ll let you remember/guess.
Until the fans, bookers, the McMahon family and everyone living in la la land wake up (and grow up) the results will be the same tired dross week after week to diminishing returns. It was a willingness to gamble and trust the flow of the zeitgeist that established the WWE empire and sustained its existence in the wake of all others who fell before it’s might. It is a lack of respect for this truth that has landed the WWE in this pickle in the first place.
To those who say I?m exaggerating I say I?m downplaying the potential impact of Cena’s turn. To those who say ?Cena can?t wrestle? I say he can quite be capably worked around ala Hulk Hogan or the Warrior. To be frank at this particular moment is it doesn?t really matter. Finally, to those who say I?m wrong I say, quite simply, I?m not. I only hope the WWE is wise enough to let me taste the sweetness of vindication. Oh sure, you might still disagree. Alas, opinions are like back passages. Everyone’s got one. All that matters is the truth of this moment; a time for courage and true, empire-building decisiveness.
Daniel R. Browne.