Welcome once again to the Rise and Fall of an Underdog. I?ve given Jake the week off to rest and recuperate and in his place I present a piece I wrote after watching RAW this week. Feel free to send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and happy reading.
Although I currently live in the UK I am still a proud Canadian. Growing up in Calgary I revelled in all the wrestling that was around me and cheered all the Canadian stars; babyface or heel. And I was always in attendance when RAW came to town. Needless to say when I turned on SKY Sports to watch another RAW from Calgary I was more than a little confused. What was with all the Canadian bashing? Did I miss a memo?
Now, I wasn?t angry or offended by the content of RAW this week; just confused? As a loyal wrestling fan I watch RAW each week and I cheer the action and laugh along with the comedic segments. But I just didn?t get the joke this week. I was already annoyed to hear that the guest host for RAW was going to be Sgt. Slaughter (way to just bring out an old standby) but I was even more annoyed by his quasi heel performance. Is Sgt. Slaughter a heel? I was pretty sure he has firmly been a face for years. And can you be a good guy in one country and a bad guy in another?
This isn?t the first time this has happened in the WWE. You need only cast your minds back 12 years to witness the end of Bret hart’s tenure with the company. I?ll never forget hearing the tremendous boo’s Bret was met with each week and then watching RAW in Edmonton and seeing exactly the opposite. As Bret stood in the middle of the ring sporting an Edmonton Oilers jersey the fans went berserk for their Canadian hero. Bret hated his anti-American persona (his mother was American after all) but he always loved the adoration of his Canadian fans. A bit too much some would say.
In Eric Bischoff’s book ?Controversy Creates Cash? he says of Canada ?They view their national celebrities as national heroes. That’s not true in the United States. We don?t think of them as uniquely American celebrities. In Canada, they?re Canadian celebrities.? So what? Since when was pride in the accomplishments of your fellow countryman a character flaw? Bischoff goes on to call this pride ?obnoxious? and states that Canada ?isn?t really an independent country?. And this wasn?t even a work! I know that Bischoff really has no relevance in the world of wrestling anymore but his words show a character that was developed in sports entertainment over a decade ago and can be summed up in one word ?Montreal?.
Now I?m not a bitter person, but part of me is still bitter about the ?Screw Job?. It was the first time that the line between fact and fiction in wrestling was blurred for me. The first time I heard about kayfabe, and didn?t like it. Now I?m nowhere near as bitter as Bret (I actually got over it) but as a Canadian it still stands out for me as a defining moment in my life as a wrestling fan. Would it have been the same had I been American or British? Probably not. But it doesn?t matter does it? Canada isn?t a real county is it Eric!
Then there’s Chris Jericho. His scowly face could barely hide the smile as the crowd cheered for his every word. They all knew that this was where it all began for him. They waited for him to mention the Harts and the Dungeon and cheered on cue when he did. But wait; just when he thinks they?re off air…oh….say it ain?t so Chris! Yes, Jericho rejects Canada and embraces America. Oh the horror. What he was really doing though was solidifying his character; a smart move, a very smart move. Jericho is one of the best heels in the game right now and has such a commitment to his character that he can do something the Hitman would never have done. I applauded Jericho. But then there was still that fat guy in ill fitting camouflage.
So back to Sarge and his performance on Monday. As confused as I was by this display it did the job. The fans in Calgary were all riled up and ready for blood. I haven?t heard a crowd that hot at a WWE event in a long time. There was electricity in the air and Slaughter was living it up. His chest was as barrelled as it could get and his chin was about to take up residence and get its own Postal Code. Even the scary presence of Gillian Hall and her plastic face or Hacksaw Jim Duggan and his gym shorts could deflate the proud American.
After I?ve rambled on about it now for about 800 words or so it’s kind of making sense to me now. I?m starting to understand why the creative team came up with these antagonising segments. They wanted to do what any good writer sets out to do: elicit an emotion in an audience. And it worked. I?m at a loss for words. Effective writing from the normally lacklustre WWE creative machine? Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. They got me. I feel so silly. How could I let myself be so foolish? Oh well, I guess it’s just because I?m Canadian.