A Sharp Shooting Short - Bray Wyatt Is Doomed, Unless...
A Sharp Shooting Short – Bray Wyatt Is Doomed, Unless...
…Jerry Lawler is finally ousted from the commentary booth.
I’ll address with the obvious drawbacks to that statement:
It’s not in Jerry Lawler’s remit to script Bray Wyatt’s promos, oversee the execution of the character, or to select his opponents and book his feuds.
It is also not Lawler’s choice to book the Wyatt Family in the directionless way they’ve been booked since their much-hyped debut.
What is in Lawler’s control is the presentation of the Wyatts when it counts – in the middle of a wrestling ring.
The plight of the Wyatt Family was crystallised on Sunday’s Battleground PPV, ironically during a spot which should have perfectly encapsulated the core of Wyatt’s eerie character. What it encapsulated instead was the sheer uselessness of ‘The King’.
For those who missed it: Bray Wyatt, in his match with Kofi Kingston, performed the famous spider walk scene from The Exorcist, a scene omitted from the original cut of the movie because it was deemed too frightening. For those who haven’t seen that deleted scene: The possessed Regan MacNeil, in a sickening act of contortionism, bends over backwards and crawls inhumanly in an attempt to terrorise those trying to save her soul. Transpose that sequence to Bray Wyatt, an imposing physical specimen, and the result is even more impressive.
Bray Wyatt, an ostensibly horrifying cult leader with the power to spread fear throughout the entire WWE roster, spider-walked across the ring in an otherworldly fashion, his demonic, upside-down face perfectly captured by WWE’s impeccable production crew.
How did Jerry Lawler sell it?
He, and I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t bring myself to watch it again, chuckled and said that Wyatt reminded him of Linda Blair. Instantly, Lawler depicted Wyatt as a joke – and a plagiarised one at that.
Picture Jim Ross in the same scenario. I’m no Ross mark. He was mixing up Jeff and Matt Hardy way back in 2000, and had a tendency to oversell the “otherness” in WWE to a corny extent – especially his insistence on personifying the Hell In A Cell structure - but he damn sure would have treated that spider walk with the shock and discomfort it warranted.
Earlier in the bout, Lawler referred to Erik Rowan as “Lambchop”. JBL, scrambling to cover up his colleague’s error, instructed Lawler to say it to Rowan’s face, but it was in vain. Lawler had reduced Rowan to the status of a puppet who entertains children.
Characters like Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan are already in danger of appearing camp, even before they become regular members of the roster, because they’re so incongruous to the WWE landscape. They already look somewhat daft in the same arena as Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. Can you imagine, if, when the WWF still presented Kane as a serious force, Vince McMahon laughed at Kane’s head tilt and wondered aloud if there was something wrong with his neck? Can you imagine, if, when The Undertaker debuted, Gorilla Monsoon advised him to go to the beach and get a tan?
Commentary, as with everything in professional wrestling, is all in the selling. Jim Ross himself defended the appalling commentary work throughout the Santino Marella and Great Khali vs. Real Americans match, which would have felt out of place even on Saturday Morning Slam, stating that Michael Cole, JBL and Lawler did a “helluva” job on the night. Ross can never be relied upon to deliver a forthright opinion, but surely the sycophant in him must have given way at some point to the worker. Jim Ross could do with addressing this in his blog, instead of blasting fans for asking him unanswerable questions.
The match itself wasn’t great, but Wyatt at least tried to do something different. In the end, it matters little if Wyatt can master the “intangibles” WWE performers need to adopt between the homogenised, rigidly-structured style that they’re demanded to work. Wyatt has found himself a wonderful one with the spider walk, but if Jerry Lawler doesn’t sell it in the required way, it amounts to nothing.
Picture a lapsed fan, one WWE should be desperate to win back, watching Bray Wyatt vs. Kofi Kingston in isolation. Thanks to Lawler’s counterproductive sell-job, they would be under the impression that Bray Wyatt is a comedy act. Jerry Lawler’s job is to complement the in-ring performances of the talent. Not only is he not doing that, he’s actively detracting from the good work the likes of Bray Wyatt are doing in the ring. I understand that Lawler is employed as comic relief – let that sink in for a moment – but he’s turning into a 2010-model Michael Cole. The only problem with this development, of course, it’s that it’s not his bloody gimmick.
I work in the financial sector, which has been forced since the 2008 crisis to improve its approach to risk. My role is classed as being in the “first line of defence” of our governance model, meaning that I’m meant to manage risks before they become genuine issues. Lawler is in the same position; he should be mitigating the risk of Wyatt not connecting with fans by doing everything possible to support him in doing so. I think it’s fair to say that guffawing at the scary man is not an effective control…
It’s time to put Lawler out to pasture. Actually, scratch that: the time to put Lawler out to pasture was years ago. Now that Lawler’s tired comedy act is adversely affecting the progress of a man touted to become a major player in WWE, though, the need is more urgent than ever.
[Writer’s note – as ever, feedback on content would be much appreciated, but I’m really interested in what you think of this new, blog-style set-up. Sharp Shooting proper will continue, but certain subjects don’t need more than 1000 words. That’s what ‘A Sharp Shooting Short’ is for. Cheers]
You summed up my feelings on Lawler, and even Ross too, more succinctly than I certainly would. There's a lot to Wyatt not taking off, it's not as simplistic as him failing to deliver in the ring which, honestly, is a downright lie anyway. Lawler is certainly part of that problem, and it's not limited to Wyatt of course. Unfortunately, he isn't going anywhere soon and guys like Ross, who I have respect for but am not immune to criticising his work as many fans are, are so close as friends they choose to ignore his failings. Sure, I don't know what it takes to be a wrestling announcer, but I do know when said announcers are hurting the credibility of what I'm watching; as a viewer, the only qualification I need to have for an opinion on that front is to simply be an invested fan. All in all, Lawler needs the boot. Should've retired when JR did. Wish it would've been in the same way as is rumoured too...
As for the new style? Well, you may be better waiting for other responses. I have a personal dislike for bloggy style columns, which is why I hate dailies so much. You're right not everything needs more than 1000 words, but in my eyes, anything worth spending time reading and writing about should do. But that's just my preference; I find bits such as this serve only to restate popularly held opinions and offer little new to a conversation. That said, don't let my snobbery dissuade you! You succeeded in your aim, so go with the popular opinion. I am sure it will be a positive one.
Two columns since the reset, eh? I think you have a third to get writing, don't you?! Huh?!
Like 'Plan, the concept of a "blog" column has always puzzled me, in that most actual blogs I've ever read are as long, or longer, than the columns we write, so people like Pen, Avery and Josh using that term always made me go "huh?" Maybe it's just the nomenclature around these parts that bothers me, because I have no problem with shorter columns so long as they achieve something tangible; my own dailies set out to do just that and I believe they did.
I liked this, mainly because I agree that Lawler is a huge issue in getting over new performers. Then again, you could say that for Cole and JBL too. I can't stand that three man booth. All three of them are phoning it in something chronic and damaging what has been a much improved product as a result. Fantasy land I know, but I would love a Josh Matthews/William Regal combination. I also believe it's time to leave babyface and heel commentators where they belong; in the past. Heenan and Ventura, with their respective partnerships with Monsoon, added hugely to the presentation of an era, but now, it would be better to have a neutral play-by-play guy and a neutral analyst, which would also serve to add legitimacy to the kayfabe action. I think the commentary on NXT shows that this is possible and works.
As for Bray Wyatt...I liked him in NXT, truly I did. But WWE have well and truly put me him off him with the botched manner he's been handled since his debut. Beat up midcarder, creepy vignette, repeat. It got old very quickly. Not only that, but unlike 'Plan, he is boring me in the ring. Is it a good character? Absolutely. Does he perform it, live his gimmick? Definitely. But if you watch Mick Foley in his early Mankind days in 96 he played deranged but also knew how to work an entertaining match. Despite his previous work in FCW, season 2 of the original NXT, Barrett's Nexus, Punk's Nexus and the rebooted NXT he still seems to have trouble putting together a feature match. He's wrestled two incredibly solid midcard hands in Kane and Kingston, and though the first was handicapped by an awful stipulation, the second was a straight match and aside from some admittedly decent character work that you mentioned, it was a total stinker. He possesses great quickness for a man so big, but that's all we're seeing. I know moveset isn't everything, but he needs more somehow.
Anyway, have gone on to almost Mizfan levels of feedback here so that's where I'll leave it. Kudos on productivity; in answer to your question in the feed to feed of your Cena column, school is currently insanely busy as I'm acting Head of Department at the moment, but my COTM should be with Hustle some time this week for posting on the MP and then I should have a couple of things in the pipeline for half term.
Catch you soon mate.
"Wish it would've been in the same way as is rumoured too..." I must've missed this - care to elaborate?
This column, frankly, was a main page audition piece, hence the enforced word count and the topic choice. The most successsful main page columns are digestible for the wider audience and strike while the iron is hot. Also, I went to bed on Monday night inwardly raging at Lawler's work on Sunday, so there was some catharsis involved too. I could have used Lawler's work on Sunday to segue into a wider commentary on why, erm, commentary is a big reason why the current product is suffering as much as it is, but the aim here was to get in and get out. I want to infiltrate the MP by writing hot button pieces more regularly, and if and when I make it, I want to use the increased exposure to be LoP's premier puro pundit.
I promise to have my intro done by Sunday night. Sauce it! Thanks for the feed.
A lot of my friends write blogs, and the personal connotations I attach to the word are short, direct, etc. That’s based purely on experience though. If anything I’d avoid the word column altogether and separate what I usually do with this most recent post as essays and blogs. How pretentious!
I can’t get on board with William Regal as commentator. It often feels as though he’s commentating after the fact, like he’s on a DVD release or something. He’s a bit quiet and nondescript for my tastes.
The Wyatt Family shouldn’t have been called up in the first place without their first three feuds penned in. Isn’t that what Triple H, the purported driving force behind their promotion, insists upon with NXT call-ups? Perhaps he’s too busy thinking of ways to railroad the hotter angles at the top of the card to care.
The Kane match was so disastrous that I think WWE have got cold feet. I wouldn’t lay the blame at Wyatt’s door, mind. Even Dean Ambrose couldn’t squeeze a good match out of Kane earlier this year. I think the Big Red Machine is cumbersome to work with. I’ve been disagreeing with my once hero Fin Martin a lot recently (his SummerSlam review was the writing of a thoroughly jaded man) but he summed up Kane perfectly when he said that he runs out of things to do in singles matches.
It’s all Lawler’s fault anyway!
I think it's a holding period right now for Bray Wyatt until Kane returns. I am sure Kane story has just began and it will go on to be interesting for the Wyatt Family.
Bullseye. I'm not sure the commentary problem can be placed solely on Lawler, as I find fault with a lot of things Michael Cole does these days, but it can be placed largely on the King. The Wyatts are in a delicate situation with their characters, as they're extreme characters and can only succeed if they're truly perceived as scary. Lawler's inane attempts to put himself over as even mildly comical are damaging the targets that commentary should be putting over. If commentary doesn't "get" the Wyatts, they need a lesson quickly. If they're being idiots for any other reason, it's disgustingly unprofessional.
Gonna preface this with an apology, Sidg, for yet another North American sports reference! But the Wyatts clearly have the ability to knock it out of the park. They're not getting any help doing so if commentary's throwing them balls, not strikes.
I think it's somewhat rare that you and I agree on something, but in my eyes, you are 100% spot on in this piece. Well argued, great balance of venting and logic.
Regarding the length and tweak to the column title - I think that for this scenario, the length was appropriate. You didn't short us on content, nor did you carry on and on pointlessly. I agree with Maverick that any length of column is generally OK as long as it touches on everything it needs to in the right amount of depth. As long as you can consistently do that (and you're talented enough that I'm confident you'll be able to), I'm sure length of the column will rarely be an issue. Just don't write ~700 word pieces merely for the sake of writing ~700 word pieces.
I think Bray Wyatt's character is a victim of being too small for a big room. I said it in my Battleground review, but maybe this type of gimmick doesn't work in such a grand stage as the WWE Main Roster. It worked in NXT, because it was a smaller venue. It would have worked amazingly in someplace like Mid-South Wrestling, or the early days of the NWA. But in a big arena, with tens of thousands of people, it seems cheap. This gimmick just screams for intimacy, something that you're not going to get in huge arenas.
As for Lawler, fuck him. Toolbag needs to go away for good.
Sidg, was nothing major. Just referring to the rumours that JR was "forced" into retirement by WWE higher-ups being pissed off at him for one bizarre reason or another. Kind of wish they'd force Lawler to go join him in the queue for a pension, just for being shit on commentary!
Even back during Michael Cole's lamentable heel run (not that Cole does anything that isn't lamentable), Jerry Lawler was already contending for most useless and counterproductive commentator in the business. His jokes are horrendous, and he is perhaps the worst of all time at putting people over verbally. Is it funny or sad that even now, post heart attack, he's still better in the ring than he is in the booth? Like everything Lawler says, it is the latter.
I love the idea of the Wyatts, even if they've been handled awfully. I don't buy that a gimmick like that can't work in modern wrestling if handled well, but the fact is WWE creative seems either unable or uninterested in delivering on the innovative faction that the NXT trainers helped create. The idea that they are in a holding pattern waiting for Kane being used as an excuse is insane in my mind. People do not cease to have motivations and personalities while waiting for something to happen, and neither should characters in a story. Deplorable handling, and you're damn right that the commentary isn't helping just as it never seems to help anyone these days.
I liked your point that JBL attempted damage control at one point... I see him do it so often I worry he's going to strain himself. He may not be the perfect commentator for everyone, his love of obscure references can be distracting, but at least he alone in the main booth is committed to putting people over and injecting some sense of urgency and passion. It quite literally causes me severe chest pain when Cole takes a tone with him and tries to steamroll him as if he's being ridiculous. How I yearn for a Gorilla Monsoon straight man to keep things grounded and in line with a hint of sincerity and genuine interest.
As for the short style, it definitely works for me. I'm not particular about the size of a column so long as it's well done, and this certainly was. Could it have been longer? Certainly so, there is more ground to cover if you so chose, but it by no means felt incomplete. You said what you wanted and that was that, succinct and enjoyable without a hint of drag. Well done, sir!
The Underage Pessimist
I had to go back and watch that match to carefully listen to Lawler's commentary. Nobody can blame me for not paying attention to it at the first watch. And yes, it was disgusting. I can imagine not being fully invested into a match which was frankly boring, but atleast show some dignity and acknowledge such a rare feat. For a 6' 3", 300 Pound man, that's an incredible achievement. Heck, the only reaction I had after watching it was "FUCKING HELL!".
Jerry tried to mend his ways on Raw this past week during the Orton/Kofi match saying that Kofi running away from Wyatt after that walk was the wise thing to do and even he was afraid. But saying sorry after killing someone doesn't help.
And Bray isn't the first one to be impacted by Lawler's (and the whole commentary booth's) awful reactions. Daniel Bryan is still recovering from the insane amount of criticism and dry humor that he had been subjected to. You'd be hard pressed to find one ultra positive thing said about him after Over the Limit 2012 and before Payback 2013. He was made fun of at every opportunity, every thing he did was scrutinized. So many insults, jabs and what not. It's like they suddenly opened their eyes to the fucktastic reactions he was getting and decided to ride with the wave. Now he's having trouble in firming his claim to fame in the eyes of the casual fans. Because there's no way they are taking him seriously. And I feel that is what affected the SummerSlam buyrate and the TV ratings ever since.
As for The Wyatt Family's gimmick, they are boring now, to be frank. There is no connect to the fans and the gibberish promos can only get you so far. Bray's mic skills are excellent, but their has to be an explanation of motive for the fans to get behind him or against him. Today, fans don't know what to do with him. He's anti-system, a cult leader, but why exactly? Who's he against? Until and unless there is some explanation or clear motive behind his character, the crowds will keep chanting random stuff.
His explosiveness inside the ring is a great prospect, but it doesn't mesh well with anyone because there is not much he does inside the ring. He's very slow as pertains to transitioning between moves and stitching a match together. According to his gimmick, he should kick and punch the fuck out of people, do unorthodox moves and just "go!". The stalling approach he adopts is not visually stunning and is again, boring.
I've felt that he debuted too soon and the creative should have waited for a more opportune time before pulling the trigger. It seems that he was only used as a tool to write Kane off of TV, and now they have no clue what to do with him. I guess Kane returns somewhere after Hell in a Cell or during the PPV, so he's about to get something to do. Let's see where it is headed to.
I really liked the column and felt that the length was just perfect for what you wanted to convey. As you are exceptionally talented in putting your thoughts together, thus the economy of words is not a big issue. And it is anyways easier and less time taking to read and judge whether the reader is accepting of your views or not. This was great!
Sidgwick- I can agree with some points and disagree with others here. I agree that Jerry Lawler has been needing to be put out to pasture for years now, although I'd have to believe most of what he is saying is suggested and approved ahead of time. When you think to just how many restrictions the announcers have in what they can/cannot say, I simply cannot believe otherwise. So really the ire needs to be focused on Mcmahons/Helmsley/creative? I agree though that whomever is in charge of the announce team needs to get their shit together as like Miz, I miss the Gorilla Monsoons, Jesse Ventura's, hell even the Vince McMahons of the announcing world, and I doubt we will ever see commentators like that again thanks to the death of kayfabe, modern technology, and consumerism.
I do have to say fans drive me insane in 2013. If a wrestler gets over exposed too soon fans complain. If a wrestler seems to be under exposed at the beginning fans today seem to be incapable of patience. Fans will bicker if a wrestler gets thrust into big feuds right away (Curtis Axel), and on the same hand complain when wrestlers like Bray start out wrestling mid-card/job level wrestlers. I believe creative absolutely had/has a story arch in mind and we as fans sometimes need to understand our role in the process and allow things to unfold before we dismiss. Maybe WWE realizes they are already running a big story line and want to save another big story line for when the corporation angle slows down? In the meantime I can happily wait as imo Bray has produced some of the best promos on WWE television since the attitude era. Not to mention I think his ring presence and psychology are actually great. This gimmick will work. We as fans just need to understand that wrestling isn't minute rice or instant gratification. Slow burns are the best kind.
Anyways you provoked thought with this which is the aim. Nice work
Is Your Superior
You should rewatch and listen to the commentary for the Undertaker's debut at Survivor Series 1990. Gorilla and Piper were in awe, but they made their jokes too. I remember Piper talking about Taker not having enough coffee in the morning.
Somehow, Calloway survived it.
My point is that playing off Bray as a joke is only harmful if this continues. Right now, Bray is mysterious, yet goofy and campy. I think it's safe to assume that the Wyatt Family will turn it up a notch very soon, and the jokes will end. Just like they did with Taker.
If the commentary doesn't change once the Wyatt's are on a tear, then the complaint would be valid. Until this, it's just Lawler bitching for the hell of it. He's a shitty commentator, but he's in no way damaging the Wyatt's anymore than them having merchandise.
In agreement with a number of the comments above, I think the horribly inconsistent booking of Bray has more to do with his stuttering start, but your point remains and I agree with it. The spider walk spot was eerie and awesome and deserved an appropriate level of commentary to enhance it. The whole commentary could be deemed culpable, but Lawler, in particular, needs to pack it in all together. He clearly lacks the passion and drive that he once had in abundance for this gig, to the extent that it's become an absolute chore to listen to him speak. The increasing struggle against his cringe-inducing attempts at humour is taking its toll on my enjoyment of the show.
Also, I liked the short, sharp nature of this column. I'm not a prolific feedbacker these days, but as a fan of your columns, I think this style provides a nice supplement to your more fleshed out articles. Good stuff, mate.
Ah, the age old Lawler question. I have really soured on the guy over the past couple of years, and sometimes find him borderline unbearable. I equally think that the Divas division could be 50% improved if he wasn't on commentary during their matches. The main issue I have with him is that so much of what he says is completely bloody inane - it doesn't help the overall feel of things much. As for Wyatt - yeah, he's got those nuances that might well make the difference between a life midcarder and a main eventer. Not right now, perhaps, but in time I can see him getting up the card with this gimmick. It needs time, and I really think WWE need to add something (as I said over on Randall's column) to get it really, really over as it is, but it can work.
As for the format - I liked it, it's nice and snappy, but I'd kind of like to read a couple of them back to back in a column rather than just the one at a time. I know that's what others are doing, but a pair of shorter thought like this might work a little better for me. That said, I enjoyed reading it as I always do with you, Sidg, so that's a big plus!
Or maybe Wyatt isn't that interesting.
Agree with pretty much all of this. It's not just Wyatt he's ruining either.
The King is one of my all time favorites as an all rounder but it's long past time for him to abdicate. The weird thing is, he ruins gimmick's with potential but shitty gimmicks who are going nowhere but to a comedy role like Fandango and Los Matadores, he goes mental for.
Newt – I’m afraid I’m with Mizfan on this one. The existence of a character shouldn’t depend on the existence of another. That’s just poor storytelling. There are loads of babyfaces who aren’t being used that could be used to further Wyatt’s momentum, and not just on a flung-together basis.
Skul – I went to a baseball game on my honeymoon, so I’m able to “catch” these analogies! Thanks for the read and feed, mate, and thanks also for your pre-reset message of congratulations. I took good commentary for granted in the past. I thought we’d never see any company plumb the depths of 1998-Death WCW, given how destructive it was, but that it is the accepted standard nowadays. Why?!
Congrats on the MP promotion; well deserved.
TripleR – I read that review and can half get on board with your theory. Some bands don’t suit pristine, Pro-tooled production. Maybe Wyatt needs the intimacy to translate properly. Any gimmick like this post-kayfabe is gonna struggle to a certain extent on its own, though. Tragically, we’ll never know at the rate creative are fucking this up and commentary is treating them as just another act to humourlessly bury.
‘Plan – I get you now. Either your phrasing or my understanding was off first time ‘round
Miz – Thanks for the kind words. JBL, particularly with the Shield, does a very good job at times of presenting talent in the right way, but he shouldn’t be an exception. Cole at least has it in him to sound enthused. I thought he did a great, great job during Punk vs. Lesnar at SummerSlam, for example. I can’t remember the last time Lawler did anything right.
Sub – Those words brightened up a really shitty Thursday. Thanks. It’s scary to think how big Bryan could be if he was treated as seriously as he is now. The timeline you’ve picked out wasn’t even the worst Bryan has had to endure. His first year was characterised by how far down in the earth his company could bury him. It was more than 6 feet at one point. The first disc of his 3-DVD set will be marred by Cole hyperactively bullying him.
Your comments regarding his in-ring skills are interesting. The jury’s still out for me. His push has been so staggered that it’s difficult to form a proper opinion.
Kleck – I understand that commentators aren’t 100% free to speak their mind, but I highly doubt those tasked with making money for the company would have instructed Lawler to bury one of their top 5 prospects. That would explain the “King’s” backtracking one night later.
I’m not sure if your second paragraph was directed at me or was written in response to the other bits of feedback, but I at no point expressed impatience at the pace of Wyatt’s push. I think you’re giving fans a raw deal, too. The Axel push was and is a total insult to intelligence, and given the enormous hype surrounding the Wyatt’s debut, it’s reasonable of us, I think, to expect to see him featured prominently.
Conversely, the “Daniel Bryan is getting buried” crowd which formed two weeks after the New Corporation debuted got on my tits, mind.
PEN – It’s all in the timing. There may be a time and a place for a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of Wyatt’s otherness. That’s up for debate in itself. The debut of a unique spot which accentuated the performers physical gifts and which was designed to frighten definitely isn’t it, though. I don’t think I’m Lawler-bashing for the sake of it, so we’ll have to agree to disagree for the umpteenth time! The jokes will never stop with Lawler. That’s the wider issue. If he was at all witty, it would be forgivable (see: Bobby Heenan), but he’s so humourless that his “comedy” comes across as scathing.
Pringle – I agree, Lawler has a tendency to make me switch off, when his job is to make sure I’m staying engaged. If he’s not interested, why should I be? Apathy is contagious.
Oli – I see what you’re getting at, but I don’t want to cramp, say, Josh’s style. Besides, as I mentioned above, this really was an MP audition piece. Not to disparage the readership there, but I think people are more inclined to read a lengthier piece here in the CF, and I want to demonstrate my versatility in case there are headhunters lurking…
T.O. – That may very well be the reason that Wyatt isn’t connecting with fans, but it in no way excuses Lawler’s counterproductive, witless bullshit. The commentary team bigged up Vladimir Kozlov like he was the second coming of Christ in 2008. It’s not their job to be honest. Their job is the opposite of that, in fact.
BFB – And I thought the man had taste, looking at The Kat! Then again, if you believe that story about the thirteen year old girl…
Just think- Back in late 2001, someone actually made Vince believe that Lawler was a good enough talker to warrant replacing Paul Heyman.