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Let's talk about.....Battleground

Let’s talk about….Battleground

Well, that happened.

I hesitate to label the internet wrestling community the ‘IWC’, if for the simple fact that those initials have a negative connotation that is unrivaled by most of the, shall we say, fringe groups on the internet. Yes, we are all talking about wrestling on the internet, and sometimes the conversation gets clich├ęd in ways that are depressingly familiar (‘Cena should turn heel‘ is rapidly becoming the Windmill and the IWC becoming Don Quixote), but while we are a collection of individual minds, I suppose that it seems reasonable to use the shorthand when best applying broad strokes to the community et al.

But on the other hand, the diversity of the IWC is something that I have come to rather enjoy very much over the last several years. From our very webmaster to CRZ to Herb Kunze to Hyatte, we’re less than a hive mind much of the time than we give ourselves credit for; in fact, I find the IWC as a whole to be an incredibly rich set of people who have one thing in common – being unrepentant fans of something that we’re told we should BE repentant of. We’ve all gotten the ‘fake’ speech, we’ve all been asked why we still watch the ‘kid’s show’, etc. And it remains a welcoming thing, at least for myself, to log on and have an actual discussion, be it academic or otherwise, with the relief of not worrying about the derision that comes with still being a fan of professional wrestling.

Sunday night, I was on full media blackout, as it was me and my wife’s wedding anniversary. Not particularly wanting to get divorced, I knew that the PPV would have to wait until after the lady was asleep, but I confess to being unreasonably excited for what looked like a decent lineup. For those of you who have read some of my past work on this blog, you can probably infer that the Rollins/Ambrose match was at the top of my viewing list for this particular PPV, as the feud has nicely been set to simmer ever hotter each week; I was definitely looking forward to its boiling over. As I was forced to wait to watch the PPV, I also had to force myself offline, as there were very few outlets that were ‘safe’ from revealing the results of the PPV, since my social media and other online destinations were very intertwined with this sport that we all know and love.

As such, I spent the time with my wife and daughter, which was no doubt the correct choice. But when my wife tapped out at the end of Good Will Hunting, her film choice for the evening, I didn’t hesitate to haul out my laptop and immediately log in to the Network to get my Sports Entertainment fill at 1 AM. And the opening match heartened me, an excellent tag match that, while not quite as high as some others had it (I had it at ***1/2, for those that care), I was quite pleased with overall. It looked as though it would be worth the wait.

Then, of course, Rollins/Ambrose happened.

I admit, I sort of checked out of the PPV after my most anticipated match was bumped from the card. While I knew there was certainly a reason to do it, and any person could see the other side of the coin, i.e., keep building the match until the crowd goes nuts, it still nagged at me that the match that I desperately wanted to see more than the rest of the card would not go on.

And, I must confess, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself ‘Wonder what the blog is saying about this?’

My curiosity only grew as the PPV stumbled to its predictable finish (which doesn’t bother me, as it was clearly the correct one, assuming Brock murdercrushesdestroys Cena at Summerslam), so you can be sure that the instant the PPV was over for me, I headed to the blog. To say that the responses were passionate were, shall we say, a slight understatement. I grew more and more fascinated as I read some of the comments in which some folks were indeed arguing vociferously, but intelligently, for both sides, and that made me want to write this column today.

To wit: Was the right call made in delaying the match to Summerslam, or not?

Well, let’s take the arguments one at a time.

PRO CANCEL THE MATCH: Canceling the match in the storyline sense accomplishes quite a bit, actually. The idea that Ambrose could not wait to get his hands on Rollins plays perfectly into the Pillman-esque character that he is channeling at this moment. The fact that the angle was given match time (Multiple brawls, Rollins going to the ring to demand a forfeit victory like a weasel, Ambrose at the end in the trunk of the car), as opposed to one segment, clearly highlighted the fact that they were treating this like a top star angle, as opposed to simple Adam Rose/Damien Sandow type buffoonery. And, of course, taking more time to deliver on the match may put a little more pressure on the competitors to come up with something special, but it also gives the crowd time to ramp up the anticipation as another selling point to the PPV next month.

CON CANCEL THE MATCH: You advertised the match, have the damned match. People are still ostensibly buying PPVs in some areas, and those folks very well might have considered this match a top priority in considering their purchase of this show. Building to a match and advertising it is tantamount to making a contract with the audience that you will deliver on what you promise, and while the card is always ‘subject to change’, that clause should only be used to save a card in extreme injury or other unavoidable situations. While Ambrose’s character may not be able to handle waiting for a match, there’s no reason for me, as a customer, to believe that the match will take place at Summerslam now, unless it’s a gimmick match. Of course, gimmick matches are normally used as a feud blowoff, as opposed to how the feud begins; since we already had a gimmick match to start this whole thing, I don’t know if we want another to start the individual portion of the feud.

Both sides have reasonable arguments, in my opinion. I think that a case can be made either way, and I don’t fault anyone for what they think.

That having been said, I was against cancelling the match. I think that part of it may be that I wanted to see the match very much, but there’s another part of it, one that is steeped very deeply in the DNA of wrestling, at least for me.

See, we as viewers pretty much know the score out there. Outside of the children in the audience, the rest of us know that the whole thing is pretty much a show. Yes, they’re out there risking their bodies, something that we know and don’t take lightly in our analysis of the matches. But we make the contract with the wrestlers and say ‘you put on a good show, and we’ll follow along.’ That may mean cheering, booing, gasping, whatever the case may be; the best moments in wrestling for the fan is when you lose yourself so completely in that story that you forget that it’s a story.

And, one of the ways that we’ve conditioned ourselves is that we know that these issues are settled in the ring. The ring is our stage – no matter how many backstage interviews these guys do, the story is always settled inside the squared circle. We accept all sorts of silliness when it comes to the ring being the proving ground, whether it be for titles, child custody, shampoo commercials – all we ask is that these issues be resolved in the ring. And a match, not a simple backstage brawl, is the act that we all accept as a big part of the journey along the way, and to try to substitute for it is a dangerous high-wire act for a professional wrestling company to walk. To put it another way, there was simply no reason that the storyline could not have continued as a result of a match as opposed to a backstage segment – it would certainly be possible to book said match in a way that allows both wrestlers to need another one to settle it, so for you to cancel the match you ADVERTISED, you better have some damn good backstage story segments to make this work. And I found those segments, while not bad, lacking. Not good enough to justify canceling the match itself.

I’m not mad that the WWE lied to me. They do that all the time, and that’s actually okay sometimes. I like to be surprised, I like to be shocked.

But I also like the feeling of value for my money. And I like it when my anticipation pays off.

In short, I like it when the story continues to unfold in the manner in which professional wrestling tells stories, where the ‘to be continued’ part is done after the ringwork, rather than just putting up a giant STOP sign.

Because if we can't settle it in the ring, a day might come when we settle it with our pocketbooks. 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter