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Imp’s WWE Adventure
WWE Are Like DC And They Should Worry, Marvel Is Coming
WARNING, I TALK ABOUT AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. I’VE TRIED NOT TO INCLUDE ANY SPOILERS, BUT IF YOU’VE STILL NOT SEEN THE FILM AND WANT TO GO IN TRULY BLIND IN FUTURE, I’D RECOMMEND GIVING THIS COLUMN A MISS.
QUESTION: Who is currently relying heavier on their successful past to sell their current product? WWE or DC?
Last Monday I finally dragged my ass out to see Avengers: Infinity War. It felt like the culmination of YEARS of hard work finally coming together and paying off in a most spectacular fashion. As a wrestling fan, it was a tad of a déjà vu feeling. A company building for a long, long time, before finally pulling the trigger on their big main event, with all that construction to support its hefty weight. Long term investments in storylines that pay off years down the line… that sounds like a certain New Japan Pro Wrestling to me!
Which got me thinking, is that the only trait Marvel and NJPW share? Could you call Okada the Ironman of New Japan? Omega the mighty Thor from a distant world? Captain New Japan the… the less we say about him the better. However I’m not talking about direct character comparisons, rather how they are built over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I bet part of it was.
Side note: If Omega was Thor, then that would make Cody Low Ki and I couldn’t think of a better comparison.
So firstly, Infinity War did an amazing job in making what happened in previous Marvel movies feel incredibly relevant. Encounters mattered, actions mattered and story arcs were referenced to constantly. It was fantastic to see a film where the more time you’ve invested in these movies, the more you got out of it. Not forgetting that the film was two and a half hours long, yet felt like nothing. That’s right, it’s as long as the theatrical release of The Fellowship of the Ring and if it wasn’t for the large Pepsi carousing through my bladder I’d have sworn it was half that run time.
With New Japan I can’t help but to correlate. What happens in their matches matters and is more often than not referenced to in later encounters, watch any of Okada’s series with Tanahashi or Omega or Naito and you’ll see exactly what I mean. If Okada reverses his opponent’s finisher into the Rainmaker in match one, you can sure as hell bet he’s not hitting that reversal in match two. So when Naito loses the main event of Wrestle Kingdom because he tried to win using moves of his previous high-flying Stardust persona, you can probably guess what Naito’s not going to do the next time the two collide.
Then there’s the extended universe aspect in ‘Being The Elite’ and to an extent ROH & Rev Pro, other avenues for rewarding fans for investing their time. Just watch the Young Bucks vs Golden Lovers match in Long Beach, the story and character arcs are EVERYTHING in that. Just like with Infinity War, the more you’ve watched, the more you get out of it. The match is perfectly entertaining on its own as it tells its own story, but there are so many nods, references and building upon past events, that if you’ve invested some time then you’ll get so much out of it.
The company investing in fan interest all pays off towards the end as well. What is constantly one the biggest praises about NJPW’S Wrestle Kingdom shows? They’re long as hell (typically around 6 hours minimum), but the shows absolutely fly by. With epic clashes between characters that the audience has become genuinely invested in, the final matches all get enough time to be fully fleshed out and the fans love it. Hell, this year’s main event truly felt like two beloved superheroes clashing in Okada vs Naito.
The strong consistency in character building and continuity with events makes me feel so rewarded for continuously watching. I’ve not even touched on Omega and Ibushi’s arc of perfection in subtlety, there’s so many layers to the stories being told that you can’t help but get invested. Which is both a gift and a curse, the curse being the case of the barrier for entry. With stories being told over years, there’s a lot to pick up when you start watching. There’s a reason US networks are packed full of blaaaah cookie cutter procedurals, they’re piss easy to relax and jump into without any prior knowledge. But if you want to get invested, Game of Thrones they are not.
Which brings me back to Avengers: Infinity War, a movie that was incredibly successful and also built up with stories told through multiple films over the years. That barrier for entry is pretty huge, but that didn’t prove to be much of a deterrent at all. Marvel Studios created such a great perception with their past Avengers films that people went to see it regardless of their views on the company’s latest phase of superhero flicks. I could say the exact same with NJPW and Wrestle Kingdom. How many of you watched Okada vs Omega, didn’t really keep up for the rest of 2017, but was hyped as hell for Omega vs Jericho and Okada vs Naito?
Perception is everything. You can make a whole lot of dollar with a whole lot of nothing, but that customer is not coming back.
Which segways me perfectly into the DC Extended Universe’s: Justice League. All the weight of a big event, with none of the structure built to support it. With a villain that I’m being told is this awesome threat, but I’ve never heard of the bastard despite seeing the past DCEU movies and I’m sat there asking, “Who’s this CGI dickhead?” Steppenwolf (I had to Google that), the Jinder Mahal of superhero villains. Vice versa, Jinder Mahal really is the CGI Dickhead of main event heels. No real reason to boo other than, “Aah, look, a baddy!”
That said, Justice League’s jobber world champion is only a minor issue with DC’s universe to me. The character work and story arcs are a much, much bigger cause for concern. For example, Ben Affleck’s Batman, he’s angry and brooding in the first film and then semi-light hearted and joking in the second. His character changed on a whim because certain character traits had been proven to work with someone el… oh shit, Roman Reigns is Batman isn’t he?
The story arcs concern is more my personal opinion, but I find both DC and WWE sometimes throw this to the side in favour of their said whims. Everything about the Roman Reigns arc with Lesnar told me that the Big Dog was going to conquer the Beast. A story of failure, redemption and an eventual overcoming of the hurdle he previously fell over. Except Reigns then proceeded to run head first into that hurdle and bled all over the track. If his character was a bit all over the place, at least he had a consistent story arc with Le- oh no, nope that’s gone too.
And with these top characters failing to captivate, WWE and DC have resorted to calling upon what we’ve loved about them in the past to sell their current product. I can only speak for us here at LOP, but the minute Goldberg returned to WWE interest skyrocketed. Of course he then left and the minute Mahal became champion interest plummeted. However WWE does have a huge advantage over DC’s position as they do have great characters booked reasonably well, they just have to choose to use them. Whilst DC right now has to rely on their successful past to sell their new movie, WWE just chooses to do that in spite of the talent being right there in front of them.
They’re just a few examples, but my current feeling when I watch these shows/movies is, “Why am I watching this? When there’s a market flooded with alternative wrestling/superhero films that I thoroughly enjoy?” I felt fatigued with superhero films as a whole after watching Justice League, in spite of Marvel doing nothing wrong. So what did I do? I didn’t watch any superhero films for a full year, absolutely nothing until I watched Thor Ragnarok & Black Panther in the week prior to seeing Infinity War. And my oh my am I refreshed and enjoying the hell of out superheroes again.
I’ve also vowed to just simply stop watching DCEU films. Sure I’ve really enjoyed past DC cinematic interpretations, but that’s no longer a good enough reason to keep watching the current product. That’s when it hit me, am I actually enjoying WWE’s current product? Or more the glimpses of what it could be and what it has been at times in the past? Do I need to have a break from wrestling and reset, like I did with superhero films?
It turns out that was a very important question to ask myself, because the answer was surprisingly optimistic. Yes, yes I am enjoying a large portion of WWE’s product. I went in questioning whether the big W could be fatiguing my wrestling fandom as a whole, but I’ve come to realise that WWE are solely fatiguing me of WWE. I’ve become increasingly frustrated with wrestling’s biggest promotion, but that’s had zero impact on my wider wrestling viewing. I still absolutely love NJPW, not forgetting the likes of PROGRESS, Lucha Underground, WXW, PWG and I’d also count NXT in here.
DC made me tired of superhero movies, but I didn’t stop enjoying ALL movies. I’ve been questioning the wrong thing. It’s not wrestling I need a break from, it’s WWE. The whole time I was comparing WWE to Marvel and DC, when WWE was the whole superhero universe the entire time. And when I look at WWE there are essentially full movies within that I’m really enjoying:
- The Redemption of Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins
- A Tale of Two Dads: Daniel Bryan vs The Miz
- AJ Styles and the Testicle Assassin
- Walk With Elias
- The Invincible Strowman
There’s a lot to like, but for every emotional Rollins story there’s crap like the Roman Reigns saga. Of which the latest entry was so well put together that it had people leaving before the end. For every Bryan vs Miz there’s also a Bobby Lashley’s sisters segment or a Jinder Mahal’s main event run or Big Cass beating up a midget. For every one thing I like, there’s three things I’m bitching about on Twitter. So why not take a break from the superheroes?
It’s a psychological thing, the brain is more likely to remember the negative aspects over time than it is the positive ones. I’m way too chirpy a fella’ to become a moaning, bitter old man while I’m still only 25. So as I said on PERFECT 10 WRESTLING on LOP Radio last week, I’ll be taking a holiday and sailing away to foreign wrestling shores. It’s not like I’ll have nothing to talk about with Best of the Super Juniors currently ongoing, Dominion on June 9th and PROGRESS uploading that super fun looking 70’s show at some point.
Wrestling is incredible right now, from Germany to Japan to America, there is so much high quality stuff out there. A ‘Global Revolution’ of sorts (ey’ up, Mizzie). So I’ll spend more time on that, taking a little break from the big ol’ WWE. With the intent to return, all refreshed and excited for this amazing world of greater than life superheroes.
Don’t forget, Batman’s been shit before, he tends to not stay that way for long. And WWE may be bad, but let’s be honest, it’s not DCEU bad.
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