WWE is wasting your time with its Retribution angle, and moreover as a point of fact they’re thumbing their noses at you while they’re doing it.
Several weeks ago we featured this column about the group, detailing its early problems and what it needed to do to be taken seriously from a fan perspective. There have been developments since then, none of which have improved their long-term standing or footing.
To quickly recap, we have seen them destroy a transformer, break a window (where they, you know, formerly worked), attacked random wrestlers without any sense of consistency until the Hurt Business, and finally revealed their purpose: destroy World Wrestling Entertainment. And what is WWE doing while all this wayward destruction to company property is going on? They’re recapping it with video packages. That makes perfect sense. Someone destroys your property, so the first thing you do (when you could just recap it verbally) is highlight this force that will soon announce its plans to tear the company apart; treating them like they’re part of the show. What?
What’s next, t-shirts and blu-ray compilations of their best moments? No, not yet, but as of last week they have officially signed their WWE contracts…to pay their henchmen. There’s nothing quite like corporate sponsorship to really boost an initiative.
So this random band of hoodlums have signed deals as wrestlers, whom I guess we’re supposed to believe aren’t wrestlers (right?) to wrestle for a formerly-billion dollar company which they’ve sworn to annihilate; while clearly being a band of NXT superstars who have little to complain about given their full-time contracts on a program with a national TV deal where they’re afforded creative freedom and were NOT part of the springtime releases. Was that everything?
Common $cents and Empty Words
Here’s why this is problematic, and we’ll tweak a rather infamous line from the TV series “Big Bang Theory” to illustrate it: “I accept your conclusion, but reject your premise.”
The conclusion that WWE came to was the product needed an injection of intrigue and mystery to spike their ratings on Monday nights. So logically, you would announce that the group that will plan to destroy your company will be randomly appearing on your flagship show to debut by destroying a transformer. But rather than a serious threat, they came off like one of those fundamentally annoying kids who stands guard at the room’s light switch and flicks it on and off in the middle of the night until you’re within an inch of your sanity as you try to sleep (true story). From the outset the angle was flawed, and while we can accept their attempt, even respect that they’re trying, in the most focused of ways what they’re attempting in terms of its execution makes absolutely no sense logically or creatively.
In an essay, if your thesis is flawed, your entire argument falls apart. It doesn’t matter if your conclusion is convincing, it’s meaningless if the body is flimsy and poorly developed. And so it follows that Retribution is a toothless waste of your time as a viewer from the outset because the level of thought put into their long-term planning was ever only surface level. Another knee-jerk creative idea in a storied list whose length surpasses the tallest of wive’s tales.
So what is Retribution punishing WWE for exactly?
Shortly before their unmasking last week, and weeks after the referenced column above, Retribution appeared on Raw in a backstage segment to detail their purpose:
“This Thunderdome is only a facade – behind the mountain of screens is the same foundation. The same WWE as before. The same behemoth who discarded and disowned us and left us to survive in an unfair world. Where the powerful continue to grow, while we are left to feed on nothing but the scraps of contempt.”
– (not) Mia Yim
Right away their chief point is overly poetic nonsense. Secondly, “discarded and disowned?” They’ve all been on TV in the last 60 days, and have not been without a place to work. Let’s just skip the rest, because nothing else is worthwhile to pick apart.
“But contempt is a powerful motivator. We are driven to destroy. To lay waste to every superstar, and every fan. Blinded! You cannot see what you do not have. So the locust of contempt will feed on all of you! The darkness of RETRIBUTION will seep into the pores of every superstar and all of your so called universe. WE are RETRIBUTION!”
Let’s dissect this.
- Contempt for what precisely? We know right away they aren’t any of the released wrestlers. Are they sticking up for other wrestlers? No, not really at all. In fact they’ve attacked them indiscriminately regardless of whether they’re on Raw, Smackdown or from NXT. What’s the purpose here?
- “Cannot see what you do not have?” That’s why so many flock to NXT, NJPW, AEW, etc.
- Finally: Locusts are not contemptuous. They’re animalistic by nature and act upon impulse, not intent. Here’s a quote for you all.
“So now I keep a close eye on my pets
Because they make most of they moves off of instinct and sense
It’s eat, sleep, ****, and self defense
So straight you can set your clocks and place bets.”
– Sean Daley of Atmosphere
So by definition, that line makes no sense. Much like this arc in their narrative. Beyond that, they cast themselves as the personification of “retribution” (which is apparently quite dark and parasitic). Not much else here; the end falls apart because the journey there is pointless.
Here’s a big reveal, the biggest yet even — you already know all this. Sorry to have wasted your time. Sucks, doesn’t it?
Let’s dispense with storytime and get down to business, shall we? Let’s move along with this dissection.
Last week when Retribution revealed themselves to be comic book villains cosplaying as Banes, it was further revealed, as noted, that not only were they now specifically focused on destroying Raw (not WWE, for those keeping score) but they had signed exclusive contracts to Raw. This development was later explained by “T-BAR,” who said WWE opted to officially sign them to save money in the long term with respect to property, security, etc. That makes sense, but if history reminds us correctly, they just arrested Steve Austin whenever he broke something. But that’s neither here nor there.
However, provided that we discard that from the discussion, why would you hire a group of people aspiring to undermine your financial well-being, who will then pay other foot soldiers to do their bidding? If you were running a street level shop and 5 people routinely vandalized its storefront, would you offer them jobs? How is that logical?
Spoiler: It’s not.
But that isn’t the most absurd aspect of Retribution’s “Judean People’s Front” Python-esque tirade over WWE. For weeks now we’ve been led to believe that they’re a group to be taken seriously, a group that should be feared and reckoned with for if you cross them the “locusts of contempt” will devour you whole. Where was that edge last week on Raw? They were booked as fools in the main event of their first match as a group on national television in the United States and across the world on affiliate networks.
Millions upon millions watched that match, and the takeaway visually was not the former Dijakovic standing tall with his brethren at the end of the match. Rather, they looked pedestrian and the lasting image from the show’s finale was Randy Orton standing over Drew McIntyre. They were wasted and lost their credibility as a threat. Going forward they will simply win because it suits the moment, not because it makes sense for the long term prosperity of the angle, Raw or WWE as a whole. As an entity on the screen, they’re shot.
Hop, Skip and a not-so-Socially-Distant Half-Step
However, now over the last week there’s been another development as each of the key five members have their own Twitter accounts. Whether they’re alternates or revised ones, they have now taken to trolling #WrestlingTwitter with tweets aimed at anyone from Chris Jericho to CM Punk to Eric Bischoff, to more obvious targets like WWE-based accounts. The result has been a rise in support from #WrestlingTwitter for each. Some have started following them, others have changed their names; it’s a joke, it’s serious, it’s a parody and everything else that sits within that triangle.
It’s had an additional effect. Above all, it created a disconnect between Retribution, the social media operators with better online game than Seth Rollins, and Retribution, the jabronies who get punked in their main event Raw debut. Any guess as to how you transform that into a successful entity is as good as any, but effectively it creates an identity crisis for a group that has already suffered from poor decision-making and grew long in the tooth before they even uttered a distorted syllable on Raw.
That they’ve connected in an abstract way on social media would be a boon for the company, however, is that what we want here? Think about the logic behind this. You’re WWE, and your fanbase is rallying around a group of pseudo-anarchists who want to take down your company. In effect, you’re encouraging not only Retribution to speak out, but also they’re rallying that disenfranchised portion of the WWE fan-base and funneling that unhappiness with the product into this new entity. They’re selling you on the idea of being counter-revolutionary built on the very foundation Retribution itself stands against.
Retribution is a vehicle to mock your opinions, your intelligence as a fan and above all drive you further toward accepting what you’re given on these weekly programs at the surface level. We deserve better than a half-cocked idea to generate buzz. We deserve better than a rudderless, non-nonsensical narrative arc that at nearly two months old has been shot in both feet and has at no point been truly worthwhile. And at two months old, if the best accolade the group can tout is they grew their social media following and made fun of Jericho and Bischoff, while Raw viewership circles the company’s backed-up toilets, then the group and Vince McMahon have outright failed WWE fans.