Montageman: A dude who writes

March 25, 2008

Wrestlemania 24 (or why I still love WWE)

Filed under: barthes, wwe — Tags: , , , — montageman @ 12:15 am

I don’t watch wrestling as much as I used to.  Years ago, it was virtually impossible to get a hold of me on a Monday night.  I was constantly flipping between WWE Monday Night Raw and WCW Nitro.  WCW has been defunct for years after being bought out by Vince McMahon and WWE.  There is no longer a “Monday night war,” rather WWE has Monday to itself so the sense of urgency has decreased tremendously and the quality of the show has thereby fallen as well.  There are moments, however, when I am glad that I still follow wrestling if only a little bit.

Tonight’s Raw was the last one before Wrestlemania 24 this Sunday.  Wrestlemania is the biggest pay-per-view event of the year for WWE, so tonight’s show was the last push, or advertisement, for Sunday’s big show (no pun intended).  I didn’t see all of the show tonight, but what I did see made me want to order Sunday’s show badly.  Roland Barthes in “The World of Wrestling” discusses wrestling as spectacle – a sport unlike any other in that the outcomes really do not matter.  “Wrestling is the sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result, (24)”.    Storylines are written, outcomes are fixed, and there is never any intention of damaging another’s body.  The audience is more interested in the build-up and is quick to forgive if their favorite wrestler loses because tomorrow will bring another challenger and more build-up.

Tonight’s build-up for the Ric Flair/Shawn Michaels “Career Threatening” Match was incredible.   After nearly 40 years in the business, Ric Flair’s career might come to an end on Sunday.  He “hand picked” Michaels for this match.  While they are friends and both are baby faces (good guys), Flair has told Michaels repeatedly to give him what he needs on Sunday.  Flair is and always has been one of the best interviews in the business, so his build-up is always fun to watch.  Tonight’s was a rundown of his historical significance and all of the legends he has feuded with and defeated – Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Sting – what matters most in these instances is not the result of the many matches fought, but rather the spectacle that led up to these matches.  The matches themselve are also important, since they are a pay off for the build up and the beginning of a new exposition, but all historically important matches take place within a particular contextual moment, not just on the fly.  Raw’s main event tonight was an 8-man tag match between Flair/Michaels/Cena/Triple H Vs Big Show/Orton/Umaga/JBL.  The end had Ric Flair force WWE Champion Randy Orton submit to the figure four.  An ideal way to lead into Sunday’s event – Flair showing strength and Orton showing weakness.  Even though the outcomes truly do not matter, it is important that these matches appear to be competitive.  Flair can beat Michaels – Randy Orton might lose his title.  But even if Michaels loses and Orton somehow wins, next Monday’s Raw might have build up leading to Michaels taking on Orton even though Michaels lost.


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