Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Did South Park Become More Edgy Than The WWE?

We have all heard for years now how the WWE can’t be what it was back in the attitude era. WWE has become too corporate and concerned about their sponsors and business partners.  It all sounds somewhat logical and makes sense to a rational thinking person. However, is that really the case or just an excuse to go the safe route?

I give you South Park the Comedy Central show that has pushed the limits of a politically correct society. They have made fun of everyone and everything including the WWE in an episode back is season 13 of the popular cartoon series. They are on a network that is owned by Viacom which few would not argue is just as big a corporate company as the WWE.

So can someone explain to me how South Park has been able to survive with what that show does? They are able to get advertisers, seem to have little issue merchandizing their product and all the while pushing the limits. At some point WWE who was always willing to push the limits and see how far they could go, even going as far as having D-X read an actual letter sent to them complaining about the gimmick of the group and making fun of it. What was the result from USA? The network? They loved the segment and D-X continued with their antics for years to come on WWE  television on the network.

Some might argue times have changed and the reaction might be far different now. Really well than explain shows like South Park, Family Guy and host of other shows that all push the limits more than WWE does now. Anytime an angle even borders on being controversial, the WWE seems to run & hide and kill the angle for the most part. If not kill, really take the teeth out of it and make it far more generic in nature.

I give you three recent examples of this from the last few years. Let us start with the Real American Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter. At first, this was an angle that was clearly representing a radical faction of the Republican Party that had strong opinions on immigration and American values. This was represented in the character of Zeb Coulter. So much so it got people tied to that wing of the Republican Party to notice it like Glen Beck. The WWE responded by making an infamous video that Zeb and Jack break the fourth wall, step out of a promo, and act as themselves. Acknowledging the obvious that they are playing roles and this is just a storyline in a show.

After that though the ranting and raving of Zeb became less and less controversial and to the point that he is now a babyface character spouting American values that are much easier for everyone to support.

The official face turn came when Jack Swagger and Zeb from out of the blue came out to challenge Rusev and Lana. This angle had been slowly changed from a Bulgarian sympathizer with the blond Russian to both being billed from Russia. It was a very old school angle that at first came of as very corny and a modernized version of Rocky 4. It ended up becoming a very edgy angle based on the real life drama that started to unfold in the Ukraine. Things reached a boiling point when Lana indirectly referenced a tragedy in which a passenger airline was downed in the Ukraine that she referenced only as ‘current events” involving Russia. There was a major backlash despite it being very different from having an Iraqi sympathizer during a war with the country and the United States. The WWE backed off pushing Rusev for a week and would bring him back but the whole gimmick has been really toned down in its ties to current events and reality.

My third and final example started with the WWE being criticized for their lack of pushing black athletes and having black people as part of the company in general. In typical old WWE fashion a week or two later they responded with a group of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston. They were presented like a second coming of perhaps the Nation of Domination. The WWE in the past created a group under similar circumstances when a parent’s council was angry with the WWE for their product not being fit for children. The WWE response was to create the group the “Right to Censor” that made a mockery of that group and their concerns. In 2014, WWE the new group of disgruntled black wrestlers’ angle was dropped the next week. The three continue to work on house shows but it is assumed the angle is being re-worked.

Some where and some how Vince McMahon lost his grapefruits. You may only look to the week it has been for the NFL as they have been the focus of the national media spotlight for their handling of the Ray Rice situation. Causing an uproar over domestic violence and the NFL has become society’s pinata. Worse for the NFL former M.V.P Adrian Peterson later in the week was charged with child endangerment. It has been a horrible week for the NFL the likes we have never seen.

So perhaps society would not take to the attitude era at all. Maybe the fact the South Park and other cartoon based shows are the only ones that can get away with pushing the limits these days. Involve real people in a world where reality and fiction are always at the best times hard to get people to understand in wrestling it doesn't work. 

In any case, society has changed to a point that it makes it hard for wrestling to push the boundaries. Wrestling still has the same stigmas that it has always faced. The recent death of Shawn O’Haire was an example of yet another performer dying far too young that the average person sees as the norm in wrestling. It has improved a tremendous amount in the last 10 years and heart warming stories about Jake Roberts and Scott Hall being pulled back from destroying their lives have happened in the past couple years. WWE and Wrestling in general will never get past some clich├ęs about the business to the average person. 

Wrestling is at a low point and everyone thinks they have an answer how to fix it. Society has changed a lot and the idea of simply turning back the clock might not be the answer. To say the WWE is afraid to take chances is not really the answer either. They have taken perhaps the biggest gamble they ever have with the WWE Network. The issue is though they need the product to put on that network that people feel they can’t live without. This is hard to do in this world not just for the WWE but all sports and all entertainment.

Still a change in direction clearly needs to take place. The numbers on the WWE Network are evidence of the need for that change.