Are you a Rosebud, or a… something else?
My apologies – I don’t remember the exact phrasing. I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to mean, either. Do rosebuds party a lot while eating Dum Dums? And ride around on a tour bus with outlandishly-dressed people? If so, then consider me the something else.
I can, however, do the group chant during Adam Rose’s theme music. I vaguely recall his Guns N Roses-style logo that’s been popping up on my screen for weeks. I’m pretty sure I remember what he looks like.
That’s no knock against Adam Rose. He’s doing exactly what his employer asks – playing a role, hitting his marks, and generally embracing the current WWE culture. A culture that says it’s OK to insult short people, use gender-fueled hate terms against women, perpetuate racial stereotypes, all while endorsing “Be A Star” and Make-A-Wish.
My guess is that the company sees a distinction between the roles people play on tv and their real-life personas. The announcers aren’t ACTUALLY insulting Hornswaggle each week on television, they’re just poking fun at the Hornswaggle character. The company isn’t actually embracing racial stereotypes by giving Alberto Del Rio a championship victory fiesta, or by booking Los Matadores in a “Cinco De Mayo” celebration (a very Americanized national holiday, mind you). Those are show segments. Like when Saturday Night Live makes fun of President Obama, it’s a creative gesture, not actual people hurling real insults.
But on the other hand, WWE expects fans to treat superstars like their personas in real life. Is Daniel Bryan actually Brian Danielson when he’s not on television? Nope. Does Sin Cara show up to live appearances without his mask? Probably not.
I’m not arguing for Kayfabe’s return. But Adam Rose is the latest victim in WWE’s elaborate “gimmick scheme” to have its ice cream bar and eat it too. We’re supposed to make personal connections with these superstars – follow them on Twitter, “like” them on Facebook, visit their Myspace/Google+/Tumblr/.net pages. This drives success. Yet the company won’t give us a real reason to care about somebody like Adam Rose. The creative team spoon-feeds up what (I’m assuming) they hope will be a successful character. But so far, all I know about Rose can be summed up in three words: Russell Brand Knockoff.
There haven’t been any videos promoting the Daniel Bryan underdog persona, or the Irish Heritage of Sheamus, and for good reason. WWE let those characters develop. As a result, Bryan and Sheamus both reflect a part of themselves in those roles. “Yes!” didn’t come about because WWE wanted to make it a thing – it was very organic. The fans helped create it, like they’ve done before with John Cena, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and countless others. And the in-ring stars injected just enough of their own personalities into the mix to make someone like “The Rock” simply an amped-up Dwayne Johnson from outside the squared-circle.
It’s the same reason people like The Godfather, Doink the Clown, Santino Marella, and countless others never reached main-event status. They were saddled with a gimmick, not a personality. They were given a one-dimensional character and told to make it a career. Triple H has even tackled this issue on-air when he mentioned how fans initially loved to sing Fandango’s music, and now they’ve thrown him wayside. He was a great tune, and a fun audience moment, but there was no real investment from the WWE Universe.
Unfortunately, it seems like WWE keeps revisiting those same grounds for all the wrong reasons. Primo and Epico were floundering as a tag-team… so toss a mask on them, add some catchy music, sprinkle in a goofy sidekick, and voila – instant success. Same goes for Johnny Curtis, aka Fandango, and countless other stars. When their own merits fail to get them over, WWE exerts smothering creative control and turns them into a ready-made action figure.
This blurred line between “reality” and “WWE” presents endless problems for the talent, and for the creative staff. It makes things that are completely passable in other forms of entertainment – bad guys harassing the heroes – look like outright bullying. It makes the eerie and supernatural, like possessed “Children of the Corn”, come across as campy. And it creates situations where breaking the fourth wall (such as John Cena seeing a sheep mask in the mirror “inside his head,” but actually on camera for the whole audience to see) undermines the entire product.
But WWE needs to fix this issue, and fast. Simply shelling out lackluster gimmicks – such as Rose – fails to create an emotional connection within fans. Instead, the company should focus on developing talent for the skills they inherently possess, not for a “role” they’re trying to get over. People can still be monsters – see Kane, or a heel Mark Henry. But they need to have freedom in developing the persona. Outlandish gimmicks, such as Los Matadores, should be shelved. Put a talent on the mic and see what happens. Give superstars a spotlight, not a promotional package. Chris Jericho is one of the greatest superstars ever not because his win/loss record is impeccable (it isn’t), or because he captured more World Championships than his peers (he didn’t). Jericho remains relevant because he knows what that perfect blend of reality, character, and gimmick looks like. His wrestling cocktail is more than just a committee-approved tagline.
And while you’re at it, WWE, please knock off the nonsense. Just because “entertainment” is in the name doesn’t mean you have carte-blanche to act like a circus.
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How did you feel about the debut of Adam Rose? Did I completely miss the mark, or was this pretty spot-on? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me with your reaction. And while you’re at it, be sure to follow Between the Ropes on Facebook and Twitter!