The Need to Push the Easy Button
by Justin Henry
On the surface, it seems as though Jack Swagger will survive his brush with Johnny Law unscathed. In spite of being the subject of more ganja-related jokes than Cheech and Chong’s roast, the sentiment that this “Real American” blew the opportunity of a lifetime is dissipating quicker than his stash would in the hands of the Kottonmouth Kings.
Evidence of WWE’s unwavering faith in their performer lies within his continued presence alongside Zeb Coulter, in a series of patriotic viral videos meant to emulate the Tea Party’s grassroots efforts to make their righteous anger heard.
Now, this wouldn’t be the first time an offender would receive golden-calf treatment from the WWE office. While the company does appear to exile its talent, temporarily or otherwise, for violations of its murky “Wellness Policy”, the policy’s mandates are actually quite negotiable.
Consider the 2007 case, where a dozen or so performers were found to have obtained steroids and growth hormone from the now-disgraced Signature Pharmacy in Orlando. The majority were immediately suspended; violators such as Umaga and John Morrison hastily dropped their respective championships on a set of weekend tapings before serving thirty days at home.
But the lone individual who was spared the rod was Randy Orton. At the time, Orton was less than three weeks away from a pay-per-view rematch against John Cena for the WWE Championship at Unforgiven 2007. Orton’s had a history of disciplinary problems (Interesting that “Viper” is a slang term for marijuana), such that his suspension in May 2012 for drug-related reasons set off a negative reaction among a number of fans.
Not because they felt Orton shouldn’t have been punished, but rather because Orton should have likely been fired.
Orton had previously been suspended in August 2006 for one such violation, but the 2012 dirty test would be only his second official strike. While the likes of Morrison, Umaga, Mr. Kennedy, Santino Marella, and others each had a strike placed next to their name in the 2007 maelstrom, Orton got off free, despite being nabbed in the same dragnet.
Three strikes and you’re out, yet Umpire McMahon called a ball on an obvious swing-and-a-miss by the Legend Killer on that second pitch.
One would think that the point I’m drawing with Orton’s arguably preferential treatment during a World Title chase ties in with Swagger’s own wrath-avoidance, but it’s actually a little bit deeper than that.
These days, championship matches at WrestleMania, particularly over the Big Gold Belt (which is to the WWE Championship what costume jewelry is to Queen Mary’s diamond riviere), mean very little compared to the other attractions on the big stage.
And if you don’t believe me, how do Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio, Edge vs. Chris Jericho, Edge vs. John Cena vs. Big Show, and Edge vs. Undertaker pique your memory? That’s not a reflection on Edge, mind you; it’s just the reality that WrestleMania doesn’t always make their World Title matches seem special.
Then again, those matches were unencumbered by the possibility of Glenn Beck’s presence tossing unnecessary fuel onto the fire.
While I don’t care about Beck’s politics one way or the other (extremists on all ends of the spectrum would rather magnify the problem than work for an amiable solution), I see him for what he is: one of the loudest voices in a room of the shrillest, most bombastic extroverts, profiting off of lemmings that reason, “Loud equals confident, and confident equals accurate thought, so he MUST be right!”
Beck is an advocate of the Tea Party movement (even though he once claimed that their actions may be ‘race-related’) who recently slammed WWE for having Swagger and Coulter (that’s Zeb, not Ann; Zeb’s Adam’s apple is less pronounced) portray what he feels are unfair caricatures of said Tea Party.
Beck said, in part:
“I’m sick and tired of being miscast. I am sick and tired of it. It is lazy at best … you’re mocking me for standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America? You’re mocking me for standing up for law and order?”
WWE’s response was to invite Beck to Monday Night Raw, so that he could be provided 5 minutes to state his case and explain his comments. Presumably, Swagger and Coulter, and possibly Alberto Del Rio, would be shoehorned into the shenanigans in order to justify this half-baked angle by saying, “Well, we HAD to keep going with it; the media was giving us so much press.”
A few thoughts on that:
1) WWE has a pretty lousy track record of inviting those who chastise them onto their show. Whether it’s L Brent Bozell of the PTC, Stan Kroenke (the Denver Nuggets owner who was mixed up in a scheduling controversy between Raw and the NBA playoffs), or anyone else who hurts WWE’s pride, intentionally or not, usually ends up being ridiculed in infantile fashion.
And in all cases, the one with the issue ends up declining the invite, leaving WWE to do the sensible thing: get somebody to play that person, so that the embarrassment can go on in an effigied capacity.
If you don’t get the cut of this jib, hunt down the May 25, 2009 Raw some time. By the time Vince screams “YOU’RE AN ENOS” at a Kroenke impersonator for the dozenth time, it’ll hit ya.
2) Any bit of media attention to WWE is like a sandwich to a homeless person, and it does become tiresome. Imagine watching an NFL game where Joe Buck and Troy Aikman completely ignore the action, and instead lambast the movie Silver Linings Playbook for making football handicapping a prominent plot point.
3) It would seem as though WWE is taking the moral high road by casting a couple of apparent racists as the villains. That is, until you remember Lex Luger and others making racial slurs at Yokozuna in 1993, various babyfaces telling Muhammad Hassan to ‘go home’, La Resistance being attacked for questioning the Iraq War, etc. WWE’s entire, “we should be able to live together in harmony, without bullying, despite our differences’ spiel is a wonderful sentiment until you realize that they’ll gladly profit off the exploitation of differences. Tricky balance, but they’re game to attempt it.
4) This is the big one: at no point during Coulter and Swagger’s out-of-character rebuttal to Beck’s denigration did they ever address his actual criticism, that their characters are, in Beck’s eyes, an unfair portrayal of folks he defends. That’s open to interpretation, but WWE’s response wasn’t really a response. Beck didn’t criticize Swagger and Coulter for what they said, but rather that Swagger and Coulter are being MADE to say what they said.
His criticism actually mirrors that of wrestling fans who would otherwise want nothing to do with Beck, that’s a cheap story designed to provoke fans with little more than “we don’t like Mexicans”, because the man Swagger’s facing at WrestleMania just happens to be a heroic character from San Luis Potosi.
There’s no larger-than-life “Can Hogan beat Andre”, “Who is better between Hogan and Warrior”, ”Will HBK fulfill the boyhood dream”, “Can Austin beat Rock in the match he needs to win” story to tug at the imaginations and heartstrings of fans on a deep level, but WWE makes up for that absence with, “we don’t like Mexicans.”
Bear in mind that all of this is so important to WWE, and WrestleMania, that Swagger is getting a pass on misdemeanor charges and a violation of company conduct, just to ensure its continued progress.
Because Glenn Beck can’t just debate Coulter; Swagger has to be there to get the rub for his title match.
Ahh, but Beck declined WWE’s invitation to appear on Raw, which is like getting rejected for the prom by Joe Merrick. Figure Four Weekly has even reported that, because of Beck’s declining, the writing staff, at Stephanie McMahon’s behest, was re-writing the entire show late Friday night. Speculation is, he’ll somehow be mocked.
Boy, I hope they do a good job of it. Experts believe the difference between a quality Beck impersonator, and a poor man’s rendition of Beck’s biting voice, is estimated to be 400,000 WrestleMania buys.
Either that, or the Beck portions of the show won’t mean a damn thing in the long run, one or the other.
Honestly, it would have been great for Beck to show up, take a live mic and point out that WWE didn’t suspend Jack Swagger for his breach of company mandate, when others in the same position would have been (and have been) punished. That would have been fun to watch Michael Cole try and spin, with a sputtering Vince McMahon in his ear.
The real challenge would be Cole trying not to repeat whatever curse words Vince bellows.
It’s simply another sad case of WWE pushing buttons in the hopes that one of them triggers the reward of windfall and media acceptance. Hopefully one of the buttons on the panel is wired to a joy buzzer. The person who pushes it could stand the shock therapy.