There’s a show a lot of you are familiar with, and if you’re not then stop reading this right now and watch all five seasons and pick up at this spot and continue reading as if you never stopped. Cuz it’s funny. I’m talking about a show called Breaking Bad. The thing about Breaking Bad is that the story is basic. The show isn’t the best show ever because of some phenomenal story involving larger-than-life characters. Truthfully, it is a great show because it’s a character-driven story about a group of people you can relate to and root for and hope for.
The thing about a show as great as this is that it changed television. I binge watched it when I was stuck on my couch for two months with a humerus that I broke clean in half. For the record, it was not funny. Here I was, a dude who was used to working ten hours a day and then hitting the gym for another two or three afterward. Suddenly, I’m told I have to sit on a couch or else I’ll curse in ways that make you need a bath when you hear me. I had to kill time. Breaking Bad killed that time, and when it was over I was just completely hooked on what the writers had created.
You get Walter White. You watch this man go from a guy you want to succeed, to a guy you start to question, to a guy you loathe, and back to a guy who sorta/kinda/somewhat redeems himself. This story was a slow-burning and absolutely perfect character study that made you feel every gunshot and every heartbreak. If you made it through Ozymondais without at least some level of emotional gut-punch then you, friend, are a monster or some sort of inanimate object that has somehow developed an ability to read and comprehend. You’re Skynet.
I’m not here to sell Breaking Bad to you. What I am saying is that every writer needs to take some of its lessons to heart. When I am writing (yes, I do that in a fictional manner), there is a general planned direction for each character. When it comes down to pushing the story, I simply drop the characters in the proper scenario and they really write themselves. They say what they would say, they do what they would do, and they act like they would act. That’s because these are developed character with internal motivations that matter to them and drive them. Why did Walter allow Jane to die? Because he saw how she was making Jesse think irrationally and it didn’t line up with what Walter wanted. Good or bad, that’s exactly what Walter would do.
I have to ask, then, why WWE insults our intelligence with its characters. The best example is Kane. Kane is a good guy, then a bad guy, then a good guy, then a bad guy. His whole career is just a nonstop cycle of him either being an angry monster or a happy monster. Sure, that’s simplifying it a tad, but when the writers write for him do they even consider what Kane would do or say in a situation? They give him power to book matches, and, like a heel would do, he books the Superstars he doesn’t like in unfair matches. Yet, he only does it when the story calls for it and never to benefit his own, selfish character.
I’m all for a good heel turn. The Hogan heel turn, the Austin heel turn (which made a ton of sense, even if it wasn’t a great idea to turn the biggest face in the world into a bad guy), and even The Rock’s cocky “I’m a movie star and I’m better than all of you now” turns were well done. For every good turn there’s The Big Show, who randomly decides he needs to turn on his friends. Uh…why does anyone trust this man? He’s been turning on Cena consistently for like ten years and somehow Cena is just like, “All is forgiven. We’re good now.” Why? That’s a character flaw in Cena. Why make your number one star look so gullible?
What I’m getting at with all of this is simply that these are characters that we see every week. There’s plenty of time to do a story where Roman Reigns slowly climbs a mountain and overcomes adversity. Why do we have a Royal Rumble followed by just six weeks of being told Roman Reigns is climbing a mountain? What had he actually accomplished to show us his climb? He, much like Cena, just wins and then claims they overcame a lot to get to their place.
Daniel Bryan was an organic story of a man who wasn’t supposed to succeed and he did. The end of Wrestlemania XXX was a story that began two years earlier when Sheamus kicked his head off in 18 seconds. The crowd was livid because it was an insult to them and what they had paid their hard-earned money to see. That’s when the evolution of Daniel Bryan from a greedy heel to the underdog who had to overcome everything, including the very people he worked for, to be the top guy in WWE. Why did that story work so well? Because it was organic and it never stopped being true to the character of Daniel Bryan. He was a hard-working, average guy who had oodles of talent and had something to prove and everything he did supported that.
It’s insulting as a viewer to buy into the idea that a guy like Kane ended up where he is in the first place. It’s insulting as a viewer to have a throwaway match at Fastlane where Goldust and Stardust, who had been slowly building a feud for months, just end it with an anticlimactic pinfall after a lackluster showing. It’s insulting that anyone thought Randy Orton was going to remain a heel when he made his return and “rejoined” The Authority. We all knew Orton was going to turn on Rollins, and Rollins is a “smart heel” character. With that logic, I’m very hard-pressed to believe Rollins didn’t know better. That doesn’t fit the character of Seth Rollins who is sold as a man always one step ahead of his adversary.
These inconsistencies make it very hard to believe what we see. Kane is an emotionally scarred monster. It’s okay to put him in power, but have him be that same character in a new situation. Walter White was never a drug dealer, and when he was put in that position he had to evolve in order to adapt. Evolution in a character should be natural and organic. I am completely fine with seeing Roman Reigns end up as WWE Champion, but I want to see the man fail. I want to see him struggle and I want to see him suffer because suffering is what leads to a character learning and adapting. If Frodo Baggins had just walked to Mordor, dropped the Ring into Mount Doom, and went home, we would have never loved The Lord of the Rings. He struggled, he suffered, and he scratched and clawed his way to success/having his finger bitten off by a frog man.
WWE is a company full of exciting and sometimes ridiculous characters, and each of them should have their own motivation and secrets that we, as the audience, don’t even need to know. Maybe Bray Wyatt was an abused child? I don’t need to know that, but Windham Rotunda (the man who plays Bray Wyatt) needs to know that. When he cuts a promo he needs to know what drives Bray Wyatt and what makes Bray Wyatt need to win and need to be heard. That makes the character feel complete and it makes us see that he’s consistently driving toward something, even when we don’t know what that something is.
The basis of any story is a great character. The storyline of Walter White transforming into Heisenberg is story-telling at its finest. The story of CM Punk leaving WWE with John Cena’s WWE Title was basic, but CM Punk was incredibly compelling and made it work flawlessly.
WWE writers need to realize how important their characters are and, most of all, give us as a viewer a reason to root for them or despise them that stretches beyond them saying the name of our home town in a good or bad way.
For more ways to stop suspending disbelief, chats about Breaking Bad, updates on my writing, really stupid videos, and whatever other strange things excite you, follow me on Twitter @JakobDraper and let me know what YOU think about WWE’s lack of commitment to characters.