Marc Madison: Welcome to the first entry of Getting Schooled, a joint endeavour by TJRWrestling.net columnists Brandon Lasher and I. We’d like to share with you the concept of this column: While the name isn’t the most grammatically correct title of a wrestling column, using slang is intended to be a way to bring in a younger reader. Will it work? We can hope. We won’t dazzle anyone with any science experiments or discussions of whom invented the question mark. No, Brandon and I will come together and put aside our day jobs as schoolteachers to embrace the world of men and women in spandex, with lessons on why storylines may or may not be developing the way we had hoped. So unlike theorists such as Darwin and Einstein, we will simply highlight a potential connection between characters and storylines. If this all seems confusing, don’t allow it to be. From one edition to another we may simply tackle a specific school subject and point out that subject’s value.
On this occasion, we will use terms that show off our literacy, and while education methods in the United States and Canada may vary, the intent is the same. The idea is to look at a couple of brewing storylines in WWE, with the notion that even the silliest of ideas have some educational tie-in. This piece focuses on two specific Smackdown Live storylines. One of them has become controversial in nature, while the other one is becoming very personal, with animosity among all involved. Here is Brandon with our first topic. Pay attention class, eyes on Mr. Lasher.
Before we begin, many thanks to Steve Melo of TJRWrestling.net for the snazzy banner.
Why did the antagonist, Randy Orton, provoke a confrontation with the protagonist, Bray Wyatt?
Brandon: In recent years, I have taught the famous William Shakespeare play Othello to many high school classes. In the play Iago, angry for losing out of a major promotion, lashes out at his leader, Othello, in a long and complicated plan for revenge. In the course of five acts, Iago destroys every aspect of Othello’s life. It takes the proud and strong Othello and turns him into a shell of his former self. At no point in this classic Shakespeare play did Iago burn Othello’s house to the ground and desecrate his sister’s grave. Randy Orton is one cold man who takes revenge to a whole new level.
We are living in a disturbing wrestling world where we are supposed to cheer for the WWE’s Iago, Randy Orton, as he betrays Bray Wyatt’s trust, rips apart his family and purposely angers a unhinged cult leader character. The question I wonder about is why Orton decided to actually take this very extreme and abrupt turn. If we look at the course of the relationship between Orton and Wyatt it has been pretty cordial until this moment. Orton was sick of losing to Bray Wyatt and decided to join his family. It was a pretty successful partnership with a major Survivor Series victory and a Smackdown Tag Team Championship reign. Heck, Randy Orton even won his first Royal Rumble match since 2009. It doesn’t really seem like this successful partnership deserved an excessive over-the-top betrayal.
I do appreciate a long-term storyline, but I don’t know if losing to a guy at No Mercy warrants a five-month plan to build real trust just to simply burn someone’s house down and steal a WWE Championship that Wyatt didn’t have at the time when Orton first agreed to work with him. I feel like we missed a step-in storytelling. But who knows? Maybe we are early in this unique story still.
Marc: In a stunning turn of events, it appears the relationship between Orton and Wyatt has become nothing more than a tragic tale of brotherhood and betrayal replacing unrelenting trust and admiration. Rumors of an Orton split from Wyatt were said to be in the works for some time, but what is a surprise, is how it came about so suddenly. It also raises the question how, in a world where desecration as a hate crime is becoming frequent, such an incident was written into a storyline. While the intent was to do something different from typical storylines, there has to be some sense. As the news reports on tombstones being tipped over, and WWE superstars such as Kevin Owens and Goldberg have been quite vocal those incidents, it may not have been the best time for this particular segment to take place.
Now the timing may very well be a coincidence, but the bigger problem is how each character is now perceived. After the actions taken by the Viper, the reaction he received was cheers. It could easily be said that Wyatt, who welcomed Orton in with a warm embrace and gave his trust and adulation, was the one that did nothing wrong here. If anything, the actions taken by Orton could incite a rise in the diabolical side of Bray Wyatt. While we all are of the understanding that this is simply a storyline, how is burning someone’s home and the memory of their deceased sister in any way justifiable retribution?
If anything, this creates a scenario where Wyatt’s character could cross the line once again and push the envelope even further. It could be something as simple as what Wyatt did during the early part of his feud with Roman Reigns a couple of years back. It becomes much more haunting, and would certainly make Orton more like a true face, rather than one by default.
Brandon: Only in “Getting Schooled” does Marc bring up a Jewish cemetery vandalizing in discussion of a pro wrestling feud. This column has two teachers giving some very unique takes. But it does seem quite strange for a supposedly family friendly wrestling company cutting so close to a real life tragedy.
The thing I am wondering is how does Wyatt one up what Orton did? I shudder to think of the dark possibilities of a so-called diabolical Bray Wyatt in the coming months. What could Bray really do to top The Viper’s extreme actions?
Does Bray Wyatt burn down Orton’s house? Does Bray kidnap a bad actress that is playing Orton’s wife? Does Bray pay Rikishi to run over Orton with a car? The cartoonish possibilities of storytelling are endless and that worries me. It could be really out of tone with the rest of the Smackdown show.
The last time Orton was in a feud this personal was with Triple H in 2009. It leads to some ridiculous over the top moments such as a very crazy home invasion. I wonder if after arson and grave desecration that Orton can be salvaged as a face for a long time. Time will tell. It would take something really crazy to elicit sympathy back to Orton.
Marc: It would be safe to assume Othello didn’t have to worry about dealing with cult leaders and men channeling their inner snake. The Othello connection is an interesting one that Brandon makes, and isn’t typically something we would consider. The Wyatt/Sister Abigail relationship does appear to be somewhat on the disturbing side. While it isn’t necessarily Hamlet, and doesn’t tap into an Electra Complex (as defined by Sigmund Freud), the relationship between Abigail and Wyatt had always seemed a little on the uncomfortable side.
While it does clearly seem like a rather rash move on Orton’s part to burn someone’s house to the ground along with the remains of their family, the alternative may have been to do something boring like beat him down. If we think about it, Orton’s actions were rather deceitful. He earns Wyatt’s admiration and respect just to take the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ and burn it down. Orton also split the Wyatt family up from the inside, which was a rather treacherous thing to do. If anything, Wyatt has been made to appear more vulnerable, and Orton doing this has weakened the character. My question is, how does Wyatt bounce back from these actions and re-emerge as being just as sinister as the viper? Does this cross over into real life and Wyatt impose his will on Orton’s family? It is certainly an interesting storyline for sure that is playing out in the build to Wrestlemania.
As Brandon pointed out, losing to Wyatt seemed to force Orton to join the Wyatt family. Although Daniel Bryan did the same a few years ago, he never came close to shredding every ounce of what made Wyatt who he was.
Did the The Miz/John Cena incidents recently foreshadow their future?
Marc: It appears as though a very interesting situation has come about between The Miz and John Cena. Fans may recall that it was John Cena that eliminated The Miz during the Elimination Chamber. Their paths crossed once again during the 10-man battle royal for the number one contendership. Cena eliminated The Miz during the match, costing the A-Lister his chance at the WWE Championship. As fans saw, an irate Miz returned to the ring and tossed out an unsuspecting Cena, thus costing him his opportunity to compete for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania. When they discussed their issues with one another during Miz TV, it definitely became heated. The Miz rehashed the past between them and played up the ‘held down’ argument and referred to ‘politics,’ a sentiment that has been held about Cena for years now. When Maryse stepped in, something she’s wont to do on The Miz’s behalf, it opened a can of worms between her and Nikki Bella. Her actions caused Bella to run out and charge Maryse, and make a proclamation that if Maryse touches John again then, well, she wouldn’t hesitate to show her displeasure. Something along those lines…the language may have been cleaned up a bit.
It was announced on this week’s Smackdown that will be Miz and Maryse vs. Cena and Nikki at WrestleMania. The match makes a lot of sense due to what has happened in the last few weeks. However, one has to wonder if the years away from competition will hinder Maryse in the ring. With time away, ring rust is usually evident. Now, seeing as that this is Wrestlemania, to have something not well planned and thought out beforehand would be foolish, so we could anticipate some preliminary matches for Maryse showcasing what she is capable of doing. Even though she is a former Divas Champion, some fans aren’t aware of all that she can do in the ring if they are relatively new or young.
Brandon: This storyline has been foreshadowed in not so subtle ways. It seemed to start out of nowhere with Maryse being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since Maryse hasn’t been involved in any in-ring action since her first retirement in didn’t seem like the start of a long-term storyline building on the biggest show of the year. It seemed a case of Maryse being angry that Nikki Bella hit her during the Nikki-Natalya feud.
The Miz, on the other hand, has set up the feud perfectly. On Talking Smack, he brought up the important detail that John Cena refused to talk about his real life relationship with Nikki until a few short weeks ago. Was I the only one who felt it was a awkward character shift to watch John Cena would does everything on his own to instantly making inter-gender tag matches and hanging on Nikki Bella? I am obviously not the only one because The Miz used his very fact against John Cena on Smackdown and Talking Smack in recent weeks.
While John Cena throws in not so subtle lines about wanting to fight The Undertaker, The Miz has used his long history with John Cena to build for an inevitable match. It makes perfect since for the Miz to feel threatened by another power couple on Smackdown or by the fact John Cena goes off to makes movies like the Miz does. It is another case of jealously towards the more successful John Cena and quite fitting with The Miz’s current character.
Marc: There really has been some interesting moments leading up to the present. Maryse’s involvement with WWE, and specifically her husband, was renewed last year at Wrestlemania. It seemed from the next night on, her presence was to make the Miz (if at all possible) seem more irritating than ever. It did begin simply enough, but Maryse simply having talcum powder tossed onto her, and having a curtain fall onto her, was the lighting of a match. However, the cause was Maryse really being poorly positioned each time. If you see two people fighting each other, why would you stand in the middle of it? I mean if you can see a funnel cloud forming and heading towards you, do you just admire it and forget the massive destruction that comes with it?
Bringing up the contract between Nikki and John really was a touchy subject. Is Cena a control freak or is there a bigger problem here? Brandon, it is awkward to see Cena go from talking about how hard he works to being completely enamored with Nikki within a couple of weeks. It could have a quality pay off, but the way he quickly had to transition from losing the WWE Championship to having Nikki Bella stand up for him is somewhat funny. That isn’t to say that a woman can’t stand up for a man, but we would have thought that Cena would be protective of Nikki, given his existing character, and yet it is she who came out to defend him from being slapped by Maryse.
The only person that seems somewhat out of place in this feud is Cena. The Miz has reason for his animosity, and Maryse and Nikki Bella are justified in their actions. However, Cena seems like he couldn’t care less about The Miz. Will it be different with Wrestlemania approaching? We will see.
Brandon: I looked it up and Maryse has not had a match in the WWE since July 2011. She wasn’t exactly the greatest in-ring technician before her retirement, so ring rust would be quite evident really quickly in any match that she wrestled for an extended time. You cannot go five years without wrestling without having some clear drop off of your skill set. I whole-heartedly agree with Marc’s idea about match practice. I hope she gets a few matches on Smackdown before a main stage like WrestleMania 33. Otherwise it might be a painful experience any time Nikki is in the ring with Maryse. And that would be a shame in what could be one of Nikki’s final matches.
In terms of the male side of the feud, I certainly agree that the feud became heated very quickly. The Miz has even mixed in a series of nice personal touches to start the feud off on a strong foot. This includes real life touches like John Cena “stealing” Nikki Bella from Dolph Ziggler. It is an interesting storyline tactic that I look forward to watching the progression of in coming weeks. It isn’t exactly correct information, but heels lie anyway. It does, however, give a clear motivation for The Miz. His clear jealously for the far more successful power couple that is John Cena and Nikki Bella has stood out in a hurry recently. Jealously and envy always make good character motivation in any successful story through the history of literature. The Miz is ready to play the villain role well.
Brandon Lasher: As you pack up and stand near the doors before the bells rings, we thank you for joining us for the first edition of Getting Schooled. As any good English teacher can tell you, building a quality story with a clear beginning, middle and end takes a long time and a tremendous amount of work to be a real success. It is hard enough if you are an author who has years to write a quality story. We wrestling fans expect our great writers to do it on a weekly basis with no real time off. The fact we can have a long-term storyline like Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton that has lasted weekly for nearly six months is an impressive testament to patience and the value of the long-term build.
In future columns Marc and I will continue to discuss the quality of storytelling of our favorite pastime. I don’t think we expect Shakespeare every single time, but I do think we all expect to find a story we can invest into and truly enjoy on an emotional level. As a history teacher myself, don’t be took surprised if you see us discuss some of our favorite stories in the long and storied WWE history. It should be a fun class Marc and I are teaching in the weeks and months to come.
Please let us know your thoughts below and until next class we hope you do your homework and stay out of trouble!
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