Time To Change The Game

This past week on RAW, COO HHH stopped a no-disqualification match between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan after it was reported Daniel Bryan suffered a stinger while performing his missile drop-kick causing numbness in his upper body and extremities.  Truly a first for both WWE and Daniel Bryan to say the least.  After a confrontation that was reported both by WWE.com and the dirt sheets, it’s safe to say that Daniel Bryan was not pleased with the circumstances surrounding the stoppage of the match.

 “I’ve been wrestling professionally for 13 years and I’ve never had a match stopped.”

-Daniel Bryan

 While WWE does have a vested interest in protecting its talent and preventing major injuries, it was not too long ago that injuries were not so important to WWE both in kayfabe and non-kayfabe terms.

Former World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion nearly a month ago which kept him on the shelf for nearly an entire month.  It was at the same time that HHH was involved in an angle in which he too suffered from concussion-like symptoms, but only after Ziggler was sidelined with said condition.  You can find a link to my previous column discussing HHH and his contradictions regarding said issue here:  http://the-oratory.com/all-the-worlds-a-stage/

But now HHH decides it’s time to save face in a match that doesn’t hold any meaning in the days of today’s booking in WWE.

Furthermore, HHH’s decision to stop the match implies that he does not trust either Orton or Bryan to be a safe enough worker to complete the match without preventing any further injury.  It’s a slap in the face to a man considered one of if not the best worker in the world, and another who has worked with WWE for over a decade and knows his way around a ring.  What more did HHH want?  What was it that he couldn’t have conveyed to the referee through their ear piece to make sure that they came to a quick finish or altered the ending somehow?

Safety is important for the company, absolutely, but it’s another step towards the pacification of sports entertainment through self preservation.  WWE has created a contradiction of many facets because of it’s decision to stop said match, even if it was the right decision.

Rewind to May 21st, 2001.  A night where HHH infamously tore his quadriceps muscle in a tag team match but continued to work through the match despite the injury.  It was a defining moment in his career that left him sidelined for over eight months.  A sense of pride comes with completing a match, and the mantra, “The show must go on” lives within the squared circle for generations to follow.  HHH had stated in interviews that he was proud he was able to finish the tag match since he didn’t quit, thus showing just how tough he was.

Flash forward to Monday night, how would have HHH reacted if his match was stopped when he tore his quad?  How irate would he have been with McMahon and company?  Daniel Bryan is justifiably upset with HHH’s decision to stop the match as it is such a rare occurrence in WWE.  While startling to say the least to stop a no disqualification match, doing so has set a precedent in WWE now that cannot be ignored in the future.

While some have argued the confrontation between HHH and Daniel Bryan is an attempt at an angle to question Daniel Bryan’s toughness as the “weak link”, the bigger question is, why here?  Why did it need to occur with this match?  Why did WWE feel the need to establish said precedent with Daniel Bryan?  If a wrestler cannot physically continue that is one thing, but Daniel Bryan still appeared more than capable of finishing said match.  In-ring injury angles are seemingly done in poor taste, not simply because of poor storytelling but because it then trivializes true injuries that occur in the ring.

If a professional wrestler is injured in the ring, the typical response for the referee is to display the ‘X’ signal informing the medical team assistance is needed ringside.  Since fans know to look for said signal, WWE has used said symbol to continue storylines and sell an injury for the sake of booking purposes, a poor decision mind you.

When superstars are injured as part of an angle, it indeed does trivialize those “true injuries” that occur as a product of professional wrestling.  Blurring the lines of injury and that which is kayfabe and not results in nothing but confusion and mixed emotions.  What are fans suppose to believe is real and isn’t?

 “Whoever you are, and whatever you do, please don’t try this at home.”

-WWE

 The fact is, when they blur the lines of reality and storytelling, the idea of “don’t try this at home” becomes reduced to, “That guy’s just faking it, they do this all the time it didn’t really hurt.”  WWE is also sending a message that those that are injured or cannot continue rather, are in fact, incapable of continuing their match and are thus of a lesser of weaker status than that of their predecessors.

Injuries are serious business and should not be taken lightly, especially in a business where those that are injured become reliant upon pain killers and other drug abuse to curb said pain,  They should be taken seriously by WWE and HHH, but in what context and under what terms?  Not the ones established by HHH this past week where a match may be stopped immediately.  They are losing their identity each week, WWE is not UFC no matter what they wish to think, and a stoppage does not exist within WWE, it just doesn’t.  If Daniel Bryan had to be counted out of his match against Orton because he couldn’t continue, that’s one thing.  But to point to the issue that establishes him as being an inferior competitor doesn’t help any parties involved, including WWE and their attempts at elevating talent.  Angle or not, the decision to stop Daniel Bryan’s match was the wrong decision and HHH will now have to reap what he has sown which is known as a slippery slope.

When a competitor appears to be injured, fans will ask, “Why isn’t the match being stopped?” since it has now been established HHH is willing to do just that to protect his talent.  Once again HHH fails to see the bigger picture of his company in order to protect what he feels is important to himself and not the business.  The game truly has changed, but for the worse.