The devil’s no longer in the details: Vince McMahon’s fading genius evident Monday night
By most accounts, what distinguished Vince McMahon as a booking genius in the ’80s and ’90s was his amazing attention to detail and ability to carefully book an angle as far as a year in advance, carefully planning with the likes of Pat Patterson and J.J. Dillon to execute his vision to perfection. Unlike the bookers for his hapless competition, McMahon’s booking didn’t suffer because of nepotism or centering angles around himself because he had no relatives who were wrestlers and his performing was limited to announcing. (I think we all know how that nepotism deal eventually made a sharp turn for the worse.)
When he became an in-ring performer in the late ’90s, Mr. McMahon quickly evolved into one of the most intriguing characters in recent memory; he went on to become one of the best heels ever. But what used to be fascinating–seeing the former lead announcer, the voice of the WWF in the ’80s and early ’90s, reveal his true self as the ruthless owner–has turned into a nuisance. Mr. McMahon is just another sad old-timer who doesn’t realize his time in the spotlight is done.
After an intriguing start, his long-awaited showdown with Bret Hart earlier this year fizzled after the shoot-like feel of the program turned into just another wrestling angle when the Hitman supposedly crushed his ankle in the parking lot during RAW. Their WrestleMania “match” itself was an ill-timed, illogical, horribly booked abomination that McMahon should have had the instincts to call an audible on at the mid-point. After the bout, he vowed that the Mr. McMahon character had come full circle (since it really spawned from the Montreal Screwjob) and would no longer appear on WWE TV. But he just couldn’t help himself.
After a few sporadic appearances on RAW last month, he injected himself (much like a lethal dose of NWO poison), into the NXT angle Monday night. That part doesn’t bother me. What’s annoying is that Mr. McMahon is back as the same old character, no lessons learned, no change of heart…just the same snide, twisted, arrogant bastard…just the kind of image you want to portray as the owner of the company and as the husband of a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Besides, that character is stale and has run its course. For Gotch’s sake, let Mr. McMahon die.
The only way McMahon’s appearance would have worked Monday is if he had been outraged over the former NXTers from the start, perhaps coming to Bret’s defense and ending that on-air relationship on a positive note. (I’ve already detailed how the NXT’s Hart attack was ridiculous and similar to the angle that ruined the buildup to Hitman/McMahon match at WrestleMania.) The chairman of the board should have been furious that these rookies had the gall to bring his flagship show to a halt and assault his employees, including the face of his company (and major revenue generator), John Cena. He should maintained Hart’s order that they were all fired.
Such a verbal assault would have helped the angle regain its edge and danger. Instead, they did another Vince Russo-type swerve, where it appeared McMahon was aligned with the NXT guys before they slowly (and I mean slowly) turned on him and left him for dead. On that note, on Monday’s RAW, they had Sheamus seemingly give up the WWE title in babyface fashion before quickly regaining his heel form and mocking the crowd; Chris Jericho seemingly helped Evan Bourne (who’s really shining of late) to his feet in a sign of good sportsmanship before tossing him back to the mat; and finally, the NXT gang (they really need a name for this group…perhaps they’ll go with “Nexus” so they can keep the N armbands) delivers their apologies before crashing the main event again. Back in the day, wrestlers would often watch each other’s matches so they wouldn’t go out and do the same thing. RAW has become way too predictable and repetitive–the result of too many “creative” hands in the mix. It would have been so much more effective and logical if McMahon had come back in babyface mode, calling for the rookies’ heads, who then suddenly appear and beat him half to death. (Wouldn’t outrage be the logical McMahon reaction if outsiders had attacked two of his sports entertainers and ruined a RAW broadcast?) The only way the crippled chairman could then get revenge is for his WWE Superstars to teach these punks a lesson in the ring…i.e., he’s forced to offer them contracts and does so begrudingly.
Instead, some mystery general manager (Michael Cole?) gives the greenies contracts at the beginning of Monday’s broadcast. OK…then why are they attacking McMahon at the end of the show? Given the heinous nature of their initial attack, why is Vince acting chummy and laughing in the moments before their attack? They have clearly stated their problem was with WWE management…but the new GM has awarded them contracts and reinstated Wade Barrett’s PPV title shot…so what’s the point of attacking Vince? Too many plot holes for my liking.
As Dutch Mantell told me about his booking days, “See, that’s what I always tried to do when I was booking. I’d do something, and then I’d go back and take the holes out. I would do that because a man sittin’ there who works a 9-to-5 job or whatever, is gonna see this angle and he’s gonna go back and think about it…dissect it. And the same with a movie. Ever watch a movie and you go back and think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t make sense ‘cause this happened.’? That’s because the writer or director didn’t take the holes out. So, if you take the holes out, now you’ve gotta a viable scenario that should make you money. And that’s the key word: should.”
Little details like that rarely slipped through the cracks when Vince McMahon the booker was at the top of his game. Too bad Mr. McMahon the performer has clouded his vision.