For those of you who have not been watching Monday Night Raw for the last couple of weeks, there’s a new romance in the air, well an affair, at least. The newly-mustachioed Rusev is having trouble keeping tabs on his wife, Lana, as she gallivants to hotels or massage parlors with her new flame Bobby Lashley. The couple has also invited cameras into the Rusev household to show the Bulgarian what is going on at home while he’s in a WWE ring. As one would expect, Rusev looks on in despair as his wife cavorts with her new beau, all the while Lana and Lashley smile and laugh at poor Rusev’s pain and anguish.
Romance angles are nothing new in professional wrestling, and are indeed a staple for most formulas for story writing. Many blockbuster movies lean on love and romance in some quarter, and by doing this can add deeper layers to characters and/or overall story arcs. In professional wrestling, there have been some previous attempts to show love stories, but they aren’t as common as one may think. Primarily because they’re difficult to do and are a far way removed from the sports entertainment many viewers tune in to see. How many romance angles in WWE can you think of right now? And please, discount anything to do with Katie Vick – she was too cold for Triple H and she corpsed when in front of the cameras.
For me, there are a few standout moments that portrayed, or at least tried to portray, love in a squared circle. The beautiful Miss Elizabeth once fell out of love with her man Macho Man Randy Savage back at Wrestlemania V after spending many years standing in his corner after accompanying him to ringside. Sherri Martel replaced Elizabeth as Savage’s manager and to give more heat to his heel turn. Elizabeth would send the live crowd wild when she leapt from ringside and attacked Sherri, defending Savage in the process. A rejuvenated Savage then proposed to Elizabeth ‘in-ring’ and the pair married at Summerslam 1991 (although they had been wed since 1984). Though Savage and Elizabeth’s stories have sad endings; Elizabeth passing away in 2003 at age 42 and Savage passing away in 2011 at age 58, their story at the time worked and crowds really appreciated it.
What many wrestling fans liked about Miss Elizabeth back in the day was her purity. She was kind, happy and smiling. She was vulnerable and steadfast in her support for Randy Savage in their heyday. She wielded no power in the company and many fans liked her.
Fast forward to late 1999 and another on-screen romance was taking shape that also had a real-world vibe to it. In a now infamous vignette on Raw, Triple H drugged and married Stephanie McMahon, much to the disapproval and outright anger of her current on-screen boyfriend, Test. This silly episode played out purely to establish yet another McMahon at the top table in WWE. The Monday Night Wars were in full flow and the McMahons (Vince, Shane, Steph and even Linda) had front-row seats for the ride.
Of course, we all know that fiction mirrored real life and Triple H and Stephanie became an item backstage that eventually led to marriage and three daughters. Their chemistry worked well on screen for many years, although the Stephanie McMahon persona (the character she plays, not the person she is really), never seemed to get her comeuppance. That may have been put to rest when Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle beat her and her husband up at Wrestlemania 34 – but again, Steph was made to look like she could hold her own at times against a legit badass former UFC champion and Olympian (sigh). But that match appears to have put paid to any on-screen romance Stephanie and Triple H showed us. Both have important roles backstage and a family to take care of. Though they may have been hogging the camera in the early 2000s, they never stepped over the line into gratuitous exhibitionism.
The Attitude Era may have been known for sexiness and downright debauchery, but on a Monday Night Raw in 2006, Edge and Lita took it to a whole new level. Again, the story had some truth in it. Lita had been seeing Matt Hardy for some time and the pair had split when Lita began a dalliance with the Rated R Superstar, Edge. This happened while Matt was injured and at home. Some organizations are sensitive when co-workers who have been having a romance split, but not WWE. They saw this as an opportunity to blur the line with reality again and had the breakup play out onscreen. One would think this would lead to a feud between Edge and Matt, perhaps main-eventing a Monday Night Raw, and you would be wrong. There were some great Edge/Matt matches in the summer of 2005, but it was Edge’s push with Lita by his side that got more attention. In a move that would be considered outlandish to even consider today, viewers were promised a ‘live sex show’ between Edge and Lita – right in the middle of the ring (no pun intended, sorry, couldn’t resist). Naturally, WWE didn’t push the envelope that far that night and the promised love-making was interrupted by Ric Flair and John Cena. I’m sure such a suggestion in 2019 wouldn’t go down well with WWE’s kid-friendly approach.
There have been other on-screen ‘romantic interactions’ in WWE that we could discuss; Eddie Guerrero and Chyna (Mamacita), John Cena and Nikki Bella, The Miz and Maryse, Mark Henry and Mae Young, the list goes on. The question is, is this something WWE should pursue and is it relevant for today’s audience? The Edge & Lita thing was definitely of its time – a risqué, rude approach when WWE were still pulling a strong demographic of young and adult males. That being said, the 1980’s was showcased as a more family-friendly product with merchandise to match, so the wholesome Miss Elizabeth was perfect for that period.
In 2019, what’s the play going forward? The Rusev/Lana/Lashley triangle may look good on paper to WWE writers, but does it have equal appeal to the fans? Personally, I don’t like nor care for it. I get that it’s being done to have Rusev feud with Lashley, but it could’ve been done much better. From a storyline perspective, if Lana doesn’t want Rusev in the first place, why fight for her? What, other than pride, does Rusev have to fight for? And who cares?
What do you think? Is there a place for romance on WWE TV? Does it have to be wholesome or edgy? Does it take away segments from wrestlers who should be in the ring or should we have more variety on the shows? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.