At Wrestlemania, two matches feature part timers who are barely appearing onscreen before their big matches. As a result, we the viewers, get to watch promos of one man trying to carry a feud multiple times a night. Bray Wyatt and HHH show up every week and try to convince us to watch their respective matches at Wrestlemania while their opponents are nowhere to be found. In both cases, the heel called out the face. Both men will lose to their opponents. Both will be in that ring a month later. So why is Bray Wyatt accomplishing his task every week while HHH falls on his face when both men are essentially doing the same thing?
Motivation is incredibly important in storytelling. It’s one thing to send two guys out to the ring and hope they put on a good match. When there’s something at sake it takes it to the next level. It can be big or small. Titles, in theory, can be excellent motivators. Two men wrestle each other to prove who’s the best and walk out with the title. Breaking The Undertaker’s streak was motivation for people to try repeatedly to take him down at Wrestlemania. Revenge and envy have always been amazing motivators in the squared circle.
Bray Wyatt looks like a million dollars every week calling out The Undertaker. We know exactly what he wants. The self-proclaimed face of fear needs to face the supernatural phenom to show us all that he is who he says he is. The build was good. He started by talking and not even saying Taker’s name, simply asking Taker to “FIND ME!” Each week the request went unanswered, so he upped the ante until Taker had to respond. While I have no idea where they go from here, the storytelling up to this point has never really lagged and has built a lot of interest in this match. As a character, Wyatt as drive and a reason to go after the Undertaker. He wants to be the new face of fear. And if Ric Flair taught us anything, it’s that to be the man, you gotta beat the man.
There is no way that Bray Wyatt walks out of this match the winner. These promos serve to get Wyatt over huge. The odds are not in Bray’s favor and we all know that. He doesn’t need to win. Twenty-one times, people walked into Mania and were beaten by The Undertaker. He doesn’t need to be victorious. The streak is over and being just another guy to beat a fifty year old man doesn’t matter. Bray winning would also kill the crowd (although not like last year) and it would actually damage Brock and Roman Reigns. Reigns would no longer be the one to beat the one in twenty-one and one. Twenty-two and one, by the time the night is over. While he will not walk out triumphant, Bray will leave Mania a made man. He will join the ranks of Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Triple H and Edge as big names who came up short against the Dead Man. That’s not a bad list to be on.
The other match suffers because there is no motivation. We all know the story. Triple H was dethroned of power at the Survivor Series when Sting interfered. HHH calls out Sting to get revenge for this. The issue with that is it makes absolutely no sense at all; and while we’re used to that in wrestling, in this case, it’s really hurt the show. The story feels off and we’re not as invested as viewers because Triple H already got his revenge the day he was reinstated. It negated what Sting did. Sting going silent only made this feud even less interesting.
The motivation for this match was Sting’s all along, NOT Triple H’s. If it had been booked as such, the fans might be really into this feud. Let me show you what I mean.
The week following the Authority’s return to power, Sting should have started again. Maybe the lights go out and the crows caw and they come back on, but nothing else happens. Maybe a guy in the front row is wearing Sting face paint and a black trench coat, but it’s clearly not Sting. Just a fan. Just someone to distract Hunter while he’s out there. As the weeks go on, the lights come and go more frequently. HHH and Steph walk to the office, open the door, and find crows sitting on the desk. Maybe someone delivers an autographed Scorpion t-shirt – “To my Wrestlemania opponent. All the best. Sting.”
One week, someone puts a black bat through the windshield of HHH’s limo. Every now and then, the lights go out, the crows hit, and the Wrestlemania logo appears on the Titantron. Hunter refuses, of course. Walking down the halls in the back, we see Sting in the rafters behind Hunter. He doesn’t see it at the time, but maybe the others point it out to him later.
Members of the Authority start disappearing. Big Show, laid out, with the imprint of a bat across his chest. Kane found passed out. The crow make up on his face and WCW spray painted on his chest the same way NWO used to be. Booker would try to tell Trips how serious this is. Trips wouldn’t listen. Raw would open one week with Trips in the ring. The Titantron cuts to the same Raw is War set, where Vince filmed his take over of WCW. Sting delivers a tirade about how his life was changed. He’s mad that WWE ran WCW out of business. Mad they not only beat him, but they sent HHH’s family members to WCW to take it over. They handpicked who they wanted to bring in. They wouldn’t take Sting. They knew if they did, a true invasion would take place. They knew he’d make trouble. Knew he’s an A+ player who always brings it and would take the title. They couldn’t risk that. So he waited. And one day, Sting was able to take everything from HHH. He took the WWE from him the same way they took WCW from Sting. But John Cena brought him back. He had good intentions, but he brought HHH back just the same. Sting demands a match to settle the score. He’s waited years and he wants his match on the biggest stage of them all.
Triple H smiles and says, “I understand you’ve had nothing going on, so you have time to sit at home in your little gown and play with your make up, but I’ve got a business to run. I’m going to have to turn you down since I just don’t have the time.”
Sting says, “I thought you might say that.” It pans out to see Stephanie, tied up. Sting pulls back to threaten her with the bat. “Riddle me this! Riddle me that! Who’s afraid of the big… black… bat?”
HHH screams that Sting has the match, just don’t hurt Steph. And right then, Stephanie runs to the ring, showing that she’s fine. The one in the video fades as the crows caw. Sting smiles huge and says, “See you at Mania.”
Triple H spends the next week trying to stack the deck. He wants Shawn as the special ref. He wants the Authority out there. He even begs Vince. But Vince tells him that’s not how a REAL McMahon handles things. A real McMahon would buck up. Go out there. Prove once and for all that WCW is dead. And just like that, this match would mean so much more. Sting would have cerebrally assassinated The Game. HHH would run scared. The possibility of what Vince might do if Hunter fails brings us new exciting storylines following the match. There’s motivation, which brings interest.
Instead, we were handed Sting not talking, even when he’s in the ring, followed by Hunter being the only person in the history of sports entertainment to come out and dryly express his opponent’s motivation to the crowd, while not providing any of his own.
On March 29, I’m going to reread what I just wrote instead of watching the real video package. With any luck, I can convince myself there is a real reason to watch this match, instead of “It’s something I wanted to see fifteen years ago.”
Then I’m going to sit back and watch Bray Wyatt become a star losing to the Undertaker.
Thoughts? Comments? Let me know in the comment section below. Follow me on Twitter @JamesSabata.