Innovation, the Spectacular & John Morrison
by, 05-24-2011 at 05:57 PM (3064 Views)
Everyone’s got one. That time when you realized that you were watching something special in the ring. That moment when all you wanted to do was rewind, and watch it again, over and over. Aside from storytelling, I believe that this is the most important ingredient there is for a successful match.
As I, and many others, have stated before wrestling is a spectacle. It’s a place where larger than life characters can duke it out in the ring, over personal differences and championships. A place where we can see and witness things that no other “sport” can do, as what wrestling provides is scripted sports entertainment, and if properly planned, can showcase moments of magic, that keep fans like me coming back for more.
Like a lot of men in this world, I like to make lists of things. I like to put in order of preference matches I like, wrestlers I like, and even finishing moves that I like (mostly in my head, I’m an organized guy ok?). One list that recurs more often that not for the average wrestling fan, is the list of favorite moments. The lists of top moves, matches and storylines, which are often defined by one stand out moment in the mind, to separate it from everything else.
This is one of the most crucial elements in wrestling, as this helps the match/storyline that just took place really stand out, and will often earn the place on any highlight reel, as a way to attract new fans by showcasing what is currently on offer. This moment is usually either a moment of sheer innovation, or something I would class as a “spectacle” moment. Both innovation & the idea of the “spectacle” in wrestling are about doing things that the fans either haven’t seen before, or performing big moves in a slightly altered way. A way to showcase the body/use a weapon/put on a gimmick match, in a way in which has never before been done.
To innovate, it must be all about the “new”, the never-before-seen, and the completely different. True innovation is difficult. Wrestling has been around for a long time now on television, and has been exposed to a mass audience for nearly 30 years now. In those earlier times, innovation was often easier, as different countries were rarely exposed to wrestling styles of any other, so there were many types of wrestling not digested in popular culture yet. It was easier to wow the fans, so the boat didn’t have to be pushed as far. The first popular finishing moves in wrestling were all fairly simple moves by today’s standards (leg drop, pile driver, clothesline), but they put the point across. The first innovative and spectacular moments, would be considered mundane by today’s standards (eg Snuka’s leap off the cage at MSG). It wasn’t until wrestling became more popular that it would start to become commonplace to see those types of moves, and as with any medium of entertainment, the “new and exciting” is required to keep people’s interest levels high (and, I might cynically add, to keep ratings up).
It is this driver, this need to not only entertain on a mass basis, but to keep the audience interested, that started to make the placement of true innovation in wrestling an absolute necessity. The trouble that I find is that it’s difficult to think of many wrestlers who are capable of delivering the “new” in the current crop of superstars. As I’ve stated before in my piece on gimmicks, a lot of wrestlers who are given tried and tested gimmicks will often stick to this gimmick, and not try to push the boundaries too much. They potentially will try and keep their character completely in line with whatever directives that they are given by the creative team. It is only when a character is given more freedom and trust from the creative team/Vince, they have the license to take it upon themselves to bring something to the table that can showcase some innovation, and can create something potentially brilliant.
Many superstars from the past have filled this need, from someone as obvious as Hulk Hogan (his scoop slam of Andre the Giant could be classed as one of the finest spectacular moments), to someone as under-the-radar as Shelton Benjamin was. The superstars who take the biggest risks to deliver, who put their “bodies in the line”, the ones who throw the dice etc, are often the ones held in the highest esteem by the fans. It is this sheer lack of throwing caution to the wind, that can enable superstars to bond with the fans greater than any other can, as we as fans know that they can legitimately hurt themselves doing what they do, and those who deliver on a spectacular basis, can be elevated in the minds of the fans.
I always wonder that when Shane McMahon was brought into the field more as an active wrestler, that he knew what his weaknesses were, so in order to get over more with the crowd, he knew he would have to deliver the spectacular. I think Shane understood the business well and knew that by delivering the coast-to-coast to Vince at ‘Mania, falling 50ft off the Titantron in a match against Steve Blackman, or doing the Leap of Faith onto the Big Show at Backlash, that he would provide fans with that memorable moment that we all crave. In doing so, he gained the valuable acceptance from the fans, despite not being the most gifted athlete, or indeed the best wrestler in the world.
This ability to get the crowd chanting the “Holy Shit” mantra, you need to either shock or innovate. The ability to shock can happen from anywhere, and anyone. From a massive leap off a cell, or massive bump through a table, any kind of wrestler can produce one of these moments at a PPV, and get the crowd going. The ability to innovate, however, is much more limited to a select few.
It makes you like a wrestler a bit more when they can pull off something innovative and exciting. I liked Alex Riley a bit more after Orton through him high over the top rope at the Rumble onto crowd below, as it looked dangerous, but also out of the ordinary. I liked Kofi Kingston more when he surprised everyone by boom-dropping Orton at MSG on Raw ’09, as it was unexpected, and showed a fire in the eyes, which had been missing from Kofi’s clean-cut happy-go-lucky baby face character.
When I gave it some serious thought, taking the current crop of superstars, there are not many who possess this ability. Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara have what it takes to be truly inventive in the ring, but haven’t really been given that much of a showcase platform yet to show this ability off and hopefully, this will come with time. Kofi Kingston has the potential, and has shown off on a number of occasions that he possesses the ability to showcase these sorts of talents in the ring, but his overall lack of consistency, and occasional sloppiness holds him back.
There is one man who can, and does, regularly deliver on counts of both innovation, and spectacular though: John Morrison.
To me, Morrison is an invaluable part of the roster. Ok, I’ll be the first to admit, his promo skills are not up to scratch at all. He doesn’t seem to possess the knack to be able to find the right tone for his promos, and doesn’t seem to have the ability to think on his feet, or guide an exchange between two superstars (see Jo-Mo vs. R-Truth heel turn promo a few weeks ago on Raw. Awful.) He could do with having a more realistic punch, and on occasions, he can come across as a bit, well, soft. However, what he doesn’t lack though, is in-ring athleticism and ability. He has the spark. I can’t think of anyone else on the roster that can do what he does in the ring. This year alone, he has contributed greatly to 3 PPV main events with what he can do in the ring, and I’m hoping that he will be getting a push because of it.
His Spiderman agility in the Royal Rumble this year was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, as before he did it, I probably would of thought it was impossible. I want to own the PPV on DVD, just to re-watch that moment again. His ridiculous athleticism in the Elimination Chamber PPV brought something different to the table and he helped Raw’s slightly more inferior match, keep up the pace with Smackdown’s better offering. His addition to the Extreme Rules main event, and subsequent Starship Pain off the top of the cage, made that match one of the highlights.
Without sounding too much like a Morrison fan boy, he is essential to the WWE going forward. As I talked about in my last article on PPV’s, you need something to help sell the PPV to the viewer. Seeing something innovative and spectacular live is an unbeatable feeling, as it brings everyone together, talking about how ridiculous what they have just seen is, and Morrison is one of the most consistent performers for bringing this to the table. In order to get people excited about a PPV, you need to have something on there that is worth buying, and Morrison can do that.
If he is built right when he gets back from injury (his potentially fantastic feud with the re-invigorated heel R-Truth will help get him baby face sympathy), and allowed to showcase his talents, then he could fill the void left by Jeff Hardy, whose penchant to perform ridiculous moves and provide those out of the seat moments, has yet to be replaced, and the Monday Night delight might be just the man for the job.