Which Technique Is Better for WWE Theatrics? (a.k.a. The Most Ridiculous Thing I Have Ever Written)

Originally posted somewhere on the Internet in early 2009. Edited and improved for maximum, super-fantastic reading experience.

People come to the “Internet Wrestling Community” for all kinds of reasons.  Some of us really like wrestling and we’re looking for breaking news, gossip and the like.  Some of us really enjoy writing and the IWC provides a decent forum to share our love of the “sport” with like-minded folks all around the world.  And then there are those of us who come to the IWC to engage in a bit of shameless narcissism and self-promotion. Ah, the joys of user-generated content…Anyway, that brings me to the important point of why I’m part of the IWC: Well, it turns out, I never really gave it too much thought.  I guess it’s of all of the above.  Look, I’m trying to make things better for everyone here.  And I’m not just talking about the IWC wrestling community, either.  Even Jim Ross has acknowledged in a recent blog article that people are really unhappy with the declining quality of the WWE “product” as a whole.  I really want to help out and I figure that writing articles for the IWC is the best way to accomplish this.

For example, in one of my most recent articles, I opined that WWE should bring back stables and factions to make things more interesting.  Now, I don’t think that WWE has jumped on my suggestions just yet but one thing I know for sure is that my whole “factions” thing really, really screwed up the IWC’s wrestling section something awful.  Oh well.  I guess you can’t make an omelette du fromage without breaking a few eggs, eh?  I am sure it’s just a matter of time before my suggestions to WWE start getting implemented because I’m sure that the WWE creative team reads all the IWC wrestling articles thoroughly.  In fact, I bet they probably read each article at least twice.  And they read the really, really good ones three or four times just because they’re so damn good.  Really.  So with all of that out of the way, I want to share a new idea with everyone:  Acting lessons for WWE talent.

On its face, it probably sounds like a fairly obvious move.  I mean, most wrestling fans (with the possible exception of a few guys who write for the IWC) know that wrestling is not a real competitive sport.  These days, pro wrestling is almost as much about the acting that happens between the matches as it is about the action in the ring.  So these guys have to work to make it look convincing…and interesting.  I’m sure that WWE has some acting coaches on staff to help with basic character development and delivery, but I tend to doubt that this training is terribly in-depth.  Nobody but a real “insider” would know for sure and I don’t think we have any of those here in the IWC.  What I am putting forth in this article is that WWE talent needs to adopt a very specific direction in regard to the theatrical elements of the production.

In the course of my time with the IWC, I have heard now and again about a common method used to settle disputes:  The “Creature vs. Creature” contest.  I think somebody even asked me to compete against him in one of these once, but at the time I was looking for more of a challenge, so I decided to buy a connect-the-dots book from the local Dollar Tree.  Hell, I can’t even remember that guy’s name now. Damn, what a missed opportunity. But now here I am with a serious issue to resolve, so I am going to initiate a full scale “Creature vs. Creature” debate on the matter at hand.  For this contest, I have selected the only opponent that I deem worthy of such a challenge:  myself.  So here it is, my first “Creature vs. Creature” article in which I seek to answer the following question:

Stanislavski’s “System” or Brecht’s “V effect”:  Which technique is better for WWE theatrics?

Bear in mind that I don’t have a degree in the dramatic arts and it has been about two decades since my last theater class.  I am a little rusty on the basics of Stanislavski, so that particular topic required some study on my part.  I am admittedly partial to the works of Brecht and I have to confess that I am especially fond of anything involving or utilizing the so-called “V effect.”


Part 1:  Stanislavski’s “System” is a better technique for WWE theatrics.

Constantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski

Stanislavski’s “System” is named for Constantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor and one of the more innovative directors of the theater during the early twentieth century.  The “system” is a specific approach that requires actors or actresses to “live the part” or “be the part,” and to portray a given role with some degree of empathy.  It is arguably an intense approach to acting that nonetheless holds that the immersion in a character is not necessarily complete and all-encompassing.  In short, the actor or actress should maintain some level of independence or objectivity from the role itself so as to determine whether or not the role is being effectively presented.

Consider this hypothetical example:  In a surprise move, WWE has moved Chris Jericho from “main event” status to the midcard for another run at the Intercontinental title.  Most folks would see this as a demotion, but Jericho has to effectively sell this as something other than that.  WWE is banking that a 3-way storyline involving Jericho, Regal and CM Punk would be more than intriguing than a standard back-and-forth between two talents.  Remember, Jericho is a character.  Moreover, “Heel Jericho” is a different character altogether from “Y2J.”  That is an important distinction to consider as we apply the Stanislavski system in this vignette.  Also, I am going to minimize Jericho’s interaction with the crowd because I think retaining the “fourth wall” allows for a more effective presentation of the system.

*    *    *

Scene:  10:00 PM on Monday Night Raw, 2 weeks before WrestleMania 25.  Back from the commercial, we see Jerry Lawler in the center of the ring with Jericho, who entered the arena during the break.  Both have microphones.  After a few minutes of “You suck!” chants directed at Jericho, Lawler address Jericho…

Lawler:  Chris, the WWE Universe was shocked last week when you knocked CM Punk off the podium at the Wrestlemania 25 media event, proclaimed that you are the greatest  Intercontinental champion of all time and challenged him to defend the title against you at Wrestlemania.  Now you have been added to the match between Punk and Regal in a no-disqualification triple threat match.  Chris, you’re an eight-time Intercontinental champion.  What will another title run prove to anyone?

Jericho slowly scans the arena and raises the microphone to speak.

Jericho:  Prove?  What do I have to prove to anyone?  Am I supposed to prove something to you, “King”?  How many times did you lay claim to title after title after title in your rinky-dink promotions in the south?  How many times did you festoon yourself with superficial accolades and self-adulation while people like me had to come upon recognition honestly?  Through blood and sweat, through hard work and unflinching candor, Jericho made Jericho.  Not the fickle fans nor the sleazy promoters, not the hack writers for mainstream wrestling rags nor the insecure teenage heroes of the blogosphere.  Am I supposed to prove my worth to those people?  Hardly.  Why I do what I do day after day, month after month, year after year is for my benefit. I am who I am because I have to look myself in the mirror and appreciate who I am and what I’ve done.  I am a happy man, Jerry Lawler.  But I could be happier.  And what will make me happy now is to tear down the false idols of the WWE starting with this “wannabe” champion from a third rate promotion, this disingenuous impostor CM Punk.  I will take his title and assume my rightful place as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time and in doing so, I will begin my campaign to reshape the whole of WWE in my own image.  My image – the one you see before you today – was created through the kind of suffering and struggle that you old-timers have forgotten.  And the young ones…Well, they haven’t the slightest clue what real sacrifice means.  But when I show them, they will learn the hardest of hard ways and I assure you that young and old, present and future, the WWE will never, ever be the same…again.


Note:  Consider for a moment that Jericho was cast in a slightly different bit that somehow involved him punching and spitting on Mickie James.  Were he to channel his recent experiences with a female Canadian fan, that wouldn’t really be Stanislavski at work.  That, friends, would be “Method” acting.  There’s a big difference.

Part 2.  Brecht’s “V effect” is a better technique for WWE theatrics.

Bertolt Brecht

German playwright and director Betolt Brecht  is well known for his revolutionary and avant-garde approaches to theater.  One of his most notable contributions to the world of drama was his Verfremdungseffekt (say that 10 times fast, bitches) or “V effect.”  Sometimes translated as the “Alienation effect” or “Distancing effect,” the “V effect” is intended to evoke objective and critical observation from the audience as opposed to the kind of emotional investment that might result from sympathetic or empathetic observers.  Some of Brecht’s signature techniques in his theatrical productions included his experimental, avant-garde approach and his use of historical themes to deliver poignant messages.

The following short play is presented using key elements of Brecht’s “V effect” to create a very unique, surreal alternative to WWE’s current style of bland, one-dimensional theatrics.

*    *    *

Scene:  9:01 PM, the final Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania 25.  Randy Orton is booked to Wrestle John Cena for the WWE title at WrestleMania.  The show opens with Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes in the ring.  The arena is dark, but Team Priceless are standing together in a single, orange-tinted spotlight.  They are wearing black hooded tunics that cover their bodies to the mid-thigh (It is apparent that they are wearing wrestling gear underneath).  They stand side-by-side facing the Titan Tron.  Their legs are slightly apart and their heads hang down so that the only visible features of their faces are their mouths.  Randy Orton is not visible to the audience because he is underneath the ring.

DiBiase and Rhodes:  Master, reveal thyself to us.  You complete us!  We are but lowly denizens of the midcard without you!

Orton (from beneath the ring):  I will not.  This curse of I.E.D. has made me a monster.  A heel.

DiBiase and Rhodes:  A monster heel?  Nay!

Orton:  Yea, verily.  I cannot show my face to my admirers without a title around my waist.  All of my conquests are therefore without meaning.

DiBiase and Rhodes:  Master, thou art a paradox wrapped within a paradox wrapped within a paradox.  You are a champion without a title and a king without a crown.

Orton:  I am an abomination.  Show me what evidence you have of my superiority and I will reveal myself should you prove your case.

DiBiase and Rhodes raise their heads to face the Tron.  The tips of the hoods still obscure their faces.  The screen is cloudy at first but the mist clears to reveal the face of the Undertaker.

The Undertaker:  Randy Orton…I destroyed you at Hell in a Cell many years ago.  I left you bloodied and defeated.  I also gave your father hepatitis.

Orton:  Alack!  It’s not a victory of which you speak…but a defeat!  I am exposed!

The mist gathers again and clears to reveal the face of Triple H.

Triple H:  Orton, you didn’t beat me.  I let you win.

Orton:  Zounds!  I am undone!

The screen is cloudy for a moment and then it clears again to reveal the face of John Cena’s father.

Mr. Cena:  Randy, you may have punted me in the head, but you could not vanquish my son.  The moment of retribution is at hand!  Now, will somebody please answer that damn phone?

Orton:  This I cannot take!  I am not a champion.  Regular.  Kindly.  Overrated.

Down the ramp walks a solitary calf that is painted gold.  A card hangs around its neck with the word “CENA” written on it.  Cody Rhodes quickly falls to his knees and presses his ear to the mat.

Rhodes:  Master!

Orton:  Yes, child?

DiBiase (whispering):  Your destiny has arrived.


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