Change is an interesting concept in the realm of professional wrestling. There are those that prefer stagnancy, or the status quo as it were, and remain oddly enamored by the constant day in/day out and there are those that scream for change when that very change is a return to a zone of comfort. Everybody wants to be right, as in they want to be able to say that the wrestling that they want to see is the right wrestling, the wrestling that, because it pleases them, is the epitome of professional wrestling. The wrestlers they want to see, the storylines they want to act smart with so as to know all the plot twists (and act superior as a result), the outcomes they desire; if a fan has these, whether they are liberal or conservative in their personal outlooks on the entertainment they are being provided, they become the personification of a douche; except for Ash, and it is worth noting that his name is suspiciously close to “ass”. That’s not directed towards anyone directly, but believe me when I say we’re all guilty of it in some capacity. Keep this in mind as you keep reading.
It’s safe to say that more than a fair share of people enjoyed Extreme Rules. It was an exciting PPV with exciting moments and some nice payoff to some nice buildup. For the more adult crowd, it was the sweet release after carefully planned caressing and thoughts of your least favorite sport. For the younger crowd, it was the sweet taste of nut after excruciating saving and torturous begging. Of course I’m referring to waiting for your significant other or getting some butter pecan ice cream, but you already knew that. I personally enjoyed every moment that I saw, though I was heartbroken when my internet connection was distorted. My love for Layla especially (I want her to bear my children…) came in full force even though I could do nothing but hear the particular match. The fight between CM Punk and Jericho was, in my view, a fitting end to a tiny feud, if a slightly premature one. The World Heavyweight Championship battle was terrific, featuring (and I’m quoting myself here as I so seldom do) “real… fucking wrestling…?!” by two talented stars. Our main event, yet another non-title match between Cena and an unmistakably monstrous (a dual term meaning big and scary or larger than life) roadblock, played out like the dream that many John Cena Haters have when they lock their bathroom door and reach for the Neutrogena. Early on Lesnar asserted dominance, and even his attire sideswiped any notion of him coming there to wrestle: he came there to beat someone up. Not give someone a mild mollywhop as with the unfortunate case of Josh Matthews, but to smash their face into a car windshield, take their mother out to a nice seafood dinner and never call the woman again. That’s the highest form of lambasting. If anything, that match did exactly, I repeat, EXACTLY what it was supposed to: it showcased the twin realities of:
- John Cena being mortal, and
- Putting John Cena out of action for a bit.
In the era of People Power, that’s significant. Watching RAW last night (and subsequently revamping the Episode series) we saw lawlessness on the scale of Steve Austin and violence on the scale of Brock Lesnar back when he was the big meanie who came in eight years ago and hurt people for the hell of it. After Triple H was put out of commission with a broken arm (suspension of disbelief can only go so far, Creative…) the Bellas were “fired”, the Beat the Clock challenge was predictably won by Randy Orton and then Daniel Bryan, and to end the show John Cena came out, NO broken arm I might add (mortal, not human) and made another inspirational speech worthy of a mid-level 60s civil rights gathering. Who would interrupt him but former white trash queen boytoy John Laurinaitis. Throughout the show he had to deal with a rampant monster, a now indisposed boss, Eve, Eve’s greatest assets so prominently displayed with her top, and most importantly the issue of what lay ahead after Lesnar’s defeat and Cena’s impending vacation. Angry, confused, missing his Carlton Banks sidekick, it came as no surprise to me that Johnny took to staring at breasts as a means to cope; it’s a guy thing. But moved by his ambition and head administrator’s administration, he took to the ring and announced John Cena’s opponent for Over the Limit, after teasing us with Lord Tensai and his denshi coming out and beating Cena senseless…
AFTER Big Johnny threw the first punch. None of us want to see John Cena take on Lord Tensai, not now at least, but to everyone’s surprise, the man with the Touch announced that Cena’s next PPV adversary would be none other than Mr. Ace himself.
Put your hand up right now if you saw this coming. I expect to see no hands because nobody saw this coming. This did nothing for me but play into a theory I’ve had for a while though, and following conversation with fellow pro wrestling aficionados the theory holds even truer today. Much like the powerful rise of golden boy Daniel Bryan, we’ve neglected to see the strong storyline of John Laurinaitis as one of the most interesting bad guys to come on-screen into the WWE in a long while. He’s not your traditional villain in the sense that he beats you nor your traditional bad guy from afar like the unnamed white guy in every blaxploitation movie known to man (except for Hot Potato, the villain in there was decidely Asian), but a slightly more complex tragedy of lost opportunity from a previous life, still dreaming for a shot at glory while taking care of things in a somewhat unorthodox manner.
I’ll offer the disclaimer here and say that there’s a slim possibility that I’m wrong, but seeing as I’m never usually wrong I’ll take my chances. I compare John Laurinaitis to three prominent antagonists in popular culture. The first is Xanatos, of Gargoyles fame. A rich man, a genius man, he was something like Disney’s response to Tony Stark. He was obsessed with his own ego and far from incapable of taking matters into his own hands when the situation called for it. Though he was the first to really assert a level of familiarity with the clan, he was also the first to screw them over, and as a result he became the main villain in the first season, and a very uneasy ally in the later ones. He and the protagonist of the show, Goliath, voiced by the incomparable Keith David, were enemies from the start and remained enemies long past the show’s conclusion, but they weren’t out to kill each other any longer. Xanatos’ greatest strengths were his resources and his intellect, knowing when to strike and when to retreat on some Sun Tzu type of stuff. His approach to villainy was subtle, self-serving, and eventually a bit relateable, a hell of a lot more relatable than Light from Death Note at least.
The second is from Mass Effect lore, and since that franchise has grown to levels similar to Star Wars in terms of fanbase and hatred, I think its appropo. Jack Harper is a pro-human man with a penchant for chain smoking and showing off his taco meat. He likes his women young, well endowed, highly skilled and wearing skin tight clothing (if that; I’ve seen the Shadow Broker files) and he wants nothing more than to assert humans as the dominant species in the universe. Is his heart in the right place? Arguably; it IS an extreme brand of patriotism but an admirable one. His virtually unlimited resources (no doubt a result of his being a Sheen) help him not only play the role of God but successfully navigate the genocide of a species and expand his multi-billion credit empire to extreme ends. If you’re a fan of Mass Effect and aren’t quite following I apologize: I’m talking about the Illusive Man. Spoiler alert. Pipe bomb. Much like Xanatos, Harper’s greatest strength is his intelligence. Like the Shadow Broker, whether it’s a yahg or an asari or Cary Elwes, information is his greatest strength. He fights his enemies behind the scenes, whether they are aliens invading, machines trying to harvest, or defectors rebelling against the people that repaired them.
The final comparison is the most relevant one and the only one that can’t properly be explained through examples. A quote can, however, tell more than even all the words of this piece will be able to. Verbal’s haunting words from (originator Charles Baudelaire) The Usual Suspects:
“You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Something about that quote makes it pop into my head anytime I see John Laurinaitis walk out to his London 2012 Olympic theme music and 1973 power suit. It is a complaint? No, nothing more than an observation and a sign of respect. Like I said, Laurinaitis might be the best bad guy in the WWE in a long time, and it’s a shame that a lot of people can’t see that. While I was one of the people rooting for Team Teddy at Wrestlemania, I was also convinced that Johnny’s reign as the general manager of both shows was the ultimate coup in the creation of a villain worthy of the new era, especially an era so stupidly called “People Power”. Not everything the man says is gold…
I’ve narrowed Big Johnny’s major traits into four main categories. These are manipulation, a hunger for power, genius obliviousness and a hatred for John Cena. A lot of people have these qualities, especially the last one, but the way it is maneuvered with Laurinaitis is special. Let’s go a bit out of order here and start with:
1. The Hunger for More (Power)
I take it most of you reading this aren’t fans of Lloyd Banks. I know I’m not, nor have I ever been a real fan, but with 50 Cent he was at least tolerable, and they gave him some decent beats to spit over. In any case, John Laurinaitis has been portrayed from his first instances on the mic in modern day (and the flashbacks courtesy of Punk) as a man who wanted more. “Johnny Ace is hot. I am, one of a kind,” he said during an old, old, OLD promo. It comes as no surprise that everyone in the WWE, or any industry for that matter, wants to rise above the role of where they are, even if they’ve reached the summit. Johnny Ace was mid-card at best during his wrestling tenure but now, being a suit, he’s already eclipsed his past irrelevancy and taken on a main character status worthy of an engaged Vince McMahon.
The Hunger for More always manifests as an evil. It involves ridding the company of competition in the pursuit of more power, more status and, in John’s case, more boobies. If we go back in time, we can recall the still unknown anonymous Raw GM. He was hinted at for the longest, but only manifested as a computer or computer accessory, prompting Michael Cole’s “Can I have your attention please?” when everyone knew it was a pale comparison to Lance Storm’s “If I can be serious for a minute”. Technically it was Triple H that took over in the GM role for a bit, along with Theodore Long, before Johnny Ace stepped up but officially the immediate successor to the anonymous GM was our hero. For nearly a year we had a faceless laptop (or iPad) telling us about the agenda for the evening. How everything didn’t go to bedlam in that nearly yearlong span is beyond me but when Johnny Ace stepped in, no one really cared until Punk’s infamous promo. Since then, Johnny has slowly moved into a position of more and more power with each passing show.
Taking the position of the anonymous GM is one thing. Aside from making Punk’s life a living hell he was a jerk to most of the faces of the company, especially those that didn’t swallow for him (*cough, cough* Eve *cough, cough*). In terms of being the head of something, that makes sense. I can’t knock that. As the New Tigallo Champion I expect a degree of reverence too, but within the span of a few episodes we completely forgot that there was even a laptop for a GM only a few months before. Despite John’s blandness that makes the act of buttering toast seem as exciting as a threeway with your favorite actor/ess and singer, you were entranced because he knew how to keep you paying attention (more on that with another trait).
His second coup came with Wrestlemania, with his team versus that of Theodore Long. While the idea to take over both shows wasn’t his, per se, he relished the idea. Why wouldn’t he? It meant more power, and honestly the same degree of work. His team won, effectively firing and then reinstating/enslaving Theodore Long. Now in control of both shows, he wields power that hasn’t really been seen in a little while in the grand scheme of things. By controlling both shows he did what few non-wrestlers have: spearheaded a new era. Yes, the Miz won it for him, but John Laurinaitis led the team and leads the charge. It’s even his name: People Power. This is power, but the hunger for more is narcotic. Once you have a taste you must have more. In the case of Ace, he needed to usurp even the very person he had to call his immediate boss: Triple H.
Yes, you can claim that the one-time technical general manager wasn’t really general manager at the time, but when he was assaulted on RAW (4/30/2012) he was, and is, the Chief Operating Officer, and in the story he is John’s immediate superior. The hunger for more causes a person to attack the issue directly, and that’s why Triple H is out of it for the time being. And I know you may be thinking, “But DiZ, you quintessential cavalcade of lewd behavior, he didn’t attack Triple H! That was Lesnar!”
Uh huh. That takes us to our second point:
I will contend that Johnny Ace has all the qualities of a serpent. He’s crude, shrewd, sly and even a bit devious. While he doesn’t appear to be all that great, he’s done the impossible (I believe I alluded to this earlier) and made himself the center of a universe he controls with an iron fist while at the same time surrounding himself with people that don’t realize that they aren’t in charge. Walk with me here. You need look no further than these people: Triple H, David Otunga, Theodore Long, Eve and Mongo, who for the sake of this piece will be referred to as Brock Lesnar.
Triple H, as I’ve said many times, is supposed to be John’s superior, but it has been a very rare (and by very rare I mean like Mew (Pokemon reference) and the Great Pumpkin (Peanuts reference) doing the Harlem Shake (dance reference) in Atlantis (mythological reference) and all that is code for never) that in direct or indirect combat that Hunter has actually BEAT John Laurinaitis. I can’t recall a single time; the closest I can remember is a draw, and that was because Johnny wasn’t fighting back. If you put these two against each other in some tale of the tape shit, sure, Triple H would beat the brakes off of the guy in a heartbeat, but how has the Touch won? The same way the Athenians managed to win some battles against their rivals, the Spartans.
Don’t let 300 and the stylized action of Frank Miller fool you: the Spartans had their asses handed to them a few times by the Athenians. Somewhere between the poetry they were writing about waterfalls, they managed to use their heads long enough to say, “Hey! I know how we can show those ruffians what for!”
And they did.
Just as Big Johnny has.
Much like Xanatos, the Illusive Man and Kevin Spacey, Johnny uses his head to get others to do his work for him. For the comic fans, think Mr. Sinister. Traditional Mr. Sinister, not Ultimate Mr. Sinister. In any case, John Laurinaitis utilizes his power and position to work his lackeys to do his bidding. It allows him to be the true bad guy. He can be the originator of a drug problem in a city, distributing his toxins to underlings that run the risk of getting into trouble instead of him. This is a common attribute for many true bad guys, true villains from afar. What you may not realize is how slyly this man manages to make it seem like others are in charge. He remains in the background while the others run his business. This shows most with Eve and David Otunga.
Say what you want to say about the lawyer and the human vacuum, they RUN the show that Big Johnny is more prominent on, David Otunga more so than Eve (though that’s in reverse now) but who was the one on the front lines more often than not? That’s right: Big Johnny supporters. Otunga led them like the field leader he is, and made himself to be a pretty powerful sight in the process. He was the avatar, the face of the man that truly runs the world.
The same goes for Eve. I’ll make a lot of jokes about her role and how sturdy her knees must be, but as the head administrator she is doing what David Otunga did, but with sexiness and flair. She is the new avatar for Big Johnny’s evil. She makes suggestions, but who’s holding the cards at the end of the day? That’s right: Big Johnny.
I suppose the biggest feather in his cap is that of Brock Lesnar. Yes, Lesnar IS under Laurinaitis’ control. How can such a mousey man control a monster, you may be asking. The same way Don Vito Corleone controlled Luca Brasi, or Don Michael Corleone controlled Al Neri. Power is the ultimate leash, and even Brock Lesnar knows he can’t attack those that can advance him. More than that, he can’t attack what he doesn’t realize controls him. Go back to the aforementioned RAW and notice how the exchange between Lesnar, Laurinaitis and HHH went. Every time Johnny tried to object to something said by Trips, he ended up further behind him. By the time the COO turned to the GM, the Executive Vice President (of Talent Relations) was two millimeters from the ropes. When Lesnar bit the hand that fed, the GM was already gone.
Still, Laurinaitis has that leash firmly in his hand. He controls the very people that make him look like a weak leader, even Theodore Long. Sure, the implications from a historical and/or standard view are pretty messed up, but who does the legwork? Johnny just carries the arms. And while you’re pondering on this, take into consideration this:
3. Genius Obliviousness
Have you any idea how hard it is to seem pathetic when you have power? It’s hard.
Like petrified wood.
Petrified wood coated in sticky glue. Yeah, it’s hard. Yet he makes it look so effortless. Maybe it’s the lack of emotion he shows or the fact that his smile is as dry as dehydrated Wheat Thins, but when it comes to looking like a tool, Johnny has it down. However, this dry behavior, not seen since Josh Matthews post-beating, has manifested as something to behold. It’s the top of the pile, the head of the state, the greatness of excellence and a bunch of other terms you don’t really know or care to know.
And he just always looks so confused. It doesn’t help that his latest mannerism is pointing and saying, “People Power” like a tool.
God bless you, Johnny Ace. You’re just so… bland.
I COULD get into the last thing, but I think I’m going to expand it into a new piece. Ladies and gentlemen, the episodes of RAW have been reborn!
Imagine my happiness when I saw that the WWE released their first quarter results! Huzzah!
Brass tax here, folks: businesses are in business to make a profit. In regards to professional wrestling, all of the “entertaining the fans” and “global entertainment” stuff is cute and pleases us to no end, but the bottom line is that these companies must make a profit. Anything outside of that is simply icing on the cake.
Even more unfortunate for us fans is this fact: a business that’s in business to make money is deemed “successful” when it makes a profit. Period. We can analyze the s**t out of a John Cena storyline all we want to, but the thing is a complete flop if the company didn’t make at least $10 more than what they spent on producing the angle.
No matter how “good” a product may be or how much we “like” it, the financial results will always tell the true story of how well a given company will be able to produce the “good” product that we “like/love” so much. Seeing as the WWE is a publicly traded company, they have to produce these quarterly financial results to investors, which would include schleps like you and me if we actually invested in the company.
The cool thing about it is that the information is public! You don’t have to speculate on how good/bad a PPV did (TNA), argue about whether or not the company is actually financially viable (TNA) or palaver over whether or not they’ll be in or out of business in the next ten minutes (TNA). It’s all right there for you to see!
But enough of the subtle jabs; click here to read just how successful the WWE was during the first three months of 2012.