Posted in: The PEN15 Mightier The PEN15 Mightier : The Art of Pre-Recorded Promos/Vignettes
Jan 2, 2012 - 3:33:43 PM
It Begins… Again
I have to give the WWE credit. There’s a lot of intrigue into the current “It Begins” promos that have been aired weekly. Online, we’ve seen the pundits go back and forth with predictions and guesses. With my tongue firmly planted in cheek, I purposely stirred the pot with my updated column stating it could be Brock Lesnar now that he’s retiring from the UFC after losing his second fight in a row. I find joy in seeing people deluding themselves into knowing the answer as to who the videos are hyping. I don’t do it from my high horse, as I pretend to know the answers to many of WWE’s problems with my position as desk jockey, but I am glad that I’ve finally found the right perspective when it comes to promos:
wait and see.
Now, I’ll be tuning in tonight to see if it was all for Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Rybeck/Skip Sheffield, or Brock Lesnar. And I’ll anticipate the next step. It’s hard to find any conclusion that would be worth complaining about. While my disdain for the Undertaker is most likely the highest out of every columnist on LOP, his return COULD be a good thing. Now, I’ll proudly admit that the chances for this for are rather low, but there’s always the outside chance that it’ll lead to something I’ll care about. The last time it happened was unexpected, as Kane was getting victories over his big brother in 2009 for the World Heavyweight Championship.
The point is that the history behind mysterious WWE promo videos is mixed. Last year’s Undertaker videos started the Sting rumors, and it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths when it only led to Undertaker vs HHH at Wrestlemania (and no, I won’t comment on the top 25 matches list. WWE are a self hyping machine, they can claim everything they want and not be wrong). But for every mystery that ends up being anti-climactic like last year’s, there’s one that succeeds in delivering something special to the WWE Universe.
I’m a huge fan of the idea, as it’s something that can create interest in a character before they debut, or build up anticipation for a surprise return, all without “burying” any opponents or taking up too much in ring interview time. In fact, the videos sometimes make a bigger impression on me than the performer does when they finally perform. I’d like to recap some of my favorite promo videos (and take a step up in column delivery with some embedded videos), as well as comment on the success of them, leading up to tonight’s Raw where we’ll discover the answer to the mysterious school children promos.
Royal Rumble 2003
A prime time to promote something fresh and new using this method of promotion is during the ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA. I fondly remember watching the 2003 Royal Rumble and seeing the videos for the debuts of Nathan Jones and Sean O’Haire. At the time, lots of hype was building online for O’Haire, a former WCW Tag Team Champion. The videos showcased O’Haire with a “Devil’s Advocate” sort of persona, telling the audience to do things they know are wrong, but “go head, everybody else does too.” It was a great concept, but one I do think was flawed in the long run, as I don’t know how it translates to wrestling. The obvious storyline would be for him to lead face wrestlers into heel turns, but how many times can he do that before it ran its course. I think the WWE knew this, because once he debuted, he was as bland as could be. He was paired up with Roddy Piper, in what should have been a match madei n heaven, but WWE dropped the ball quite seriously with O’Haire.
But, the promo videos started on the right track:
I’m a rock/metal head, but I tend to find the music WWE uses in that genre to be lame and generic. Somehow the music used for Jones' clip was perfect with the simple 3 note nu-metal grind. Add to that, the real Australian news clips concerning his incarceration helped add a layer of a genuine threat in the real world into the fake world of WWE. He didn’t pan out, as we saw, but it is still a great sign of what CAN be achieved with these simple promos.
I wasn’t paying as much attention to the WWF at this time. While I defend HBK to be the greatest WWE wrestler of all time, I find his run at the top to be one of the most flawed eras in Vince McMahon history. The company in general was in a slump, and unable to find a way out, due to concentrating too much on aspects that don’t attract the general wrestling audience. Cheering a goody two shoes sexy boy is not in my interests, nor was it at 14 years old.
What that era did produce was 2 debuts in promo video form for performers who will most likely soon be WWE Hall of Fame entries. First, a man who had appeared in the WWF before as son of legendary Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, donned the gold for the first time as Goldust. The original vignettes displayed a side of the bizarre one’s character that eventually was dropped, and only hinted to the most significant aspect that would lead to his rise as a star in 1996. The movie quotes were there, the Hollywood background was there, but his androgynous form was not yet played out. In fact, before he debuted his homoerotic side, we might not have ever sensed that WWF’s newest midcard threat would be playing the homosexual card.
Now, while I missed the Goldust ones, I started paying more attention when I heard Ultimate Warrior was coming back, so I was able to catch the creepy and strange dungeon setting for hype segment for the upcoming debut of Mankind. Now, Mick Foley did so much with this character that will forever be overshadowed by his hardcore legacy. But if you look at Mankind as a character on its own, Mick Foley basically deserves an Oscar (fuck Slammys) for his portrayal of the deranged one. While Mankind would quickly become a parody of himself, the first year of his run is legendary, in my opinion. Rarely does Vinny Mac hit the nail on the head as perfectly as the WWF did with Mankind in 1996.
The most common guess for tonight’s unveiling is for the 2nd return of Chris Jericho to WWE. If this is the case, then I somehow know I’ll be disappointed. Not because I’ll be against the return of Y2J, but rather because I expect better when it comes to the Best in the World at what he Does. Of course, having the school girl involved, there might be something added to the Jericho return that I’m not expecting, but the hype won’t meet the expectations after the success with the past 2 debut videos.
The first was simple, just a clock counting down the time until the millennium.
This lead to what is widely considered the best debut in wrestling history. Whether or not the ball was dropped after the promo with Rock, that’s also a fair opinion. But there’s very little to critique about the initial impact of the countdown.
The return of Y2J in 2007 was also spectacular. While the promo vs Orton wasn’t nearly as captivating, the hints and tricks involved in the videos leading up to his appearance was rather ingenious. We had to break the code. It was one of the few times the wrestling world forced the audience to think a bit, and I appreciated it.
Fuel the Feud
Now, where the WWE have improved in their use of videos as opposed of wasting bad acting and live TV time in the ring, the one aspect they’ve failed to capitalize on is in developing videos based on specific angles going on in the WWE. Today, in the world of youtube and digital downloading, you’d think there’d be an increase of material available to propel storylines to the next angle. While WWE expects their performers to do their own work on twitter, and advertises whenever someone is trending, the company rarely takes a proactive approach into developing the grudge between 2 heated rivals. I am not in touch with the budgetary committee of WWE, so I don’t know if what I’m requesting is just too much, but it seems like there’s a lot of room to move with productions outside of the live arena.
John Cena is often controversially best remembered for his raps during his initial heel run in 2003. What people forget is that many of them took place outside of the ring. I remember a great run of them leading into a title match against Brock Lesnar at Backlash of that year. But the best might have been the work he put in to ignite the fire for his match with Undertaker at Vengeance.
My personal favorite from one of the most criminally underrated rivalries in 1996, the era that brought me back to WWF, was when Steve Austin took control of with a career defining feud with Bret Hart. The build up to their match at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden was tremendous, and while I loved the in ring promos delivered from Austin, the most memorable segment was the promo used during the Free For All (and previously on WWF TV) to hype the confrontation.
For the record, that’s the best video on this page.
It Begins… Tonight
Whatever occurs tonight, I’m happy that someone somewhere is taking notice that there’s a lot of methods to use the TV time on Raw and Smackdown, outside of long drawn out interviews. Not every pre-recorded segment has to be as corny as a DX spot from 2009. Most likely, the Chris Jericho videos were done from his own ideas. Sure WWE helped, but it took input from Y2J to implement them properly. Maybe WWE stars need to speak up with their own ideas. Zack Ryder has done tremendously with his show, and Dolph Ziggler’s segments were rather well done as well (outside of the lame Scott Stamford evil twin stuff).
I’m tired of writing. Enjoy these clips, and feel free to remind me of any I’ve missed.
And on that note, peace out.
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