Awhile back, I mentioned that I was going to have to do a post on wrestling and soaps. Here goes nothing!
When I was a kid, this was wrestling:
Very cartoonish….larger than life characters, definitive good guys and bad guys. However, in a parallel universe at the exact same time, my brothers were into this:
which I thought was boring. But then as I got older, I started to appreciate the harder-nosed NWA moreso than the silly WWF. As people my age got older, the WWF we grew up with became less and less appealing and we started tuning into WCW. WWF, the longtime industry leader, fired back by changing to the edgier Attitude era, where cartoonish tamped down to merely over the top, and ANYTHING could happen. I kid you not, I remember Raws where Triple H re-enacted humping a dead woman in her coffin, where Brian Pillman (RIP) pulled a gun on Stone Cold Steve Austin who was breaking into his house, where an 80 plus year old woman was pregnant and delivered a rubber glove, where a former Olympian fell in love with a transvestite until he discovered Mr. Winky…etc, etc. In this time period, good guys (babyfaces, faces, etc) and bad guys (heels) became a thing of the past in favor of tweeners who walked in a gray area. No more was it that all heels were friends simply because they were heels. The result of the Attitude era (and horrible mismanagement and booking in WCW) was the ultimate destruction and bankruptcy of WCW, the spiritual successor of the NWA. It was also around the time of the Attitude era when the whole wrestling as “Soaps for men” meme started to pick up steam. At this point, WWE has
stupidly banned the word “Wrestling” and all of its derivatives. John Cena is no longer a “wrestler,” he’s a “superstar”. And he doesn’t wrestle, he “entertains.” That would be akin to Y & R saying it’s no longer a soap opera, but rather melodramatic entertainment.
I say all this to say that it reminds me of now with soaps, Y & R in particular. Here’s some similarities:
- Good guys, bad guys, tweeners: Both genres at it’s core are about larger than life good guys (Babyfaces) and bad guys (Heels), and characters who float in between (Tweeners). That drives the conflict. There is nothing more dramatic than a heel who redeems himself, or a hero who falls. Think of Michael, who was introduced to us as a rapist, Kevin, who was a STD-infected, homocidal pervert, or Phyllis, who was a murderous vamp. All of them redeemed themselves and became heroes with a darkside. Victor, who kept his wife’s lover in a dungeon, started out life as an over the top villain. One major difference is that there’s no money in heels in soaps, at least not long term. At best, you can be a tweener, a la Adam, who is not really a heel right now.
- Hotshot booking: Oh yes, I’ve mentioned this before. Hotshot booking in wrestling means basically doing something dramatic to raise interest at the expense (or lack of!) of long-term plans. TNA Wrestling is the KING of hotshot booking right now, with their world title changing hands on far too many occasions. Hotshot booking isn’t always bad when used sparingly, but the overuse indicates a lack of direction. Thus my beef with Y & R essentially hot shotting with all the recent deaths. It’s cool for the drama, but it indicates a lack of direction. Are you telling me that Cassie (who would now be early 20s), Brad, or Skye couldn’t add to the landscape on Y & R? Hell, you could have Brad essentially in Tucker’s role.
- Payoffs: Wrestling and Soaps are both all about payoffs. Good booking of wrestling and good writing of soaps creates an intriguing story, takes time to develop it, and gives a satisfying payoff. It doesn’t go too long and makes people lose interest, and it doesn’t go so fast. It rewards long-time fans with tidbits from the past, it gets fans emotionally invested. A well-booked storyline in wrestling was Sting vs. Hulk Hogan in 1997. The hero of WCW, Sting disappeared in 1996 after being accused of betraying WCW and the fans. He went from this:
to hanging out in the rafters looking like this:
He didn’t talk for over a year and it was unclear what he wanted or what he was after. He attacked random wrestlers. The nWo, a pseudo-invasion of WWF talent, even had a look a like of Sting wrestle for them. It became apparent that he wanted the leader of the nWo Hulk Hogan. After a year, Sting got Hulk Hogan in the ring at Starrcade ’97 (NWA and WCW’s Wrestlemania) and seemingly beat him to win the WCW World Title, albeit uncleanly. A long build, a satisfying payoff, everyone’s happy, right? Wrong…the next day, Sting finally talks and is stripped of the title for largely political reasons and WCW begins a 3 year descent into bankruptcy. Compare….Cane’s death. It was a long time coming…it was a satisfying payoff…until they made Cane a ghost or figment of Lily’s imagination. How you follow up on a successful storyline is almost as crucial as a successful storyline.
My geekiness knows no bounds and I’m sure I’ve lost people who came here looking for info on either wrestling or Y & R….not that I watch that kind of thing.