Wrestling usually requires a suspension of disbelief.
Fans willingly disable some logical parts of the brain — the parts, for instance, that intuitively understand the People’s Elbow couldn’t hurt a mouse — to enjoy the over-the-top simulation of violence. It’s why wrestling works, even though everyone knows it’s a work.
Sometimes, though, fans are presented with scenario that is just too silly and implausible to believe.
Take the commercial for this Sunday’s Royal Rumble, which has been in heavy rotation on WWE programming for the past few weeks. The alternate reality it unveils is almost as strange as Mae Young’s maternity history. Even if you’ve seen it plenty of times before, spend the next 30 seconds truly soaking up its hokey, surreal weirdness:
It’s hard to pinpoint the most unbelievable aspect of the commercial, since it’s all so distant from the reality that most wrestling fans know. It’s set in a tastefully decorated restaurant where attractive, well-groomed young professionals — both men and women, in equal proportions — are all talking about wrestling. This, in reality, just doesn’t happen.
But there’s more: the women seem as knowledgeable about the Royal Rumble as the men (one pretty lady at the bar knows that Kane holds the record for most consecutive eliminations).
Even the waitress seems genuinely interested in the Rumble, whereas most real waitresses at sports bars tend to roll their eyes mockingly whenever a wrestling pay-per-view is showing.
Also odd: everyone in the commercial seems to be eating salad.
And the most unbelievable part? None of these avid wrestling fans, who are all chatting excitedly about the Rumble, seem to notice the hulking John Cena sitting at the bar, fully decked out in his own merch. Granted, his gear does bear the slogan “You Can’t See Me,” which we’re apparently expected to take literally.
This week, the wrestling webcomic BotchedSpot cleverly contrasted the fictional commercial to the reality most wrestling fans have come to know (click to enlarge):
So is this year’s Royal Rumble ad the most ridiculous wrestling commercial ever? Quite possibly.
Or is it instead a brilliant, subversive piece of advertising that’s only masquerading as nonsense? Well, maybe.
The commercial has got people talking. It is already fodder for many spoofs like the comic above, as well as plenty of mockery in forums and the YouTube comments (“Goddammit, please tell me where this bar is where attractive people talk about wrestling!”). There’s a belief in advertising that any attention — even mockery — is good for sales. A corny commercial certainly sold a lot of Slap Chops.
The most intriguing part of the Rumble commercial is the not-so-subtle hint that John Cena will be the winner. In the ad, he overhears all the implausibly attractive people predicting a winner, then casts a knowing smirk at the camera as if to say “they’re all wrong.”
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time WWE has hinted at a winner through its advertising (and certainly wouldn’t be the first time Cena has won a match despite overwhelming hopes to the contrary).
Or maybe it’s all a sly swerve from WWE? Perhaps the advertising gurus have been paying attention to all the griping about Cena’s superhero status. Perhaps Cena was used in the commercial as a form of crafty misdirection — a way to get the Cena-haters riled up enough to purchase the pay-per-view. Perhaps the presence of Cena in the ad is merely a diversion intended to shift suspicion away from the Rumble’s true winner (maybe a surprise entrant that WWE is determined to keep under wraps).
Then again, it’s probably just a really dorky commercial made by advertising execs who don’t “get” WWE fans.
If that’s the case, it’s a shame, because WWE has concocted some truly entertaining and original commercials for previous Royal Rumbles. Here’s a look back at some of the better ones: