Thankfully, this won’t be another reference to the VMA’s and Miley Cyrus’ abysmal performance. Instead it’ll be an interesting look at the way that the E is effectively using social media, interviews, and genuine wrestler characteristics to further storylines. Last week, Dolph Ziggler mentioned that Randy Orton has been repeatedly handed opportunity after opportunity, a comment that some perceived as real and outside the lines of kayfabe, given Dolph’s penchant for speaking his mind in the past and his subsequent Twitter remarks. As dirtsheets and fans wondered if Nick Nemeth (the man) actually meant these words, Dolph Ziggler (the wrestler) and WWE execs were smiling at how they had deftly used social media to actually progress a story. It’s no secret that the WWE pushes wrestlers and personalities to use Twitter and the like to move along angles, but now they’ve done it in a way that stymies the audience. By using outspoken wrestlers to deliver messages and having character echo outside-of-the-ring critiques of WWE executives, the E is moving along storylines with comments that seem to be frank.
They’re masterfully drawing on reality to create tension for on-screen feuds. Orton’s the antithesis of a model employee with 2 wellness strikes and a litany of backstage incidents that were objectionable. Beyond that he was also credited (correctly or incorrectly) for Kennedy being released, Kofi losing his push, and other instances of wrestlers losing momentum. Dolph’s comment echoed many of the facts and beliefs held in the last few sentences, which made it believable to those who don’t understand how the WWE is using social media. By intertwining the real (interviews) with the predetermined (matches) and the pre-written (promos and segments), the WWE is creating a believable picture with various angles and characters that more fans can buy into and embrace. Even if fans understand that it’s all preordained, the way that it’s being executed is so effective that they would still buy in to see where the story would go and how the angle would end.
They didn’t stop with Ziggler, because in light of Cody Rhodes recent “firing”—and the great promo that he cut on his way out—his father (employed by the WWE) and brother (probably a backstage talent but unconfirmed) “spoke out” in a WWE.com article. We all understand the propaganda machine that is called “WWE.com” when we’re discussing written media surrounding wrestling, but the comments from Dusty and Dustin drew on real events and real feelings. Many still see Vince’s decision to put Dusty Rhodes in polka dots back in the 90’s as a wholly unwise move, and Dusty mentioning the “stupidity” of firing Rhodes and the constant problem between the McMahons and the Rhodes spoke to the perceived character assassination attempt that Vince perpetrated on Dusty Rhodes when he first came to the WWE. Some see that gimmick as a gleaming example of Vince’s hatred of well-established characters and others see it as one of the greatest examples of misuse in wrestling. Still, these “raw” comments from Dusty and Dustin are shaping up to make Cody’s return a huge deal and the McMahon’s look even more nefarious.
This bleeding of reality into the scripted has been done before by the WWE to a great reception. It was the Summer of 2011, the show was Monday night Raw, CM Punk was wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt, and he was sitting atop the ramp that leads to the ring. The “pipebomb” that Punk dropped was actually a controlled explosive device according to Triple H, but it went over massively with people all believing for weeks that it was a legit shoot and not the worked shoot that Triple H cites in this Grantland article. It seems that the WWE has learned well from that event, and now that the product seems to be on the up-and-up, they’re using this tactic to create great stories and drive sincere belief.