“The cult of love in the West is an aspect of the cult of suffering — suffering as the supreme token of seriousness (the Paradigm of the cross).”
– Susan Sontag, “The Artist As Exemplary Sufferer.”
It is worth noting that, during the WWE’s “demolition derby” pay per view TLC (which stands for Tables, Ladders, Chairs and, this past Sunday, the steel stairs leading into the ring) Dolph Ziggler is one of the only wrestlers who bled. At the risk of beating this “Dolph Ziggler is Jesus Christ” theory into the ground, Dolph Ziggler really is the WWE’s current Jesus Christ. While his tag-team loss Monday to Big Show and Luke Harper means he isn’t undefeated since Survivor Series — though it’s notable Ziggler’s partner Ryback was pinned, not Dolph– he’s the newly re-crowned Intercontinental Champ after winning the belt back from Harper in a ladders match at TLC* and a significant contender heading into the Royal Rumble and the road to Wrestlemania.
If Ziggler manages to extricate himself from the post—Survivor Series aftershock matches between the Cena/Authority factions, he could do, well, anything. He essentially has the power star from Mario for the moment. To keep with the biblical metaphor for just a bit longer, he could even be the David to Rusev’s Goliath. While the show-breaking of Zeb Colter’s leg by Rusev last week means Jack “The Kind of White Person That Deserves To Be Called a Cracker” Swagger’s recent losses to Rusev won’t put the Swagger-Rusev beef to bed any time soon, it’s possible Swagger’s inevitable defeat will precipitate Ziggler eventually stepping up to try and be the first to defeat Rusev by pinfall or submission. Okay, Rusev weighs as much as 2.5 Zigglers and they both have belts so why would they fight, Calvin? Why are you spinning us these lies?
1. Rusev is an immovable object. Ziggler is an unstoppable force. It would be great to see them collide, both at their ostensible peaks.
2. Their fighting styles might mesh surprisingly well, despite their weight difference — it would be a battle comprised mostly of counter-maneuvers and drop kicks, an improvement on the Swagger/Rusev pattern of back-and-forth submission holds.
Or, Swagger could fall and BO DALLAS could return to make us all Bo-Lievers again. But enough fan fiction:
WHAT MADE SENSE AT TLC and RAW THIS WEEK:
- Roman Reigns’ return: Superstar of the year Roman Reigns had to make a dramatic reentrance to the WWE, and saving Cena from Big Show’s pro-Rollins interference at TLC by knocking the giant down and leading Cena to victory was as good a way to do it as any.
- Seth Rollins selling out again: Rollins is one of the precious few wrestlers whose personality is consistent, whose motivations are logical; Rollins is always for sale to the highest bidder, and becoming a Paul Heyman guy aligns him with powerhouse Brock Lesnar — which makes Rollins’ Money in the Bank briefcase** that much more interesting.
- Kane fighting in a joke match: After his stunningly boring-despite-being-hit-with-steel-chairs match loss against Ryback at TLC, it was good to see the aging Kane on RAW putting his talents to good use: choke slamming Adam Rose and The Bunny for a win in a brief gag of a match.
- Ziggler winning the Intercontinental title: We’ve already covered this.
- Miz and Mizdow losing to the Usos, the New Day defeating Goldust and Stardust: The Usos are on a clear path to take back the tag team title from the (splintering any day now ) team of Miz and Mizdow; meanwhile, Goldust and Stardust take their place as tag team heels to be defeated on the way to legitimacy, losing easily to Xavier Woods and Big E of The New Day.
- Brock Lesnar duplexing Cena: Cena is the only wrestler the WWE might be willing to put over Lesnar, and Lesnar appearing out of nowhere and suplexing Cena in the meantime*** is one of the few bones the WWE tosses its adult fans amidst the untouchable Cena empire.
WHAT MADE NO SENSE AT ALL AT TLC AND RAW:
- Jericho challenging Heyman in the first place: Maybe it’s a bit nitpick-y to critique expository mic work, but considering Rollins implied Jericho was so out of shape that he couldn’t defeat obvious straw man Heyman, shouldn’t Jericho have challenged someone tougher — literally anyone else on the show — rather than punishing Heyman by declaring their match?
- Brie Bella helping Nikki Bella win the Divas title: Nikki turned on Brie, then they were feuding, then Brie was Nikki’s indentured servant for a month?, leaving us with Brie remaining staunchly pro-Nikki — helping Nikki cheat to win a match against AJ Lee at TLC — for reasons either nonexistent or Patty Hearst-esque, whichever narrative you prefer.
- Jericho’s un-meta**** teasing re: Rusev and Lana’s romantic tension. Jericho called Rusev and Lana on his “show” (read: standing in the middle of the ring and talking instead of wrestling) mid-RAW and, among a stream of tired misogynistic barbs aimed at Lana and corny USSR jokes, insinuated that Rusev and Lana had more than a wrestler/manager relationship.***** But here’s the thing: Lana and Rusev do have more than a professional relationship. They’re dating. Forreal.
This lack of meta-insight is troubling from a consistency point of view: many wrestlers and WWE employees are married or dating and real life. Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, and the current tag-team sub-plot of Mix hitting on diva Naomi, Jimmy Uso’s wife. All of these real-life nuptials come into play in the dynamics of the WWE superstars and their plot arcs; why the sudden “ooh do you like her?” twist?
Tune in next week on RAW for some filler(!!) before the buildup to the Royal rumble begins after the holidays.
* Both men bled and/or sported visible ladder-related wounds during the match, both rare and impressive in the new PG iteration of RAW.
** and inevitable Heyman/Lesnar back-stabbing
*** “meantime” meaning “until their inevitable Wrestlemania MainStage event”
**** Does kayfabe necessitate that all wrestling is meta, and all extra-WWE actions somehow still related back to wrestling?
***** He then actually sang that “Sittin’ in a tree” schoolyard taunt at them, which made Lesnar’s F-5 to Jericho later in the episode that much more satisfying.