The best word to describe WWE programming in recent weeks is “uneven”. The rather frustrating beginning to this week’s Raw, which left the fans wondering if they had just seen two matches or none, was followed by a stellar performance from Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins. Ring work aside, the number of burgers shown on camera was too high for a 3-hour wrestling show and the secret admirer storyline reached a payoff which, though logical, lacked impact. Nevertheless, among the tremendous amount of filler content, a couple of good storytelling moments stood out, both featuring the McMahon family.
Stephanie McMahon was shown arranging a surprise meeting between Mr. McMahon and Triple H in order for them to resolve their differences. She commanded two employees backstage to look for them and there was a notable difference in the instructions she gave them. Her father was told that it was an urgent matter of business, while her husband was told that it was a personal one.
Not only did that short segment highlight the differences between the on-screen personas of Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque, but it was crucial to Stephanie’s character. She was not portrayed as someone desperate or helpless, as the delicate change to her second set of orders introduced the concept of manipulation. Stephanie is a smart businesswoman who is used to getting what she wants and she is not afraid to play mind games to achieve it, as we have seen on WWE programming on numerous occasions over the years. There is no question that she hates seeing her family break apart, but the sincerity of her behavior is to be doubted constantly. Considering the swiftness of her later decisions, as well as her ability to adjust what she says and does for the sake of her objectives, one has to wonder whether her emotional breakdown in Triple H’s presence early in the evening was just as manipulative. WWE is blurring the line between victim and puppeteer in the face of Stephanie McMahon.
The eventual interaction between Mr. McMahon and Triple H was also one of subtle nuisances. The Chairman’s main point was that his son-in-law had to “do the right thing” and that he was “bigger than a match with Curtis Axel”. These words were carefully calculated, much like Stephanie’s. They communicated Vince’s hopes and fears for the future of the company, yet they also appealed to The Game’s ego. The statement was met with an equally realistic response on behalf of the proud Triple H, who said that he would not apologize, but he did understand. The segment concluded with Vince actually insisting on the match happening next week, and Triple H refusing.
The entire confrontation felt very real and it was a fight most can relate to. The words of the people involved indicated a will to listen, but a lot of stubbornness as well, particularly with the roles turning around towards the end. It all came off as genuine, right down to the pats the two men gave each other, which involved a needless amount of strength. Was it awkwardness or hostility? Or both?
They say that when ratings are down, a McMahon returns to television, and it has happened once again with good reason. It is needless to talk about how long they have been in the business for, because to put it very briefly, they just know how everything works, to an extent which is unparalleled by any worker. They know that subtleties are the key to storytelling and the small details that made the McMahon segments work on Monday have added multiple layers to a storyline in a matter of several minutes on screen.