“If anyone is wondering, yes WWE did come to us wanting approval for tonight’s storyline. The way it was presented to us was ok. Seeing it on screen was a different story. I don’t even know what to say.” – Michael Moody
As WrestlingNewsWorld has reported, the quote comes from a Facebook status by the son of the late Paul Bearer. The CM Punk-Undertaker storyline has had its moments of controversy ever since The Phenom’s manager became involved, which was not long after his death.
Three weeks ago, when Punk first brought Bearer up on WWE programming, I went on record stating that I had no problem with the angle. The end segment from last night was undoubtedly edgier and I understand why the company wanted the blessing of Bill Moody’s family. With that said, do I agree with Michael Moody’s reaction?
Wrestling involves a much tighter relationship between performer and character than its equivalent in, say, cinema or other forms of television. The business we currently know and love is a result of wrestling’s gradual separation from the world of sports. Somewhere along the way, it made the transition to entertainment, where competition takes a backseat to spectacle. Paul Bearer is a part of a day and age where performers were under a lot of pressure to stay in-character not only at live shows, but also when doing media appearances and promotional work. Back then, a big portion of the wrestling fan base believed everything they saw on-screen. They did not see Mark Calaway performing under a gimmick, they saw The Undertaker do his thing and beat people up.
Considering the business as it was in Paul Bearer’s time, I can see why his family would be disturbed by the ending to Monday Night Raw. His on-air character is what the masses have access to, not William Moody, the loving husband and father. His legacy is dependent on his history with WWE, as well as the light in which he is portrayed and the respect he is given before and after his death.
Nevertheless, Michael’s response to the segment seems out of touch with the way the business is perceived in 2013. WWE does not have to go out and state that all outcomes are pre-determined for its marketing to be entertainment-oriented, rather than based on sports and competition, as it was twenty years ago. At the beginning of each episode of Raw, a narrator explicitly declares that the program involves scenes and STORYLINES not suitable for children. If I have to be completely frank, the belief that wrestling is all based on reality and actual contests does not flatter a grown man’s intelligence.
I can assure Michael Moody that the majority of wrestling fans, apart from the youngest of kids, can make the difference between reality and fiction. In no way can the current programming harm the image of Paul Bearer, his legacy, and the respect the WWE Universe has for him.
I would also like to congratulate WWE on the way they have handled the urn’s involvement in the CM Punk-Undertaker feud. Sometimes it is not about what you show or say on TV, but about what you don’t. That urn has been a symbol of Paul Bearer throughout his career. Punk’s actions from last night were a sign of disrespect towards what Bearer stood for and the gimmick he is most famous for. Was that Paul Bearer’s ash Punk dumped on The Phenom? Of course not. Does WWE want us to believe it was? Maybe. Has WWE implied that? Not the slightest bit.
If you believe that last night’s segment was meant to look as if Punk was spilling out the remains of Paul Bearer, WWE has tricked you into thinking you have seen something that has not been portrayed on TV. All for the sake of heat on Punk.
It’s called masterful manipulation.
UPDATE: Michael Moody has since explained that his words have been taken wrong and he was fine with the angle.