One Step Back: the Lana/Ziggler segment from Raw represents story-telling which is not only lazy but offensive.
On Monday Night Raw, I watched some of the most stilted, contrived, clunky, lazy story-telling I have seen in a while.
No, I am not referring to the sudden baby-face turns made by both The Bellas and Cesaro, Tyson Kidd & Natalya, despite them changing absolutely nothing about their in-ring style, promos, entrances, etc.
I am not alluding to the unexplained reunion of Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, which follows a similarly unexplained falling out which never culminated in any kind of feud between the two.
I’m not even talking about the sudden rivalry between Ryback and Bray Wyatt, or the inclusion of R-Truth in the Elimination Chamber match, or the inclusion of any other entrant in the Chamber match without any clear system of selection- no lottery, no qualifying matches, nothing.
One could point to any of these as prime examples of hollow narrative worthy of a spirited rant, but what really has me offended is what the WWE creative team has conceived for Lana.
It is a shame, because the whole affair started off quite well. The heated confrontation between the Bulgarian Brute and the Ravishing Russian was emotional, and for the first time you got a true sense of the deeper relationship the two share(d). There were shades of betrayal that indicated a partnership extending beyond the rigid paradigms of raging monster and calculating manager they portrayed to the world. For the first time, we saw shades of love.
So the “break-up” was done effectively, with Rusev becoming reviled for his selfish pride and brutish callousness, and Lana becoming even more sympathetic than she was previously.
But what happened next? Lana walks up to Dolph Ziggler, and without a single word uttered between them, she kisses him twice on the lips in what to have been the most awkward moment on WWE television I have witnessed in a long time.
I object to the segment on multiple levels and for various reasons. First and foremost being the clunky and awkward execution of the whole happening.
It read as though somebody said to Lana: “Then Dolph’s going to say this and that, and then you come out to the ring and kiss him, and then Rusev comes out and you slap Rusev and Dolph saves you from Rusev attacking you, and then you two walk out together.”
To which Lana (may/must have) asked: “And why am I kissing Dolph?”
To which, I can only hazard a rough guess, the answer given was: “Just kiss him.”
There was nothing to indicate that Lana felt anything towards Ziggler. I challenge everyone with the WWE Network to watch old broadcasts and Pay-Per-Views and find any instances that would hint at a spark between the two. Why did she suddenly find him so attractive? Why are we supposed to feel anything about this union at all?
Aside from the stilted and clunky manner in which the kiss was performed, there is the greater problem of motivation and character consistency.
Old Lana – that being the Lana which was introduced to us last year and who up until now was Rusev’s handler and manager instead of his subordinate lackey – would have expressed rage at being spoken to with the kind of disrespect shown by the former US Champ. At being sent away, she would stomp off, insulted and vengeful. What would she do from that point? Find herself a new monster. She would align herself with another brute which she could control. Ryback comes to mind, but he’s a bit too sharp, a bit too empowered. Erick Rowan would have made the perfect candidate. With her knew protege at her side, she would interrupt one of Rusev’s matches and sick her new beast upon him, getting revenge for her battered pride.
That would make sense.
In the new paradigm recently pushed by the duo, a different scenario might have played out. Perhaps Rusev is furious at Lana for showing weakness at Payback and costing him the match. Lana defies him and reveals to the world the reality – that he in fact quit – and he flies off the handle. He chases her around, or maybe he just goes ape in the backstage area, smashing chairs and flipping over tables and threatening her with physical force. To the rescue comes someone like Dolph Ziggler. He stands up for Lana, admonishes Rusev for his disrespect of the “fairer sex,” and fends him off.
Now Lana has a reason to look at Ziggler in a new way. Now she has reason to kiss him. Now the whole thing makes sense.
I don’t understand how such fundamentally simple scenarios are not considered more appropriate than what the WWE allows to end up on television and in front of live crowds. How can a company with so much invested in nothing but the telling of stories cut corners on… story-telling!?
Beyond the delivery and the reasons behind it (or lack thereof), there is the larger problem of what this move implies on a sociological level. In the age of #GiveDivasAChance, does this type of segment have any rightful place whatsoever. It strikes me as a bit counterproductive.
I am not the only one. While many on Twitter were marking out to the “hot” moment between the Showoff and his new (apparent) main squeeze, others were offended by the blatant misogyny shown:
The user abitofcharlie posted on Instagram this reaction:
If I ever again see a segment as awkward, ill-written, and badly-performed as the Lana-Dolph for-some-reason-I’m-suddenly-fucking-into-you travesty on Monday Night Raw, I’ll shoot myself.
I thought we were moving past lazy, chauvinistic bullshit like this.
#givedivasachance? More like #settingdivasback
Fucking do better, WWE.
#WWE #RAW #wrestling #divas
Not exactly a good reaction.
The WWE needs to think more carefully about the implications of their spots when it comes to sensitive issues like race, religion, sexual orientation and gender. Many feel the Fed is in a good place right now compared to where they were not fifteen years ago. No longer do we see bikini contests, evening gown matches where the goal is to rip the elegant frock from your opponent’s ample body, lingerie battle royals with pillows, or any of the degrading story-lines that were circling around during the Attitude/Invasion Era.
We are in an age where female talent is proving to be just as legitimate as male. NXT is doing so much to promote their women’s roster, it seems a shame that the main roster would take such a drastic step back with a segment such as this.
The segment implies that Lana is nothing without a male presence. It implies she has a monkey mentality of being barely able to let go of one branch before another is grasped. It implies she cannot survive on her own as an unattached woman. It implies she is not the cruel and crafty mastermind we all took her to be, but merely a delicate little flower seeking the comfort of a big, strong, handsome man. Instead of standing up for herself and being a champion to young women, she showed that without a man to watch her back, a woman is essentially helpless.
Perhaps the powers that be thought that if they provided the WWE Universe with a stellar showcase of Divas action at TakeOver: Unstoppable, not to mention billed the Nikki Bella vs Naomi title match as the main event of Monday Night Raw, it would allow them to get away with putting Lana – the most over female manager in many years – in a role so weak and sexist.
Perhaps they simply weren’t thinking at all.
Probably the most disheartening thing about this entire affair is the lack of mass outcry against such debauchery. Aside from the occasional scathing comment, the overwhelming majority of reaction from fans on social media has been that of praise and acceptance, usually employing such eloquent commentary as “So hot!” and “Dolph is dreamy, I hope he taps that ass!” and “Ooh, Rusev ain’t gonna like dat!” (I am paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. I’ve looked at the comments, and they get much worse.)
Reactions such as this fill those paying attention behind the scenes at WWE with the idea that people are responding well to this kind of vapid, shallow plot, and they will continue to treat their newest female talent as nothing more than a set of legs with pouting lips.
My only hope is A) more people speak out against this lazy writing and misuse of female personalities, or B) that something more comes out of this story-line which makes up for such a lame and clunky segue.
I expect more from my WWE, and everyone else should as well.