Good evening everyone, and welcome to your occasional blog where I discuss tropes used in pro wrestling.
Except this one isn't really used in wrestling itself. Instead, it's more often used by the fans, especially me in recent years.
Today, we're discussing a very subjective concept called Hype Backlash.
According to TVTropes, when something gets either incredibly popular or is promoted to an inordinate degree, there are three possible reactions. Either you simply refuse to watch it altogether, having been turned off by the hype involved (this is simply referred to as Hype Aversion and can precede our subject here) or you finally break down and watch it and either find it justifies the hype or completely fails to live up to the hype.
When the latter happens, that's Hype Backlash.
More after the jump.
Let's examine this in reference to wrestling by looking at The Rock's rivalry with John Cena from the past year.
Beginning at WrestleMania 27 with The Rock's involvement in The Miz's match Cena, and especially beginning the night after on Raw, the hype for this generation's Icon vs. Icon match began. Everyone knew no matter what, there was going to be a match between the "People's Champion" and the "Chain Gang Soldier" (I know that's not his gimmick anymore, shut up) at WrestleMania 28.
And WWE promoted the hell out of it.
Video packages. Mainstream news interviews. More video packages. Promos via satellite. Yet more video packages. Promos live on Raw. Still more video packages. And yes, occasionally the face-to-face confrontations between the two. And did I mention video packages? By the time WrestleMania 28 came around, even the hardest-hearted of us was waiting to see this match of titans.
And then it happened. And it kind of stunk.
And while yes, WrestleMania did better than almost every other pay-per-view (PPV) in WWE history, one thing remained clear: the match didn't live up to the hype. The elements didn't mesh well together, and the only true satisfying part was Cena didn't win for once.
The match's reception is a case of Hype Backlash, largely because while WWE is trying to dangle the carrot of a possible rematch, people are reluctant to bite this time, even hoping that maybe we'll get The Rock taking on CM Punk instead.
But Hype Backlash isn't limited to mere apathy, mild confusion, or low-level disappointment. Occasionally, it can cause intense anger and frustration, perhaps even to the point where one ends up diametrically opposed to the opinions of those hyping it.
A good mainstream example of this would be most of the world's reaction to the Twilight series of books. While a few people are fanatic over them, others would willingly put money in the publisher's pocket just to get to watch said books be incinerated. Or, in a milder example, the collective facepalm over Fifty Shades of Gray and its sequels, which itself has spawn less destructive forms of protest against it and its content.
In the wrestling world, one match immediately comes to my mind as the definition of this variety of Hype Backlash: Goldberg and Brock Lesnar's bout at WrestleMania XX.
Goldberg was on a tear (again) in WWE. Brock Lesnar was young, hungry, and at the top of his game. These two powerhouses were destined to meet sometime, and that sometime was at the 20th WrestleMania.
To add more cachet to the match, Vince McMahon ordered the only person who could hold a candle to these loose cannons and preside over the proceedings was "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, himself a noted variable factor. The hype for the match wasn't the best, as it largely focused on Lesnar and Austin, with Goldberg barely seen after No Way Out. But still, it was considered a match worth anticipating, if for no other reason than Lesnar's potential to become a transcendent star post-Mania and the inevitable Stunner that someone (or everyone) would end up receiving.
Then two things happened. First, it got leaked that Lesnar and Goldberg were both leaving after WrestleMania. And second, the match sucked like a nuclear-powered Dyson.
Sure, perhaps you could call the news of both leaving the primary factor in the backlash, especially given how sudden and negatively both departures went down (we'll likely never see Goldberg in WWE again, and Lesnar bolted for a failed NFL career before his UFC run). But if both men had put on a great match that night, odds are, they'd have been forgiven by history. Instead, the match went on as if no one gave a fuck, and in time, the fans returned that sentiment a thousandfold. Even seeing both men get Stunned was no Balm of Gilead for the wounds inflicted that night. Dear Primus, was that last sentence flowery.
This trope also pretty much defines how I feel about Cena on the whole. The more he's pushed and promoted, the less I care about him. I don't watch WWE anymore largely because he's nearly always the main fixture. WWE pushes him to Proxima Centauri and back, labels him as the ultimate underdog, and I just cannot seem to gather up a single molecule of care.
I find his wrestling style boring, his promos lackluster, and his entire character an affront to the people who really face adversity on a regular basis. I liked him in his early days, even as late as his feud with John Bradshaw Layfield, but the more WWE got behind him, the further away I drifted, to the point where I almost can't even bear to look at his image on WWE merchandise.
As you can see, Hype Backlash is pretty much subjective, and occasionally irrational, but it is a thing that happens. It's not uncommon, even in wrestling. It's pretty much a fact of life: if something is popular, there will be people who will be perplexed by its popularity, whether justifiable or not.
Perhaps there will even be people who outright hate it because it's popular (we sometimes call those people hipsters... which I guess makes me a wrestling hipster). It's a thing that happens, and it even happens to wrestling.
Well, maybe not to TNA. But then again, when was TNA ever really popular? ZING!