This week's edition of Monday Night RAW was a pre-taped holiday mish-mash of decent wrestling, idling angles and goofy skits involving -- in some bizarre form or another -- the spirit of Christmas.
As with most comedic segments in WWE, they were mostly hit-or-miss, drawing more than a few facepalms from The General in his event recap (read it here). I happened to enjoy it, because it reminded me what professional wrestling really is.
I know that gets lost on us sometimes, as we stand and applaud the really epic programs, or throw virtual tomatoes at the ones that really stink. Coming up with new and refreshing ways to entertain a few million people several times a week, I'm sure, is a daunting task.
In short, being entertaining is hard.
I was fortunate enough to be in Tokyo last week covering a kickboxing event and at the pre-fight press conference, one of the suits responsible for sending me there came up to me with a sense of urgency and whispered in my ear:
"We have a problem .... I need you to keep these guys entertained for the next 15 minutes until we get shit straightened out."
So there I am in a room full of international fighters, many of whom do not speak English, tasked with "entertaining them" in an effort to keep them from leaving the hotel to go bang a Geisha or take a nap. Nothing scarier than hearing that mic flip on with that quick, high-pitched whine.
Naturally, I bombed.
"... (tap-tap-tap) ... Hi everyone ... uh ... this is going to be a great event. Ahem ... anyone check out that sushi place on the seventh floor? Each meal comes with a free pair of chopsticks. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with instructions on how to actually use them!"
(crickets, followed by distant coughing)
Even if I had a day to prepare, I'm not sure I could have done any better, which is why I was more forgiving of the tomfoolery from WWE on RAW. Let's face it, even if something looks great on paper, you really never know how the audience will receive it until you go live.
It's the thought that counts.
It's also one of the reasons why WWE is a nice counterbalance to real sports. If you're like me, when your favorite team screws the pooch, it's like a little part of you dies inside. And there is no way to offset the pain when you invest in an entire season, year after year.
What other choice is there?
The New York Giants were recently eliminated from the playoffs (sniff), blowing the one chance they had to play a Super Bowl AT HOME. Imagine the uproar if the cameras followed them into the locker room after the game and head coach Tom Coughlin was having a Christmas Carol sing-off, while "Bad News" Beason was telling the "Big Blue" Universe...
"I'm afraid I've got some bad news. We WON'T be going to the playoffs, but I still get paid a zillion dollars anyway. Thank you!"
Seriously, people would get shot in the parking lot.
But pro wrestling is not a real sport, so I like the fact that Creative makes a concerted effort to open the relief valve and let my pent up frustration dissipate. When you love something and it doesn't go your way, you get pissed off. But WWE routinely tempers that with a self-deprecating look at its own idiosyncrasies.
Like the jelly-of-the-month club, it's the gift that keeps on giving.