On the April 14, 2014 edition of Monday Night RAW, Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista joined forces (again) as "Evolution" to counter the crowd-pleasing coterie known as The Shield, comprised of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns.
And no one inside the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, seemed to give a shit.
Since professional wrestling is essentially part theater, part traveling circus, much of what we see on screen and in person is subject to interpretation. That said, a live crowd is not always a reflection of the general consensus, and that works in both directions.
I've seen live audiences pop for whatever gimmick you parade out to the ring, for better or for worse. But that on-site, visceral reaction doesn't validate an offering that stinks (particularly when it does). Nor does the dreaded "pin drop" effect weaken the narrative of a strong program with legs.
Like the reformation of Evolution.
I wish I could say I was among the legions of fans -- like the happy (s)marks in our live blog -- who were standing and cheering the moment Line in the Sand hit the loudspeakers. I didn't recognize it at first, even as a regular viewer back when Evolution was at its peak.
Once I figured out what was happening, I thought, "Oh, cool."
Having The Shield feud with Evolution is a program with promise. It gives fans exactly what it should in a war between rival factions in that it pits a handful of top babyfaces against the roster's most reviled villains. And if there is excitement for the road ahead, it stems from that formula.
Not from the sight of three guys holding hands under the familiarity of a brand-name banner.
Calling Triple H, Batista, and Randy Orton "Evolution" is like snapping that final piece into a puzzle you've been working on. It affords you a clear and concise picture of the creator's vision, and is designed to generate fondness through palatable aesthetics.
BARN WITH FLOWERS ON A SPRING DAY IN SOUTH DAKOTA.
In that sense, getting the band back together works. But I think fans like myself, who weren't hunched over on their sofas with gaping maws at the sudden aggregation of authority, probably don't feel that same spark when conversations hearken back to the (cough) "good old days" of 200-whatever.
My fondest memory of Evolution was Batista's face turn.
To be fair, the "stable" bar has been set relatively high. When you talk about The Four Horsemen, the New World Order (nWo), and of course, Degeneration-X (DX), it's easy to come alive. But those factions also benefited from being in the right place at the right time.
Evolution was a serviceable stable during an adjustment phase in WWE.
A lot of fans had checked out during the halfway point of the previous decade and to be fair, there wasn't much to keep them around. WWE was rebuilding its brand after it closed the book on the "Attitude Era" and there were a few growing pains as the organization, as well as its audience, tried to find its identity.
Considering how many absentee fans have returned, I'd say the mission was a success.
The reboot of Evolution didn't go off without a hitch, as a couple of audible guffaws slipped through the cracks when someone in the production truck accidentally sat on the music button. That was followed by Triple H's untimely pipe bomb, as it literally sounded like the speakers were exploding when his stick went south.
In addition, not having former stablemate Ric Flair show his face for the obligatory (but nevertheless cheap) WOOOOO! pop was also a little disappointing.
That doesn't change the fact that fans are getting a well-packaged program featuring two formidable stables who
clique click, and who will likely deliver when the time comes to get busy inside the ring. Alongside my been there, done that brethren in the not-so-silent majority, I may not be throwing flowers at their feet.
But I'm still anxious to see this program bloom.