There's something to be said about "the first." In news, it's often going to be a pursuit that will lead an organization to a risky conclusion. In sports, it's immediately historic, even if sometimes that history becomes infamy. In parenting, it becomes the single most life-changing moment in three unique lives. In pro wrestling, it's history that can be changed (denote Randy Orton termed the "First WWE World Heavyweight Champion" ever, which is true in name only.)
But when it comes to novelty, "the first" is key. It's the reason why when you buy a ticket to see Dave Chappelle or Aziz Ansari do stand-up comedy, you are bombarded with signs indicating "No Cameras, No Phones." When seeing the former this summer and the latter two years ago, I was offered a few short photo opportunities during the show, but that was indeed it. Chappelle's show was so strict that if anyone was caught with a phone, they were tossed, and I personally witnessed it at least ten times before and during the show. Is this a totalitarian regime? No, the request to put away all devices is absolutely justified...because of the principle of "the first."
Dave Chappelle tells jokes for a living. Any joke hits its zenith with the first time the receiver hears the punch line. There's only one chance for that natural laugh that comes when one hears a joke for the first time. It may be funny hundreds of times and that stand-up special might find its way onto your television over and over, but the first time you hear a joke, provided you understand it, that reaction can never be duplicated. If audience members filmed portions of a stand-up performance and put it on YouTube, that could have a definite effect on the novelty of that performance as the comedian travels the country delivering the material.
So why is it that so often over the past twenty years, numerous moments of novelty are simply snuffed out by WWE in the final moments before a Pay Per View event? If you can, think about how often something is given away on television in the go-home show before the "big" show. Leave your examples in the comments. Just a few: Triple H in a tag match and competing in the ring on RAW the week of the Royal Rumble in 2002...when his first match back from injury could have been IN the Royal Rumble. Batista back on RAW prior to the Rumble, even if it was given away in Arizona advertisements six weeks prior.
The reason this piece comes today is because of your author's disgust with the way a reasonably solid RAW broadcast ended two days ago. Still basking in the glow of Cesaro/Cena and what was a much more good than bad three hours, the ending had me screaming at the television as if I was a Daniel Bryan enthusiast from two years ago.
"No no no no no!"
WWE hasn't built anything, particularly a short-term angle, anywhere near as well as the company has for this Sunday's B-show six man tag team match between The Wyatt family and the Shield. It's guys we largely want to see locking up on a grand stage. The stars are young, they're hungry, they're all still learning but they've proven themselves worthy of the moment. Roman Reigns is set to take the...let's avoid the pun...from John Cena in two years. Dean Ambrose has charisma for decades, although Bray Wyatt might be one of the most naturally charismatic figures the company has seen in quite some time. The superlatives and praise could go on and on.
So with everything right, over the past three weeks, the build has been even better. Great promo work from both squads, featuring just enough of each member on the microphone and everything both focused and accurate. Two weeks ago, the growth was so perfect that it deserved a standing ovation. The two teams ended up on opposite sides of the ring engaged in a stare down. Reigns, booked to be the star, was the first to jump to the apron, signifying his dominance. Bray Wyatt would do the same, but would then back down to the floor, not out of fear, but because his character will always be about manipulation and misdirection first and physical contact second.
Here's where I wish I had the option to use a still image from Arrested Development...but since I can't, maybe I'll just eat an ice cream sandwich and watch the Larry Sanders Show.
They didn't touch! No one threw a punch. Since the original set-up for the angle, these two teams have talked and the rhetoric and passion has escalated, but no Shield member has laid a hand on a Wyatt or vice versa. It was brilliant and it was Pro Wrestling 101. The reason it's always better to save the fisticuffs for the actual bell to bell confrontation is the same reason Dave Chappelle makes every cell phone disappear at his shows, because "the first" cannot be duplicated. Unfortunately for WWE, "the first" happened amidst a brawl on Monday night where it wasn't only unnecessary, it was flat out stupid.
But when the Shield hit the ring to assault Sheamus, the worst possible thing that WWE could have done in their final pre-Chamber RAW moments occurred as "the first" became the part of a melee. The Shield and Wyatts ended up in-ring looking at each other, where it would have made no sense not to fight...and they fought. There would be basically no way to avoid the punches and brawling when the two teams ended up in a full ring less than seven feet from each other.
The cameras gave us less than five seconds of the brawl and then cut more to shots of Chamber participants, thankfully, but still, the novelty is gone. When the punches were thrown, the pop was loud and excitable and you could see how much people in that arena, acting as a figurative surrogate for the rest of the WWE Universe, wanted to see it happen. That pop was awesome. That pop was palpable. That pop is something those people will remember and the television audience picked up on. That pop was special.