Lana stares deep into Dolph Ziggler’s eyes, looking past his boyish good looks and right into his soul. Dolph takes her by the hand and gazes back at her with the same charming smile that first caught her attention all those weeks ago. What began as a relationship of convenience and meaningless sex transformed into something neither could have possibly imagined. Life magically turned into one long fantasy since they realized they were meant to be together.
How did it ever come to this, Lana ponders as she continues to stare into the eyes of her lover, desperate to find the truth. Without warning, the soft walls of their fantasy world have been penetrated with a crippling dose of reality. A reality named, Summer Rae. Lana wants to believe Dolph when he says Summer isn’t telling the truth. But something deep down in her heart prevents her from believing him unconditionally. Dolph, after all, has an undeniable history. She would be foolish not to take that into consideration.
Lana knows she can’t just dismiss charges of infidelity without first finding sufficient evidence to disprove Summer’s malicious claims. After Rusev, she swore to herself that she would never become a victim ever again. She thought all this was finally behind her. She thought she was about to embark on the next chapter of her life with a man who treated her with respect. Must true love be so impossible?
Will Lana find truth in Dolph’s heart?
Has Dolph committed the ultimate betrayal?
What kind of evil plan has Summer and Rusev concocted to divide the star-crossed lovers?
Find out the answers to these questions and more next week on a brand new episode of, As the WWE Turns…
The love triangle between Ziggler, Lana, Summer and Rusev (I suppose that makes it a love square, if such a thing even exists) has hardly captivated the WWE audience since it first played out in the weeks following WrestleMania 31. Every week social media becomes saturated with droll soap opera puns during the television segments dedicated to the angle. The problem with the story, however, has nothing to do with the heavy dose of melodrama more closely associated with soap operas or drug store romance novels. In fact, these kinds of stories have a rich history within pro wrestling.
Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin found himself in the middle of a love triangle soon after arriving at World Class Championship Wrestling in 1983. Garvin, a hated heel and the WCCW Television Champion, rewarded his beautiful and loyal valet, Sunshine, with a personal assistant of her own, named Precious. Two is company and three is most definitely a crowd. It didn’t take Precious long to overstay her welcome, at least in Sunshine’s eyes. The would-be assistant began interfering in matches on Garvin’s behalf only to have her actions routinely backfire. As the losses mounted, Precious placed the blame on Sunshine, driving a wedge between her and Garvin that ultimately culminated in Garvin dumping Sunshine in favor of Precious. The three would compete in a series of mixed tag team matches, with Garvin rival Chris Adams entering the mix, before Garvin and his newfound love lost a losers leaves town mixed tag match in 1984.
One of the most successful storylines in WWE history incorporated tenets of melodrama in 1989 when jealousy and paranoia caused Randy Savage to double-cross Hulk Hogan for fear that Hogan was attempting to steal Miss Elizabeth. After weeks of subtle and seemingly innocent interaction between Hogan and Elizabeth, Savage snapped on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, causing the Mega Powers to explode and setting up an epic encounter in the main event of WrestleMania V with Miss Elizabeth stuck in the middle.
Even the hardcore action of ECW was influenced by elements of melodrama, albeit a far raunchier brand of melodrama. Tommy Dreamer and Raven were two childhood friends that ultimately chose different lifestyles before becoming reacquainted in ECW, where they started a violent feud in 1995. Early into the feud, Raven introduced Beulah McGillicutty, a gorgeous and seductive Penthouse model as his new valet. Beulah was in love with Dreamer years before but was rejected because she was overweight and unattractive. After transforming herself into a stunning model, she returned to extract revenge on Dreamer for his indiscretions.
Of course, good melodrama is not limited to love triangles.
The Undertaker’s brother Kane, thought to be dead and gone, bursting onto the scene to extract revenge for childhood sins.
Eddie Guerrero corrupting the mind of Rey Mysterio’s young son as part of a heinous plot to gain a psychological advantage over his opponent.
Vince McMahon placing his wife in a drug induced coma in order to carry out an affair with Trish Stratus.
The list can go on and on.
Simply categorizing the current failures of this angle as the result of ‘soap opera booking’ is widely inaccurate. Furthermore, the implication that good storytelling and melodrama do not go hand in hand is both absurd and shortsighted. If that were true soap operas like General Hospital or The Young and the Restless would not be capable of surviving 40 and 50 years after first hitting the airwaves.
The failures of this monotonous and sophomoric story has little to do with elements of melodrama and more to do with the basic flaws in WWE’s current style of storytelling.
Firstly, the lines between heel and babyface are severely blurred as it relates to Ziggler and Rusev. An angle that should have a clear hero and a clear villain has neither…where have I heard that before?
Rusev’s actions against Lana clearly served as the catalyst for their break-up, yet you can’t help but feel bad for him at times. On a visceral level, the pain of watching an ex with someone else is something everyone can relate to on some level, despite the terms of the break up. It’s clear Rusev is still in love with Lana but cannot overcome his own flaws to make amends, making him a sympathetic and tragic figure more often than not. Ziggler, on the other hand, comes off as an opportunistic jerk, taking advantage of Lana’s desire to make Rusev jealous in order to satisfy his own misogynistic desires. Is that what a babyface looks like in 2015?
Then there is the vexing dichotomy between Lana and Summer. Week after week the two find themselves engaged in predictable cat fights yet neither has shown the willingness to settle the score in the ring. This is still a wrestling show, right? That criticism is somewhat moot at this point due to Lana’s wrist injury but nevertheless.
In a point in time when WWE is attempting to rebrand its portrayal of female characters to capitalize on the popularity of strong female figures throughout the sports world, salacious encounters of this nature do little to further that agenda.
The most disturbing aspect of this story, without question, has been the transformation of Lana. Despite entering the angle as arguably the most popular character of the four, over time she has become a shell of her former character. After taking a stand against the oppressive and unappreciative actions of Rusev she, in effect, pimped herself to Ziggler in the name of revenge – transforming herself into the female version of Ziggler and mirroring the actions of Summer…the heel.
This quagmire of undisciplined booking , bad acting and misplaced melodrama can be categorized as many things but a soap opera is not one of them. That would be an insult to soap operas.