I tweeted on July 15th that Jason Jordan looked a little bit like Kurt Angle. It was just another part of the speculation as to what the RAW General Manager’s big reveal would be last night. I can’t take a victory lap, because an hour before the show began, I said my guess was Dixie Carter, and I hoped I was wrong.
I should have stuck to my guns.
This piece is not about Jason Jordan’s debut night in his new role. He performed respectably, and did a pretty good job in the post-show interview on the WWE Network. It’s also not about the Nashville crowd’s reaction to the secret, which was, if I’m being generous, tepid at best. We must wait to see how Jordan does, and whether the writers can craft something to help him get over long term.
I’m rooting for him. Most of you are as well. He has worked really hard to get here. My fear is we’re looking at Curtis Axel 2.0, meaning when he aligned with Paul Heyman and the push flopped miserably. There’s also a chance he ends up as the new Drew McIntyre, which is now beginning to work out for Galloway, but certainly didn’t originally.
The problem with last night’s creative decision involves the multitude of logic holes required to allow this angle to take hold in a fan’s mind. Sure, we know Jason Jordan isn’t really Kurt Angle’s son, but of all the stupid ideas WWE could have gone with, this one was rather innocuous. Or, it would have been had the weeks previous not indicated something entirely different.
I write as a television and film critic for another popular website, and host a new weekly pop culture podcast. On that very show this past Friday, I mentioned the Showtime series, Homeland, and did so then in the exact same context as I will today. The reason it’s relevant here is that WWE’s strategy throughout this Kurt Angle-Corey Graves-Jason Jordan situation mimics everything Homeland did wrong in Season 2.
The short version is, Homeland screwed with the audience’s mind, but did so in a way that destroyed its credibility for anyone paying attention. I recognize the series is still on the air, but the first season was by far the best, and had Nicholas Brody’s vest actually done its job in the season finale, we might have seen as good a one season experience as television has ever brought us in a drama. Instead, we’ve gotten diminishing or uneven returns.
The hypocrisy was the first crack in the veneer, and it became a major problem. You see, when a showrunner makes a decision, he must illustrate that narrative selection to the audience. Instead of handling it the way everyone else generally does, Homeland employed a trick. The series would show us sequences where one character would be alone on screen either emoting or acting in one way, with one obvious motivation. Later, we would discover that was actually a ruse and said character didn’t actually feel or do what we thought he did for the reasons the show indicated.
It’s no grand crime to jack with the audience and play mind games. Many of the most successful series in history have done just that, but very few have gone so far as to LIE to an audience for the sake of a twist. If we saw Character X speaking with Character Y and thought X was plotting against Z, but in actuality X was deceiving Y and was in cahoots with Z, that makes sense.
But when Character X is alone, with only us in the room with him or her, anything X does should be true, because why on earth wouldn’t it be? There’s no reason to lie to an audience, when the cost is X doing something completely illogical to the cause at hand. X is essentially deceiving X. That’s patently absurd.
This analogy brings us to last night’s reveal of Jason Jordan as Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son from a tryst many years ago. Homeland showed us things that felt strange, made no sense, and eventually ended up untrue. Worse, the show did so in the cheapest, most two-bit manipulative way imaginable. With the Angle secret, RAW has done the same thing over the past few months, which begs the question as to how long they’ve known the end game. If this choice was inked from the first night Graves showed Angle the phone, shame on WWE for this farce.
Why am I irritated here? It’s very simple, and you should be agitated about it as well. The build to Monday’s moment was complete and utter horse shit, and fails even the most basic smell test of congruency in storytelling. Allow me to explain.
Kurt Angle was so exasperated when Corey brought him the information. “If this gets out, it could ruin me.” He was so nervous and thought it could end both his career and his family. While it’s possible the wife wouldn’t be too thrilled about the husband having fathered another child, in WWE terms, that’s irrelevant. We haven’t actually heard anything on Raw about Angle’s personal life since he returned. Honestly, we don’t care. It’s not part of the story.
As for his career, why would Jason Jordan being Angle’s son be a problem for Vince McMahon? Jason’s a smart, upstanding WWE superstar with a bright future and a bright smile. He’s an asset to the company, despite the shitty booking of American Alpha on the main roster. Wouldn’t it make Jordan MORE valuable to attach the Angle legacy to him? As for Angle, it’s not really a bad look on him either. All he would have to say if there was the slightest pushback is that he knew Jason was his son, but wanted him to get a fair shake, rather than an easy path.
More questions surrounding this angle include why Corey Graves seemed so distressed by all of this, since he knew about it beforehand. Again, Corey is presented as an intelligent guy, so he had to know this wasn’t going to be a big deal, yet he acted like Angle stole the codes to the Nuclear Football. Presumably, someone found out the secret, and was using it to try and blackmail Kurt, or potentially planned to reveal it in the near future. Thus, Angle pulled a Donald Trump Jr. and came clean himself.
But, what kind of blackmail artist would expect this to work? Why would Kurt be afraid to publicly admit Jason Jordan is his son? If the extortionist were seeking money because he or she had evidence Kurt was still hooked on painkillers, THAT would have made sense. The biggest issue is Kurt Angle, from day one, should have been proud of his son, and as we watched the two embrace last night, we realized he was.
He said the company had been supportive since finding out the truth. Of course they had. This was the very definition of a nothingburger. It was...cool. Kurt Angle slept with a smokeshow in college to whom he wasn’t married, and she had his baby. Oh my God! Stop the presses. Maybe this would have been scandalous pre-Pleasantville, but sure as hell not in 2017. I had sex with my girlfriend almost every night in college back in 1997, and while she didn’t get pregnant, this wasn’t a monumental occurrence. Nor did my gal pal become Hester Prynne.
Folks, this is WWE we’re talking about here. Mae Young gave birth to a damn HAND on cable television, and Triple H pseudo-banged a dead woman in a casket.
Yet, despite all of these truths, someone as smart as Kurt Angle worried for months that the public might learn that his illegitimate son was a three-sport athlete with a college degree and a bright future.
IT COULD BE THE END OF HIM! His family could desert him. WWE could blackball him. Kurt, if your son had been revealed to be David Koresh, it still wouldn’t have been the end of you. But your boy wasn’t a cult leader or a mass murderer. You had a little issue with a Trojan in college and nine months later, out came a blue chipper.
However, we saw this adult man emotionally contorted and forlorn on television week after week, and Jason freaking Jordan was the end of that gravel road. Are you kidding me?
I sincerely hope the idea works, because Jason Jordan is the kind of guy we should all be rooting for in this business. But, if WWE is curious as to why the reaction felt eerily similar to a moment of silence, the reason resides in the above paragraphs. What they set the audience up for was something scandalous, something damaging, something that would impugn the character of Kurt Angle. What that audience received was a proud father introducing the world to the son they never knew he had.
It should have been a good moment, and in some ways it was. But, it was a let down, because not only did the reveal not live up to the build, the reveal didn’t MATCH the build. There was a gigantic, stinking disconnect all over this mess, and as a result, nobody cared. One thing was teased and hinted at for months. Something else was delivered.
This was awfully close to a bait-and-switch. Kurt Angle deserved better. Jason Jordan deserved better. The fans deserved better.
Oh it’s true.
It’s damn true.