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Cup of coffee in the big time: That Samoa Joe cliffhanger has some storytelling problems

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WWE programming exists in a weird space. It’s certainly entertainment and the stories are presented in an episodic format, but they’re also presented real time.

What you are watching on your TV is happening right now.

So, how do we come to terms with the ending of SmackDown Live last night?

After weeks of hinting — if not outright promising — Samoa Joe showed up to A.J. Styles’ house. And he did so with Styles thousands of miles away, armed with a gift for Anney and, presumably, some ideas for Wendy.

The segment drifted from hokey (“Don’t do this, man. Come on, dude!”) to disturbing before the show went off the air as Joe rang the doorbell. A perfectly fine ending for a dramatic TV show. We’ll get our resolution next week.

This is where the presentation of WWE and the fan buy-in though suspension of disbelief becomes tangled, though.

Next week’s episode does not pick up in the moments after this week’s ended. It’s not Negan swinging Lucille as a “who dies?” cliffhanger into next season.

The WWE Universe is presented as a living, breathing thing with “reporters” and breaking news and updates fed to the social media monster. We’re updated from backstage after the show, we’re filled in as the superstars are on the road. WWE never sleeps.

So, why are they sleeping on something so vile in the fiction?

When SmackDown rolls into Kennewick, Wash. on Monday for their next live event, does Samoa Joe appear after pulling some shit out of The Strangers to poor Wendy and Anney? Did he walk away after knowing he’d destroyed A.J. mentally? Was he chased off by the cops?

Does the live crowd simply not know if Joe tortured Styles’ family because that must be kept for TV the next night?

It’s a consequence of the uniqueness of the WWE fiction that the cliffhanger ending should be an arrow removed from their storytelling quiver.

Happy Wednesday, y’all should be watching Stardom.