WWE’s been teasing the arrival of Xia Li to SmackDown for the past few weeks. Observations about how that doesn’t mean she won’t be released before she can debut aside, the rollout of the Chinese wrestler has been pretty interesting.
The vignette we got last night (Nov. 19) was the most intriguing yet...
Pretty cool video. Some typically unnatural WWE dialogue (“Vulnerability is pungent”), but Li makes it work well enough. And the overall presentation is like a PG version or O-Ren Ishii’s origin from Kill Bill: Vol. 1. But will that lead to success for Li, and what does it say about WWE’s current creative philosophy?
Two things that come to mind: (1) someone caught Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on Disney+ this week, and (2) Raw’s got Nikki A.S.H., so SmackDown’s getting The Protector.
It’s the second one that makes this more than just a random idea from WWE creative. Nikki Cross’ transformation into (almost) a superhero seemed like a one-off, and was said to be her idea. But despite the mixed results that gimmick makeover got in terms of audience reaction, it looks like we’re getting another high concept act here with Xia the Protector. And when we consider these women’s characters in light of the NXT 2.0 transformation, where developmental is creating big, bold caricatures for wrestlers to play, Nikki & Xia could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Comic books and pro wrestling have always had a similar appeal, and trafficked in some of the same ideas. Mainstream television and movies, something Vince McMahon has long wanted his company to be considered a part of, embraced superheroes years ago. WWE executives like Nick Khan and Stephanie McMahon have taken to name-dropping Marvel Studios as a model for what they’re trying to become.
Should we expect more Nikki A.S.H.s and Xia Lis? Will The Protector prove more broadly popular than the almost superhero?
Let us know what you think, Cagesiders.