The Mon., Nov. 29 episode of WWE Raw featured two segments that were examples of the kind of worked-shoot promo most people associate with CM Punk’s “pipe bomb”. One of them even featured a reference/response to a line from Punk’s latest promo on last week’s AEW Dynamite.
That was just one of several effective uses of the real world in an Edge/Miz segment that set-up their fictional rivalry. The Rated R-Superstar used Punk insulting MJF as a “less famous Miz” to build up his opponent as such a big deal he gets name-dropped on “other shows”, and as evidence Mike Mizanin lives “rent free in a lot of heads” (not that we needed much more proof The A-Lister has a residence in Punk’s).
Edge put Miz over as a way to highlight their differences. The A-Lister hustles and grinds so he can be bigger than WWE. The Hall of Famer put in the same effort just so he could get back to WWE. That contrast as the basis for a feud between the two men, or them & their wives, was perfectly set-up. But then they went for their own “cheap reaction” by referencing the release of Miz’s friend John Morrison:
“You use this to get notoriety for your next endeavor, for your next reality show, for your next dance competition while you leave your partners high and dry to get fired.”
We didn’t need that line to establish Miz as a heel. And, yes, for much of the Raw audience it’s a throwaway line, and Morrison doesn’t seem to have minded (or at least realizes it’s all in the game)...
... but for the considerable chunk of the audience that does follow wrestling news, being reminded that real people are out of work can shake us right out of kayfabe.
The earlier contract signing segment between Becky Lynch & Liv Morgan also gave us the good and bad of what some once called the ‘Reality’ Era. The Raw Women’s champion summarized Morgan’s WWE career, something that’s frustrated Liv and her fans. The challenger responded by showing a mean streak we haven’t seen in a while, including mocking Lynch for crying after her win over Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series.
All good stuff, even if the last bit read too heel-ish for some. Becky brushing it aside with a condescending “that was big emotion after a big match — you wouldn’t know anything about that” worked for me to keep everyone’s alignments straight. Morgan’s other shot wasn’t as easy to rationalize...
"You're the reason why your friend is gone just like the reason why your big, fat greedy contract is the reason why MY friends are gone. How does it feel knowing you become everything you despised?" - @YaOnlyLivvOnce— WWE (@WWE) November 30, 2021
This one is much more egregious than the Edge/Miz exchange, because even in kayfabe, it’s shifting the blame for WWE’s decision to put profits over people from the company’s management to its stars. You can call me over-sensitive, or too in the internet wrestling bubble. But in general, and especially when I think of kids who might internalize this lesson in capitalist gaslighting (or fans of any age that can have trouble grasping the difference between real and fictional), I just think giving Liv this line is friggin’ gross.
And again, it wasn’t even necessary! Morgan handles herself well enough in the segment, succeeding in looking like she can at least spend some time on the same stage as one of the biggest stars the company’s had in years. Lynch does her part, selling her opponent’s verbal shots throughout and looking rattled to close out the segment. All that would still be true without trying to spin WWE’s workforce reduction strategy for heel heat.
That’s WWE for you, though. You take the good with the bad — until you decide you don’t want to take it at all any more.