By Bayani Domingo, Associate Editor
Kevin Steen began his wrestling career over a decade and a half ago. Going from a small Indy promotion in Quebec to CZW in the states, then making his big breakthrough as a rising star in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in California. Eventually this lead to his stock skyrocketing in RoH and eventually his signing with WWE. It seems as though he has had an angel on his shoulder as he rose up the ranks of NXT to the main roster and gaining the Universal Championship as Triple H’s handpicked champion. Say what you will about Vince and his children, but some people see Triple H as the heir to the throne so having his stamp of approval is worth it’s weight in Poutine. But then, something shocking happened this week that might be the turning point for a new Shoot-itude Era of sorts.
The Attitude Era was known for its use of sex, violence, and outrageous storylines to sensational wrestling and turn it into “Sports Entertainment”. For years now there has been a “No Blood on television” policy in the WWE. They’re now a “family friendly show”. But on Tuesday that was broken when Kevin Owens busted open Mr. McMahon the hard way. Now some might say it’s hypocritical for Vince to do it to advance a storyline, but this is the first time in a long time we are seeing a “McMahon vs Wrestler” storyline progress in a unified manner. We’ve seen Vince, Stephanie, and Shane all take sides with individual wrestlers, but this time it’s a united front against Kevin Owens. Is it possible Triple H managed to convince Vince himself to lay it on the line for who he thinks could be his next “Stone Cold”? or is this a growing trend of where the WWE programming is going?
A calling card of the old “Attitude Era” is that “anything can happen” and that the 4th wall was made to be broken. Not since the days of CM Punk have we seen so many “shoots” happen on TV. First it was Cena vs Roman, then we get The Miz vs Enzo. But if you recall, Kevin Owens that debuted in full “shoot mode” in his feuds vs Cena and then AJ Styles. The Miz grabbed the baton and had a great battle of promos and vignettes with Cena culminating in the Total Bellas parody. The Miz was able to advance a shoot feud with Cena to the heights none had been able to do before or since. Actually AJ Styles also brought up the “shovel” when he feuded with Cena as well. Come to think of it, is it possible that Cena has been pushing his opponents to engage in this kind of program or was this merely an organic evolution? In fact, the E has even let lower card acts like the Usos and New Day utilize this kind of shoot promo to advance their feud. Let’s not forget the rap battle that infamously featured a dig at Xavier Woods’ film debut.
There has been a very slow movement in the E towards breaking the 4th Wall ever since Total Divas spawned Total Bellas. The WWE Network has also pushed original programs, profiles, and retrospectives that have more or less killed Kayfabe, or at least put it in a medically induced coma. Even GFW has dipped a toe into this new Era of Shoot with the “Bobby Lashley leaving for MMA” angle and the mention of Lucha Underground by Low Ki in his promo with Johnny Impact. Let’s not forget that GFW had also suspended and then stripped ADR of their title a few short weeks ago as well due to real life legal issues. As GFW launches their own network I wouldn’t be surprised to see this become more prominent as well. I think this was bound to happen as fans have even more access to dirt sheets, websites, and ESPN and TMZ Sports covers wrestling more in depth than ever before. At some point the industry was going to have to deal with the fact that fans have gotten more than just a passing glimpse at the “man behind the curtain”.
Back to the former “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen, aka Kevin Owens, it seems like he is getting the ultimate “rub” from the big man himself. In fact it seemed almost ridiculous to think that they were running another “I’m going to sue the WWE” angle for Shane accosting KO when he’s attacked his coworkers without provocation dozens of times in the past. For the E to want us to believe that somehow they were going to dust off this oldie but moldy seemed unfathomable, then they swerved us by upping the stakes. It seems like the E isn’t willing to completely abandon works and fiction after all. Otherwise how could the audience suspend their beliefs in order to accept that somehow a wrestler believed he was going to sue the WWE and somehow end up bringing the monolith to its knees? The occasional use of the “shoot” has proven to be very successful thus far and I assume we’ll see this continue.
The danger in all this is that while a shoot promo can be an exciting way to elevate a feud and make it feel truly personal, you also run the risk of burying one of the participants. I can’t imagine the Undertaker was too happy in having his final match and physical health diminished by Cena. Roman has been steadily improving in his promos, but it’s obvious that he’s been on the losing end. Also it was painfully obvious how big the chasm is in acting and improv talent is between The Miz and Enzo. Enzo should’ve been able to shine in his segment on Monday, but he looked unprepared and shook. It looks like he really is just a handful of flamboyant mannerisms and stale catchphrases. If he can’t shine on the stick in a shoot promo, there is little chance we’ll see him past Wrestlemania. I guess you really CAN’T teach that.
This new Shoot-itude Era that the E has stumbled into previously uncharted territory. While we’ve seen occasional shoot-style promos in the past, we’re seeing this more and more on a weekly basis. For those Bullet Club fans you aren’t a stranger to the shoot promo, nor will any of you AAA fans before caught unaware, but in the states maintaining Kayfabe has been a longstanding tradition. In this new digital age where privacy is a thing of the past, it seems the industry and the E has evolved. I have a feeling we’re going to see that evolution spread to NXT once Adam Cole finally gets on the mic. Where this evolution takes us is going to be interesting. But I’d bet dollars to cronuts that Kevin “Mr. Wrestling Steen” Owens is going to be right there at the forefront. Climbing that ladder on the way back to the brass ring one shoot at a time.
- Why is Braxton Sutter the bad guy in the angle where Hector Garza Jr is hitting on his girlfriend? Isn’t Garza Jr the jerk in this situation? I can see how why all those White Nationalists are pissed that Mexicans are coming in and stealing good jobs from White men. I just didn’t realize those jobs were: Blow and Hand.
- Miz and Maryse are having a baby as announced on RAW this past week. Boy, The Miz is really taking this mimicry of Daniel Bryan a BIT too far. Now if he pointed his two indexes fingers in the air while conceiving the kid…I guess that wouldn’t be a surprise. Yes, Yes, Yes!!
- Kairi Sane beat Shayna Baszler in the finals of the Mae Young Classic this week. The “Pirate Princess” immediately received a shot at the vacant NXT Women’s Title at the next Takeover in Houston. If the crowd favorite manages to take the title in Houston I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the house…or seat….or basement back home.
- Btw, if Sane doesn’t borrow Asuka’s ‘hip attack” move and redub it “The Pirate Booty” I’m going to be super disappointed.
- Not sure why Jack Gallagher turned Heel this week, but I kind of feel like it was inevitable considering he’s a Ginger. I’m just hoping they’ll change his nickname from “Gentleman” to something WCW inspired…like “Souled Out” Jack Gallagher.
- There are pictures circulating on new T-shirts for the stable including: Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish. It looks like the stable is called either: Undisputed Era or CFO. I hope it’s not the latter, which is kind of on the nose if you ask me. Cole-Fish-O’Reilly doesn’t have much imagination to it. It’s like if the Miz-tourage had been dubbed: Fresh out of Angles. Which, coincidentally, is also what Kurt called his vasectomy.
- I’m going to be seriously disappointed if that Gauntlet that everyone is fighting over in LU turns out to only have special powers either in the Temple itself or on the original NES.
- The irony of Johnny Mundo being upset about someone else changing their last name is so rich it should be in the White House Cabinet. #5%erjokes
- So….Katrina is a witch? Warlock? She’s the Black Priestess serving the Lord of Light? Is there going to be an episode where she removes a secret amulet or talisman and turns into Vickie Guerrero in the mirror.
- After watching this whole Grado angle with him being deported…I’m kind of changing my mind on closing borders. I mean, how easy IS it to get a Visa? It’s gotta be harder to get a friggin’ Discover card.
- I understand that Sonjay Dutt was trying to be a badass by agreeing to a “Falls Count Anywhere” match, but how the hell did he not account for Caleb Konley? And why doesn’t he have any backup? There’s like 894 Billion people in India and he cant find someone for support? Jinder found the Singh Brothers. The least GFW can do is give Dutt a couple flunkies of his own. I’d call them: The Call Center.
- I didn’t realize that current NXT’er Liv Morgan was dating NXT alumni Enzo Amore. Liv seemed to intimate that she ended her relationship with Enzo after finding out he was cheating on her and decided to post it for the whole world to pass judgment on the two-timer. I guess she can now call herself the “Cock blocker, Skywalker” now. Ba-Da-Boom Singlest gal in the room!! Who you screwin’?