A few weeks ago, when Dean Ambrose explained why he turned on Seth Rollins, he made a move that many predicted he’d do. Roman Reigns announced that he was actually battling leukemia for most of his adult life and had it in remission until doctors recently found that it had returned. Dean Ambrose said that Roman Reigns had to answer to “the man upstairs”. The mood of the crowd noticeably shifted at the cheap shot, and it made some uncomfortable. However, integrating the real-life struggles of many for the sake of advancing a story is not an uncommon practice. One superstar who used this method a lot was CM Punk.
CM Punk has always been known for being an anti-establishment kind of guy and trying to get his own way no matter what. In the midst of his heel run back in late 2012 to 2013, he would often go to real life tragedies in order to make him more of a dark heel. For example, on an episode of Raw back in September of 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack live on the air. It wasn’t a scripted event. He nearly died, but fortunately, he survived. Upon his return, CM Punk took some time to mock Jerry Lawler’s near-fatal experience and said that he would have killed him if he came into the ring.
Another instance was when Undertaker’s manager early in his career, Paul Bearer, passed away in real life. CM Punk, who had a match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania that year, said that he was “sorry for his loss….at WrestleMania” and went as far as to rub the ashes of the mythical urn on his body, a blatant act of provocation. Now there are ways of getting a reaction by invoking real life. You have situations where Ronda Rousey mentions Nikki Bella’s failed relationship with John Cena to his face, but then there are situations that many thinks are off limits.
Analyzing what is appropriate in WWE reality can be a very difficult thing to do. One on hand, you have fans that want more hardcore television and request for an edgier product. At the same time, those same people may believe WWE may be going too far by making light of things that are supposed to be serious. Is it worth getting a loud reaction, positive or negative, by invoking real life onto a scripted three hour program? Here is how I would respond to this.
I say that it is important to always get permission from the people involved from the people involved first before mentioning it on television. Sometimes, people who worked for WWE may stay professional and take no offense to them utilizing their troubles for TV, because they know it is just a scripted show and what they say has no bearing on them in real life. If Ruby Riott were to say something demeaning about Natalya’s dad without her consent, then that would be a different story.
It’s no secret that utilizing a tragedy can be a great way to get eyes off of the television. The primary issue to get over, however, is a moral one. Let’s face it. WWE isn’t exactly the best place to see an example being set for others. In addition, edgy television does not always have to incorporate the hardships of others. That is where the importance of good writing and storytelling comes into play. You can make edgy television by making something hypothetical. You could literally say that someone’s a bad dad or a horrible human being, and that would be fine because that is generic but powerful. Mentioning specific incidents always causes controversy.
I, for one, didn’t take offense to CM Punk’s segment. I think Jerry Lawler has poked fun at it a few times since then. Even Dolph Ziggler referenced that incident in a segment last year. So it’s clear that Jerry, a guy who always wants to do what’s best for business, freely exploits it to make a better product. He had to have at least given WWE the thumbs up to go ahead and use it.
For fans deciding whether or not if it’s right for WWE to do so, I would simply say to remember that this is not the news or a talk show. None of what you watch on Raw or SmackDown LIVE are anything real. There are things that I think shouldn’t be touched, but in a world where nothing is real, there are little rules. It definitely can cause a moral dilemma, however, which is why I ask you this. Do you believe there is an invisible line that WWE shouldn’t cross when it comes to its product, or is anything fair game?