Monday, February 25, 2013

Armchair Booker: Pot & Politics

It’s Monday! That means a new WWE Monday Night RAW, and answers to the biggest questions of the week. Last Wednesday morning Jack Swagger was busted for pot possession in Mississippi, putting his World title shot at WrestleMania in jeopardy. This tossed a huge wrench into the plans of the WWE as they try to keep a public image that stands firm against drugs. They also have to weigh that against the instant media coverage Swagger’s new character has garnered them. It’s a sticky situation for any creative staff.
When I was booking I never had to deal with drug busts but I had my share of last second roadblocks. An instance I can think of is when I first started with the MMWA in northern Michigan. We were days away from the 1 year anniversary show.  One of the big matches being promoted was “The Future” Chris Sabin vs. Jerry Lynn. It was going to be the match we used to sell DVDs and help out our television product. I mean the two could have a five star match in wheelchairs.
Then I got a call on Friday morning from Chris that the night before he had wrestled for Ring of Honor. He got an eye injury that not only split open his eyebrow but almost closed the eye completely. It was a nasty injury and it happened only 48 hours before our event. Luckily he didn’t have a concussion, but he wasn’t at full strength.
At first he said he could try to gut it out, but I didn’t want to put him in any danger as he was just getting in with TNA and ROH. I wasn’t going to be the booker that cost him his career because I strong armed him into wrestling with a bad eye. Just try to run around your house with an eye patch on, now imagine doing it in a 16 foot ring with one of the best athletes in the business. Not exactly the safest environment. We had to call an audible.
We ended up shuffling the card and making Jerry Lynn’s opponent the MMWA champion Nate Webb. The two are really good friends and always have fun matches (usually with dancing). We put Sabin and me in Webb’s corner as I was doing an onscreen heel sports agent character that represented Sabin, and now had just signed Webb. During the match Nate ended up breaking his pinkie into what looked like an “L”. The match was cursed but it still came across great on camera.
We played up the angle that Lynn and Webb respected each other as the match went on. In the end Sabin and I jumped Jerry Lynn to save Nate’s title. Webb got angry that we would do such a thing and got in between us. This lead to an attempted attack on Nate, but soon he and Lynn teamed up to clean house. Nate became an instant face, and we put the ball in motion for a Lynn/Webb against Sabin/??? match in the future. It turned lemons into lemonade for the MMWA.
Now the WWE is in a similar situation. They need to make some serious brownies out of Swagger’s weed bust. This is how I would do it.
The Jack Swagger character isn’t relying on Jack Swagger. That is the beauty of it. He actually is the hammer for Uncle Zeb, who didn’t violate any wellness policy. In the WWE Wellness policy it states that Swagger could be fired, but since it is a first time offense then he should receive a 30 day suspension. I would suspend him on Monday night.
He and Zeb would come to the ring and talk about how a “real American” like Jack Swagger is hounded by the government but millions of illegals are free to take our jobs, our healthcare, and our education. Zeb says that Swagger will be suspended for 30 days because he is an honest man that does the right thing and accepts his punishment unlike people like Alberto Del Rio, who should deport themselves.
Swagger then leaves the ring to begin his 30 days as Zeb turns his attention towards Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Fox News. I for one wouldn’t break character. I get why the WWE did the now famous green screen promo, but I’m not one to knock down the fourth wall. Let Zeb call all of them out for anything and everything. Say they don’t support “real Americans” who speak the truth without sugar coating it. If the news outlets bite then it is free pub. It shouldn’t be the focus of the feud, but an off shoot to generate buzz.
Each week have more promos from Zeb and interaction in the ring with Alberto Del Rio. Zeb can do commentary during Del Rio’s matches to push the storyline. Let him really get into it with ADR, and even do an in ring debate one week. The tension the two can generate from just being near each other should help build the hatred for Zeb and the want by audience to see him get his.
Eventually it ramps up into Zeb getting Del Rio hot and bothered to the point that he wants to knock Zeb’s lights out. That leads to Del Rio’s buddy Ricardo Rodriguez trying to fight Zeb and challenging him to a match on Smackdown. Zeb agrees, but only if Del Rio is banned from ring area. He can make comments about not trusting the two and even toss in a couple of inflammatory remarks.
The match between Zeb and RR is promoted for the March 29th edition of Smackdown. The two hype it with promos through the night. I even would do a segment where Del Rio gives Ricardo that “win one for the Gipper” speech in the backstage area where he’ll watch the match.
During the main event it is back and forth with Ricardo getting the upper hand (as he should against an elderly man). Shortly into the match Jack Swagger comes from the back as the two beat up Ricardo in the ring including slapping on the ankle lock. Alberto Del Rio comes to make the save but the damage is done. The announcers play up the fact that Swagger’s 30 days ended on Tuesday.
The next Monday on RAW both Swagger and Zeb are back in full action with a match against Sin Cara. Swagger gets the dominant win and tosses Sin Cara from the ring like a piece of trash. The two cut a mean promo about this Sunday at WrestleMania and their quest to save this country. Del Rio comes on the screen standing next to Ricardo, who is in a walking boot. They are in Swagger’s locker room and say they are so happy that Swagger is back that they wanted to throw him a fiesta. The two trash Swagger’s locker room and really do a number on the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. I would even burn the flag as it hangs on the wall. Let that be the closing shot before commercial.
On Friday’s Smackdown do a pick your poison match where Swagger picks Del Rio’s opponent and vice versa. Zeb picks the Big Show to face Del Rio. It is a good one off match with the biggest man in the WWE plus it has some heat from their recent feud. Del Rio picks Rey Mysterio to face Swagger. He is a big name and it fits with the anti-immigration theme.
Swagger bests Mysterio with some underhanded tactics by Zeb in the first hour main event. In the closing match of the night Del Rio and Big Show wrestle until Del Rio is about to win. Then Swagger and Zeb come down to beat Alberto down. Ricardo tries to get involved but he gets crushed by Swagger.
If they could pull it off I would do a spot where Swagger grabs ADR’s ankle and drags him up a turnbuckle. He could do a top rope ankle lock that has ADR swinging upside down. As he swings the Big Show comes over and delivers a KO punch that flattens ADR. It all goes to black with Swagger and Zeb standing over Del Rio with the World title in hand.
At WrestleMania both men have a tight back and forth matchup. Zeb and Ricardo on the outside doing their thing with Zeb constantly getting involved to give Swagger the upper hand. Eventually Zeb and Ricardo are in the ring with Ricardo still wearing the walking boot. He delivers a big kick to the groin with the boot that sends Zeb to his knees and out of the ring. The crowd will pop for that spot.
Swagger goes after Ricardo as he quickly powders out of the ring. Swagger is against the ropes as he grabs Ricardo by the collar to try and drag him back in. This is where Del Rio school boys Swagger for the three count. Jack and Zeb lose it by bashing Del Rio including a Swagger bomb through the Spanish announce table after the match.
Then Zeb gets on the mic and says America is the land of opportunity. He invites Dolph Ziggler to come down as Swagger drags Del Rio into the ring for an ankle lock. Zeb can say that it might not be Swagger who wins the title but a full red blooded American is walking out of WrestleMania as champ.
Dolph comes to the ring to cash in the Money In The Bank briefcase. Swagger keeps the ankle lock on as Zeb continues to taunt Del Rio. When the bell rings for Dolph the two leave the ring and Ziggler quickly covers Del Rio but only for a two count. Dolph can’t believe it. Del Rio gets some fire as he hobbles on one leg. In a few minutes it is clear that Del Rio is injured and Dolph eventually is too much for the champ. He gets the three count on Del Rio, but only after it is clear that Del Rio is far from 100%.
Now Dolph is the World champ, and Del Rio has an even bigger issue with Swagger without putting the title on the guy who got popped for pot. Alberto can feud with Swagger for a few months as Dolph gets his reign as World champion established against challengers like Randy Orton and Sheamus. Eventually Del Rio overcomes Swagger as the storyline comes full circle with Del Rio finally getting his rematch at SummerSlam against Dolph Ziggler. That match, and feud, is a story for another time.
That is how I would book the Swagger angle with the handicap of a 30 day suspension. It isn’t ideal because you always want a talent on screen but with a talker like Zeb that can be worked around. I believe the theme of the feud is hot enough to really build interest. Immigration is a huge issue in this country and has supporters on both sides. That alone would be enough to keep Del Rio and Swagger strong going into Mania.
I wouldn’t put the title on Swagger because I’m not a supporter of rewarding guys who do stupid things like get suspended. That doesn’t mean you can’t make money with him. He and Del Rio could make some big money in a non-title feud that helps put Alberto over. The Swagger and Zeb characters have a lot of run in them. They can have feuds with numerous talents over the next year. You just don’t make him a main guy until you’re sure he won’t find himself with a second strike.
I’m excited to see how the WWE handles things. It would seem right now that they are more concerned with the buzz being generated by the character than with the actual feud. I hope that doesn’t become the focal point of this as Swagger and Del Rio both deserve more respect than being the side note of the situation. I guess we’ll know a lot more by tonight.
Check back tomorrow for the RAW review as big things are brewing for tonight. The Undertaker is back. John Cena will face CM Punk. Plus Vince McMahon wants to fight Paul Heyman. That is a packed show without the Swagger and Del Rio angle. Now I just wonder if The Rock will show up or does he have a hangover from the Oscars. I mean he had to be drinking, it’s not like he was winning anything.  Until tomorrow, remember the McMahon life motto, “Money over morality”.

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