In If I Could Be Serious for a Minute, we will discuss wrestling with no jokes, no memes.
There’s been so much concern on this Road to Wrestlemania. Is Roman Reigns ready? Will Brock Lesnar show up? Is Brock leaving for UFC? Can the Undertaker go? Can Sting go? What are they doing with [insert name]? Our concern isn’t with any of that. At least, not right now. Our concern is with the Intercontinental Championship Ladder match. We’re not worried that it’s a step down for Daniel Bryan. If we could be serious for a minute,
we have a problem with R-Truth.
Listen, it’s no secret that we’re not fans of R-Truth’s. He was the first recipient of Boo This Man and, if you’ve read a RAW Recap, you’ve seen our tweets when he appears. His matches are our “bathroom breaks” at live shows and, if we didn’t have to go, we’ve booed as loudly as possible. But those are issues we have with R-Truth in general, which we’ll get into. Specifically, on this Road to Wrestlemania, our problem is that R-Truth has not – at any point – been made to look like he is on the same level as the other competitors in this match. He hasn’t been competing in matches on RAW or Smackdown like the other wrestlers. And, listen, maybe R-Truth is hurt and this is the WWE’s way of covering it up. But, from the photo above, we saw him wrestle Fandango in a match, an albeit brief match, at Hulk Hogan Appreciation Night; this was about the same time that he starting appearing on commentary.
Yeah, this has not been a success.
You can put a wrestler on commentary during an opponent’s match in order for them to talk about the match going on in the ring and the match that will happen in the future with the opponent(s) in the ring. R-Truth hasn’t done that. Not at all. If anything, he’s served as a distraction from matches that we do want to care about. Bad News Barrett versus Daniel Bryan; Dean Ambrose versus Stardust; Dolph Ziggler versus Luke Harper. These are good match-ups. But rather than hear the announce team call the match or even explain why the match is happening, they’ve been too busy been amused by (JBL) or baffled by (Byron Saxton) R-Truth. JBL and R-Truth on commentary together is, frankly, insulting. JBL is practically speaking jive, like the scene from the 1980 movie Airplane!, to R-Truth the entire time. Yes, it’s a hilarious movie but it’s a pretty dated reference. It’s not the only one though: Cole joins in, for “reasons,” and starts spouting out catchphrases from 70’s TV shows like Good Times and What’s Happening. If the commentary team is in the 70’s then it makes R-Truth seem like he’s from the future when yells his 90’s reference “Whoomp! There It Is” after rapping “What’s Up?” for the umpteenth time.
When someone like Byron Saxton does try to talk to him about the match or the Intercontinental title, they get stopped. Michael Cole repeatedly shut Saxton down for trying to pull something of substance out of R-Truth on commentary. Instead, Cole wants to treat R-Truth not like a wrestler but like a child. Let him babble on about whatever, use phrases that no one understands with no explanation. Let’s watch R-Truth confuse acrophobia, the fear of heights, with arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Let’s pretend that this same exact bit didn’t happen in 2011 when R-Truth was in a Money In the Bank Ladder match.
And that’s the other problem with R-Truth’s “behavior.” He’s not the first wrestler to be called crazy or a loon. Hell, Dean Ambrose is in the match and he’s the lunatic fringe! But while the announcers justify the method behind Ambrose’s madness, they’re not doing the same for R-Truth. For example, here is the reason why everyone else is in the Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title:
Bad News Barrett is the Intercontinental Champion; he wants his title.
Dean Ambrose thinks Barrett is a horrible champion and wants it for himself. Plus, he wants his face on a wall at WWE HQ.
Dolph Ziggler thinks he lost the title unfairly and never received a rematch. He wants the title back.
Luke Harper was Intercontinental Champion and wants his belt back.
Daniel Bryan wants to join the ranks of famous Intercontinental Champions like Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels (aka the Wrestler’s title); plus, Daniel Bryan would become a Grand Slam champion if he wins.
Stardust wants the “Ivory Enterprise.” As Cody Rhodes, Stardust, was the one that re-introduced this title design – notably the white strap – to the WWE. Stardust, Rhodes’s alter ego that is in the process of “consuming” Cody, naturally wants to remove any former facets of Cody Rhodes in the WWE.
Stardust’s reasons are a bit a stretch, even by wrestling standards. Still, that’s more of an explanation than R-Truth has. But R-Truth’s antics are the ones that are straight out of the comics, going as far as to tiptoeing to the title at ringside and snatching the belt,
for a title he hasn’t explicitly said he’s wants for a match that he’s said he doesn’t want to compete in. When they finally gave R-Truth a chance to explain why he took Bad News Barrett’s Intercontinental title, he didn’t. He just kind of talked to the belt and said he was going to be in the ladder match, things we already knew. Again: why should he be in this match?
Maybe this is all an elaborate scheme. Maybe before Wrestlemania, R-Truth will have a Keyser Soze moment; he’ll lay out each of his competitors and give some declaration about how everyone underestimates him and that’s his greatest advantage. Or maybe he’ll keep on doing the same thing he’s been doing since 2008: he’ll come out, rap “What’s Up,” and get through the match. One seems a lot more likely than the other.
To be clear, we’re not asking for R-Truth to make drastic changes to his character overnight. We understand that won’t happen. We’re also not attacking R-Truth just for being R-Truth. Part of this is the lot that he’s been given. Yes, WWE Superstars are often versions of themselves turned up to 11; but why is R-Truth’s character at 11 have an IQ of 4? And why is everyone okay with that? Plus, we’ve seen R-Truth behave less erratically before; he pursued the Intercontinental Championship when Curtis Axel held the title and gave a calm, impassioned account of his time in the WWE.
Right now, R-Truth has the most momentum of any Black Superstar in the WWE. The New Day are scrambling for a multi-team tag title match at Wrestlemania that will most likely end up on the pre-show. And even if they make the cut, only 2 of the 3 members [Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E] will get to be in the match, leaving one person standing ringside on the biggest show of the year. Plus, no one likes the New Day; at that same Hulk Hogan Appreciation Night, they were booed mercilessly for seemingly no reason. Titus O’Neill and Darren Young are kind of reforming the Prime Time Players, which – good or bad – is a step back since they aggressively split up a year ago. Mark Henry returned on Smackdown so that Roman Reigns could Superman Punch and Spear him. Naomi has become “wife first, wrestler second” in the Usos / Kidd and Cesaro feud. And Cameron, Layla and Alicia Fox are in Diva-limbo. So, again, the only Black wrestler with forward momentum is shucking and jiving off screen on Smackdown.
Do you see the problem we see? Look, it’s also no secret that KeepItFiveStar and 3mlekeith are Black. We want to be clear that this is not the “Why are there no Black WWE Champions?” issue from this past summer. We can get into that, but at another time. This is also not entirely an issue of Black representation. But when your most prominent Black Superstar – the one with the most television time and exposure – is spouting jibberish and dancing, it’s not fair to him to serve as an unofficial representative of a race and it’s not fair to the fans of that race. It’s embarrassing to everyone involved. And that’s What’s Up.