Representations of Reality

WWE’s Smackdown, or any pro-wrestling show for that matter, are full of representations of reality. In a lot of cases it’s safe to say the pro-wrestling is just reality turned up to 11. One good example would be the rivalry between ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon. The evil boss Mr. McMahon is always doing Stone Cold dirty which was relatable to so many people and represented a lot of their realties. So many people wished they could flip their boss the bird, give them a stunner, and stomp a mud hole in their ass and walk it dry.

Another way that Mr. McMahon is a good example of the representation of reality is the differences of economic class. Mr. McMahon is a billionaire and was not afraid to remind fans that he was filthy rich. McMahon used this tactic as a way to garner heat from the fans and become the most hated heel in the company.

Over the years they way that gender has been represented on Smackdown has changed through out the years. In fact, the original idea for Smackdown was that it was going to be an all women show. However, the state of the WWE’s women’s division in 1999 was not strong enough for an all women’s show. From 1999 up until about 2016, women were seen as eye candy that would appeal to the male demographic. During this time most of the women matches didn’t go longer than five minuets and from time to time there would be bikini contests and dance offs. But, in WWE’s defense that’s what the demographic they were shooting for wanted to see. Over the past three years there has been a women’s evolution in the WWE and women are now seen as legit competitors and no more are the days of the bikini contests.

When it comes to the issue of race, the WWE stays away from storylines that involve race and rather focus on an individuals wrestling ability. For example, the current main storyline on Smackdown is Kofi Kingston and his pursuit of getting a WWE Championship match against current champion Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania. Whenever Kofi is about to secure his title match at Wrestlemania, Mr. McMahon comes out and rips the title match out of Kofi’s hands. It seems like an easy storyline for this situation would be for Kofi to claim that Mr. McMahon won’t let him have a WWE title opportunity because he’s black, but the backlash from a story like that would not only hurt the company but Vince McMahons reputation. Instead they have to come up with a more creative storyline and I think what they are doing is absolutely fantastic and its all thanks to Daniel Bryan. Kofi is being told that he isn’t getting the WWE title match because he is a “B+ Player” and that he is under sized, which is everything that Daniel Bryan was told when he was fighting for a title match at Wrestlemania 5 years ago. Now the “New” Daniel Bryan, who is a heel, saying that to Kofi is so hypocritical that it makes you hate Daniel Bryan, which is what a heel is supposed to do. However, if you look at the story subtextually, you can see the story of an African-American who has worked his ass off for 11 years and finally earns the big match he has been fighting for overcoming all the odds. It’s truly an inspiring story for young African-Americans saying if you hang in there and work hard nothing will stop you from reaching your goals.

However, the Smackdown of today is a lot more politically correct than the Smackdown of the early 2000’s. On the April 8th, 2004 episode of Smackdown, there was a segment that consisted of John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield (JBL) patrolling the American/Mexican boarder and chasing a family of Mexican Immigrants back to Mexico. Now, at the time JBL was a heel so this was meant to be offensive in order for JBL to garner heat from the fans. 2004 was also a different time. It wasn’t even 3 years after 9/11, it was the height of the war in Iraq, and America was a little over protective at the time.

The WWE does know when a storyline goes too far and crosses a line and becomes offensive. In 2005, The Undertaker was beginning a feud with Muhammad Hassan who was an Arab American wrestler. Hassan’s real name is Marc Copani and he is actually Italian and not Arab. Hassan was set to be the most hated wrestler in the company and was going to be extremely anti American. There have been many anti American wrestlers throughout the years and they’ve proven to be very successful heels. So, Hassan was set to feud with The Undertaker, and on the July 7th, 2005 episode of Smackdown, Hassan had a group of masked men attack The Undertaker. At another time this would be seen as a normal attack from behind beat down that occurs frequently in wrestling. There were just two big problems. One, the men were dressed as terrorists, and two, this took place on the same exact day as series of terrorist suicide bombings in London that killed 56 people. Back in 2005, Smackdown aired on Thursdays and was taped on Tuesdays, so any correlation between the two incidents was completely coincidental. The storyline was quickly scrapped and Hassan’s career unfortunately never recovered.

Probably the best episode of Smackdown that features representations of reality is also one of the most emotional episodes of Smackdown. On September 13th, 2001 Smackdown broadcast live from Houston, Texas following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. The show opens with Vince McMahon standing in the ring giving a very inspirational speech saying we will continue our normal lives and we will not live our lives in fear. The episode of Smackdown is more meaningful since it was the first public assembly of its size since 9/11.

Analysis Blog

For my analysis blog I chose to focus on the May 11th, 2007 edition of Smackdown. I decided to focus on one episode rather than the whole show because important aspects of the show like characters, storylines, aesthetics, even the demographics have changed through the 20 years it has been on tv. I chose this episode because it’s a great example of what an episode of Smackdown was like in 2007 and because of the chaotic ending it’s a great episode to analyze and to understand all the elements that go into an episode of Smackdown.

The synopsis for this episode of Smackdown was:

The Undertaker puts his World Heavyweight Championship on the line against Batista in a brutal Steel Cage Match! Money in the Bank Winner, Edge, has his eyes on the prize. Will he cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase for a shot at the title? M.V.P. and Finlay compete in tag team action. Domino faces Paul London. Plus Kane, The Boogeyman and much more.

There were five matches scheduled for this show:

MVP and Finlay Vs. Chris Benoit and Matt Hardy in a tag team match

Jillian Hall vs. Michelle McCool

Domino vs. Paul London

Kane w/ The Boogeyman vs Dave Taylor w/ William Regal

Batista vs. The Undertaker in a Steel Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Championship

The Main story of this episode is the rivalry between The Undertaker and Batista as they meet in a steel cage match in the main event. The Undertaker and Batista have been battling over the World Heavyweight Championship since January after the Undertaker won the 2007 Royal Rumble and chose Batista as his opponent at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker defeated Batista at Wrestlemania to win the World Title and the rematch at Backlash was a Last Man Standing match that ended in a draw. Through out the show we were shown video packages of their rivalry to hype us up for the match later in the night.

The first match of the night was a tag team match between Chris Benoit & Matt Hardy vs. M.V.P. & Finlay. This tag team match was put together because Chris Benoit and M.V.P have been feuding with each other for the past couple months over the United States Championship. Matt Hardy and Finlay are in this match because, one of the big matches at the upcoming Judgment day Pay-per-view is Benoit vs M.V.P in a 2 out of 3 falls match for the United States Championship, by making this a tag team match they can save the one on one match for the pay-per-view and keep the storyline interesting and moving forward. So rarely though out the match Benoit and M.V.P. fought each other in order to save it for Judgment Day. Benoit ended up pinning M.V.P with a quick jackknife cover to get the win for his team.

The second match of the night was a divas match between Jillian Hall and Michelle McCool. McCool pinned Hall for the win in a competitive match. Around this time in the WWE, women’s wrestling wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today. For example, at this years Wrestlemania we will see a women’s match main event the biggest wrestling show of the year and around this time in 2007 you see a lot of bikini contests and dance offs and the women are viewed more as eye candy than legit competitors. One of the commentators, JBL, during this match said, “We’re having quite the match here, not that that’s surprising. But normally they’re so good looking, I just look at em.” If one of the commentators said something like that today the internet backlash would be insane. It’s crazy to think about how much things have changed in such a relatively short period of time because 2007 was not that long ago.

Following this match was a couple of backstage segments that are used to set up and further storylines. This first segment took place in Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long’s office who is still searching for a new assistant when his “girlfriend” Krystal suggested Vikki Guerrero, widow of Eddie Guerrero. Teddy said he would bring her in for an interview, but little does he know that Vikki Guerrero would have a huge impact on the future of Smackdown. Then, Teddy and Krystal are interrupted by Smackdown’s newest tag team The Dalton Boy’s. The Dalton Boy’s are a couple of southern good ol’ boys that want ‘wrastle’. However, The Dalton Boy’s end up getting a character change and become Jessie & Festus which became one of the wackiest teams in the WWE. It’s interesting to learn that a lot of big things came from this one little segment. The next segment was an interview with returning WWE Diva Ashely. Ashley was this years WWE Playboy cover model which they’re not shy about mentioning. This is another example of how women were seen as just eye candy at the time.

The third match sees Paul London squaring off against Domino. This one on one match sees one half of two tag teams that have been feuding over the past couple of months. Paul London & Brian Kendrick and Deuce & Domino have been battling over the WWE tag team championships currently held by Deuce and Domino, who won the titles from London & Kendrick. The story of this match is that Paul London is recovering from a rib injury he suffered in a match with Deuce & Domino. London is trying to see if he is 100% recovered from the injury so that he and Kendrick can have their rematch for the tag team titles. London gets the win and gains confidence in himself getting closer and closer to their tag title rematch.

The fourth match sees Kane battle Dave Taylor with the Boogeyman in Kane’s corner and William Regal in Dave Taylor’s. Before this match we see the “WWE Slam of the Week” presented by Just for Men hair products. The slam of the week was last week when William Regal hit Kane with brass knuckles costing Kane a chance at the United States Title. So, tonight Kane is taking on Regal’s buddy Dave Taylor to possibly save the match between Kane and Regal for the upcoming pay-per-view. The Boogeyman is in Kane’s corner because he has had some recent run in’s with Regal and Tayler, which would go along with the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Kane hits Taylor with a choke slam and pins him for the victory.

Now it is time for the main event Steel Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Championship where Batista challenges the World Heavyweight Champion the Undertaker. A steel cage match is a violent match that is used as a way to end a feud between two wrestlers. The two wrestlers are locked inside a cage surrounding the ring and the only way to win is by escaping the cage and having both feet touch the floor. This match is the third one on one match between the Undertaker and Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship. This match is a big deal because not only is it a Steel Cage Match, which are rare, its a pay-per-view main event caliber match being given away on free tv. When I watched this as kid I was so excited, this was such a big match I wasn’t going to miss it. That day I had a little league baseball game and the game ended up going later than usual and I got home as fast as I could, I even thought about leaving the game early if it kept going. Usually when the WWE has big title matches like this on tv, something unexpected happens that adds to the plot of the storyline and this one was no different.

After a war in the cage both men are trying to scratch and claw their way up over the top of the cage and try to land on the floor before their opponent. Both gladiators are hanging from the cage and then suddenly they both drop to the floor.

The referees are in position and see both men hit the floor and one referee declares The Undertaker the winner and the other referee declares Batista the winner. The referees don’t know what to do, nothing like this has ever happened before. They end up going over to the announcers table and watch a replay on the announcers monitors. After watching the replay you see The Undertaker and Batista’s feet hit the floor at the exact same time. The referees had no choice but to declare the match a draw and The Undertaker remains the World Heavyweight Champion.  This controversial ending adds to the rivalry and epic story between The Undertaker and Batista and people can’t wait to see what happens next between these two.

Shortly after the steel cage match, ‘The World Strongest Man’ Mark Henry comes out and attacks the Undertaker. After Mark Henry assaults the Undertaker, Edge comes to the ring with his newly won Money in the Bank briefcase. The Money in the Bank briefcase holds a contract that gives the holder a championship match whenever and wherever they want for up to one year. Edge, the ultimate opportunist, cashes in on a battered and beaten Undertaker. Edge hits the Undertaker with a spear and pins him and wins the World Heavyweight Championship. 


If I was to choose a word to describe the ending of this episode of Smackdown that word would be ‘controversial’.

The ending of the steel cage match could very well be disputed and then Edge cashing in on The Undertaker angered a lot of people, including 11 year old me. One other thing that could be considered to be controversial was having the World Title Steel Cage match on free tv instead of on a pay-per-view. Why would the WWE miss out on a big money opportunity like that. Well there is a method to their madness and valid reasons why things went down the way they did. Now the reason for all this chaos and carnage was due to a bad case of the injury bug. Firstly, Mr. Kennedy, who previously held the Money in the Bank briefcase lost the briefcase to Edge on Monday Night Raw earlier in the week because he suffered a tricep injury that would leave him sidelined for 8 months. Secondly and most importantly, The Undertaker had suffered from a torn bicep and was out of action for 4 months. Thats why there was this huge big money match like The Undertaker and Batista in a Steel Cage for the title being given away on free television. The Undertaker was injured and needed to drop the title. So, instead of just having Batista reagin the title, Edge cashing in and becoming the new World Heavyweight Champion sets up the new Main Event storyline for future shows and for the upcoming pay-per-view. Pro wrestling is a giant machine and everyone involved is just a small part in the machine. So when a part breaks it’s just taken out of the machine and replaced with a new part and the machine keeps on turning.