NOTE: The author is going into BESERKER RAGE, which means humorous (yet fundamentally true) ranting is about to commence. For the past few weeks, I've heard more than a dozen film fans and friends alike bemoan the recent success of Michael Bay's latest tour de force: Transformers Dark of the Moon.
Although the various intricacies of one's condemnation of all things Transformers takes many forms, the basic gist is that while visually stunning at times, Transformers isn't exactly Shakespeare. There are several blogs and articles dedicated to the complete deconstruction of Transformers and what it stands for, but I'm not really talking about those critics. I'm talking about the average movie-goer who shelled out 30+ dollars to watch their diminutive hero Shia LaBeouf expressively showcase fear and action with his various grunts and grimaces. To date, only one colleague of mine has had anything positive to say about Transformers.
For the record, I enjoy the Transformers' movies on a strictly popcorn movie level. Living in Los Angeles, you're surrounded by artsy kids from the hills of Hollywood who can dissect even the most inane films, and while telling you how magnificent said bizarre movie is for hours on end. They like to sound intelligent as they proclaim, "you just don't get it." "No, I get it. You're a pretentious idiot." Never short on opinions or access codes to trust fund accounts, these bratty kids loathe anything put out by a studio.
You might think as an aspiring actor/writer that I would fall into this same camp. But while I certainly appreciate the nuances of a well-crafted independent film, I also have no problems revelling in something big, loud, and aesthetically pleasing. I think there's a place for everything, as long as we find room for all forms of movies. Whether we currently do or not is a debate for another time.
My point is that The Transformers' movies serve me just fine. I'm not obsessing over the plot details, as really I just came to see robots fight. Robots fighting is ridiculous, which is why it works.
But I do find a certain sense of hilarity in my friends that wax poetic on the problems of Transformers, often using words like 'shitty', 'waste of money', and 'stupid'.
And the guy that made me see the irony in all of this even clearer than I already did was a tattooed skinny WWE wrestler named CM Punk.
Stay with me here...
I know many of you don't grasp the WWE or its appeal, but I assure you, when it's orchestrated with story and skill, it can be just as dramatic as anything else on TV. The problem is, finding those storylines that ignite the regular viewer are few and far between. Keeping them going with creative momentum proves even more challenging...
Nonetheless, I've dutifully been a WWE fan for most of my life, though admittedly taking a few breaks here and there. Now is one such time. The WWE has been beyond stale for some time now. Quite frankly, it's been lame. There are a lot of internet wrestling fans (known as the IWC or internet wrestling community) who collectively think they know what and what's not right in the state of wrestling. And while I think they happen to be right a majority of the time, sometimes I also think they're way off base. I have respect for their wishes that every match be five stars with guys that are smaller than the monsters we're used to seeing flash on our tv screen, but there is something to be said for the entertainment aspect as well. Sorry guys, Dean Malenko just isn't as appealing as King Kong Bundy.
Wrestling, in my opinion, is best when you have the most proficient performers in the world working with a storyline that captivates the viewer. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker are two of the best in the business, but their Wrestlemania matches were considered some of the greatest of all time because of both the wrestling AND the backstory.
Unfortunately, wrestling hasn't been doing much of either lately.
I used to TIVO WWE Raw and watch it late Monday nights, fast-forwarding through the commercials. Then slowly, I started fast-forwarding more of the product. It had became a retread of everything I had seen before. Worse yet, the same sludge that kept coming out of Vince McMahon's empire seemed to correlate directly with talented individuals being held back. And so when Shawn Michaels left, so did I.
I actually stopped recording Raw altogether. When you realize the only entertaining parts of the show revolve around a comedy gimmick named Santino Marella, you know it's time to move on. (For the record, WWE even screwed up Santino's rise, as surely a match with the Honky Tonk Man at about the time his longstanding IC title reign record would have been broken was perfect theater... except it never happened)
Then through the grapevine, I started hearing about a brash wrestler kicking up dirt and telling it like it is. CM Punk.
Of course, I had been familiar with Punk for some time, and always enjoyed his work. The Angel knew him as "the Chicago Guy."
She'd ask, "Is that the Chicago Guy? We like him, right?"
Yes, we liked him.
Only now he was taking that rare step into the legendary annals of WWE history, and we were about to like him that much more.
CM Punk has been delivering blistering promos on the entire wrestling universe over the past few weeks. The story goes like this... CM Punk's contract is up this Sunday. It also happens to be the date of the WWE's latest pay-per-view. The show also happens to be taking place in Punk's hometown of Chicago, where he's fighting this other guy that we'll get to soon enough. Just look at this spot-on delivery he gave recently...
For the record, this is not fake. Punk's contract is up on Sunday. That's the truth.
So what Punk has been doing lately is talking about the idiocy of the WWE for not promoting guys like him for some time. He's railed on the lack of promotion someone like him has received over the past five years, all the while pointing out why. It usually has something to do with kissing ass, something Punk has long been rumored to not indulge in backstage. Again, real llife. Basically, he's the guy at the job who's been busting ass for every day, only to see lesser employees receive promotions. He's been passed over for far too long and he's fed up.
See, you've probably never heard of CM Punk.
This is a travesty. Do you know why?
Because I bet you've heard of a guy named John Cena. The same guy Punk fights this Sunday on pay-per-view.
John Cena is the face of the WWE. And while I have total respect for Cena's work ethic, both in and out of the ring, I also can't stand him. He represents all that is wrong the WWE right now. Cena is a puppet, used to push merchandise and sell colors. He's Hulk Hogan all over again. And by that I mean, watching a John Cena match is like watching the same episode of Gilligan's Island over and over.
It's bright. It's colorful. It's goofy. But the result is always the same. Oh wow, I'm so shocked, John Cena got the win. He came down from insurmountable human odds to defy expectations and get his hand raised again.
It's so... so... so boring. And obvious. And annoying.
Especially when a guy like Punk clearly knows what wrestling and wrestling entertainment should be. The guy is an absolute killer.
So I've been tuning in to watch him deliver his awe-inspiring truths to the WWE universe for the past few weeks.
And the fans have responded. They cheer Punk. They salivate at his appearance, because he speaks the truth. You have to cheer for a guy who calls himself the "voice of the voiceless" and actually comes through with his words. They're all based in very real, very dramatic, facts.
And the one thing that Punk has been saying that struck me as most real is the way he's lambasted that same audience cheering him. Because the audience is just as much as the problem as anyone else. You see, McMahon and the WWE will keep chucking up the same tired Cena matches and storylines because the audience has shown them they'll buy into it.
Let me make this clear, Cena literally has changed primary colors about five times since he started his ascent to the top. What I mean is, wrestlers sell t-shirts and merchandise based on their characters. Now, mind you, all wrestlers change shirt designs to make more money. Certainly, the greatest marketing machine ever--Stone Cold Steve Austin--had more than a dozen different t-shirt designs. But the audience never felt like they were being sold a different product so blatantly as when Cena goes about it. Austin would stay in his color palette, mostly black. It may sound silly, but it's not.
If you're fully aware that you're being sold swampland in Florida, then it's bound to piss you off.
Cena just changes colors. He slaps orange, red, or yellow on something and sells it to you with a big shit-eating grin on his face. He's a fucking stooge for McMahon. I understand it's a business. But John Cena is so obviously the used car salesmen shilling for an inferior product that it alienates fans like me. He's quite possibly worse than Hulk Hogan at kissing ass. Again, real talk.
But the problem is, the audience keeps buying Cena. They don't demand a change. They sit there in their seats, watching little to no wrestling over a two-hour period, all the while sucking on Cena sodas and popping up their Cena wristbands while the WWE laughs at them. Make no mistake, the WWE is laughing at their fans. Because believe me, they aren't showing any respect to us.
If they were, Macho Man Randy Savage would have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. For starters.
Instead, they inducted Koko B. Ware.
WWE, you make me sick.
And Punk is right, the audience is the real problem. The only reason wrestling resurfaced in the 90's was McMahon had to change formats or risk losing it all. He's closer than he thinks to that now again.
I'm a perfect example. I have bought next to nothing wrestling related in over 5 years, and if you take away the occasional book or DVD purchase, they have none of my money. But I'm just one guy, and so the bottomless pit of boredom continues...
The audience obviously feels similar based on their reactions to Punk, but they don't change.
Yes, I know it's a storyline in wrestling, but I assure you, it blurs the line between truth and fiction with deft transitions. Believe me, some of what Punk is saying definitely comes from the man behind the character.
Which brings me back to Transformers.
Again, I don't have anything against Transformers personally.
But for those of you that do, you only have yourselves to blame. Is someone out there too ignorant not to notice the cause and effect?
I literally laughed at loud at someone's recent Facebook status update when they mentioned how they couldn't believe how bad they thought Transformers was, and how there might be something wrong with Michael Bay.
No, there's nothing wrong with Michael Bay. Have you seen the grosses from Transformers?
You did see the first two Transformers movies, right?
Did you expect something new? Something different?
The question should be, what's wrong with you?
If you didn't enjoy the first two, why did you shell out money for the third?
It's insanity people.
The way to infect real change is to stop the bean counters. You don't like remakes or sequels? Stop going to see them.
As Howard Stern always says, change the channel.
Because if you don't, then you become the wrestling fan sporting the John Cena shirt while simultaneously wishing someone like Punk would save you from the monotony.
The people making these decisions aren't the issue, the audience is.
At least in wrestling, we have someone like Punk telling it straight.
Hell, he might even get my money for this Sunday's pay-per-view.
Either that, or I'll go see Transformers.