Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Opinion: Keeping Up With the McMahons (Sean Taylor-Richardson)

       I know this family. They’re not your standard 2.4 children bunch. The patriarch is a workaholic, a visionary, a man of advanced years but, through dedication and sacrifice, has the body of a freaking Adonis. The matriarch is very different: quiet and dignified, she is a former political figure and a passionate campaigner for women in leadership. So far pretty impressive, especially when you consider that their two children have grown into successful business people in their own right, juggling their work commitments with loving spousal and parental relationships. Sounds great right? The sort of family you’d love to have over for drinks on Christmas morning. Hold the invite and read on. Things are about to get weird.
Said patriarch hasn’t always respected the sacred vows of marriage. In fact he once he drugged his wife and kept her captive in a wheelchair, making her watch his numerous infidelities with nubile young models. Don’t worry though- she got him back by kicking him in his “grapefruits” in front of over 70,000 people. He was fighting his son at the time; the cheeky scamp won the scrap by leaping 12 feet and crushing an aluminium trash can into the old man’s face. Oh, he loves his mum does this son. He once waged war with a near seven foot psychopath in her honour (she’d been tombstoned on a metal stage you see). Sure, he lost the feud- at one stage having his testicles hooked up to a car battery in the process- but he did right by his dear old mother.

If only this young man felt the same way about his sister; those two have been at each other for years (except for the time they teamed up to try and put their father out of business). He fought her fiancĂ©e once because he had opposing views on her choice of partner. Having said that, she’s no angel herself: she’s slapped her mother in public; she married a degenerate to spite the family name and she even fought her father. On pay per view. He wasn’t impressed by this brazen act of defiance- as evidenced by his decision to choke out the apple of his eye with a metal pipe.

All in all, it’s fair to say that the McMahons aren’t your normal family. Whilst the above narration recounts events from a fictional universe, would we really be surprised if TMZ broke a story revealing that Thanksgiving dinner at Casa McMahon deteriorated into a free for all brawl? This dysfunctional foursome deliver entertainment in spades, channeling a Jerry Springer vibe that has amused wrestling fans for nearly two decades. True, at times they have threatened to outstay their welcome (notably the WWE vs WCW/ECW programme of 2001, which should never have become the basis for a family feud) and occasionally they have over stepped the mark (the imagery of Vince engaging in a fight with Steph was beyond troubling whilst the rumours that he proposed an incest storyline make me feel downright queasy). However, at least three of the clan are bona fide HOF performers, crucial to the history of the federation and its ongoing narrative.  From the over-protective Shane’s fun stunt fight with Test, to Steph’s dastardly union with HHH, to the ultimate guilty pleasure match that is McMahon vs McMahon at ‘Mania 17 (that pop for Linda is insane by the way), there is so much to enjoy in their mental eclectic back catalogue. And it looks like there is more to come….

 Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell for control of Monday Night Raw. That is, in my opinion, a fantastic sentence. During the opening of last week’s Raw, I emitted what can only be described as an excited squawk and subsequently had to explain to my wife why I was so thrilled to see a greying 46 year old with awesome trainers shuffling and shimmying on stage (still not as awkward as my attempting to explain to her why Santino always power walked to the ring). I, judging by the ratings and social media response, was not alone in being ecstatic to see Shane back and his performance on the night was exemplary. Steve Austin and Court Bauer recently devoted almost a whole podcast to this segment and broke down the tour de force, examining the subtle details that elevated the angle to greatness. It is their grasp of the details that makes the McMahons true masters of the craft and this had recently been evidenced by the return of Vince. The chairman’s recent impassioned performance had transformed Roman Reigns, if only for one night, into the babyface star we want him to be. And this week, it was Stephanie’s turn to step up to the plate and did she ever hit a home run, cutting a tremendous promo, in which she cradled her legacy award as though it was a baby, at once foreshadowing her maternal instincts whilst subtly hinting at her grand ego and outright insanity. She really would make a great Lady Macbeth. Throughout the segment, she spat out vile insults to an audience that had gleefully disregarded her efforts and achievements, merging reality and fantasy in a way that allows wrestling to demonstrate real edge. Her allusions to the sexism inherent in society and the lines about her children’s succession line gave her character genuine motivation and purpose and enabling the audience to truly buy in to the story developing on screen (I use the terms “character” and “story”  but let’s face it: the whole thing is probably pretty close to a legit shoot). 

Unquestionably they have their critics and some fans may be tired of their shenanigans but for me, wrestling should be fun. It should be wild and unpredictable and who delivers that craziness like the McMahons? Yes, we can talk about some of our frustrations with the company and their part in stalling the ascension of new stars is clear but for right now, I’m hooking myself to the nostalgia drip and filling up on some good ol’ vintage attitude. Regardless of what goes down in Texas, chances are a power struggle storyline (and with that possibly a brand split) will rage on for the year; a match between Triple H and Shane is more than likely the conclusion of this latest installment in familial hostility. Looking forward, Steph and Hunter will probably turn against each other (that marriage hasn’t faltered on screen since 2002 so they’re due another hiccup), and eventually, we’ll see Shane’s sons battle Steph’s daughters for complete control of the company in a match refereed by Vince McMahon’s poltergeist. I for one look forward to it. This brilliant, bewildering  family, that work so hard yet frustrate so many, are on-screen, at least, pure gold and if Shane’s ‘Mania goal is to maintain that name and that legacy, then I know who I’m cheering on 3rd April. Here comes the money indeed.

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