So, the Rumble was last night—pretty great, imo, the most I've enjoyed a WWE show in absolutely ages. All the matches were some kind of great fun, and the surprise appearance of Ronda Rousey at the end was really exciting. But why? What is it exactly about the appearance of a former MMA champion that makes us believe there's something good on the way? It seems exciting and a big deal, sure, but why is that?
I think it's because wrestling, for the most part, isn't really about wrestling (fuck off Max Landis), as in what goes on between the ropes. It can matter, certainly, but the number of people who really care about that are still not the majority of the audience—for WWE, at least. Kefin from the AE Podcast has talked in the past about there being hardcore fans who are mostly there for entrances and finishers. I'm not just talking about the sports entertainment stuff, or Max Landis stuff about how it's all about the stories or whatever. Wrestling is just more about making you feel stuff than anything else, and it's not that choosy about how. It'll do it through the wrestling itself, through stories, through entrances and finishers, but also, as much if not more than the others, through expectation, buildup and anticipation. It's smoke-and-mirror flimflam, it's making things seem cool through hype, it's building atmosphere with cheap tricks. But there is no objective measure of "cool" or "atmosphere"—no SI unit—it's just a feeling you get. The idea of MMA superstar Ronda Rousey coming to the WWE has been bouncing around for years now, so there's substantial hype around it. The way she made her appearance, with a Roddy Piper jacket and titantron and licenced music entrance—as Bassey said to me at the time, the last time he remembered anyone having one of those was CM Punk with Cult of Personality—definitely pulled the levers you'd want to describe it "cool".
Thinking about this makes me feel a bit weird, following on from some other stuff—this and this specifically—and my feeling that there should be some sort of true universal north, some objective reality to things. But that's not the case, and my feelings don't really matter: it's all just event promotion. In a way, everything is.