WWE’s writers have never had a problem importing strife from real life into its storylines. About the time I was getting back into the whole thing, Paige was referencing the death of Charlotte Flair’s brother in the build-up to a match between the two. Jeff Hardy’s problems with drinking and getting behind the wheel while doing so have been fodder on a couple occasions for opponents. Jimmy Uso has seen the same. Various references to someone’s wife/family are commonplace. These are just the ones that come to the top of my mind. It’s always been uncomfortable at best, disgusting at worst, but in a business that essentially lives off blurring the lines between real and not, I guess that’s kind of just a thing.
That doesn’t mean it’s always bad. Roman Reigns being upfront about the return of his leukemia a few years ago was one of the more touching moments in recent history. Over on the other side, Jon Moxley using the birth of his child as the basis for his heel turn was actually quite brilliant in its deployment. Real life influencing fictional wrestling stories can work, and work well.
I suppose the difference in those is that both Reigns and Moxley were calling the shots on what they would say and use, and not having it thrown at them to simply generate shock value. Their cases weren’t just “cheap heat,” but of their own volition. They weren’t being taken by surprise, because they were the ones delivering the lines. Something very serious wasn’t distilled down to merely a prod to poke someone else. It was their story to tell.
Last night, in the self-perpetuating quagmire that is Monday Night Raw, we had two instances of the former example rather than the latter. In two separate promo battles (and it’s no surprise that WWE went heavy on the promo battles last night, three of them to be exact, right after AEW had set the world alight with CM Punk and MJF doing some expert mic work at each other last Wednesday). The show’s Edge-Miz and Liv Morgan-Becky Lynch segments both referenced the recent layoffs WWE has engineered to boost their already obscene profits, and it’s vital to keep that in mind. There were no other reasons for these firings other than the company’s untamed misuse of talent and its own insatiable greed.
Edge claimed that The Miz’s dalliance with mainstream TV through Dancing With The Stars, and his absence from WWE TV, was the reason that his tag team partner, John Morrison, got released. Morgan, connecting to Lynch’s feud and falling out with Charlotte, blamed Lynch’s high salary for the release of her former stable, Ruby Riott (now Ruby Soho in AEW) and Sarah Logan. This almost felt like it was written by MLB owners, blaming someone getting what they’ve earned for all the problems in the world.
It’s important to distinguish the difference in stature in WWE between Edge, a Hall of Famer, and Liv Morgan, who is still something of a recent call-up. Without knowing the exact inner workings of WWE writing, it’s likely that Edge gets to call most of the shots on what he says during a promo, while Morgan is probably more beholden to the script she is handed. Still, Edge being Mr. WWE-Rah-Rah kind of puts them on a similar level in this sphere.
There is really nothing OK about using people losing their jobs as a device to further in-ring rivalries, especially as they’re not around to defend themselves at all. And even more so because of the company writing this. It’s cheapening people’s very lives. It’s also incredibly unfair to Morgan, given how close she is to Soho and Logan in real life.
It’s even more gross to somehow, fictionally or not, pin the layoffs on Lynch in the latest weak-ass attempt to make her heel turn work, which it hasn’t. It’s classic ownership/ruling class playbook to turn labor on each other by separating them into financial stratas, when it’s the ownership that’s at fault. Lynch makes what she makes because she became one of the bigger stars WWE has ever had. She probably should be making far more than she does.
Whether WWE is just using the material that’s easiest to reach to forward a feud, or they are actually trying to cover up their grotesque pursuit of any dollar available no matter how many jobs it costs by just turning it all into “story,” it’s pretty sickening. Someone losing their job, and/or having their dreams smashed, shouldn’t be fodder for anything. And it certainly shouldn’t be pinned on someone else who had nothing to do with it. None of those released got a say in whether their misfortune was going to be used to forward someone else’s storyline. It’s cheap, it’s heartless, and it’s unfair.
But this is Vince McMahon’s world, where either you “grabbed the brass ring” or you didn’t, and if you didn’t, then it’s obviously your fault and you deserve everything you get. He’s hardly the only generationally wealthy person to see things that way. It’s that sort of callousness, though, that has made his product just north of dogshit for a while, and has driven more and more fans to his new competitor.
Whether or not Morgan or Edge were happy to be used as pawns in WWE’s whitewashing of its own greed, putting them in that position was gross. Wrestling doesn’t have to be mean, especially when it’s dealing with real-life pain. WWE can’t ever seem to understand that.