The fan reaction to many of the matches at last night’s SummerSlam was quite something. These days, any match which doesn’t have an outcome that fans have invested heavily in, or agreed was a foregone conclusion, leads to speculation over whether or not it descended into a shoot, if the referee botched a three count, or if the finish was determined mid match.
Fans were convinced that the finish of Charlotte and Sasha Banks’s epic match was improvised due to Sasha picking up a real injury in the ring. The finish was found to have been planned for over a week, and this wishful thinking of a botched finish had more to do with fans being deeply unhappy with Charlotte going over Sasha Banks.
But it wasn’t just classic heat radiating from kids who were unhappy that their heroine failed to overcome the villain; the smarks were out in force to condemn WWE’s decision making, as though Charlotte is somehow a wrestler who isn’t connecting with the fans yet is still being forced down their throats.
This sort of resentment was on display every time she picked up a victory, with fans showing legit frustration with the fact that she was always cheating to win, and overstaying her welcome as champion. Nothing could illuminate more strongly the bizarre sense of entitlement of wrestling fans. For a community that thinks it knows how wrestling should be run, it really doesn’t know how wrestling is supposed to be run. The whole point of keeping a title on a heel who retains their accolades and racks up their victories through unscrupulous means is that you’re supposed to resent their success. It only makes their downfall all the more satisfying, and it doesn’t “bury” other talent if Charlotte doesn’t put them over, because her victories can’t be considered moral or legitimate.
Get upset and have an emotional reaction to it by all means, but to suddenly whip out your IWC constitution and cite the flouting of some imaginary sacrosanct maxims of wrestling storytelling is an absurdity.
It isn’t even the case that Charlotte is, purely from an “educated fan” perspective, unworthy of holding the Women’s Championship. The woman has a thoroughly majestic ring presence, is a sublime wrestler, and one of the only true, classic heels on the WWE roster today. Creative has taken steps with her to build up a credible heel that the fans can hate that it hasn’t done with the likes of, say, Seth Rollins. Rollins is unpleasant to the fans and runs down his opponents on the mic, but he seldom bends the rules in the ring, and can back up what he says with wrestling ability, and can win matches cleanly.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is a chip off the old block and borrows from the classic Ric Flair school of dirty fighting. She relies on outside interference, she rakes the eyes out of the sight of the referee, she uses ropes for leverage and she grabs a handful of tights when she rolls people up. She is also capable of showing genuine emotion in the ring. The closeup of her sobbing, desperate face moments before she initially lost the title to Sasha Banks was a fine bit of storytelling.
Her victory last night against Sasha Banks, who is injured (she has been removed from a number of future WWE dates), was based off of an exploitation of a wrestler when they weren’t physically at the top of their game. It was also compelling television, and your author sees no reason why another lengthy run of Charlotte digging her fingernails into the Women’s Championship isn’t something to get excited about. It certainly beats the lolloping inadequacy of SmackDown’s division.