One of the most exciting aspects of live performance is the fact that anything can happen, at any time. It is the job of the performers to carry on and to get the show back on track in a way that engages the audience, rather than alienate them.
By integrating the devastating leukemia news and the audience’s emotional investment into the way that the show ended, WWE was able to use the departure of their top guy to bring more emotion to a heel turn than we have seen in a long time, if ever.
There are those out there who felt personally offended that WWE chose to turn Dean Ambrose heel on a night that started with Roman Reigns’ jarring leukemia announcement. I can see where they’re coming from, and if it was anyone else, in any other line of work, I might agree with you.
But Reigns has been at the very top of a company that values the same old-school theatre philosophies about the show carrying on and making it better on his way out.
How It Probably Happened
At some point, the call was made backstage to lean into tragedy.
WWE decided to find a way to play the emotional strings of the audience like a violin master. Someone in the creative process remembered that emotional engagement was a big part of what makes these shows popular.
That, and controlled chaos storytelling that paid off when Dean Ambrose kicked Seth Rollins in the gut and hit Dirty Deeds.
This week’s Raw had plenty of highlights and ended with the biggest emotional bang that WWE has evoked in a long time.
This rare episode of the Monday night show climaxed with that finishing move. Admit it. When you were watching, you were running on the emotional high of the title win. That high was especially potent because of the emotional low point that started the show.
You felt great, and then you felt completely betrayed.
Artistic Brilliance In The Face Of Tragedy
There was no other scenario in which you ever could have generated the kind of heat that Ambrose got tonight.
Not only did he turn on his friends, but he also turned on us. He took that one slim moment of redemption after an amazing match that had us on the literal edges of our seats throughout, and he freaking ruined it.
When the pair embraces with the titles at the end of the match, you could feel someone missing. The whole thing had my crazy man-tears allergy working overtime. Then, the bastard ruined it.
In that moment, he tore my emotional expectations down around me and kicked them around for five minutes.
The last time I remember feeling personally betrayed by a heel turn was back in the Barber Shop. That was when Shawn Michaels threw Marty Jannetty through a plate glass window. I was a gullible kid back then and I bought it all. Did that feel like this? Not even a little.
I’d bet good fake money that Paul Heyman and Reigns himself were involved in booking that segment.