Swerves In Wrestling: Good Or Bad?
Posted by Justin Watry on 05.29.2014
From Hulk Hogan joining the nWo to Samoa Joe joining the Main Event Mafia, swerves have been part of wrestling for years. But do they help or hurt the business, and are they even necessary? 411's Justin Watry takes a look!
verb: change or cause to change direction abruptly.
noun: an abrupt change of direction.
Quick back story to explain this all: A few weeks ago, I was duffing around on Twitter and noticed that Vince Russo had recently been making noise with some of his remarks. I do not follow him (or any wrestlers), nor do I intend to. However, it did entice me to post a pretty broad, simple question about his "legacy" in the wrestling business: swerves.
The tweet was direct and straight forward - should Vince Russo take it as a compliment or insult that he is synonymous with the term swerve? I mean, we read about it all the time. "A Vince Russo special! The infamous Russo swerve! Vinny would be proud of that move. Blah, blah, blah." A few of my Twitter followers chimed in with their responses on the topic...and then the man himself Vince Russo replied with:
Just like that, a light bulb went off, and my next column idea was born. Clearly, Vince Russo had spoken on the matter. A few fans chimed in and that is nice, but I wanted to really dig deeper into the entire premise of a swerve. Especially in wrestling. Without any more stalling, I want to thank Russo for the inspiration and get started on whether swerves help or hurt the business...
Surprises vs. Swerves: For the record, I think there is a difference between a surprise and a swerve. John Cena returning at the Royal Rumble in 2008 was a huge surprise, not necessarily a swerve. As the video above shows, Mark Henry shocked a lot of people with his fake retirement speech. However, for a lot of folks (like myself), it was pretty clear from the get go, you know with John Cena just standing there and all, it was all a set up. Surprise or not, stuff like that does not qualify. Thus, I may be nitpicking certain situations here, but yeah - there is a surprising moment...and then there is a swerve!
Necessary Circumstances: Purely coincidental, PWTorch featured a story on Tuesday of this week discussing that the original nWo members planned out months in advance were going to be Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Lex Luger. Then with their feud on the company WCW, it would be Hulk Hogan who overcame all the odds and defeated the heel stable trying to invade. Ironic, huh? As the section is entitled, sometimes circumstances dictate that you NEED to go in a totally opposite direction logic would say. Hulk Hogan had to be the third man. He had to be. Whether the story lined up or not, Luger (or even Sting) would not have made the huge impact The Hulkster turning would have. In this case and others, a swerve is not an option. It is a necessity.
Swerve To Swerve: Now this is where that becomes a problem. Like, a big problem! The never ending debate of "stale, repetitive" wrestling in 2014 gets a bad rap often because it never shocks people anymore. Of course, those same folks read countless spoiler reports and dig into any rumor which negates any complaint they have about predictability, but let me stay on topic here. There are many examples I could use, but TNA Slammiversary came to mind immediately. After months and months of feuding, Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle were in the King of the Mountain match for the TNA Title. Angle's Main Event Mafia members had been screwing with Joe, he had been attacking them, the whole nine yards. Fine, simple enough. Well, then we get to the big ending of the match where Joe and Angle come face to face with the gold on the line...
...and just like that, Samoa Joe was done. Never has recovered since. The Samoan Submission Machine voluntarily gave Kurt Angle the TNA Title and was with the Main Event Mafia. In true TNA fashion, it was apparently "the place all along." Right, of course it was. There are a million other swerves that come to mind (Rikishi running down Stone Cold just flashed in front of my eyes), but this finish at Slammiversary was done for the sole purpose of swerving fans. Not to tell a good story. Not for a payoff. Not to be very interesting television. Just for the sole purpose of the writing team (Russo?) to sit back and say, "We got you, hahaha!" As history tells us, this kind of stunt booking CAN lead to money making opportunities (Hogan in the nWo). However, that will always be the exception, not the rule. More often than not, it just leads to confusing segments, head scratching moments, and ridicule from fans instead of praise for a well told story.
WrestleMania XXX: Hey, WWE is boring and predictable, right? Well, how about we put that theory to test?
I present to you my "Swerve" version of WWE WrestleMania XXX this past April.
Los Matadores win the pre-show opener to becomes the NEW WWE Tag Team Champions! Forget the Usos. Real Americans, who? Rybaxel...please! We need to kick off the pay-per-view with a stunner - Los Matadores are the new champs.
Triple H defeats Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds. Sure. The story may have been set up for the underdog to overcome the odds at the biggest event of the year, but swerves rules all remember? HHH wins and sends Bryan packing early.
Kane and The New Age Outlaws defeat The Shield when Roman Reigns turns heel on Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Fans had been getting behind Reigns more and more, but not in 2014 where we need to SHOCK viewers!
The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal is up next! Sheamus? Nah. Big Show. No way. Cesaro in a great career defining moment? I will pass. Yoshi Tatsu is the winner! Not been on TV in months, if not years. That will get fans buzzing. Have him win.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt had a lot of interest. Since people seem to love the prospect of being surprised, how about Bray Wyatt lies down on his own, loses, and joins the Cenation afterwards? Then he and Cena high five with the fans on their way up the ramp...
The Undertaker defends The Streak against Brock Lesnar. Well, Taker can not win. Nope, fans do not like predictable outcomes. Brock Lesnar can not win, no way that can happen. Yep, you guessed it: A draw! Nobody will ever see it coming. Genius idea.
Who wins the Divas Championship Invitational? Hmm...the entire goal of the business is to shock people, so I say Vickie Guerrero wins the title and then immediately leaves the company the next night. Makes no sense but hey, have to do those popular swerves!
The main event of the evening sees Randy Orton RETAIN the WWE World Title over Batista and Triple H in a five minute match that gets panned with fans filing out halfway through. Mania ends with Orton posing in front of an empty stadium...
...so ends your night of action from WWE!
Predictability Is NOT A Bad Thing: Okay, back to reality. You see how ridiculous that is? WrestleMania was all about Bryan getting past HHH< Batista, and Randy Orton to claim the title. We knew that going on, just as we knew the first however many WM events were about Hulk Hogan triumphing over evil. Yet, it was record breaking business and crowd pleasing. I just never understood the idea that something needed to shock and surprise me. Newsflash: Super Mario will save the princess at the end of the next video game, yet it will still sell like hot cakes. Spoiler: The super hero defeats the villain in the next blockbuster, yet fans will still flock to the theaters in droves. Just a heads up: The guy and girl will end up together kissing in the next romantic comedy, yet the movie will make money with rave reviews from critics. If the story is entertaining and well acted, there is no (repeat: no) need for a swerve in order for it to be successful.
Debate: It all boils down to your likes and dislikes. Did you enjoy the Higher Power story line during the Attitude Era more or the six month classic between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels in 2008? One was ridiculous, over the top, and nonsensical with zero logic used BUT had a huge swerve, while the other was a great, well told, simple yet effective feud simply between two excellent performers without any special tricks used. One used the "car crash" style of booking. The other banked off sense and two guys who knew how to tell an effective story...so what was the better feud? That depends on your opinion of swerves, I suppose.
Please discuss below in the comment section: Are swerves good or bad in the wrestling business?
Finally, here are some "ME!" plugs for all of you from my archives...