July 23, 2013
Love is In the air, so why isn't it being used in WWE?
By MATTHEW BYER - SLAM! Wrestling
To some the idea of mixing a romantic relationship in a professional wrestling storyline might seem a bit odd, yet historically they've proven very successful at capturing the audience's attention. Yet, it's been quite a while since the WWE has involved a romance into any of their main storylines or angles despite the recent marriage between Tyson Kidd and Natalya Neidhart, the engagement of Jimmy Uso and the Funkadactyls' Naomi, the continuing marriage between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and Daniel Bryan and John Cena each dating one of the Bella twins.
The closest there has been to mixing romance into a featured WWE storyline in recent times was in 2011 and 2012, when AJ Lee was paired up with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Kane, John Cena, and eventually Dolph Ziggler. However, since WWE matched Lee with Ziggler the onscreen romantic element has kind of faltered and been dropped.
What makes all of this quite strange is that involving romantic aspects into wrestling storylines have been a big draw in terms of ratings and attention, plus it's an effective way to get over all the wrestlers involved in a storyline.
Who can forget Rick Rude coming on to Jake Roberts real-life wife Cheryl (now divorced) in 1988? The resulting feud between the two was huge and it was all because of the WWE allowing a real-life romantic element to be used to kick off the feud. Why did it work? Well almost anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship can relate to what it feels like to have someone hit on your significant other. Thus, it was easy for fans to put themselves into Roberts' headspace and boo mercilessly Rick Rude.
Yet, that wasn't even the biggest WWE storyline involving romantic relationships during that era. The Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth storyline lasted for years in the WWE in the 1980s and 1990s and later continued in WCW. The adding in of their real-life marriage and subsequent divorce to on-screen elements resulted in fans truly being engaged in their storylines. It also allowed Savage to show multiple sides of his personality to the audience including arrogance, jealousy, protectiveness, caring, self-improvement, sensitivity and strength. In fact it was Savage's real-life jealousy, as far as Miss Elizabeth was concerned, that ignited the fuse that kicked off the Mega-Powers explosion which later on climaxed at the main event of WrestleMania 5 between Savage and Hulk Hogan.
If you look back at WrestleMania 7, the biggest reaction of the night from the audience came when after having lost the match to the Ultimate Warrior and having Sensational Sherri pummeling him afterwards, Miss Elizabeth rushed to the ring to save Savage; the reunion was one of the night's highlights. The Randy Savage/Miss Elizabeth would be front and center the following year at WrestleMania 8, when Ric Flair famously exclaimed, "She was mine before was yours!" to Savage. Their match at that year's WrestleMania was probably one of the best, if not the best on the card, and it would later play out in WCW. All of that likely wouldn't have been possible if Savage's feelings for Miss Elizabeth hadn't been used on-screen.
Speaking of WCW, a large part of widening Diamond Dallas Page's appeal to the wrestling audience was when they finally acknowledged that he was married at the time to Kimberly, the leader of the WCW Nitro Girls. All the sudden this connection, and Randy Savage and the New World Order's subsequent attacks, created a kind of vulnerability to Page which allowed the audience to instantly get behind him in a way they never had quite done so before. It made for one of the most electric feuds in WCW in 1997.
In 2005 and 2006, probably the hottest storyline in the WWE was the feud between Matt Hardy and Edge over Lita. For those who may not recall, Matt Hardy and Lita were a real-life couple for many years. However, when Hardy was injured for a while and off the road, Lita and Edge ended up starting a romance before she had broken up with Hardy. This spilled over into the public eye, and led to Hardy being let go by the WWE in April of 2005. However, every time Lita and Edge would appear before an audience the fans would chant at them "You screwed Matt," so eventually the WWE brought Hardy back in July of 2005 to start the white-hot feud. The audience was charged up for this feud as it was so relatable to just about everyone. While it might not have been Edge's or Lita's first choice to have their personal life played out in public, it probably resulted in the WWE storyline for which they are both best remembered by many fans today.
So why might the WWE not being using the real-life romantic relationships as part of their on-screen storylines nowadays? Well, part of it may be due to the fact that having your relationship depicted in the public eye probably isn't the healthiest thing for its future. After all, pretty much every past couple mentioned as an example in this editorial eventually broke up, so many of those in the WWE today are likely aware of that fact and are reluctant to deal with bringing that level of attention to their romantic relationships.
Still, it's going to be difficult to avoid the intermixing of reality and wrestling storylines being that the Bella twins, the Funkadactyls and Natalya Neidhart are featured in WWE's new reality show Total Divas, and the early buzz is that their real-life romantic relationships will be part of what viewers see and hear on the television screen.
Eventually, the audience reaction at RAW and Smackdown is going to bleed over, and if the rumours about an upcoming feud between John Cena and Daniel Bryan comes to fruition, it will be very difficult to avoid their respective real-life romantic relationships with Nikki and Brie Bella. If wrestling history is any judge if they intercut it in correctly the WWE could be looking at one of their biggest feuds in years.
Matthew has been on a break from dating these last several months, but is considering getting back out there again. Check out Matthew's advice column The Male Perspective.