If you’re a college student studying philosophy or someone who is highly engaged in the theater that is our American political process, then you’ve probably heard the title of this column in the past. Students of philosophy will remember it as phrase coined by Coleridge who used it to describe the emotion / feeling necessary for a reader to truly appreciate the work of art that they are consuming. Political junkies will remember this as the term (with “willing” slapped in front of it) that then-Senator Hillary Clinton used during the 2008 Presidential election to suggest that the General Petraeus report on Iraq’s progress was unbelievable.
As I was watching this past Thursday’s episode of iMPACT Wrestling and the post show interviews with Sting and Bully Ray on YouTube, this phrase kept working its way into my mind. Sure, as a fan of iMPACT Wrestling and more generally as a fan of professional wrestling, I understand that we all engage in a willing suspension of disbelief. Without it, we couldn’t believe that there is animosity between James Storm and Bobby Roode. And we couldn’t believe that this animosity is derived from Roode’s jealousy of Storm for obtaining the TNA World Heavyweight Championship before him and at Storm’s failed attempt at redemption against Roode at TNA Lockdown 2012. We wouldn’t believe that Gail Kim has a real vendetta against all of the Knockouts in the Knockout Division and that she is on a mission to take out every girl in the division one at a time. Without a willing suspension of disbelief, professional wrestling fans would be what all of the people who don’t “get it” incorrectly think all professional wrestling fans are – people who think that the fighting in the ring is “real.”
In short, without each of us willingly suspending our disbelief we wouldn’t have professional wrestling as we know it today.
However, watching the videos of Sting and Bully Ray after last week’s iMPACT Wrestling got me to thinking at how good both of these guys are at making it seem like there is a real angst between the two of them. And that’s great! Watching those videos I thought about Sting in the ring with AJ Styles talking about how he used to do the thing in the rafters being all quiet and mysterious, etc.
And that got me to thinking about the nWo.
There are always going to be comparisons between the storylines of yesterday and the storylines of today. As a fan of TNA, I understand that my preferred brand is looked at with extra scrutiny and condemnation by an internet population that is primarily made up of younger wrestling fans who are unknowingly conditioned by WWE to be pro-WWE and anti-everything else. But I digress… back to the nWo. Clearly, there are easy comparisons between the Aces and 8s and the nWo. Not only was the nWo composed primarily of heels like the Aces and 8s currently is comprised of, but the nWo was bent on domination of WCW much like the Aces and 8s are bent on the domination of TNA.
Enter the willing suspension of disbelief.
Look, we’re all adults here, right? Okay, I just noted that most of the internet wrestling fans are younger, but I’m assuming that if you made it this far in the column you’re a few years older! As a group of adults, we understand that TNA has a group of writers – just like WCW had – and that those writers are preparing scripts for an episodic television show called iMPACT Wrestling. We also understand that the major story arc for the last year has been the ascent of Bully Ray and the creation of his super group – Aces and 8s – as a dominating force in TNA.
Watching those post show videos the other day, though, made me think about the storyline question: to what end? Get ready to willingly suspend disbelief because I’m about to explore what appears to be the extension of this storyline. Ready? Here we go!
To what end does Bully Ray want to beat Sting at Slammiversary? In other words, Bully Ray beats Sting and then gets to say that he is a dominant champion. Okay. He still wants his group to be in control of TNA, so let’s say that they get a hold of the TNA World Tag Team Championships, the TNA Knockouts Championship, and the TNA X-Division Championship. Let’s even say that they get Hulk Hogan fired and find a way to take “ownership” of the company from Dixie Carter. Let’s make the world the ideal world in the Aces and 8s storyline.
These thoughts flashed through my head while watching those post show videos and when I started to think about the nWo, I wondered what their end game was in WCW. If I’m not mistaken (and it’s been a long time, so maybe I forgot some parts of their storyline), the goal for nWo was to take over WCW and rebrand it the nWo with their own, unique style of wrestling and entertainment on display. Does that sound right? Arguably, the storyline nWo guys achieved this goal because before the company was purchased by WWE, its events were co-branded as WCW/nWo events. In fact, I think that for a while the nWo had their own pay-per-view each January called nWo Souled Out.
And then WCW hit the reset button and things started spiraling out of control. Back to TNA…
I can’t think of a reasonable endgame for the Aces and 8s gang. What is their ultimate goal? What does it mean for them to win the battle? Both Sting and Bully Ray refer to a war or a battle that is going on between TNA and Aces and 8s. Why? Where did the war come from? I understand that Bully Ray put together this super group because he wanted to gain control of the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Mission accomplished. How did that turn into a war against TNA? Is it because his gang delivered beat down after beat down on iMPACT Wrestling? Well, if that’s the case, then isn’t that the case with professional wrestling whether there are factions involved or not? One guy disrespects another guy then both guys fight to see who is better.
The writing team introduced the idea of this epic battle, this epic war between TNA and Aces and 8s. But I can’t figure out to what end the Aces and 8s are working. I know that TNA wants to eradicate the guys that are members of the Aces and 8s. I get that part of the storyline. I just don’t get what the ultimate endgame is for a guy like Wes Brisco or D.O.C. What are their motives to be in a war against TNA? And, on a more macro level, isn’t the entire idea of an Aces and 8s-type group or an nWo group counterintuitive to the very existence of the company that they are trying to take over? In other words, if the Aces and 8s survives in putting TNA on its knees in this storyline and getting rid of all of the guys that they don’t like in the company, then wouldn’t they essentially be folding the company that provides them a paycheck? I know that’s a high level type of thought about professional wrestling and if someone brought me this argument, I’d tell them that they were overthinking the entire thing.
However, now that I’ve had the thought, I can’t get it out of my head. Now when I think about this supposedly epic war between TNA and Aces and 8s, I find myself wondering both, “Why?” and “Does it even matter?” and “To what end?”
What do you folks think? To what storyline end do you think Aces and 8s are moving towards? What about the idea of a gang trying to put a company out of business in the first place? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
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