Lana cut a promo on Sunday at Battleground that has sparked a large debate both within and outside the worlds of WWE and wrestling. While she didn't refer directly to the specific "recent events" she was talking about it felt clear to most people that she was referring to the MH17 Malaysian Airlines flight that recently crashed just outside of the Ukraine, which was supposedly shot down by a Russian missile in an area near the Russia and Ukraine, in a territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. With recent accusations being directly pointed toward Russia and Vladimir Putin, many wondered if WWE would scale the gimmick back that Lana portrays. We got our answer on Sunday and it seemed they had decided to push it harder than ever which is what brings us to this point today.
I want to start with the argument of why it was right for WWE to go there seen as this will be the most controversial area for a majority of fans. Fans are very quick to complain that WWE are not edgy enough now in their content and it doesn't cut close to reality anymore. However when they do something edgy and talk about something that happened in reality it seems suddenly it's those same people that suddenly take offence to what they just saw. How can WWE ever win with the fans if they can't do something that makes you gasp? Which leads me to the question of how can a heel be a true heel anymore when they can't seemingly do or say anything to draw a reaction because they might offend or upset someone? I as a fan want the heels to say something to make me want to see the bad guy get their ass kicked like back in the old days. If I was a wrestling promoter it is something I would want to see as if you want to invest me emotionally in a storyline then you need to give me a reason to care.
There is also the flip side of the coin and I want to give an argument for why was it wrong to say what she did. No matter if it is part of the storyline, and whether she was in character or not at the end of it all 298 innocent people lost their lives in a plane that should never have been shot down. That's no laughing matter for those affected personally by the tragedy or anyone. It was always a risk to say anything that people could associate with this kind of tragedy and WWE as a publically traded company needs to be careful about the damage this kind of attention can do to it's image. Look how long it took to shake the steroid drama from the trial back in 1994, look at how long it took to shake the tragedy of Owen Hart from the companies image following his death in 1999, and lets not forget how long it's taken to recover from the deplorable actions of Chris Benoit in 2007. In the eyes and minds of most onlookers it would be considered far too soon to even contemplate crossing a political line like this given the accusations made toward Russia, and with American's tragedies such as this can still be a difficult subject given the shocking events that unfolded on September 11 2001.
My opinion on the whole incident is I had no problem with the promo personally but I do understand why some people did and why the reaction has been so powerful so WWE should perhaps make sure this kind of thing does not happen again given the damage it could cause the company in the long run. I would have thought that creative would have had to sign off on the promo and I'm surprised they let Lana go there and be so pro Russia and Putin if they knew the line was coming. As we saw from Raw on Monday it seems the gimmick isn't going to be changed but it was quite convenient that before Lana could really get into her promo the Great Khali's music hit to cut her off. It's pretty much WWE's attempt at damage control without really acknowledging what happened on TV. WWE have apologized but not for the promo itself, more for people misunderstanding the statement. Whether the line was signed off by creative or an ad-lib line we may not ever know but the reaction to the incident has certainly put WWE in the spotlight but not for the reasons they would perhaps have wanted.
The problem with todays society is people can be too sensitive at times when reality and wrestling are blended together. Did any of us as wrestling fans have a problem with what CM Punk did with Paul Bearer's ashes and his juggling of the urn so soon after Bearer had died? The majority of reactions from people I saw was they loved it and thought it was a great way to tribute Bearer in the storyline. While it isn't on the same scale and the two cannot be compared in terms of their impact it seems it is all too easy to offend people with actions or words. The Muhammad Hassan gimmick so close to the July 7th 2005 London bombings caused the character to be taken off screen and Hassan was released from the company. He was just playing a role of a character at the time, was there any need to release him because of a controversial gimmick? I wasn't personally offended by it, and I'm British but I do understand there would be those who were and as a publically traded company WWE has to do what is best for business. They could have perhaps repackaged the Hassan character and gone in another direction instead of firing the guy but I guess it was to show shareholders and the world they were taking the issue seriously.
I guess the main question now is what should happen with Lana and how WWE should handle the subject? In my mind they do nothing and continue to push the gimmick. Lana is playing a heel and her job is to get heat, which is what she did on a huge scale. That is exactly what a true heel does and WWE should not shy away from letting their heels push the buttons of it's fans and get them emotionally invested in their storylines again. I had a feeling WWE may scale the level of the pro Putin and Russia stuff going forward, and while on Raw the Great Khali conveniently came out before Lana could talk about Putin, on Main Event WWE were back to letting her push the pro Putin stuff. I'm pleased WWE haven't totally backed off on the direction of the gimmick and are still going forward with it creatively. While a sensitive subject was bought up through all this the bottom line is it sparked debate as to how far WWE should go with blending reality and their storylines together. I'd certainly like to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below.