In the WWE’s never-ending quest to capitalize on the fundamental conflict between good and evil, the pro wrestling company sometimes pushes heels, or bad guys, to the point that it makes some fans uncomfortable. Recently, the WWE has returned to the 1980s tactic of promoting a wrestler as a Russian sympathizer. In fact, the WWE even shows Russian president Vladimir Putin’s face on the Titantron as Rusev makes his entrance to the ring.
Most wrestling fans would consider this “cheap heat” as opposed to the “cheap pop” that Mick Foley would get by mentioning the location of the show in his promos to draw cheers from the hometown crowd. Personally, I am not offended by the WWE capitalizing on America’s dislike of Putin. Lana and Rusev (kayfabe) live in Russia and it makes sense that they would respect the leader of their nation.
However, the WWE took its mission to draw heat to Rusev to another level on the June 2, 2014 edition of Raw. In addition to praising Putin as she always does, Lana also praised Edward Snowden while his face appeared on the Titantron. Snowden is the former CIA and NSA employee who leaked government information because he disapproved of the federal government’s surveillance methods to spy on American citizens.
Edward Snowden’s link to Russia is that he currently resides there in hiding from the American government. Snowden is a controversial figure who elicits different feelings from American citizens. Some view him as a traitor who has endangered the lives of millions of Americans. Others see Snowden as a patriot who put his own life at risk to expose the government’s abuse of powers. Still others respect his motives, but disapprove of his vigilante actions.
My reaction to Edward Snowden’s face appearing on Raw was that I felt a bit uncomfortable. The WWE live crowd had little or no reaction to Snowden. This may have been because they also felt uncomfortable or it could have been because most of them didn’t know who Snowden was. That may be hard to believe if you watch the news and follow current events. But many people are so sick of politics and “bad news” that they ignore current events completely.
If the WWE crossed the line in referencing Edward Snowden as a hero, it wouldn’t be the first time a wrestler went too far to draw heat. Two years ago, Chris Jericho threw down a Brazilian flag and kicked it out the ring. Also, JBL once did a Nazi salute and goose-step in Germany. The difference in those cases was that those wrestlers probably acted on their own to draw heat, whereas Snowden appearing on the Titantron is obviously a WWE creative decision.
In no way am I claiming that the WWE is anti-American. Linda McMahon has run for the United States Senate and the WWE goes out of its way to support American troops. In fact, the WWE’s annual Tribute to the Troops show is the highlight of the holiday season. The WWE is just like any other entertainment company, that must effectively build up bad guys to make them viable opponents for the good guys in their drama.
In my opinion, Edward Snowden is too controversial for a trivial wrestling storyline. Also, it’s not an effective WWE plot device because Putin is more recognizable than Snowden is. Besides, it’s hard for Rusev to draw heat from male wrestling fans when he has such a beautiful spokesperson in Lana. The WWE is very bland in 2014 compared to The Attitude Era, so I respect their efforts to build any heel. But Snowden’s face should never appear in the WWE again.
More from this contributor
Top 5 Slammy Awards the WWE should have given in 2013
Top 5 WWE wrestlers who’d like to forget 2013
The greatest wrestling promotion you’ve never heard of
Bizarre real life love square forms in WWE
New Orleans should host WWE WrestleMania 30