It’s been a long time; I shouldn’t have left you, without a dope column to read at your leisure. That’s right TJR faithful, after an unavoidable absence, I’m back to talk wrestling, character, narrative, and butcher iconic rap lyrics in my intro. With those pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business. They say to err is human, but to forgive is divine. If the preceding statement is true, then hallowed is the landscape of the WWE. If conflict is the Sports Entertainment’s hottest commodity, forgiveness is the next best seller in the WWE narrative.
Superstars in the WWE have for decades been an outstandingly forgiving bunch. Whether it is Jeff Hardy forgiving his brother Matt for trying to for all intents and purposes permanently maim him, or Big Show and Mark Henry shelving their animosity toward one another to team up, forgiving one another for betrayals and countless other atrocities is a staple of the World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s odd that what is widely considered an unforgiving business is a beacon for burying the hatchet. In many cases, these superstars display a superhuman ability to let bygones be bygones.
The events of Summerslam 2013, and the subsequent episodes of Monday Night Raw have inspired me to take a look back at some of the WWE’s greatest examples of turning the other cheek. Cases where superstars were willing to overlook and often outright absolve one another for heinous and seemingly unforgivable offenses. Let’s rock and/or roll!
Triple H/Randy Orton
Why not start with the most recent pair of characters to bury the hatchet, WWE COO Triple H, and new WWE Champion Randy Orton. These two men started as allies in Evolution, and became enemies ironically after Summerslam 2004 (the same PPV where they realigned 9 years later); the night that Randy became World Champion far sooner than Hunter anticipated he would. This standard betrayal in the name of Gold would spark a rivalry between the two that would explode 5 years later.
After Summerslam in 2004, Triple H ousted Randy from Evolution, punctuated with a vicious beating at the hands of Randy’s former comrades. Triple H would then wrestle away Randy’s newly won Championship to add insult to injury. Five years later in 2009 Randy won the Royal Rumble and was guaranteed a title shot at that year’s Wrestlemania. He would then begin a series of attacks on the members of the McMahon family, which saw him maliciously punt both Vince and Shane McMahon, as well as RKO Stephanie McMahon (Triple H’s wife). Triple H in a fit of rage begged Randy to use his Wrestlemania title shot to face him, a request that Randy obliged. A home invasion and a reprehensible unsolicited kiss to an incapacitated Stephanie later, these two men would collide at Wrestlemania XXV, with Triple H gaining walking away victorious on that night.
(On a side note, it always frustrated me that it was revealed that Orton planned this all as revenge for 2004 and to make Hunter want to face him at Wrestlemania. Orton’s actions against the McMahons started before Triple H was WWE Champion, and Triple H won the title in an Elimination Chamber at the last PPV before Wrestlemania that year. Did Orton know Hunter was going to end up beating 5 other guys for the title in that match? And what would have happened had he not won the title? Orton’s plan was contingent on a huge coincidence. Bad form WWE. Had to get that one off my chest.)
For those of you keeping score at home, these two men perpetrated some of the most reprehensible acts on one another, ranging from bloody assaults, breaking and entering, endangering one another’s family, and last but not least, a creepy rape kiss, all in the name of their hatred for one another. All that said, they’ve found a way to forgive each other and have called these transgression mere water under the bridge. Hunter is a better man than I, because I would not be able to find it within myself to forgive a guy that kissed my wife, as she lay unconscious after he assaulted her, while I was forced to watch helplessly mere feet away. These two men letting bygones be bygones is character serving story, when any narrative should have story serve character. Forgiveness is a virtue, and there may be none as virtuous as Triple H in this case.
Triple H/Shawn Michaels
Triple H sure knows how to make an enemy out of a friend, and a friend out of that enemy, doesn’t he? These two founded D-Generation X, one of wrestling’s most popular and influential stables, together and were the best of friends. The two were nearly inseparable during this time, and it was impossible to imagine anything coming between them. Then Shawn hurt his back, and was out of commission for four years.
When Shawn made his eventual return to TV in 2002, it seemed that he and Hunter would pick up where they left off, but in a surprise turn of events, Hunter betrayed his best friend and planted him with a pedigree. Triple H would follow up the betrayal by smashing Shawn’s head through a car window only a week later. As if he couldn’t wait to up the ante, after losing to Shawn in an unsanctioned street fight at Summerslam, Triple H attempted to cripple Shawn with sledgehammer shots to Shawn’s bad back that kept him out of action for four years. The two would go on to have several more grudge matches, some contested for the coveted World Heavyweight Championship. They did battle in everything from a steel cage match, to a hell in a cell, to an elimination chamber, to a ladder match.
It wasn’t till four years later that these two men were able to forgive one another. Why you ask? Twas a common enemy that rekindled their friendship. Both were embroiled in a feud with Vince McMahon and his bombastic hit men, The Spirit Squad. The two reformed DX, and created a united front against the corruption of Vince McMahon, his son Shane, and The Spirit Squad. Their forgiving one another derived mostly from necessity. They needed each other to fight against the ever-increasing odds stacked against them, but it lead to the two becoming closer than ever. More often than not, people in wrestling forgive each other because they do that’s why. The fact that the WWE would use a classic narrative trope to reunite estranged friends makes it one of the WWE’s best written instances of forgiveness; one where the story required the characters to reunite for their own survival. I tip my cap to WWE Creative on this one.
Is there a pair of WWE Superstars with a more sordid narrative past with one another? These two have betrayed and reunited with one another more times than I care to remember, and have been able to overlook one another’s transgressions, despite the actions being beyond anything that any other superstar has had to endure from a peer (in this case a narrative family member).
These two started off as enemies, when Paul Bearer brought Kane into the WWE to lay waste to The Undertaker. Why was Kane hell bent on destroying Taker? Well when they were boys, Undertaker set a fire that apparently disfigured Kane and killed their parents. That’s right, Undertaker attempted to murder Kane as a child, so you could see why Kane wasn’t exactly fond of his older brother. From 1997 to 2001, the two would briefly align and subsequently betray one another no less than five times. During this time, Kane did attempt to murder his brother by light a casket Undertaker was in ablaze. In 2001, the two enjoyed their longest stretch as allies, capturing the Tag Team Titles, before going their separate ways, only encountering each other sporadically until 2010. It was around this time where Kane attacked his brother leaving him in a vegetative state. The two would then go on to feud for months, a rivalry that culminated in Kane again trying to murder his brother by burying him alive.
I could try to analyze these instances of betrayal and forgiveness, but even Park Chan-wook would look at a transcript of these brothers’ narrative and say “that’s f’ed up”. They essentially trade off attempted murders, lighting each other on fire, burying one another, all the while intermittently teaming with each other for reasons that in the grand scheme of things were never really that important. The only explanation that you could give is that on some level these two brothers love one another, and will always forgive one another because they’re family. A morbid, incredibly nihilistic family, but a family nonetheless. You know what they say, you can’t choose your family.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! What do you think about the constant forgiveness going on in the WWE? Are WWE’s characters the most or least principled characters in all fiction? What are some other touching, far-fetched, or completely unexplainable instances of forgiveness that you can remember from pro wrestling?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying it’s great to be back! Have a great weekend everybody!