Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Ruby Riott shows us the wrong way to get heat

Last night’s Raw showed some definite improvement after two poor showings in a row. However, the Ruby Riott segment was tough to watch. That’s not an indictment of Riott as a performer. She has been much better at promo work since she made the leap to the main roster. It’s this angle she’s working with Natalya.

Now, the school of thought is it’s meant to generate heat, but it didn’t seem like anger directed at Riott. It was just uncomfortable, which begs the question if it was even necessary. If fans were meant to boo Riott, it worked in theory. There were some audible boos during the promo. But were they really booing Riott or showing distaste for the segment?

This certainly isn’t the first time an angle used a dead family member. Paige’s promo about Charlotte’s late brother, Reid Flair, immediately comes to mind. Some fans and industry insiders think there is no bad way to get heat. Heat is heat, and that’s understandable, to a degree. But there should be a better way to generate heat that relies on the talents’ ability instead of shock value. 

It seems like the women’s division could use more segments written by women. No one is suggesting there wouldn’t be controversial segments with more women on the creative staff. However, there is something to the argument that, while women’s wrestling has progressed, their voices are filtered through the lens of a man’s idea of female empowerment.

Even Natalya’s promo before Ruby Riott interrupted relied on references to her uncle, Bret Hart, rather than her own accomplishments or character progression. Having to resort to shock value, or referencing a relationship with a male superstar, is a byproduct of creative’s failure to see female superstars as engaging characters in their own right.

Ruby Riott and Natalya
Photo credit: WWE.com

The wrestling audience has changed. It’s tougher to get fans to boo characters using traditional heel tactics. But that’s also what makes decisions like this so confounding. It comes off as outdated in a time when wrestling could be growing past such lazy ploys. 

Natalya has to be signing off on this. They probably wouldn’t do it if she wasn’t comfortable with it, but it just doesn’t feel genuine. There is no emotional impact. The audience never even gets a reason why Ruby Riott is going this far. It’s a disservice to both women’s characters.

If people question the thought process behind an angle instead of the motives of the character doesn’t that mean you failed as a storyteller?  The pursuit of a reaction shouldn’t supersede the story you’re trying to tell.

For a counterpoint to this article, check out Chase Wilkinson’s article arguing that Ruby Riott wields discomfort as a weapon.

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