Thursday, November 15, 2018

An Old Nerd TheManSplains Becky Lynch

Taking an accident and turning it into a legend.
It is infinitely disappointing that Becky Lynch won’t be wrestling Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series due to a broken face and concussion from an errant punch on Raw. But all of this doesn’t change, and in fact accentuates, the fact that Becky Lynch is the most exciting star in WWE right now. By a goddamned mile. Possibly the most exciting thing in all of wrestling since All In.

Lynch has struck a chord. She’s tapped into that rarest thing in modern wrestling - a thing that is both familiar and new, a thing we needed but didn’t expect or even know we wanted until she gave it to us. In that moment at Summerslam where she punched Charlotte Flair in the face, wrestling, but specifically women’s wrestling in WWE, changed for the better. Let’s break it down by looking at some comparisons, from least to most important.

4) Becky Lynch is Stone Cold Steve Austin

Like Stone Cold, Lynch is a working class anti-hero who’ll beat your ass down just as easily as they’ll shake your hand. And she doesn’t care what you think about it. Most importantly, though, she’s not aping Austin. She’s taking a couple of the character traits that made Austin appealing and filtering them through her own character. And this is fairly new to the women’s division, which in WWE, even with it’s baddest of asses, focuses on non-anger emotion because stereotypes.

3) Becky Lynch is Daniel Bryan

A talented, popular star who never seemed to get his due, Daniel Bryan’s real life struggle to get WWE to look past his size and his career in the indies got turned into kayfabe when they eventually had him triumph over The Authority to win all the gold at Wrestlemania 30. It resonated with fans because it mirrored the perception of what was going on behind the scenes, and because none of us ever really believed, 100%, that they’d go through with it.

Likewise, when Becky turned on Charlotte, it was at the end of a long stretch where fans thought she was under-served and under-utilized. She’d been telling a lengthy climb-to-the-top redemption arc, only to have Charlotte, WWE’s golden girl and multi-time champion, work herself into the match, steal Becky’s thunder, and win the title. Becky’s punch was, in this context, completely justified. I don’t know if WWE saw it this way or not. Her first heel promo after this seems to indicate they didn’t, but the fans did, and the writing has, seemingly a bit grudgingly, followed suit. Becky finally got what she deserved, in a good way.

2) Becky Lynch is (the real fake real) Ronda Rousey

The WWE seems to be obsessed with the idea that the legitimacy of fighting people for real magically translates into legitimacy when you’re fighting people as scripted entertainment. And it just doesn’t work like that. I am, shall we say, Rousey-Neutral. I understand why WWE is pushing her and I think she’s trying hard and improving steadily. But she’s not legit AT ALL as a wrestler or a performer. She has one scowl and it’s wildly unconvincing. She’s being protected, which is understandable but it’s also really visible.

Becky Lynch is legit. Her in-ring skills are legit. Her character, “The Man”, is legit. Her claim to being “The Man” is more legit than any man who’s made a similar claim in the last five years. She’s what WWE keeps trying to position Rousey as, but is so much more believable in that role it’s astonishing.

1) Becky Lynch is Becky Lynch

All these comparisons would mean nothing if they were just imitations. But a huge part of this is what Lynch brings to the table that’s all her own. Her social media putdowns, from Rousey to Seth Rollins, aren’t just in character, they’re really fucking on point. Again, it’s about legitimacy. It’s about believability. We’ve watched enough WWE that we know when they’re sloppily applying a template to a wrestler like a shitty Powerpoint presentation. Becky Lynch isn’t a template. She breaks through the cynicism and the smark and genuinely connects with an audience by making them work less hard at suspending their disbelief than anyone on the roster. And even this week, when things went sideways and her face got broken and she got a severe concussion, she took all those things and used every last one of them to enhance her character and her image. And that’s why she’s the man.

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