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Buffy The Vampire SlayerAre shows such as "Buffy" and "Angel" more fake than wrestling ?
Monday 27 February 2006, by Webmaster
IS TELEVISION FAKER THAN WRESTLING?
I got the idea for the title from Mick Foley’s second book, Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker Than Wrestling. I am also going to steal one of Matt Zylbert’s old gimmicks of thinking outside of the box for this one. As most of you that have read my past columns know, I have been a wrestling fan for going on 20 years. My other dirty little secret is that I was also a big fan of the TV series Angel and its parent show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In looking at the history of those shows, as well as the history of WWE, the similarities are amazing. This week, we are going to take a look at some of those similarities.
In 1993, second generation wrestling promoter Vince McMahon started a new show Monday Night Raw. The program became a cult hit and later spawned a second show, WWE Smackdown. In 1997, second generation television writer Joss Whedon started a science fiction TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The program became a cult hit and later spawned a second series, Angel.
During the height of its popularity, Raw and Smackdown were considered very cutting edge with compelling storylines and razor sharp wit. During the first three seasons of each show, Buffy and Angel were considered very cutting edge with compelling storylines and razor sharp wit.
The flagship show Raw switched from USA to TNN/Spike TV just after it’s popularity had peaked. Buffy switched from the WB to UPN just after its popularity had peaked.
In its later years, including the current one, Raw and Smackdown struggled to find consistency with some episodes that were brilliant, and others that made you wonder what they were thinking. Buffy and Angel also struggled in their last two seasons to maintain consistency. Like Raw and Smackdown, they would often resort to "Shock TV" rather telling consistently good stories.
WWE would frequently add and drop storylines with little to no explanation. The most recent example of that would be Vince’s search for a new Raw General Manager. There is also Gregory Helms and Kurt Angle going to Smackdown, and Stacy Keibler now back on Raw despite the trade deadline being over several months ago. Angel had a story in season five where it appeared that he and his team where about to be involved in a feud with Buffy and her team. Angel was informed that Buffy no longer trusted him, then they refused to help when one of Angel’s teammates was dying, but in one of the last episodes of the season, they were all buddy-buddies again.
Raw and Smackdown have often duplicated each other’s storylines. Who here remembers that stretch where someone was getting arrested on one show or the other each week? I still remember the simultaneous storylines of feuds over chairshots happening within weeks of each other. On Raw, it was Shelton Benjamin and Gene Snitsky, and on Smackdown, it was Booker T and Heidenreich. Buffy and Angel often duplicated each other’s stories. For example, Buffy battled evil puppets in her first season, and Angel battled evil puppets in his fifth season. Buffy and Angel were possessed by the spirits of dead lovers in a BTVS season two episode, while Angel and Cordelia were possessed by the spirits of dead lovers in a season three episode of Angel. Apparently, they subscribed to Jim Cornette’s storyline recycling theory.
Raw and Smackdown have done their fair share of tasteless storylines including Dr. Heinie, HLA, Mae Young’s hand, Al Wilson, Katie Vick, and the recent exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s death. Buffy and Angel also did their fair share of things that were in bad taste. On Buffy, there was sex between high school girl and a 240-plus year old vampire, a rape storyline, and characters "turning gay." On Angel, there was the Cordelia-Connor quasi-incest relationship, attempted violence against small children, penis and masturbation jokes, beastiality, and references to orgies.
Whenever things are not going well creatively, WWE seems always ready to jump back to the Austin vs. the McMahons formula. Whenever the creative team on Angel ran short of ideas, they would solve it with a Buffy reference or guest appearance by a BTVS cast member. One major example of this was spending the better part of two and a half seasons setting up Angel and Cordelia getting together only to have him go running back to Buffy almost four years after they had broken up.
Though they had two separate brands, there was never much of a separation between the shows. Raw and Smackdown stars frequently crossed over to the other brand’s program. After the split, Angel still made semi-regular appearances on Buffy. While Buffy, Faith, Willow, Spike, Harmony, and several others made appearances on Angel.
In both worlds, one brand was seen as the "A" show, while the other was the "B" show. For WWE, Raw is the "A" show, while Smackdown is largely considered the "B" show. Gregory Helms jumped to Smackdown and took the cruiserweight belt. Since then he has beaten many of the cruiserweights on the roster. Kurt Angle came over from Raw and won the World Title on his first night back with Smackdown. Meanwhile, Buffy was seen as the "A" show, and Angel was the "B" show. For the brief time that Firefly was around, Angel dropped to the "C" show. Whenever someone from Buffy would guest star on Angel, that usually meant that the Angel cast would wind up taking a backseat. There was one particular scene where Angel had to take a verbal tongue lashing from Andrew, who was at best a secondary character on Buffy. While several fans considered Angel to be the more adult and darker series, it never seemed to get the respect that Buffy received. When the series was cancelled, the majority of the articles referred to it as the "Buffy Spinoff, Angel" or just the "Buffy Spinoff." I took that as an insult to what was a quality show, with a very underrated cast.
Former WWE star the Rock has moved on to Hollywood to establish himself as a major action film star. Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar has established herself as a leading lady in the movies. Angel star David Boreanaz has found himself a new home as FBI Agent Seely Booth on the hit FOX series, "Bones." Other Buffy and Angel cast members have also moved on to projects since the two shows ended their runs.
Behind the scenes, several talented wrestlers from WWE were cut loose because creative "had nothing for them to do." Because he complained about the cruiserweights being forced to cut back on their aerial moves, Paul London wound up jobbing the cruiserweight title, and doing a brief storyline where he became a crybaby. Angel star Charisma Carpenter, who had been with the company for three years on Buffy and four years on Angel, was let go because Whedon said they had nothing left for her to do. Vincent Kartheiser was also let go after the show’s fourth season. Whether they were true or not, I don’t know, but there were several internet stories that said he had complained about his character’s lack of direction. If true, Kartheiser had a good argument, because his character shifted back and forth between good and bad almost as much as Bret Hart did during his stint with WCW.
Smackdown Diva Dawn Marie was released from her contract by WWE after becoming pregnant. After giving birth to her son, the contract for Charisma Carpenter was not renewed. At least Whedon had the decency to wait until after she had given birth, unlike WWE who fired Dawn during the pregnancy.
With the contract coming to an end with Spike TV, Vince McMahon egotistically wanted to raise the broadcast rights fee in order to keep WWE programming on the network. Spike decided to let WWE go elsewhere. Whedon entered the WB offices thinking that Angel was going to get a certain renewal. The story goes that he demanded the network president let him know whether or not they were going to be renewed rather than waiting until the end of the season to find out. Angel was cancelled the next day.
Startling isn’t it? Is it coincidence or is television really faker than wrestling? I’ll let you be the judge. Next time, I’ll have reflections on my 20 year anniversary as a wrestling fan.
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