Next week will mark the 20-year anniversary of Vince McMahon’s famous “good guys and bad guys” promo, a moment in wrestling history which many accept to be the then-WWF’s ushering-in of the Attitude Era.
“It has been said that anything can happen here in the World Wrestling Federation, but now more than ever, truer words have never been spoken,” the chairman began in his famous down-the-barrel statement on the December 15, 1997 edition of Monday Night Raw.
The shades of grey such a strategy introduced were vital in the popularity boom of wrestling in the late 1990s and they remain a key feature of the product today.
But on SmackDown right now, it’s not so much shades of grey as it is black being white and white being black.
After naming himself special guest referee, Shane McMahon stated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will be gone from all of WWE if they can't defeat Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura at Clash of Champions
In his war with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, Shane McMahon is unquestionably abusing his authority and his personal vendetta is clear to see.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan have endured a difficult relationship in recent weeks
His actions are against a heel duo but he has overstepped the line and he is now (at least partially) playing the classic villainous boss character in which his father excelled. The only difference is that Shane is popular with the fans, and they want to cheer him.
Then there’s Zayn and Owens. Everything about them, from their constant interference in each other’s matches to their nauseatingly over-the-top ‘friendship’ says that this is a team you should not like.
Shane McMahon was on the verge of firing Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn after their Survivor Series betrayal but Daniel Bryan intervened just in time
They insult the fans, and the fans respond with boos. Owens in particular is a superb natural heel and generates contempt from the crowds with his every nuanced move.
And yet all of their complaints about Shane’s behaviour are justified. His actions are consistent with a personal vendetta and he has abused his power; as a result, it’s difficult to entirely want them to fail.
The third element in the mix is Daniel Bryan. Unless something hugely dramatic happens in the near future – an alignment with Stephanie McMahon and the authority perhaps? – the WWE crowd will never boo Bryan. It is simply not going to happen because he is one of the most beloved baby-faces of the modern era.
Which could mean we’re set for one of those diamond-rare wrestling moments at Clash of Champions – the double turn.
Bryan has looked increasingly unsure of Shane’s actions in recent weeks, and might be ready to interfere on behalf of Owens and Zayn, saving the jobs of two of the blue brand’s best performers.
That would pave the way for Shane O Mac to turn the bad guy dial up to 10 – and could eventually lead to war with his general manager.
The only question then would be which parties remain on which side of the heel/face divide, or whether the shades of grey, the nudging of the audience to question which direction their moral compass is pointing, continue.
Live WWE Late Night Smackdown
December 13, 2017, 1:00am
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It’s what wrestling has done for the past two decades and is one of the things it does best. On SmackDown right now, the tradition is very much being upheld.