Pro wrestling is as forgiving as it is cruel and callous.
Though money comes more from multi-billion dollar television network deals than punter pockets in 2020, the emotional investment still needs to marry up with the financial one for the product to even exist, with empty buildings leaving a more damning impression on an organisation than any eight-figure contract.
WWE's stock market woes of late have given way to a bizarre new trend in finally f*cking moving on from the Attitude Era, but their coverage of the Ruthless Aggression period that followed has already been lambasted for factual inaccuracies and whitewashing of the innumerable elements from the time that didn't really work. It'll probably result in them racing through to the PG Era that followed and beyond until "nostalgia" will just be classed replaying an edition of Raw from 12 months ago.
The net result? Nobody's career ever dies - everybody has a use because they were at least there once. Forgiving, even in if the past-life was callous. If there's money to made or perceptions to be massaged, what was once destroyed can be rebuilt...
10. Paul London - Monday Night Raw, June 11th 2007
“We put smiles on faces” is the old WWE adage whenever a wrestler needs a rapid-fire platitude to defend the latest PR nightmare or escape an interview without accidentally harpooning their push.
It’s catch-all brilliance from the same machine that gifted the world “Sports Entertainment” and “WWE Universe” and “Attempted Vehicular Homicide” and that. It lets the world know that, regardless of whatever ill the brand may be being accused of.
Got issues with how they’re lionising known sh*thouses in their Hall Of Fame? C’mon, think of the young fans, we put smiles on faces. Disgusted with their complicity in Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing programme? Hey now, think of the wrestling lifers still watching every week, we put smiles on faces. Concerned that young talent aren’t allowed to remotely show personality themselves without taking explicit and autocratic instruction on every single aspect of their act? That’s just not true, we put smiles on fa...but they don’t, do they?
If they did, Paul London’s cards wouldn’t have been marked forever for this hilariously odd 2007 transgression. Vince McMahon was en route to killing his character for the first of several times and arranged for his subservient talent to stand ashen-faced as he strolled to his demise. London captured the absurdity better than most, even if it saw him taking Pedigrees ad nauseum for the remainder of his run.