Stephanie McMahon is a...difficult performer to reconcile.
She is, 90% of the time, a superb heel. As passive aggressive as your least favourite in-law and with an hysterical squawk of which a pirate's pr*ck parrot sidekick would be proud, it is at times genuinely painful to watch her perform. She is simply and profoundly unpleasant, as neatly confirmed by her genetic inability to smile convincingly. There is no need even to administer the Voigt-Kampff test; this trait, shared by all the primates, eradicates any doubt that Steph is not a hollow replicant who only does nice things because "philanthropy is the future of marketing".
It doesn't help that Stephanie lives the gimmick. It seems she spouts corporate-sponsored bullsh*t every week, and this week was no different. Speaking on Lillian Garcia's podcast - usually a platform on which human beings relax and drop the odd casual insight or two - Stephanie toed the dumbest company line since wrestlers assemble to willingly bump for a dive spot.
"What Vince McMahon does better than anyone is listen to the audience," she said, as if heading up a press conference, and ignoring everything. Stephanie is detestable. If that is the point, Stephanie fails to underline it. Great at generating heat, she does as much with it as a broken boiler.
She must be bad, for she is the opposite of good. She did however do some good this week...
5. Stephanie McMahon SELLS
There is a scene in the landmark TV drama Twin Peaks in which our intrepid protagonist, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, is shot down in his hotel room by the gun of a mystery assailant. It takes Coop a good five minutes to brave the pain and offer the well-meaning but ineffective porter checking in on him his trademark thumbs up gesture. It took a similar amount of time to acknowledge that Stephanie McMahon performed her role quite well across Elimination Chamber and RAW.
It took this long because Stephanie is the worst, but also because the segment was too, at least initially. Ronda Rousey is meant to be the Stone Cold Steve Austin of the Women's division, and whether through nerves and or because the script called for it, she, timid and humble, appeared more Bayley than Bayley. Then, something quite brilliant and uplifting happened, perhaps in response to the light smattering of boos. As the majority of the crowd threw their support behind Ronda - who needed it - the atmosphere in the arena changed. Kurt Angle resumed the role of unwitting Attitude Era goofball, unravelling the Authority's plan to "get that b*tch". Ronda's mood soured, transforming her into the death-staring badass we expected. She drilled Triple H through the table with an Uranage. And Stephanie, Stephanie, sold for Ronda as if she was terrifying, and not the tiresome inconvenience that is the rest of the roster, before slapping her smack across the face and retreating from the scene.
Was her selling understated in the face of such a dangerous dance partner? Perhaps so. But Stephanie knows that her version of her dad's big gulp must take place on the biggest stage.
Resuscitating a dying segment with comedy, violence and a genuine "Holy Sh*t!" moment, this was really good stuff...involving...Stephanie.