Here is another installment from my seven-part series on the destruction and career-burial of eager young Alex Riley. On the May 16th episode of WWE Superstars (available on-line only), Riley faced off against spoiled bad boy Cody Rhodes.
Riley hasn’t been seen in the WWE ring lately, so when he entered the arena, the enthusiastic crowd popped, cheering loudly for the fan favorite. Riley smiled handsomely as he pressed the flesh and exchanged pleasantries with his loving fans — further fluffing up their support and enthusiasm. I hope the WWE bosses took note of the reaction this Baby-Face is able to stir up.
The rumor floating around cyber-space is that Alex mouthed off to John Cena in the locker room one day while Cena was teasing him. This display of masculine backbone landed Riley in hot water, and he found himself demoted to the lesser WWE shows. He has never been allowed to win a single match since telling Cena to buzz off.
I wonder if Riley’s unusual pre-match pose — Riley dropping obediently to his knees as Rhodes enters the ring — is his way of apologizing for getting uppity with Cena. Most men will puff up their chest and biceps and try to appear larger before a fight, not shrink dwon to a submissive kneeling position. Is Riley perhaps sending a message to the other wrestlers and the bosses that he is now willing to check his ego and accept the inferior, helpless, kneeling position? Is this new-found jobbery attitude his apology to Mr. Cena?
The really surprising aspect of this match is the way the announcers (Matt Striker and Tony Dawson) gush over Alex Riley, praising him and promoting his awesomeness. For example, Matt Striker says: “This a very bright, charismatic, intense young man and I think Alex Riley is posed for greatness in WWE.”
Why are they building up Riley as a talented Face if he is in hot water and likely to be fired? Does this mean Riley’s popularity has saved him from a pink slip?!
I think casting Alex Riley as a Baby-Face (rather than Heel) is a better fit. He has the handsome looks, perfect physique, rasslin’ techniques, and eager, soulful facial expressions that make you want to hug him — perfect for a Baby-Face.
Earlier in his career, he played the Varsity Villain, the popular senior football player from high school who would steal your girlfriend while emasculating you with swirlies and wedgies. Then he teamed up with bad boy The Miz to learn how to really act like an arrogant sonuvabitch. (remember when Alex and Miz beat down shirtless Randy Orton in their fancy Dapper-Dan clothes?)
But then poor Riley was abandoned and punished by Miz. Then he got in hot water with John Cena and was assigned to a career filled with humiliation and shame. He is now taking beatings from all comers, including Heath Slater and Corey Graves. This recent history of mis-treatment and betrayal (some scripted, some perhaps real) is enough to inspire compassion in the heart of even the most cynical and sadistic wrestling fan, compelling all of us to love and support Alex, to pine for his success. The more he is harmed and wronged, the more he solidifies his position in our eyes as a martyr, an Underdog, and a Baby-Face.
Riley shines early in the fight (like any talented Face), outwrestling Cody in his tightie-whiteys. Matt Striker delivers an interesting comment about Riley: “This is just a good kid all around — the kind of guy you want your sister to date.”
Hmmm, lets unpack that statement. Rather than describing Riley as someone HE would like to hang around with, Striker offers his sister up as a “date” for Riley. Does this imply Striker is eager for Riley to have sex with his sister? Could that mean Striker has an unspoken wish to take his sister’s place — to experience a “date” with Riley himself?
Now that Riley has had his chance to shine — now that the talking heads have stirred up our feelings for Riley as the ultimate Baby-Face (and lover for our sisters) — it is time for the pretty-boy to suffer. Cody harms Alex Riley on the ring apron, then tries to strangle him in a gorgeous Figure 4 Headscissor.It is nice to see some actual wrestling holds in WWE these days…
Alex Riley suffers beautifully– I must have done something good in a past life to be rewarded with this striking close-up of his face. In case our love affair with poor Alex Riley is cooling off, the commentators offer up another Baby-Face-building comment, this time by the silver-tongued Tony Dawson: “A look into the glistening eyes of intensity of Alex Riley.” (Nice. It’s not every day that you hear a man comment on another man’s eyes…)
The camera loves Riley too and wants us to feel that love. We’re treated to numerous tight close-ups on his ruggedly handsome features, his beard stubble practically brushing against the camera lens. You can always tell which wrestler is the Face in a WWE match because that’s exactly what the camera will zoom in on about 200 times per match — his FACE. And it is not a perfectly-proportioned Male Model’s face on this hunk — instead Riley has a masculine firefighter or auto-mechanic’s face, the look of an imperfect yet accessible and lovable working man.
So maybe there is hope for Riley’s career after all. Maybe the verbal masturbation by the commentators is a sign that they’re going to give Riley a Baby-Face push. Maybe the powers-that-be have noticed me blogging about Riley and agreed to extend his contract.
In the end, Cody Rhodes jumps up and flat kicks Riley square in the face, knocking him out cold. That crashing sound was all our hearts breaking as poor Riley collapses like a ton of wet noodles. Our compassion grows as we see our boy ragdolled and easily pinned by cocky Cody.
Rhodes may have won this battle, but Riley is winning the war — the war for his career. They’ve begun pushing him as a big, beautiful, pitiful, lovable Baby. Surely they need more hapless, hopeless heroes in pro wrestling, and A-Ry is just the man for the job.
I did find a YouTube clip of the final minute of this match. Listen to the commentators wax practically orgasmic over their boy Alex Riley’s near victory. (Their verbal enthusiasm and inflection is enough to send me over the edge…)