FAN KE WEI ZHU – Exchange the Role of Guest for That of Host – The Role Reversal
In a situation when you are normally the guest; become the host. In a situation when you are normally the victim; become the aggressor. In a situation when you are normally hated by all, become universally respected. In a situation when your adversary is strong, infiltrate and undermine the enemy from within.
CM Punk Reverses Roles with Daniel Bryan
Just prior to the CM Punk versus Daniel Bryan WWE Championship Match at Over the Limit on May 20, 2012, the buildup for their match culminated on the May 18, 2012 episode of Smackdown…an incident in which Daniel Bryan was the “host” who directed the events that occurred. CM Punk was set to wrestle Kane, and Daniel Bryan sat at ringside on commentary. During the match, while both Punk and Kane were outside the ring in front of the announce table, Daniel Bryan rose from his seat and grabbed a steel chair. Bryan measured Punk for a chair shot but then turned and delivered it to Kane instead, causing the referee to award the match by disqualification to Kane due to Bryan’s interference.
Bryan quickly left the scene; so when Kane looked around, all he saw was CM Punk standing near the steel chair, causing him to think that it was Punk who hit him with it. Kane delivered some throat chops to CM Punk and then proceeded to beat Punk with chair-shot after chair-shot to Punk’s lower back. Kane then threw Punk into the ring and delivered a powerful Chokeslam, which left CM Punk lying in the ring…to the delight of Daniel Bryan who was standing atop the entrance ramp and smiling with great satisfaction. Bryan had accomplished his goal of getting Punk softened up just two days prior to their WWE Championship match.
CM Punk went on to win that WWE Championship match and successfully defend his title by pinning Daniel Bryan from a vulnerable position in the Yes-Lock.
The next night, on the May 21, 2012 episode of RAW, Punk took on the role of “host” and made Daniel Bryan the “guest,” directing a series of events that mirrored almost exactly what happened to Punk on Smackdown. First, on the Titantron, Punk showed Bryan and the entire crowd what Bryan had done to him on the previous episode of Smackdown.
Punk then announced Bryan’s opponent for RAW…Kane! And Punk would be seated next to The King on commentary. After some back-and-forth action in the ring, Bryan dumped Kane out to the floor. At this point, CM Punk got up from his position at the commentator’s table and grabbed a chair. Punk measured Bryan for a chair shot, acting like he was going to hit Bryan. Punk then turned to hit Kane with the chair, but Bryan grabbed the steel chair from behind Punk while Punk was in his backswing. Kane then got up and saw Bryan holding the steel chair. Bryan saw Kane notice him and then dropped the chair like a hot potato. Kane, though, grabbed the chair and beat on Bryan’s back mercilessly as he had done to Punk the previous Friday on Smackdown. Meanwhile, Punk had sat back down with the commentators while this was going on. Kane then dragged Bryan into the ring and delivered two powerful Chokeslams to Bryan, leaving him lying in the center of the ring.
Up to this point, CM Punk had done to Bryan exactly what Bryan had done to Punk, setting up a situation with Kane and the steel chair. Punk transformed himself from the victim to the aggressor. Knowing how the situation would unfold and that Bryan would be left in the ring severely weakened, Punk then finished off Bryan by entering the ring, applying the Anaconda Vice, and forcing Daniel Bryan to tap out repeatedly. CM Punk successfully exchanged the role of guest for that of host, and it helped him get the better of Daniel Bryan.
When Bret Hart returned from a hiatus in late 1996, he began feuding with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had begun to talk smack about Hart while Hart was away. Bret Hart returned to the WWE as a fan-favorite, and Stone Cold Steve Austin was a hated heel, a character that Hart described as being the most evil person in the WWE. At the Royal Rumble in January 1997, Austin was eliminated by Hart, but the referees did not see the elimination, and this allowed Austin to reenter the ring, eliminate Hart, and win the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin interfered in Hart’s defense of the WWE Championship on the February 17, 1997 episode of RAW and cost him the WWE Championship, cutting short his reign after one day. Austin also cost Hart the WWE Championship in a steel cage match on RAW on March 17, 1997 by smacking him atop the head with a steel chair while Hart had Sid just about to submit from the Sharpshooter. Verbally, Austin bullied Hart, claiming that all he’d done since coming back to the WWE was cry and complain…an assertion that had a kernel of truth to it.
Over the next few months, however, the American wrestling fans started to identify with Stone Cold Steve Austin, and little by little, wrestling fans started to cheer for Austin more and more. While cheering for Austin, however, it was at the expense of Bret Hart. All of this left Bret Hart feeling that he had been screwed over by Austin and that the fans were not appreciative of all of Hart’s hard work and effort. He viewed the fans cheering Austin as being a symptom of the moral decline of the American wrestling fan, since the American wrestling fan no longer wanted any traditional hero for whom to cheer. Instead, they wanted to cheer for a beer-swilling, foul-mouthed, redneck who had recently been making a name for himself by attacking Hart from behind.
Reading the writing on the wall about his character and the rise of Stone Cold as an evil fan-favorite, Hart agreed to the suggestion that his character become a hated villain. Austin’s switch from bad guy to good guy was to happen on the same occasion as Hart’s turn from a good guy to a villain: at Wrestlemania XIII on March 23, 1997, a Submission Match with no rules, generally regarded as a wrestling masterpiece. A major element of this match that made it critically-acclaimed, historically significant match was the Double-Switch that was expertly executed by the wrestlers themselves through their story-telling and facilitated by brilliant commentary by Jim Ross, The King, and Vince McMahon that facilitated the double-switch for the viewers watching at home.
Bret Hart came out to a bigger pop from the crowd than did Austin, but Austin’s attack on Hart before Hart was ready got the match started to a furious pace. The match was a hard-fought back-and-forth battle, but Hart worked on Austin’s knee to soften him up for the Sharpshooter. Hart also busted Austin’s head wide open and attacked the wound with furious anger. Hart then drilled Austin’s knee brace four times with the steel chair. Austin tried to strangle Hart with an extension cord, but Hart broke the hold by ringing Austin in the head with the timekeeper’s bell. The match came to a close when Hart locked in the Sharpshooter on Austin while blood spewed forth from Austin’s head. Austin just could not break the Sharpshooter. He refused to submit and ended up passing out from the pain. Special Referee Ken Shamrock called the match in favor of Hart.
The beating that Austin took from Hart earned him the sympathy of the crowd and wrestling fans everywhere. Austin’s refusal to submit showed bravery and strength customary in heroes of the wrestling ring. Hart celebrated from corner to corner and then, inexplicably, went back to Austin and started to kick him in the knee brace while Austin was down. This caused Shamrock to suplex Hart away from the helpless Austin and earned Hart a loud chorus of boos. Hart backed down from Shamrock and returned to the back of the ring.
Austin was helped up by another referee, whom he summarily Stunned once Austin got to his feet. Austin was determined to leave the ring under his own power, and the crowd was chanting his name as he left the ring.
When hosting Tough Enough, Stone Cold told his recruits that this one match made his career. For Hart, this match enabled him to begin a moral superiority heel run in the United States venues but remain a fan favorite in Canada and outside the U.S. This match began the WWE’s Attitude Era, during which heroes and villains were replaced by morally ambiguous characters who were either good or bad, depending solely on what the crowd thought of them. And all of this was brought about by Exchanging the Role of Guest for That of Host…the Role Reversal.
Kurt Angle Infiltrated the WCW Prior to Survivor Series to Defeat WCW from Within
During the Summer of 2001, Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s Invasion Alliance threatened the existence of Vince McMahon’s WWE. The final battle would take place at Survivor Series 2001, where five from the Alliance would battle five from the WWE.
Kurt Angle had been a fan-favorite member of Vince McMahon’s WWE and had taken the WWE Championship from Stone Cold Steve Austin in September 2001, only to lose the Championship back to Austin through interference by Commissioner Regal on the October 8, 2001 episode of RAW. Angle himself then seemed to defect to the Alliance on the October 29, 2001 episode of RAW by pretending to come to Vince’s aid against Shane…only to attack WWE teammates with a steel chair. But the entire “defection” had been a ruse, coordinated during a backstage conversation between Angle and McMahon. Angle had gone to McMahon to confide in him that Alliance member Stone Cold Steve Austin had requested to meet with Angle later that evening, but he wanted McMahon to know about it. After exchanging looks and Angle professing his loyalty to the WWE, McMahon gave Angle his blessing in meeting with Austin.
Angle’s infiltration was executed later that night during the streetfight between Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon. Shane had set up Vince inside a trashcan for his top-rope across-the-ring flying drop-kick, but Vince moved to avoid it. At this point, wrestlers from both camps came out and attacked each other. After Stone Cold Steve Austin hit the Rock, Kurt Angle made his way out to the ring and grabbed a steel chair…as if to hit Stone Cold with it. Instead, Angle hit The Rock with the chair. After Shane pinned Vince, he and Austin and Angle stood in the center of the ring in celebration.
In the next few weeks leading up to the winner-take-all Survivor Series match, McMahon warned the Alliance that one of the members of their team was a mole, but McMahon did his best to suggest that it was Austin who was the mole. In reality, it was Angle who was the mole, and Angle was able to get close enough to Austin to hit him with the Championship belt precisely because he was thought to be a friend to Austin.
On the evening of Survivor Series, while backstage, an anxious Stephanie McMahon told her concerns to a caring and concerned Kurt Angle. She and Shane had so much on the line in that Survivor Series match, and, if the Alliance lost, then Stephanie would have to become a “regular person.” Angle assured her that he would not let Stone Cold screw over the Alliance…which was true.
During the match itself, Kurt Angle finished fourth, when he submitted to a Sharpshooter administered by the Rock. This conveniently left The Alliance’s Stone Cold Steve Austin facing the WWE’s Chris Jericho and The Rock. At this point, Angle could have succeeded without any overt action of his own, if only Jericho and The Rock could handle Austin. However, Stone Cold rolled up Jericho for a pin, leaving him alone to face the Rock. Austin then got the upper hand against The Rock. As a result, Angle needed to make sure that Austin did not emerge victorious. As the two men were fighting, Austin nailed The Rock with the Stone Cold Stunner, but referee Earl Hebner had been knocked out and could not execute the three-count. As Austin tried to revive Hebner, Angle came back out to the ring and hit Austin with the WWE Championship belt. The Rock then hit a Rock Bottom on Austin and pinned him for the final victory.
Thus, Angle had been able to successfully infiltrate The Alliance and then turn the tables on them by betraying them. Angle’s interference and attack against Stone Cold cost The Alliance the matchup and served to give Vince McMahon total ownership and total control over all three federations…the WWE, WCW, and ECW.
When an enemy is strong, ingratiating yourself to the enemy or infiltrating the enemy is an effective way to gain valuable intelligence and bide your time for the just the right moment to strike. Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle executed this facet of the Exchange the Role of Guest for That of Host perfectly. In the pure Role Reversal aspect of this strategy, CM Punk was able to one-up Daniel Bryan by using the same strategy that Bryan had used only a few days prior. Knowing the outcome enabled Punk to take an extra measure of payback to Daniel Bryan. In the Role Reversal executed by Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin, the character development of both stars benefitted throughout 1997 as a result, and the Attitude Era ushered in by that Role Reversal was a major contributor to the resurrection of the WWE in its Monday Night Wars with then-dominant WCW Nitro.
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