28 February 2014

The Curious Case of Samuel Shaw

Samuel Shaw has been one of the most talked about characters in TNA recently. Anytime the guy is on screen, Twitter goes nuts with tweets about his exploits. Some love them, some hate them, but either way Samuel Shaw is getting everyone's attention. He may, in fact be the most polarizing figure in TNA right now. Some who appreciate the effort by TNA to do something different are praising the segments he is in, while others poke holes in them pointing out the obvious lack of logic that his story tends to follow. I for one have been glued to the screen anytime Samuel makes an appearance, so much so, that I have decided to turn the cage into a makeshift private eye office, put on my detective cap and look into the Curious Case of Samuel Shaw. I plan to look at this case from all angles, what works, what doesn't and what possibilities Samuel may have in TNA Wrestling.

When Sam Shaw first appeared on Impact in 2012 during Gut Check, he really didn't create much buzz, well, he wasn't given a chance to create any buzz because he was attacked by the Aces and Eights (they really ruined everything didn't they?). In fact, I felt he was the least interesting of all the Gut Check competitors that actually won a contract. He was pretty much a generic guy who liked extreme sports and does anyone remember him wrestling at Slammiversary last year? Didn't think so. He was regulated to wrestling in Ohio Valley Wrestling and I figured he'd end up joining Alex Silva, Christian York and Taeler Hendrix as Gut Check competitors who are no longer with TNA. Then on Turning Point 2013 SAMUEL Shaw appeared in a segment with Christy Hemme.

That slight tease at the end got a lot of people talking and all he did was turn a pen around! We could all see where this was going, so a couple of weeks later we were not surprised to see that TNA cameras followed Samuel and Christy on their date.

That poor waiter. I believe this was the first time Samuel committed a crime, you can't threaten to kill anyone, even a bad waiter. The January 2nd episode of Impact saw Samuel's in ring debut where he choked out poor Norv Fernum while making eyes at Christy. A week later, backstage agent Simon Diamond was attacked by Samuel who used a shoe to beat him down just for mentioning Christy's name, offense number 2. Samuel then asked Christy out on another date, using his Twitter   (check out his images to see how he did it, it's romantic in a creepy sorta way). Despite all of our cries of "Don't do it Christy!" (kinda like us screaming at the girl in the horror movie to not run up the stairs), Christy Hemme gave Samuel another chance at romance. Which led to the most disturbing and crazy segment of all.

That mannequin will haunt my dreams for a long time. Now, after this Christy has decided to just "keep things professional", one would think she would want to keep things "restraining order" but maybe that's just me. This of course has led to altercations with anyone who has come close to Christy from production crew members to Mr. Anderson.

So why do we like Samuel Shaw? The character is certainly interesting; it is very edgy and sort of risque, even for wrestling. The guy shows clear signs of sociopathic behavior that one would expect out of an "un-sub" on Criminal Minds. The benefit of this character is that it has made Sam Shaw relevant, like I said earlier, he really wasn't lighting the world on fire as just plain old Sam Shaw, but Samuel gets people talking. Plus, in an era where we see so many cookie cutter characters, this Patrick Bateman/Dexter hybrid stands out as something different. I think Samuel would've made a good fit for the Attitude Era when wrestling was pushing the envelope, but back then it would've just been another risque character. Nowadays, Samuel Shaw as the sociopathic obsessed fan sort of breaks new ground.  Also, something else came to my attention when I was reading an interview Dixie Carter did recently where she talked about trying to expand TNA's audience beyond the male demographic. My wife, who isn't really a wrestling fan (but watches it with me, bless her heart), always asks about the Shaw-Hemme story. It is really the only storyline that she is interested in. This got me thinking about how every soap opera from Melrose Place to Days of Our Lives has had some sort of stalker storyline with one of the female leads. Could this be a way for TNA to lure in a new demo? I'm not saying that the little microcosm of my household is accurate and I don't have exact numbers, but could the "Creepy Bastard" Samuel Shaw character be part of a change in audience for TNA? We live in an era where serial killer Dexter Morgan was one of the most popular protagonists on television, could Samuel Shaw be wrestling's version? Time will tell I guess.

So let's flip the coin, what are the problems with the character? The first problem is obviously the lack of logic involved in the story. Number one, Shaw should be in jail right now for numerous things he has done on camera, but then again, so should most professional wrestlers. Then there is the fact that Hemme should have seen the footage of the FIRST date and been scared off, I mean what woman would give another chance to a guy who threatens the waiter with a knife? And what were the cameras doing in Shaw's basement anyway? It takes A LOT of suspension of disbelief to really get into the story and the critics have been all over it. The other possibility for a problem is that most of the action with Shaw hasn't taken place in front of a live audience, what if the crowd doesn't react to Samuel the way TNA wants? The character may just be too weird and nuanced for some wrestling crowds to get into. I'm not trying to insult any fans, but sometimes when wrestling tries to be too "high concept" (so much so that sometimes it ends up being dumb) the average crowd just craps all over it. Although, one would think that "Creepy Bastard" could become a pretty bad ass chant for fans to get on Shaw with. I know the UK crowd gave Shaw the star treatment, but we all know they are a unique breed of TNA fan. I'm wondering what will happen in front of the average North American crowd (especially smarky ones) or the sometimes god awful Impact Zone. Wrestling purists already hate the character feeling that it has no place in wrestling, and while a lot of TNA fans seem to be on board with trying new things, TNA's fanbase is still made up of a lot of traditionalists who don't take to kindly to outside the box ideas at times. Plus, IF the character fails, what would Sam Shaw have to fall back on? He could get labeled for life ala Nick Dinsmore as Eugene and that character was successful! The flip side to the whole "change in demographic" that Dixie referred to is that the gimmick may be to risque for a "family entertainment" program which means it may get axed before it could really take off.  Again, time will tell.

I wouldn't be writing about Samuel Shaw if I wasn't interested in the character. I for one, hope he succeeds. Following him on social media has been a blast and his performances have been outstanding, if this gimmick takes off it will be mostly due to Samuel Shaw's dedication to the character. I haven't seen such dedication to a gimmick in TNA since Chris Parks as Abyss/Joseph Park. From tweeting things like "What's your location?" to fans and other performers, to him sniffing his hand after shaking Christy's, it appears everything he does on and off camera is creepy. For such a "new age" gimmick he seems to be bringing back the old school method of kayfabe in that he is in character at all times. Maybe it is not so non-traditional after all? I mean, wrestling has had nazis, terrorists, porn stars, zombies and even a bear! Why not a serial killer? Think of the possibilities! Need to write someone off, just sick Samuel on them! Ok, I kid (not kidding), but I really do see a lot of potential for some cool storylines, including one suggested by Big Dawg in a recent piece that can be read here, check out the first comment on the piece for another awesome storyline idea from "The Count of Incognito".  It looks like Samuel's first program will be with Mr. Anderson, who is the perfect foil for him, he's the everyman hero, a family man, with frankly a lot to lose. While the critics will analyze their in ring chemistry and give their matches "star ratings", I for one will be waiting for what happens outside the ring between these two. That's the kind of character I think Samuel will be, the drama will take place mostly backstage and likely at people's houses as he peers through windows, etc. He may never be World Champion but he may become a memorable character that can be used in a variety of situations like a Goldust. However, he could also go the way of Beaver Cleavage and never be heard from again. Like I said before, time will tell. And time is what I have run out of, so let's shut down the makeshift P.I office and turn the lights out in the cage before Samuel finds out MY location.

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