There’s a habit I have that annoys the hell out of my friends. When it comes to TV shows, I tend to get interested in them far too late. Sometimes, it’s by choice; other times, sheer ignorance.
Take LOST, for example. I loved that show (and confidentially, didn’t hate the ending… at least not entirely). I didn’t get into the show until halfway through season 2, and getting caught up was a blitz of watching season 1, while each new episode kept me chugging along.
But when I was all caught up, it sucked having to wait every seven days for my new fix. Why couldn’t I have just got in during season 5, and have one giant marathon of insomnia, Double Stuff Oreos and bed sores as I learned they all died at the end?
I watched Class Wars the same way. No, not with the bed sores. I caught on far too late and watched the first six episodes in a row, then caught up through episode eleven just this week. What I was able to see was a seamless evolution of several small stories that all orbited around an even larger story: proven superiority. Being good. Better. The best.
For those that haven’t watched yet, here’s the Facebook status summary: Billy Roc brought 8 of his most recent School of Roc graduates (7 males, 1 female, from 2009-11 classes) and 1 wrestler most associated with his students, though not a student himself. Two former students join them without invitation, rounding out the crew to 12, including referee, judge and trainer, Roc himself. The students compete for 12 weeks, which includes a single-elimination tournament to determine who Roc’s true star pupil is.
What Billy Roc and his students have been able to create from the first to the penultimate episode is a gritty, raw look into the personalities and thoughts of a cast of characters that become much more than simply students. For the uninitiated (myself included), we are led along by the hand to understand why everything that happens in the school matters to every person, and how each one of them reacts to it. Alliances are formed, face/heel alignments develop immediately, but most importantly, every person you see on camera has a role, a reason for being there, and a reason for you to care about them.
The finale is a week-long showcase of wrestling, tying up most loose ends from the show. The headliner is the tournament final between “Mr. All Purpose” Remi Wilkins and ItsRainingMeng Mustache Madness winner “Big” Sue Jackson (dubbed “The Bully” in the show’s teaser). Remi’s path to the final is littered with run-ins with The League, including a double countout draw with member Reed Bentley, the subsequent quarterfinal rematch, and the final with Jackson, the evil henchman of the group. He’s the guy clearly designed to get behind, squeaky clean with a no-nonsense attitude. I can’t help but feel that the show was designed to end with a clash between Remi and Tripp Cassidy (each dubbed “The Alpha Male” and “The Other Alpha Male”), but Tripp pulled out early with an injury, leaving him unable to stop Wilkins from winning himself.
I can’t ignore Sue Jackson in all of this. Of the entire roster, he easily has the most unique look of all the students. The guy sticks out, but soon you realize it’s in a good way. He’s mowed through every opponent in front of him with ease, which earned him the #1 seed in the tournament. (The bracketologist in me was easy to forgive the layout where 1/8 faced 2/7 in the semis.) He’s the monster, and associating him with The League made the character that much more mysterious. He hasn’t said a word for 10 episodes, choosing three words at the very end of episode 11, which I must admit, brought a huge smile to my face. Well done, indeed.
The finale fills out like the undercard of an indie show would. Members of The Uprising, Luis Rojas and Jeremy Hadley, each have singles matches with Logan Williams and Dale Patricks (“The Rookies”), respectively. The Uprising has been causing trouble ever since their unwelcome appearance, mocking Roc and spreading lies to turn James Reeves (“The Toughest Guy on the Block”) into a recluse. And then there’s Dale Patricks, who shines in an underdog role as the guy you want to root for, pushed to a “point of no return” violent rage after needless taunting about his deceased father.
What intrigues me the most, however, is “The Omega” Nate Stone, who faces Reed Bentley (“The Red-Headed Stepchild”) in a street fight. I was shocked at the stipulation as well, in a format designed to showcase students of a wrestling school, but the feud that developed warrants it, capped off by a wonderfully ominous promo by Nate Stone, after he finally stood up to the bullying Bentley.
And then there’s Trash. “The Brat”. I find it weird that I feel bad for her week after week, as the only girl who has no one to wrestle, even though I’m not sure sympathy was the goal. She has to deal with being told by Billy Roc week after week that he has nothing for her (eat your heart out, Marty DeRosa), until Roc finally decides that an innocent-looking, promising, and apparently dangerous student in “Miss Heidi” is suitable to curb the petulance of the spoiled kid in school who always gets her way.
That’s really what it is, isn’t it? The bully, the beloved star athlete, the smartass clique, the spoiled kid, the troubled quiet weirdo. Either Billy Roc is a huge fan of The Breakfast Club, or he’s just found a way to replicate the demographics of a high school inside his wrestling school. They interact in their roles exactly as they would in any public high school in America. We’ve all seen it. The only difference here is that the people behind the scenes get to choose the ending. The bully meets his match in the star athlete. The brat gets humbled. The quiet nerd gets to stand up for himself. The upperclassmen underestimate their freshmen targets. Maybe that’s what St. Elmo’s Fire was missing.
It’s hard to get wrestling fans to believe in something these days. With the knowledge of works and shoots, gimmicks and angles, trying to push something as “real” gets met with a roll of the eyes and a sarcastic click of the tongue. Only the slightest difference is presenting something that’s “authentic”. Choosing honesty instead of overcompensating a scripted product with reminders that it’s real. While we watch wrestling with a knowing eye, we see stories so simple and so relatable, without the need for wacky characters and zany costumes. It’s what kept me captivated for every episode, and why I’ll be fighting the urge to wait for all of the finale to be released to watch in one sitting.
Why will I be staying up until midnight every night next week? Because every person on School of Roc: Class Wars is authentic. I can see them, their personality, their traits, everywhere I look.
Except Sue Jackson. God I’d be terrified if he’s like that in real life.
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