Who would’ve thought that watching a trio of pro wrestlers eating dinner could be this enjoyable?
Welcome to Hank’s Corner! This is the recurring home of Henry Gilbert’s musings on cool things that are so beloved on Cape Crisis‘s marquee segment. This column is where Henry will spotlight a cool new book, Blu-ray, TV series, candy bar, or whatever else he’s enjoying lately, and tell you all about why you should care just as much as he does! And this week’s entry…
A common complaint of nerdy wrestling fans like myself is that everything in WWE sounds too scripted. I don’t mean that the matches are predetermined – I mean that the wrestlers constantly speak in careful, branded terms that often sound phony. “At WWE Fastlane I will become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in front of the WWE Universe,” is something no human would actually say, yet stuff like that is all over Raw. After such creatively strangled promos, I want to see these talented, charismatic folks go off script and say what they really think, which is something the relaxed atmosphere of WWE Network’s Table For 3 provides in every episode.
Obviously based on the style of informal interview shows like Jon Favreau’s Dinner For Five, Table For 3 is a relatively new addition to WWE’s streaming service. Each episode brings together three different wrestlers and has them eat a meal together, chatting about whatever comes to mind. There’s no onscreen interviewer steering the topics or constricting format to a segment. Instead, you just get three people talking about the business they love so much, like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and The Ryback talking about reinvigorating the Intercontinental Championship.
Like many wrestling obsessives, I’ve said that the Intercontinental Championship is cursed, but to see three of the most recent champs goof on that superstition is something I didn’t think I’d ever see acknowledged on WWE programming. The same goes for this trio talking about the legitimate struggle to get the fans to recognize the IC belt as an important title, or even discussing the presentation on any level.
And the Intercontinental talk over a moderately fancy meal is just the beginning. Watching Ryback and Dolph mock their botch-filled Elimination Chamber match from a few months back was warmly jocular, as was listing all the ways Daniel Bryan mocks The Ryback. Bryan’s tales of Ryback getting pinkeye or wanting to “impress” Brock Lesnar are definitely amusing, and those stories become even funnier when a monstrous muscle man like Ryback accuses Bryan of being a huge bully, all as Dolph chuckles to the side. Hell, Dolph even goofs on the company line of wrestlers being “storytellers,” something you’d think Vince McMahon would despise.
That IC episode is a great introduction to the series, because you’re seeing so many facades drop as you come to enjoy the performers even more. Meanwhile, The New Day’s episode checks in on WWE’s current best tag team,as they finally have a chance to celebrate their creative vision coming to fruition.
On Raw, The New Day have becoming the most entertaining (and thoroughly GIF-able) bad guys around. At Table For 3 they drop the act to a degree, while still showcasing the chemistry that makes them so good. Hearing them talk about all their struggles to make The New Day into what it finally became is a treat for anyone who was frustrated as they saw WWE try to make New Day into good guys. Turns out Kofi, Big E, and Xavier were easily as annoyed as the fans were.
Even more attractive than these three getting to hang out while drinking water from fancy glasses is the fact that this humanized Kofi Kingston in ways I never expected. For close to a decade, I respected Kofi, but he was your typical midcard babyface – smiling at everything, doing crazy moves, and never rising above a certain level. Before Table For 3, I’d never heard Kofi talk about disappointments and coasting on his reputation, or his concerns about playing a bad guy for the first time in his WWE career. Shockingly, when not given bullshit direction, Kofi turns into a much more likable, rounded individual.
You can see Table For 3’s potential for exploring the lives of current stars in the Intercontinental Champs and New Day episodes, but my personal favorite so far shines a light on an era of wrestling rarely covered by WWE. Divas Legends brings together Hall of Famer Madusa with Attitude Era stars Ivory and Molly Holly to talk about the travails of being a woman in the business.
The tenor of the episode isn’t that different from other interviews with veterans talking about the good ol’ days, like in WWE’s fantastic Legends of Wrestling series. The only difference is these veterans are all women who are talking about their struggles of working in such a male-dominated profession. For example, longtime fans who hate the backhanded title of ‘Diva’ for female performers, hearing Ivory’s swear-filled rant about “What the fuck is a Diva?” is a real treat.
In general, this estrogen-dominated Table For 3 has a refreshing undercurrent of anger mixed in with the pride at their work. You hear Madusa honestly compliment Molly’s career, but also mention that it’s even more impressive that Molly did great work amid an era of idiotic bra and panties matches. You feel for Ivory wanting to give her all in the ring, just as you feel her pain of not wanting to be cast in Sable’s sex symbol mold. And when they all talk about the pains of fitting dating into the incredibly demanding WWE lifestyle, it’s the type of subject WWE writers would never touch on TV – when most Divas stories revolve around characters calling each other jealous, there isn’t much room for humanizing these women.
Those three Table For 3 episodes all find different ways to look at these wrestling icons from an entirely different angle, all in such a relaxed, unfiltered style that’s the total opposite of what you see on Raw. If you have the WWE Network, make use of that $9.99 and start binging on the growing list of episodes getting added each week. Table For 3 may lack the sheen of the tightly edited documentaries WWE is so good at producing, but removing that filter and polish allows you to get closer than ever to the stars you only thought you knew.