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The Granddaddy of 'Em All
April 5, 2014 1:31 PM   Subscribe

This weekend, the WWE Universe descends on the Superdome in New Orleans for WrestleMania XXX, the annual pay-per-view* that serves as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.

The card features a panoply, nay, a plethora of predetermined athletic competitions:

The inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, wherein 30 wrestlers start in the ring and each is eliminated by being thrown over the top rope to the floor below. The last man in the ring wins a big trophy that will almost certainly be broken over his head within a month, if not immediately. Battles royal have a long history of being filler matches for big events when you don't want to leave anyone off the card, but you can't add a dozen more matches to get everyone involved. Andre the Giant won many of these in the olden days, largely by being just too damn... well, gigantic for anyone to tip over the top rope. Look for a few long-term storylines to emerge from this one, including the winner receiving a push (wrestling terminology for increased visibility) and probably at least one team breaking up.

The Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational, featuring basically every female wrestler working for WWE at the moment in a one-fall match for the pink championship belt. It is unclear whether reigning champion A.J. Lee (the longest-reigning Divas Champion of all time at nearly 300 days**) will have to be pinned for the title to change hands, which probably means that she won't be pinned, will lose the belt, and will complain about it forever.

The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) have made the transition from heels (bad guys) to faces (good guys) over the past few months, largely by defying Director of Operations Corporate Kane (the storyline enforcer for the Authority, the people who run WWE on-screen). Kane (who is allegedly post-ring political career) will team up with the increasingly ironically named New Age Outlaws, stars of the fin de siècle Attitude Era back for one last run. The Shield will likely break up because of this match, with Reigns in particular being cited as one of the top five stars the company plans to push over the next year.

In a rare non-championship and non-main-event turn, 14-time world champion John Cena (Fruity Pebbles pitchman and granter of most Make A Wish wishes ever) faces Bray Wyatt (a.k.a. third-generation wrestler Windham Rotunda), who has shot up the ranks of WWE by playing a backwoods cult figure fond of psychological tricks and turning out the lights in arenas. This will most likely be a "rub" match, with Wyatt beating Cena to elevate him to the top echelon.

The Streak faces what should be one of its greatest challenges as legit former UFC Heavyweight Champion and NCAA Wrestling Champion Brock Lesnar takes on the Undertaker, who has won at the last 21 WrestleManias. The last several years have seen the Undertaker (one of the most consistently popular stars in wrestling since the early '90s) facing an assortment of legends eager to end his WrestleMania streak. This one has been booked badly, with Lesnar looking rather less fearsome than he actually is, and will likely be the valedictory match for the 49-year-old Dead Man.

And then, there are the two matches that will likely define the next era for WWE (which some are dubbing the "Reality Era," since kayfabe is all but impossible with the Internet revealing all): real-life Executive Vice President (Talent/Live Events/Creative) Paul Levesque, son-in-law of WWE majority owner Vince McMahon, in his professional capacity as WWE Chief Operating Officer Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a.k.a. Triple H, vs. Daniel Bryan, leader of the Yes Movement (which you may have heard leaking into other sporting events). The winner of this match gets to join the WWE Heavyweight Championship match against current heel champion Randy Orton (a.k.a. the Viper, a.k.a. the Apex Predator) and just-returned and much-maligned Batista (a.k.a. Drax the Destroyer), after a straight-up Orton-Batista match failed to light the buyrates on fire. Bryan demanded the matches via the Occupy Raw event, which saw hundreds of fans storming the ring to stop an episode of WWE Raw last month. Typically, the face wins the main event at WrestleMania to send everyone home happy, so the undersized, hard-working bearded vegan*** Bryan is seen by many as the only logical choice to win.

* - And on the brand-spanking-new WWE Network, a web- and app-based broadcasting platform that gets its first big test with this event.

** -- Not counting previous incarnations of the WWF Women's Championship or the like. Wrestling is big on both recognizing history and discarding it entirely.

*** -- Bryan's character is vegan; the real-life Bryan Danielson has admitted that he can't always eat that way on the road.
posted by Etrigan (88 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Daniel Bryan's House of Yes! - "How an eco-minded vegan grappler became pro wrestling's hottest star"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:04 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


This one has been booked badly, with Lesnar looking rather less fearsome than he actually is, and will likely be the valedictory match for the 49-year-old Dead Man.

It would be a shame if the final 'Taker match was as lame as this one seems destined to be, but I honestly can't think of a proper sendoff for him that doesn't involve physically dragging somebody into Hell, which is a bit beyond the WWE budget and would probably violate their contract with the venue.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:12 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


While most of the 1980s have been buried with little fanfare and only resuscitated with the stale craft-beer breath of irony, there are two from that time that seem immortal - Wrestlemania and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

Perhaps in both are encapsulated a millions stories - Wrestlemania the amber where low-IQ action, pyrotechnics and Protestant blue-collar circus maximus is fossilized, polo shirts the magnetic opposite. Both caricatures and remarkably profitable.

Both also are able to exist wholly outside of the Internet, startups and online trends. Maybe the secret to longevity is not being jacked-in after all.
posted by four panels at 2:15 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


I had a brief love affair with the WWF in the late 90s. I was over at a friend's house, watching it and thinking how stupid it was.

Thirty minutes in I saw my first "heel turn" and realized why so many people love soap operas.

Was hooked for several years until I moved and had no one to watch with.
posted by bpm140 at 2:16 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


Whoa, hold on a second.

This guy's name was Windham Rotunda, and he CHANGED it?
posted by selfnoise at 2:25 PM on April 5 [15 favorites]


Wrestlemania has sadly spent the past few years turning itself into my least favorite PPV of the year. The WWE has a deep roster of top-level performers at the moment, but every Wrestlemania season the shelve them so that a bunch of rusty old guys who wrestle once a year can come out to remind us that they exist, usually without any compelling storylines to support them.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:40 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Relevant.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 2:52 PM on April 5


" ...granter of most Make A Wish wishes ever."

This has to be the coolest world record ever.

Thank you Mr. Cena!
posted by Marky at 2:56 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Parasite Unseen: Wrestlemania has sadly spent the past few years turning itself into my least favorite PPV of the year. The WWE has a deep roster of top-level performers at the moment, but every Wrestlemania season the shelve them so that a bunch of rusty old guys who wrestle once a year can come out to remind us that they exist, usually without any compelling storylines to support them.


All the matches booked this year center around newer stars with lots of talent from Daniel Bryan to Cesaro to the Wyatts to The Shield, man. The only match that doesn't is the token Undertaker streak match. Even the Divas match has some good talent in it, though the awful awful booking is a huge drawback (14 person one-fall match, what?)
posted by flatluigi at 2:57 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


In the last few weeks I still hoped Sting might emerge to save us from this Undertaker/Lesnar debacle. The longer the Streak continues, the more I feel like he should have retired in 2009 after defeating Shawn Michaels (for the first time). Every match since has been a slow slide downward.

Having said that, here's what I think is cool about Undertaker: at this point somebody could probably do the math and figure out, roughly but more-or-less accurately, how many people are going to have the chance to see him perform live. Figure there's tomorrow night's attendance, plus next year in Santa Clara, plus maybe three or four Raw appearances next year. If you have a ticket, you are one of only X0,000 people remaining who will get to watch Undertaker do his thing.

Anyway. Now that I've given up on the Stinger appearing in 1980s face paint and giving his signature yell, I'm still quietly hoping the whole CM Punk fiasco has been a massive work, schemed by him and Vince and poised to break tomorrow. That would be a great way to keep alive Daniel Bryan's positioning as ever oppressed. Bryan defeats Triple H, goes on to win the title in the main event, and just as he's celebrating to close the show, exhausted but triumphant...POP! Living Colour.
posted by cribcage at 3:10 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Daniel Bryan, leader of the Yes Movement (which you may have heard leaking into other sporting events).

He may be the leader of a movement but he's got nothing on Diego Sanchez.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:30 PM on April 5


I believe in the Shield... not breaking up just yet. Assuming they've actually gone face, you gotta ride that a little longer as a team.

In the unlikely event that CM Punk made a surprise return, it seems more likely that it'd be to screw over Triple H somehow to help Bryan win. It might be a while before he actually does any wrestling again anyway.

For casual fans out of the loop, Daniel Bryan's hold on crowds might've peaked when he turned on Bray Wyatt in January, after briefly joining him. Rumor had it that he'd suffered a concussion and didn't even remember that moment.

But not to be outdone, Randy Orton will surely provide some unforgettable moments in the main event.

And Batista's presence will no doubt have the Superdome bursting at the seams.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:52 PM on April 5


Cageside Seats have recently run a nice feature on the 100 best Wrestlemania matches that should get you in the mood for XXX. What's number one? The answer may surprise you.

(It won't)
posted by Hartster at 4:17 PM on April 5


I'm still quietly hoping the whole CM Punk fiasco has been a massive work, schemed by him and Vince and poised to break tomorrow. That would be a great way to keep alive Daniel Bryan's positioning as ever oppressed. Bryan defeats Triple H, goes on to win the title in the main event, and just as he's celebrating to close the show, exhausted but triumphant...POP! Living Colour.

That would be cool, but I think the fans want a Bryan championship run for a while (and he deserves it).

I'm holding out hope for a CM Punk return a la Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 8, where nobody expects him coming. Run in from out of the crowd in his shorts and hoodie while the referee's out cold thanks to Evil Heel Tactics and serve as the equalizer, brutalizing everybody bad with chairshots left and right. The crowd would go absolutely atomic for that, I'm dead certain.
posted by mightygodking at 5:05 PM on April 5


This guy's name was Windham Rotunda, and he CHANGED it?

Little hard to get over as a backwoods cult leader when your dad is this guy.
posted by Etrigan at 5:06 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Besides which, "Windham Rotunda" delivering this promo wouldn't have worked. Sometimes the WWE's Name Generator misfires, but when it hits a perfect name like "Bray Wyatt," you run with it.

(also please don't break the Shield up yet WWE, they're TOO GREAT)
posted by mightygodking at 5:13 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Okay, so please understand I am being earnest here and not snarky.

I just don't get what the attraction to WW(X) is. Especially for adults. For kids, okay, I can get that their suspension of disbelief is stronger than mine so it all makes sense.

But for grownups? It's all fake. All of it. Match results are predetermined. Most of the guys are friends behind the scenes and/or married to some of the girls.

So what is it?

- soap opera that it's okay for guys to like?
- repressed homoeroticism that it's okay for (straight or nominally so) guys to like?
- _______________________

Again I am being totally serious with this question. Professional wrestling is a cultural phenomenon that I understand even less than NASCAR; at least with the latter there's real skill involved, and real drama about who's going to win.

(Yes, I know there is real skill involved in believable stage fighting. It's hard. But somehow I suspect people aren't tuning in to see a tour de force of some of the best stage combat in the world.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:13 PM on April 5


It's all fake. All of it. Match results are predetermined.
I take it you don't read novels, watch scripted television or films, attend theater or opera, or enjoy any other form of non-"reality" entertainment?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:17 PM on April 5 [14 favorites]


I do all of those things, with the explicit knowledge that they are fiction. A large number of wrestling fans will hit you if you suggest it's not real. (Actual experience. I ducked.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:19 PM on April 5


Just a side note, but professional wrestlers have the most expansive wiki entries I've ever seen.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 5:19 PM on April 5


To me, it's a combination of sports, live theater, and stuntwork.

Movies and shows are fake/predetermined, but we get caught up in the story and action. Wrestling may be in front of a sports-like crowd, but fans see it for what it is. And just athletically, it can be something to watch. The outcomes may be scripted, but sometimes you're left wondering if someone legitimately got hurt by a particularly painful looking move.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:21 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


A large number of wrestling fans will hit you if you suggest it's not real.

If you suggest that the results are pre-determined and "not real", then we will generally just shrug at you. Unless we're in the presence of kids (or mentally challenged fans) who think it's real, in which case we will hit you because you're being a douche.

If you suggest that the dangers of professional wrestling are not real or that it "doesn't hurt" then damn right we'll hit you, or at least give you a stern talking-to, which you will deserve.
posted by mightygodking at 5:24 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


If you suggest that the dangers of professional wrestling are not real or that it "doesn't hurt" then damn right we'll hit you, or at least give you a stern talking-to, which you will deserve.

Good thing i never said that, then.

Pro wrestling is as fake and predetermined as someone losing at one of Quark's Dabo tables.

And yet the fans treat it like a real sport, where the outcome could go either way.

Why is that?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:27 PM on April 5


C mon, quit pretending you don t understand low-brow athletic theatre, then go to a few DIY matches, and support your local crew of head knockers. You may have to travel outside of major urban areas.
posted by eustatic at 5:34 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


For the same reason that we like watching Jackie Chan fight dudes, even though we know Jackie's going to win (or at least get away). It's fiction! Lots of fiction has tension!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:34 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


turning out the lights in arenas

Uh oh. Not again.
posted by Night_owl at 5:34 PM on April 5


When fans feel screwed by the outcome of a match, it's not because they think the ref sucks, or the heel cheated. They blame the guys who arrange the fights, and the guys in charge. If Daniel Bryan loses, fans won't say he choked, or didn't rise to the occasion... they'll say Triple H and Vince McMahon are narrow-minded jerks.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:34 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


And yet the fans treat it like a real sport, where the outcome could go either way.

Why is that?


I believe you mean "And yet some of the fans treat it like a real sport, where the outcome could go either way."

As for why that is, there's a variety of reasons. Some of those fans are dumb, even today when even the wrestlers themselves admit that the outcomes are predetermined (and even the announcers, who are supposed to be selling that all this is real, occasionally point out the difference between the character and the real person). Some of those fans prefer to pretend that it's real.

But most of them -- the vast majority -- have spent a long time having people's first reaction upon hearing that they're wrestling fans invariably be, "You do know it's not real, right?" accompanied by a patronizing smirk, and their immediate reaction is occasionally to wipe that smirk away. I can't see your face, but your initial statements like "at least with [NASCAR] there's real skill involved" and "somehow I suspect people aren't tuning in to see a tour de force of some of the best stage combat in the world."... those are the Internet equivalent of smirking.

If you're going to call it "stage combat," then yes, professional wrestlers do put on some of the best "stage combat" in the world. There is genuine skill involved, not only in executing many of the maneuvers, but also in reacting to those maneuvers, in telling a story without much in the way of dialogue in the ring, and in getting crowds to react to all of that.

You're trolling, and you've apparently trolled in real life, and when the reaction to that is the real-life equivalent of a flaming, you should expect to get burned on occasion.
posted by Etrigan at 5:39 PM on April 5 [17 favorites]


I'm watching the Hall of Fame program now via the WWE network, which has been well worth the $9.99 a month so far. I've been rewatching the shows from my youth. My husband hasn't watched since he was young and I managed to drag him back into the fandom. He'll be watching the Attitude Era that he missed.

I also want CM Punk to return but more than than I want my eye candy Alberto Del Rio to make a good run in the Battle Royal.
posted by kimberussell at 5:56 PM on April 5


...I just don't get what the attraction to WW(X) is.

Even though it is scripted, there is still the potential for grievous bodily damage and death, which excites many adults... as well as much repressed latent homoeroticism.
posted by Renoroc at 6:05 PM on April 5


[Wrestling is] able to exist wholly outside of the Internet, startups and online trends.

Wrestling has a massive online fanbase, dating back to when only .edus were online. It can exist wholly outside of the Internet, but it would be a serious mistake to discount the Internet in the WWE's current popularity.

(And I won't out him, but there's a MeFite who built the WWE's most current website. He has some stories that he probably can't tell publicly.)
posted by Etrigan at 6:07 PM on April 5


If Daniel Bryan loses, fans won't say he choked, or didn't rise to the occasion... they'll say Triple H and Vince McMahon are narrow-minded jerks.

Sure, although we all wonder how much of every decision is just Vince alone.

I wrote a paper on WWE in law school. It's a fascinating industry. MBAs in particular, I would think, would find it interesting. It's this huge entertainment field pulling in real, serious money...and it truly is a monopoly. You can argue that MLB and NFL are monopolies, but not in the same way WWE is. In pro wrestling, there is one guy at the top—Vince McMahon—and if he decides you're not going to be a star, then you might as well pick up and go home.

CM Punk, aka Phil Brooks, built his career from the small independent leagues all the way up to become one of the major stars in WWE. Earlier this year, he reportedly walked out on his contract. (There's always a possibility these things are staged, but the popular belief is this was real.) The word is he felt burned-out by WWE's schedule and just generally burned by its storylines. So he decided he needed a break. Without warning, he reportedly left just a few hours before a live television show.

This is a guy who commanded stadiums. When he appeared, hundreds of thousands of people cheered. Millions of people know his name and buy his merchandise. But if he walks away from WWE...then what? He spent all those years positioning himself as a professional wrestler. He didn't do movies, hoping to transition into acting. Wrestling isn't football: he can't go over the ESPN and get a gig doing commentary. And WWE doesn't have any serious competitor. So if CM Punk decides he's done with Vince McMahon or with WWE's business practices, then after all those years spent achieving household-name status...now he's back to square one.

I don't think you have to enjoy watching tights-clad combat to find that dynamic interesting.
posted by cribcage at 6:38 PM on April 5 [8 favorites]


[fffm, this is the point where you are not going to get the thread to do what you want it to. Please let it drop. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:00 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


And yet the fans treat it like a real sport, where the outcome could go either way.

Why is that?


For the story, just like with any fiction. It's often easy to predict the outcomes, but it's almost never 100%, or even really close to that. We all take for granted that Undertaker will win his 'Mania bout... but there's always that chance that there's something going on backstage that we don't know about, and that maybe he's injured and he knows it's time to hang up the hat, and give some other wrestler a push on his way out.

Surprises do happen. They happen with the writing and with the dialogue and with the actual matches. I haven't been watching wrestling for a couple of years, but I have more than once heard the entire arena start chanting, "Holy Shit!" because something that nobody ever expected just happened.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:10 PM on April 5


Also: won't be watching this year, but damn, that Divas stuff is... well, that IS pretty much reliably disappointing. More than a few women over the years have been genuinely good wrestlers (including conventionally pretty ones like Mickie James... and yes, I did, in fact, pay specifically to see Mickie James once). It's a shame that the women's roster gets consistently buried, even when some of them can do much more than simply play eye candy.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:11 PM on April 5


Imma just gonna say the term "kayfabe" explains more about the "reality" of politics than any other word.
posted by Benjy at 7:17 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


"There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.* Of course, there exists a false wrestling, in which the participants unnecessarily go to great lengths to make a show of a fair fight; this is of no interest. True wrestling, wrongly called amateur wrestling, is performed in second-rate halls, where the public spontaneously attunes itself to the spectacular nature of the contest, like the audience at a suburban cinema. Then these same people wax indignant because wrestling is a stage-managed sport (which ought, by the way, to mitigate its ignominy). The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees.

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing- match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time. The spectator is not interested in the rise and fall of fortunes; he expects the transient image of certain passions. Wrestling therefore demands an immediate reading of the juxtaposed meanings, so that there is no need to connect them. The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result."

Since Barthes wrote that, of course, we have begun to have longer arcs of meaning in wrestling than momentary accumulation of spectacle, but the point of the essay remains the same.
posted by winna at 7:35 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


Psst, cribcage...
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 PM on April 5


I'm thrilled that I actually am looking forward to this WrestleMania. There are matches that I want to see. Wyatt-Cena should be amazing, and they really, really can't bury Wyatt. He's supposed to be one of the next big things, and Cena has become much, much better at having good-to-great-matches against quality competition. The Shield, even though they're facing a hodgepodge, are just fun to watch. I hope, dearly, they don't break up just yet. It seems the break up has taken a bit of a backseat, and they might actually let them run for a while as faces. Faces who destroy everything in their path through the power of friendship and justice.

The AJ match is going to be depressing. She's one of the few fully realized female characters on the show, and they're going to have her job out to someone so they can get higher ratings on Total Divas. Just look at the freaking promotional picture for the match (scroll down a bit). There are, roughly, three people in the picture who can actually wrestle a halfway decent match, while down in NXT, pretty much any one of the female wrestlers there could put on a stellar match with AJ. Still, one can hope that Sara Del Ray (who is, somehow, just a trainer with the company) comes out of nowhere and demolishes everyone. Or hell, even Kharma.

Obviously it's all predetermined. It's an ongoing story, with dozens of characters, and WrestleMania is usually where storylines get wrapped up, or new stories start. I have no idea how the Bryan/HHH match will go, or what will happen with the championship match (a lot of people think it's almost certain to end up as a fatal fourway with Batista, Orton, HHH and Bryan), but I want to find out how the story ends. The difference between this story and, say, most other fictional stories is that other things don't have people leaping through turnbuckles, grabbing their opponent around the neck as they pass by, spinning around, and planting the opponents head into the floor.* Most high art doesn't have a man who throws people into the air, then hits them with an uppercut as they come down from the stratosphere.**

And as for Wyatt/Rotunda, it's a mark of just how good he's been at creating this Wyatt character. When he first debuted, he was called Husky Harris (way back in the NXT/Nexus days), and when he came up to the main show as Wyatt, fans would chant "Husky Harris" at him through his promos. Another wrestler, Ryback (nee Skip Sheffield, also NXT/Nexus) has never found a way to get fans to stop chanting 'Goldberg' at him, and he's pretty much never going to be more than what he is now, a low rank heel, jobbing to pretty much everyone. Wyatt, though, has effectively silenced the Husky Harris chants. He owns the mic, and knows how to deal with hostile crowds, switching up his delivery, taking away places where fans could start chants. I only hope that he comes out to the ring Sunday night wearing his old butcher's regalia (again, scroll down a bit) and dismantles Cena.

*That would be El Generico, who goes by Samy Zayne now and wrestles in NXT.

**That would be Cesaro, who, god-willing, will be having matches with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania until the end of time, where they attempt to out-ridiculous each other with moves that shouldn't be possible.

posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


Oh, and, uh, SPOILERS

Supposedly Steve Austin and others have confirmed that Punk will, in fact, be at WrestleMania. If he comes back as a savior for Bryan, then turns on him, revealing himself to be the new face of the authority (complete with tailored suits, etc), oh, that would be beautiful, especially if it means a proper Bryan/Punk feud.

END of SPOILERISH FANBOOKING.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:38 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I've been super tempted to get into wrestling because of the Powerbombcast but goddamn I already have too many timesinks.
posted by kmz at 9:03 PM on April 5


I live in New Orleans a block from the quarter. One person who had bought tickets but couldn't attend was trying to unload their tickets via another website. They had paid the going rate - $275 per seat to sit in section 127.

There are State Patrol cars parked all up and down Canal street and though it's an odd crowd I doubt it's really necessary.

Unless George "The Animal" Steele or the Bushwhackers show up.
posted by vapidave at 9:42 PM on April 5


I've mentioned a few times on here before that for the vast majority of my life pro wrestling was by far my number one hobby. I stopped watching wrestling with any regularity about ten years ago for reasons that if I went into I fear would make me look like a typical "Back in my day.../Get off my lawn" type. But I still haven't been able to part with the storage bin that has traveled with me from house to house over the years filled with nothing but pro wrestling VHS tapes from not just the WWF and WCW, but also Japan, Mexico, England, Canada and multiple long since defunct regional promotions from around the US (World Class, Memphis, Portland, Florida, Mid-South, Polynesian Pacific, Southwest...). I can't tell you how many awkward moments I've had over the years as new dating partners would enter my bedroom for the first time and see the multi-level shelving unit stocked with nothing but videotapes. Most of these women initially assumed I was a cinefile or, at worst, just really into porn. I don't think any were emotionally prepared for the, "No, they're all wrestling" confession.

I understand the entertainment form isn't for everybody, but I do get annoyed at the snobbery (which I feel was present in this thread) of the endless, "How could someone of your intelligence/education level possibly watch professional wrestling" questioning I'm sure many of us have become all too familiar with. I mean, I like "Doctor Who" as well, but you could just as easily question why grown adults could possibly find it entertaining to follow the fake adventures of an actor insulting my intelligence by pretending to travel through time and space. And who could possibly care about spoilers - after all, it's just a pretend story whose ending is determined by a writer, not real life.

At its best, pro wrestling is the perfect combination of sports and drama. I follow all of the major sports pretty passionately, but a lot of the time you end up with something like this year's Superbowl, where all the drama was drained from the game by the end of the first quarter. Wrestling's predetermined nature insures that the main event of a major show like Wrestlemania will rarely end in similar anticlimactic dud. And while they may be talking about pretend fights, I'll take a great pro wrestling promo any day over the typical, "We're just taking things one game at a time..." professional sports snoozefest interview.

I knew for years that my passion for pro wrestling was probably unhealthy, but it didn't come to a head until just after the turn of the century. My roommate at the time and I had just starting dating a pair of friends. They had invited us to join them on a trip to Vegas they had planned long in advance. I was in my mid-twenties and had a beautiful woman asking me to join her on a multiple day trip that promised to be little more than heavy drinking and illicit sex. Alas, we had to tell them we could only join them for one brief night. We had to rush back to Orange County because we had tickets to Wrestlemania 2000 and that took precedence.
posted by The Gooch at 9:48 PM on April 5 [7 favorites]


Hey Gooch, I was also at Wrestlemania 2000. I may be embarrassed to admit that I paid cash money for an event that opened with Big Boss Man and Bull Buchanan versus D-Lo Brown and the Godfather, but I can now take some small comfort in telling myself that at least I didn't turn down guaranteed sex to attend.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:16 PM on April 5


Attending WrestleMania is like attending the Super Bowl. From an enjoyment perspective, I'd much rather be sitting comfortably at home with the benefit of various camera angles. But given the opportunity and a couple tickets, I would definitely go once.

I was at the Royal Rumble in 2011 here in Boston. I was in the front section facing hard camera. You can see me cheering. I thought about wearing a suit a la Four Horsemen, partly because I figured Vince would get a kick out of that and show us on close-up. Instead I wore my big-lettered law school sweatshirt, which you can just barely make out on the video. That amused me more than Alberto Del Rio winning.
posted by cribcage at 9:34 AM on April 6


I don't care much for the actual matches in wrestling[*], but I would watch the interviews/promo's all day long.

These people are body builders and acrobats and can also deliver the most insane semi-improvised 'in-character' tirades you'll find anywhere on tv. I'm always impressed when I catch one by the huge amounts of charisma and camera-savvy these people have. They may mainstream professional sportsmen look like a collection of stuffed mannequins.

[*] Actually I did once go to a local small scale wrestling evening while on vacation in a quiet area. It was surprisingly good. The mic work was punchy and the bouts were well staged. It was a /far/ more entertaining and more slick affair than most music or dramatic productions for a similarly sized venue/audience.
posted by samworm at 12:55 PM on April 6


But somehow I suspect people aren't tuning in to see a tour de force of some of the best stage combat in the world.

That's exactly what people are tuning in for. When one is a regular viewer of a wrestling product, you become emotionally invested in the development of a wrestler and their career trajectory. You come to appreciate the intense athleticism and combination of stage fighting tactics with ring psychology. There is a reason why many of the most popular wrestlers in history have not been the biggest or hardest hitting, but the ones that go in the ring day in day out and put on a show that leaves you standing and screaming and even crying because the match was so well performed even if you know in your heart of hearts it was all planned from the start.

I will use Chris Benoit (lets not talk about the tragedy of his end, please) vs HHH vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 20. This was the last Wrestlemania I watched in full from start to end live. Earlier in the night, we had seen Eddie Guerrero (lets not talk about the tragedy of his end, please) win a championship match against Kurt Angle. Fans invested in the product knew that both Guererro and Benoit were AMAZING talents that often went completely wasted in whatever big company they were working for because of their relative size and lack of backstage politicking. They were also close friends who often worked at the same company at different points in their career. They won fans appreciation the old fashioned way, and were at the time two of the most respected men in the history of the industry. Especially Benoit, who was truly one of the greatest performers in the history of professional wrestling. He had been played with his entire career, recognized as an incredible performer but never given championship runs or headlining big money main event matches because of his relative lack of on-camera personality skills. He was one of the first people to jump ship from WCW when he realized that the company was never going to utilize him in the way he deserved. And WWE, well.. they didn't either. Not for years, anyway. Meanwhile, the biggest politician in the history of the industry Paul Lavesque (HHH) was keeping everyone who threatened his stars light down and that especially meant Benoit. And while HHH went in as something of a face, it was Benoit that the crowd wanted to see take it as the underdog in a match against two of the industries biggest-ever names. After a 30 minute match that went everywhere in spectacular performance and taking the audience on a roller coaster of ring psychology when Benoit had HHH in his signature submission maneuver the crowd was going insane. Benoit would not let go, but HHH was the type of performer that would never give up. Until he did. HHH taps out, the crowd goes fucking APESHIT in utter delight and joy. Benoit is presented with the belt in the biggest, most important match of his career with a stadium of people cheering him on knowing that he worked harder than most people ever have for that belt.

Then Eddie Guerrero steps out from the back, holding his own hard won championship belt. The crowd now going beyond elation to emotional exhaustion but still going utterly atomic at the sight of the two celebrating in the center of the ring. I am not ashamed to admit that I teared up at seeing the two old friends finally, FINALLY making it to the top of the world doing what they are best at.

This is all non-storyline material, by the way, this is strictly stuff about the careers of these wrestlers that never even get talked about on WWE programming. The fans know this stuff too now, thanks to the internet.
posted by mediocre at 1:45 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


mediocre, one thing about that Benoit match, that, again, Brandon Stroud* sums up perfectly, in regards to HHH, Benoit, and WM20:

The fact that Triple H wants his legacy to be him as the ultimate WWE performer, and arguably his best match and most selfless act as a character and performer ever is one he can never be proud of or show anybody.

As much as people dislike HHH for burying people (oh, I do)and playing favorites (the push the New Age Outlaws just got could have easily gone to a current tag team), Benoit's championship wouldn't have happened if HHH hadn't agreed to it, with as much sway as he's got. He does, pretty much, have a solid idea of what's best for business. I'm interested in seeing what happens when he finally gets complete control of the booking.

*Seriously, if you like wrestling at all, and you're not reading his Best and Worst of Raw/NXT/PPVs, you should be. He's got a great love of the whole thing, but he's not afraid to call bullshit on the rampant misogyny, the absurdity of the whole "Be a S.T.A.R." campaign being pushed while faces are the worst bullies, and heels have legitimate reasons for acting like normal human beings, and pretty much all of the rest of the crap. At the same time, you can feel how much he cares about the wrestlers, and how much he wants the whole thing to be as good as it could be.

Plus, if you go back to last year, Jack Swagger of Mars was just awesome.

posted by Ghidorah at 3:48 PM on April 6


Ghidorah - I do realize of course that HHH had to agree to the "rub" match, as it were. And he did so honorably, unlike when Chris Jericho (who in his prime was one of the most electrifying performers in the world both on the stick and in the ring) was given a title run. He won two matches in a single PPV to unite the two World Championship belts that existed at the time (WWE and WCW's) but was then buried to be little more then Stephanie McMahon's purse holder. That was such an egregious and obvious case of HHH's backstage machinations that it hard to blame Jericho for giving up on WWE for a while and pursuing his music career. Jericho had made arguably the greatest debut in the history of televised professional wrestling, was clearly a performer who belonged in the upper echelons of historically recognized talent (full disclosure: I was in attendance at this match, and being present for such an amazing match its hard to be totally objective about it), and when he finally was given the belt they made him win it dirty (two wins in the same night, but both used a foreign object) and turned him into a lapdog afterwards. Lavesque's name and legacy are and even were at the time sufficiently cemented that he did not need the belt to assure his continued star power. But damn if he was going to let some puny Canadian from another company even start to pose a risk.
posted by mediocre at 4:36 PM on April 6


Just as an aside, I always love how people inevitably include Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6 in their personal list of greatest Wrestlemania matches. It was the epitome of the 80's style of wrestling, for better or worse. It was the first time that two faces were fighting in the main event, not to mention the fact that Hogan was the World Champion and Warrior was Intercontinental Champion. Face vs face, title vs title, the apex of everything great (and asinine) about WWF's product in the 80's vs the apex of everything great (and asinine) about WWF's product in the early 90's.

If you read the recap of the match with no context and in a vacuum, it would seem one of the worst matches of all time. Excessively long "test of strength" spots, nonsensical rope running, Warrior being blown up by the time he even made it to the ring, and so on. But because of the emotional investment of the moment, all the kiddie fans being torn over their longstanding love for Hogan and their newfound love for this snarling beast from parts unknown, and the fact that this was part of the dying gasp of kayfabe before it died completely in the mid 90's made it an absolute classic. It always ranks 4 or 5 stars, based on the emotion of the moment alone.
posted by mediocre at 4:48 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


If you read the recap of the match with no context and in a vacuum, it would seem one of the worst matches of all time.

However, it was one of the best Hogan matches of all time, and almost certainly the best Warrior match of all time. Granted, neither of those is really saying much, but from a standpoint of what those two generally actually did in the ring, it was the Flair-Steamboat of roided-up matbound muscleheads.
posted by Etrigan at 6:33 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Best signs of the night so far:

IF BRYAN LOSES, WE RIOT

followed by

IF CENA WINS, WE WYATT
posted by Etrigan at 6:41 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


THIS IS TERRIBLE.

I didn't want Undertaker to go out like this to a giant cube of beef with no charisma.
posted by winna at 6:59 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


He lost to Lesnar of all people? At least send him out against some other occult guy (Wyatt, maybe?) - give him a successor, make it feel like a passing of the torch rather than "welp, he's getting old and can't credibly beat people anymore, so that's that."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:13 PM on April 6


That is one fucking bizarre booking decision, second only (and maybe not even) to WWE deciding to blow off Hulk Hogan versus Ric Flair in 1992.

Most people thought the streak would never end. That said, I could see it ending in one of two ways. First is Undertaker puts over a younger guy, someone with another ten years ahead of him. Daniel Bryan would be the obvious choice. Give Bryan the title tonight, spend the next year with him holding the belt, prep the audience for Undertaker to retire in 2015...and when WrestleMania 31 is Bryan versus Undertaker, we would really believe there's a chance Undertaker would lose.

Second is having the Streak ended by a legend. My version would be: tonight he beats Lesnar and is immediately challenged by Sting. We get a year's build-up, like Rock/Cena, and then WrestleMania 31 is both Undertaker's last match and Sting's one-and-only match on the WW(F/E) brand. Under that circumstance, we would really believe Undertaker might lose.

And that's kinda all that matters, what we believe going in, because although it's fun to be entertained (and shocked, yes) by pay-per-views, the only important fact to WWE is that we buy the pay-per-view. Imagine how many people who didn't buy tonight's show would have, if they believed there was a chance in hell Lesnar would defeat Undertaker. Why? It makes no sense except to shock. There's no payoff. Lesnar isn't a legend—not on a show that features Hogan, Austin, Rock, and Undertaker—and he doesn't have many years ahead of him. The only reason I can fathom for this is the dumb and kinda masturbatory logic that 30 is a big, round number and so wouldn't it be cool if we shocked everybody tonight.
posted by cribcage at 9:14 PM on April 6


That is one fucking bizarre booking decision

It is and it isn't. People have already made the "is" case clear: here is the "isn't."

1. Nobody expected it. NOBODY. And let's be honest, the moment Taker went up against a "young guy who was clearly the next big thing" type like Roman Reigns, people would have expected him to lose.

2. They just created an insane amount of buzz right as the WWE Network becomes a thing. People who haven't followed wrestling in YEARS are buzzing about the Undertaker's defeat.

3. Brock Lesnar is signed to the WWE for several years and will probably re-sign after that because he's got a good thing going: he wrestles 4-6 times per year tops for close to a million dollars in pay. You simply cannot beat that deal. He is reliable for another five or six years at least.

4. The WWE has just created its very own End Boss. Even before this, Brock Lesnar could lose a number of matches and maintain his heat because he is a Legitimate Can Kill You guy. But now he's that AND HE BEAT THE STREAK. Anybody can beat him and get super-mega-insane heat and push, and it won't hurt him even a little ever again.

5. As for Undertaker: it's not over, because WWE just signed Sting to a one-year deal. Next year: Undertaker versus Sting, career versus career. Book it now, watch the money roll in. They couldn't have done that with the Streak intact. Now they can run that match and nobody will know how it will end, and for the WWE, uncertainty like that is a gold mine.
posted by mightygodking at 9:30 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Despite my breathless precap, I see the logic in this. And to add to mightygodking's excellent logic, The Streak was probably not A Thing in the locker room (which is where Taker really lives) compared to what it is in the fan sheets. His reputation in the industry (which is to say, WWE) is actually burnished by this -- the bookers thought it would be better for him to lose, so he lost. Now nobody short of Hogan gets to complain about a job ever.
posted by Etrigan at 4:16 AM on April 7


They couldn't have done that with the Streak intact.

Sure they could've. It makes more sense that way. You pit the Undertaker's final match against Sting's one-and-only appearance on WWE. It's hard to imagine Sting signing just to job...except as the final match of the Streak, which is historic regardless of outcome. I see more uncertainty, not less.

I also don't follow wanting Lesnar as an End Boss. WWE doesn't need one; and anyway, if they did, for all intents and purposes that's what Undertaker was. Moreover, if you wanted to replace him in that role, you do it with somebody like, I dunno, Ryback. You and I disagree about how long Lesnar is likely to stick around and therefore how valuable his heat will be—where "value," obviously, is ticket sales, PPV buys, network subscriptions, and especially merchandising. Brock Lesnar has never been a major draw. Not in 2004, not now. And you can't book a guy to draw. (Ask Drew McIntyre.)

As for the locker-room dynamics...Vince for years has been doing his able best to stamp out various remnants of wrestling culture. It's an entertainment business now. I don't buy that in 2014, convincing talent to job is a major headache or worth resolving a 22-year storyline for. Who's the last guy who left because of booking, as opposed to the touring schedule? Not Jericho. Jeff Hardy. Not Batista. Maaaybe CM Punk, but not because of jobs.

The simplest reason it was a bad booking decision is they utterly failed to make us think it could happen. Booking is a tightrope. You have to shock the audience (like last night) to keep them believing anything could happen at any time. But you also have to give them clues when big things are on the horizon (unlike last night) because ultimately, your show is only as successful as the number of people who pay for it. To agree with this decision, I think you have to believe it will create more network subscribers in the next month than the number of people who would have bought or subscribed in the previous month if we'd had a clue what was coming.
posted by cribcage at 6:49 AM on April 7


Who's the last guy who left because of booking, as opposed to the touring schedule? ... Maaaybe CM Punk, but not because of jobs.

I can't speak to any personal knowledge of Punk's decison-making, but I find myself nodding along with the oft-stated theory that he walked out early because he knew that A) he wasn't going to renew his contract and B) as soon as he told WWE that, they would bury him, if not flat-out humiliate him (e.g., CM Doink).

I agree this match was badly hyped, but the result wasn't... well, it wasn't great, but it wasn't a disaster either. Lesnar is a legitimate monster, and this match provided one of the only two significant surprises on the card (the other being Cena over Wyatt), and the only one that got people talking. No one buys WrestleMania to see whether the Undertaker will lose anymore after he beat Triple H (whom you could legitimately believe would book himself to break the Streak just because) and Punk (who was a logical choice to get the rub from it).
posted by Etrigan at 7:27 AM on April 7


But those were his three most recent matches.
posted by cribcage at 7:47 AM on April 7


I'm of mixed opinions about the Streak ending. On the one hand, it's bizarre to give it to Lesnar, who isn't a full-time wrestler and is not a definite long-term prospect for the company. And yeah it was weird that the finish happened the way it did given that no one expected it at all.

On the other hand, the guy is forty-nine years old. He's also a six foot ten guy who's been wrestling since 1984 - thirty years. Wrestling full-time isn't easy on anyone's body, but bigger guys tend to wind up with pretty awful health problems - mobility issues especially - as they go on, in addition to the usual wear and tear. Taker had hip surgery in 2009, and in 2010 had a shoulder injury that couldn't be fixed surgically so he rehabbed it to the point where he could perform in one match a year. For context, I remember reading sometime in 2000 that he was probably going to need to have one or both hips replaced. It doesn't look like that happened, but who knows.

For quite a while now, he's basically been at the point where he can deliver an excellent match if he's in the ring with someone who can get one out of him, but he can't carry anyone out there. And if memory serves, for the last couple years, WWE tends to wait until a few months before Mania before they book him in a match, because it's usually a little touch and go as far as whether or not he's up to it.

So this may have just been a question of him not having faith that he'd be able to keep going after this one (and from the reports I've read, the years were showing on him last night). Everything I've ever heard about Taker suggests that if the Streak ended, it's because he wanted it to end. He could have retired with it if he wanted to. So maybe he made the call to end it this way tonight, knowing that the utter shock of it would guarantee eyeballs on the WWE. From what I've seen, it seems to have worked. Of the top trending hashtags on Twitter right now, three of them are related to Undertaker (and another one is just Wrestlemania). It'll be interesting to see what the Raw ratings look like tonight.

And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to give it to Lesnar. I do think there should have been more build, but it works. The conventional wisdom has always been: either you give it to a legend or you give it to an up-and-comer. But at this point, giving it to a legend is dicey - it would give Taker a decent send-off, but it would waste the rub of ending the Streak and in the long term, it would accomplish nothing. And giving it to an up-and-comer would have been hard from a booking perspective because you'd have a relatively new guy who'd accomplish something the canniest veterans hadn't been able to do. I'd have said CM Punk would have worked, but, well, you know.

Lesnar is someone who's established, and he might not be the most charismatic, but he looks like a total monster. Eventually, they'll feed him to someone, and that someone (probably Roman Reigns, if hype is to be believed) will be the guy who beat the guy who ended the Streak. So I get that, because whoever ends the Streak needs to be someone who'll still be around in whatever capacity. This is why Sting wouldn't have worked - by all accounts, if he wrestled Taker at Mania, it'd be his last match.

It's not perfect, but I can see it working. If you think of it as a plan that emerged from Taker realizing he wasn't sure he had any more matches left in him, it makes some sense.

So I don't know. It'll be interesting to see what the near future looks like.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:51 AM on April 7


I'm also reading now that Taker had been willing to give Lesnar the Streak as far back as 2010, and that the general feeling backstage now is that Taker is done after last night.

So yeah, it makes sense. He would have been able to enter a Mania program with Lesnar and right up until the actual match, if he thought, "Yeah, this is starting to look like my last one," he could drop it to his first choice.

Interesting times.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:59 AM on April 7


My problem with it is that we are long past the days when a guy needed to be a physical monster in order to be able to beat the Undertaker and make it look good, so giving it to Lesnar, whose whole thing is that he's a powerhouse, strikes me as wrongheaded. Like FAMOUS MONSTER just said, the guy is pushing 50 years old. I'd be able to buy just about anybody on the roster beating him. Presenting it as the feat that pushes Lesnar up to Final Boss status just doesn't work for me.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:01 AM on April 7


But those were his three most recent matches.

What I meant was that some people probably bought WM28 to see whether Triple H would book himself to end the streak, and some people probably bought WM29 to see whether Taker would give the rub to an up-and-coming star. What scenario gets people to buy WM30 just based on The Streak? Since the answer is "Pretty much nothing that Calaway's body is capable of dealing with" (e.g., a long-term program starting at Survivor Series).

So WWE cuts its proverbial losses and just dumps The Streak, but does it based on (if FAMOUS MONSTER is correct) Taker's own choice and something that sets up a potential "Be the man who beat the man" storyline not just for WM31, but for any time you just need to build someone up.

I can see why this wasn't a slam-dunk decision, but we're literally not talking about anything else, so if nothing else, it was a great decision to take the heat off the inexcusable Cena-Wyatt match. They shoulda rebooked that on the fly when even the Rock couldn't keep people from booing Cena.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on April 7


the inexcusable Cena-Wyatt match

?? I'm planning on re-watching, because admittedly I wasn't feeling it live, but I think it told the story it wanted to pretty well, and made it clear that Wyatt is the hell over. I thought the finish was rushed and unsatisfying, but I can also see why you can't do it "the right way."

And Lesnar ... well, I'm a huge Lesnar mark, and I think he's hands-down the most gifted athlete that's ever come through the WWE (and up there, as a performer, too), and obviously this was Taker's idea... so I can't shit on it too much. Taker had a much better match against Punk last year, and looked like he was really struggling through this one, so maybe it was just time.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:50 AM on April 7


the inexcusable Cena-Wyatt match

?? I'm planning on re-watching, because admittedly I wasn't feeling it live, but I think it told the story it wanted to pretty well, and made it clear that Wyatt is the hell over. I thought the finish was rushed and unsatisfying, but I can also see why you can't do it "the right way."


Wyatt needed one of three things: the elevation of beating Cena clean(ish) or prolonging the feud by beating him down after losing or prolonging the feud by having Cena "snap" or somehow otherwise tease that he's not so much of a babyface anymore. If Wyatt comes back at him now, it's pointless. If he doesn't, then they were both wasted for two months and the biggest show of the year.
posted by Etrigan at 9:16 AM on April 7


I had a crazy hunch that Taker would lose when Heyman cut the "having the streak broken does not cheapen the value of the streak" promo - because it made sense. And Taker looked so worn out there that although my jaw dropped and I was pretty sad, I understood why it was done.

Did anyone else laugh out loud at how AJ retained her title? It was such a punky little heel move and I loved it to bits.

The Hogan/Austin/Rock opener was great. I squealed when I heard the shattered glass.

I'm shocked the Shield/Kane & NAO match was so short. I went to grab a snack and it was over. I expected more. Maybe NAO wasn't up to a longer bout.
posted by kimberussell at 9:24 AM on April 7


The general theory there seems to be that Bryan/HHH was not originally intended to last fifteen thousand years, so somebody had to hurry it up to get things back on schedule.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:25 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


- soap opera that it's okay for guys to like?

Close. Live action cartoon with fun, broadly drawn characters. Plus even though the outcomes are scripted, there is real athleticism involved.

I understand even less than NASCAR


NASCAR's easy to understand. It's an excuse for gearheads to hang out, watch races and shoot the shit about engines and whatnot. Plus, just like in other sports (including pro wrestling) different drivers (consciously or not) take on the role of hero, anti-hero, rebel, goofball, etc.

(and to anyone who doubts pro wrestlings impact on American culture at large, read this book)

*hits thread with folding chair*
posted by jonmc at 9:27 AM on April 7


I'm shocked the Shield/Kane & NAO match was so short. I went to grab a snack and it was over. I expected more. Maybe NAO wasn't up to a longer bout.

The general theory there seems to be that Bryan/HHH was not originally intended to last fifteen thousand years, so somebody had to hurry it up to get things back on schedule.


I would agree with this: Hogan emerged at the five-minute mark. He and Austin and Rock took more than 18 minutes (0:23 total). It took another 12 to get through the Bryan-HHH recap (0:35 total). The actual match went almost 28 minutes (1:02 total). We were at the one-hour mark before the first match had finished. It took 7 more minutes to recap Shield-Kane/NAO (1:09), and it lasted just under 3 minutes.
posted by Etrigan at 9:46 AM on April 7


The plot thickens: Undertaker suffered a severe concussion during the match. That would be an excellent reason to retire. Brain damage is no joke.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:33 PM on April 7


I don't know where in the match Undertaker suffered the injury, but this can't help Lesnar's reputation as, well, not exactly being Bobby Eaton in the ring.
posted by cribcage at 2:54 PM on April 7


Lesnar isn't necessarily a company man nor someone that WWE wants to prop their brand up upon, being that he has already left the company once to pursue his NFL career. That went nowhere, so he jumped to MMA where his ridiculous size more or less made him unbeatable and he made his name. It makes sense that he eventually came back to WWE, since MMA careers are brutal and short and "Sports Entertainment" is much a much smarter career move long term. He got his start post-NCAA in WWE farm leagues, and really is someone that is capable of pulling great matches. His series with Kurt Angle from the 2000's are classic. His Wrestlemania 19 match against Kurt Angle damn near being 5 star perfection, were it not for the botched shooting star press at the end. It's a shame he had to botch that so badly, but at least he didn't break his neck. He pulled that move off beautifully so many times in Ohio Valley Wrestling, its a shame that when he finally pulled it out of his repertoire in WWE he messed it up quite dangerously. But thats the risk I guess you take when you are a man of his immense gravity pulling off an aerial maneuver among the most difficult in the business.

What I'm getting at is that even if it doesn't make sense on a business level or a booking level, it makes sense that Lesnar beat Taker last night because Taker looked like hell out there. He was obviously ragged and unable to keep up, even before the concussion. Having Undertaker win would have been about as feasible looking as any Ric Flair victory since 2000. Mark Calloway knew that he wanted to end it with Lesnar long ago, so he did. Good on WWE for giving Calloway his wish.
posted by mediocre at 3:56 PM on April 7


Well, Jon Stewart agrees that Lesnar over Taker was bullshit, so that's that.
posted by Etrigan at 8:32 PM on April 7


Having finally gotten to the end of it (and seriously, managing to remain ignorant of the whole thing took a lot of work), damn. I actually felt stunned by the end of the streak. I can completely empathize with the faces of absolute disbelief in the crowd.

Lesner?! Seriously? Gah. Why they didn't just throw Cena at Lesner (make up a reason), and have Wyatt break the streak (as Wyatt is a guy who'll be there week in and out for long haul) and cement him as the new "dark forces we fear" kind of guy. Gah.

I'm thrilled Bryan won. I still thought they were going to screw him somehow. And yeah, I kept holding out hope for Cult of Personality to hit. I guess that's really not going to happen.

The opening of the show, I was prepared to ignore Hogan, until Austin's music hit. When the Rock's music hit, I geeked out a little more. Funny, I loathe Hogan, and haven't liked the new WWE Rock since he came back, but it was pretty great, the three of them kicking off the show, especially in a stadium as awesome as the Silverdome.

Also, Cesaro/Bryan feud, please.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:42 AM on April 8


Also, Cesaro/Bryan feud, please.

Interesting note from Grantland's pre-WM Cheap Heat podcast -- apparently, Cesaro is one of the legit strongest guys in WWE right now, according to no less an authority than Mark Henry.

The Cesaro heel-heel turn on Raw was an interesting development. I'm in favor of more Heyman, but Cesaro has struck me as a not-bad mic worker, so we'll have to see how he handles being under one of the best in the game today.
posted by Etrigan at 4:15 AM on April 8


When Cesaro was telling Colter he wasn't a Colter guy anymore, I got a text from my brother: "Here comes the face turn."

And then he said he was a Paul Heyman guy. I cheered (I'm a Heyman fan) and texted my brother back, "So much for the face turn!"

After last night's RAW, I have a good feeling about the WWE for the next few months.
posted by kimberussell at 5:51 AM on April 8


Cesaro throwing over Big Show to win the Andre match was one of my favorite moments of WrestleMania. Obviously it was an awesome spot. But more importantly...we all know if there's an heir to Andre's legacy, it's Big Show. Because of that, I thought they might give Big Show that particular win. But Andre's real legacy was using what he had to put guys over, so that was the right thing to do with Big Show in that match. And they did it.

Cesaro won the trophy, but Big Show honored Andre. That's a bigger win.

I've read a few columns about WrestleMania. I agree with Will Pruett that overall it was a great show, one of the most emotional of all time. And I agree with his buddy Jason Powell in disagreeing with Lesnar/Undertaker.

I thought Cena/Wyatt worked for what it needed to be. But it makes an interesting comparison, because obviously that's the only swerve that could possibly have been equivalent: Cena turns heel. Now that would have generated subscriptions. People would want to see what happens. It launches a storyline, instead of resolves one. And in either case, the story is unavoidably about the main characters, Cena or Undertaker. Whatever you think of Wyatt or Lesnar...next to those two legends, and especially on a show that featured Hogan, Austin, and the Rock, they are just supporting characters.
posted by cribcage at 6:47 AM on April 8


But it makes an interesting comparison, because obviously that's the only swerve that could possibly have been equivalent: Cena turns heel. Now that would have generated subscriptions. People would want to see what happens. It launches a storyline, instead of resolves one.

While I do think a Cena heel turn could be a decent way to shake up the status quo, I can see why it's not something they'll actually do: the guy moves a lot of merch for WWE, specifically in the younger demographic. Kids still basically know wrestling is fake, but for the most part they're more likely to be on board with the dynamic of cheering on the face and wanting the heel to lose - in other words, they won't buy merch for a heel. As good as it could be from a booking perspective, they'd be throwing away money at this point, and I doubt they'd do that.

Hogan turning heel only happened at the point when pretty much everyone was sick of him and even kids barely cheered for the guy anymore. Cena may get to that point eventually but he's not there yet. I'm not super interested in Super Cena, but from a business standpoint I get why he's there and why they won't change him anytime soon.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:44 AM on April 8


I'm not super interested in Super Cena, but from a business standpoint I get why he's there and why they won't change him anytime soon.

Cena is now at the point that the Undertaker has been for the last several years and where the Rock was for a while before he stopped wrestling full-time -- so over and sells so many T-shirts that putting a belt on him is kinda counterproductive (especially now that there is only one World title and a sufficiently compelling narrative for Daniel Bryan to run with at least through Survivor Series). It would take a tremendous amount of effort on the parts of the bookers and Cena himself to lose that. Considering that this feud started with Wyatt costing Cena the World title, what did a clean Cena victory in a literally midcard WrestleMania match do for either of them?
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 AM on April 8


I thought, and have been noticing for a while when I've watched bits of Smackdown or Raw, that the camera work has been pretty shoddy lately. There's a lot of moments where you here the announcers get all excited, only for the camera to swing around and catch bodies falling. Obviously, there are some spots they're consciously not showing (they tend to swerve away from anything that's obviously supposed to be a headshot), but, especially in matches with more than the usual one on one, it seems like they've really dropped the ball on it.

That is, except in the most glorious moment of the Cena/Wyatt match. The camera work did an awesome job of shocking the viewer, and making you actually buy Cena's overacting when he came off the rope for the 5 knuckle shuffle only to find Wyatt in full bridge with the crazy face. Wyatt's ability to do that, and do that so quickly (the camera was off him for barely a second, it seemed), is impressively athletic for his frame. That he does it with the crazy face that looks like it came from a creepypasta story, that makes it even better.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:27 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I am so sick of the zoom-zoom-zoom on the giant swing and similar audience-count moves, but that Cena-Wyatt shot was brilliant.

And let's also give a shout-out to the tech side of the WWE Network -- I watched WM over the course of Sunday night (about a third of it during the actual broadcast) and Monday morning on my phone and tablet, and there was brief and minor pixellating whenever I started up the stream again, and that was it as far as problems.
posted by Etrigan at 8:44 AM on April 8


Ehh. I lost the entire (ha...) Divas match trying to watch on WWE Network. It skipped from a segment with the Spanish announce table straight to about halfway through the Undertaker's entrance. It's sheer luck that I didn't miss anything important.
posted by cribcage at 8:51 AM on April 8


Did you have the "Pointless embarrassing attempted spotfests" toggle switched to "Don't Bother"? It's in Settings.
posted by Etrigan at 8:56 AM on April 8


No, because I definitely saw Kofi Kingston's foot plant.

(Seriously though, he's been really creative with those spots. Great stuff.)
posted by cribcage at 8:58 AM on April 8


I was impressed by what Kingston was willing to go through to 'land' that spot. That fall onto the floor couldn't have felt good from that high up. To let himself fall like that, and still have the wherewithal to keep his feet on the step, well, it doesn't make me like him any more, but it was definitely impressive.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:05 AM on April 8


Considering that this feud started with Wyatt costing Cena the World title, what did a clean Cena victory in a literally midcard WrestleMania match do for either of them?

Good question. Not a hell of a lot, I'd say. The storyline was that Cena was being tempted to turn to the dark side or whatever, so I see it making sense to have him win while remaining virtuous. I'm not saying I love it, just that I see the logic.

I didn't think the match diminished Wyatt much - his marquee value increases from being in a really well-reviewed match, and the finish was crafted such that he pretty much had the win in his pocket (steel chair, distracted ref), but handed the chair to Cena instead and the moment was lost. Cena comes out looking, well, exactly the same, because that's Cena; Wyatt doesn't come out looking particularly weaker, but he does look crazier and creepier.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:18 AM on April 8


Some day Kofi's actually going to win a battle royal, and the crowd will be just as stunned as they were when Lesnar won.
posted by Etrigan at 9:20 AM on April 8


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