Thursday, April 5, 2012

Loathing WrestleMania 28

First off, this is a long post. If you hate reading, leave now. Secondly, this was written literally hours after the show aired, therefore Brock Lesnar's returned had not happened.

I first began my prose on WrestleMania 28 last week during a rather boring English class on Wednesday. I simply put forth the old school pen to note pad, jotting down notes and thoughts on the respective matches that were to be part of the card inside Sun Life Stadium. I got all the way to the description of the build up of Kane vs Randy Orton and I stopped, honestly I mostly don’t know why. I had all intention of finishing my piece, a rather good one I must say but I didn’t do it. Partly, the blame lies on Ring of Honor’s iPay-Per-View events on Friday and Saturday, both of which I bought and watched (or attempted to). The first night was ruined by audio sync problems and the second ruined by a power outage in the War Memorial in Fort Lauderdale. None the less, the matches I DID see were fantastic especially Michael Elgin vs Davey Richards in the main event of the second day for the ROH World title. I can still say, following WrestleMania that I’ve yet to see a match that garnered the kind of emotion that Elgin and Richards got out of me Saturday afternoon. All in all, I was pleased and that led me to tonight and WrestleMania 28. I sat in front of my computer screen and crudely watched what I can describe mostly as...a steaming pile of horseshit. The frothiest, creamiest and most vile pile of manure that I can recall with the name WrestleMania attached to it. Many have stated they found this show to be one of the best within the WrestleMania series and those people, are simply blind, deaf, dumb, retarded, useless, attempting to be political correct, or all of the above. Sans literally three matches out of the eight scheduled, this show was drizzling with shit.

Why, you ask with your nails digging into your head for an explanation? First off, Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus. What can I write about this match? It’s difficult for me to find words to describe the opening match of WrestleMania 28 simply because the match was literally 18 SECONDS. Yes, not 18 MINUTES, 18 SECONDS. Daniel Bryan took off his World Heavyweight Championship belt, turned around and kissed AJ, then turned to face Sheamus just in time to be obliterated with a Brogue Kick finisher and pinned for the three count. Whomever felt this was a smart move is both ignorant to professional wrestling and also stupid to the ways of making money. How in the FUCK does Sheamus look strong out of this? Many nim wits will argue “He lookz str0ng cuz he beet Bryan quik” well you’re horribly mistaken. Professional wrestling is not like MMA, where a result such as this is respected simply because there ARE times in a shoot fight where someone gets caught quickly and defeated. I can recall many times this has happened and people complain only because they wanted to see a strong, competitive fight with little outrage like that which followed the Bryan/Sheamus match. Why is it people are outraged then? Because professional wrestling is about build, come backs and drama. Little drama can be found in someone being kicked in the face ONE TIME and beaten for a title. Is this realistic? Sure. Does this draw money however? Not in the least. This makes Daniel Bryan, who by the way WWE has been billing as a cunning and strong World Champion, look like minced meat and makes Sheamus look like a fluke. Many are going to disagree with me and that’s more than fine, yet remember that there are very few truly GREAT workers out there that won a World title in 18 seconds, and there is a reason for this.

That leads me to a longer, yet equally pointless match with Kane and Randy Orton. From the get go, I despised this match. Not because I hate either guy, because I don’t. I respect where Kane and Orton have been in their careers and there is no doubt they deserve WrestleMania matches but the way in which WWE orchestrated a “Randy shook my hand and made me weak” storyline about a match that no one even remembered last year proves that they were merely struggling for an 8th match to add to the card. This match was what you’d expect from Orton and Kane, a big man against a smaller man match with some decent spots thrown in the middle but where it gets foggy is the finish and result. Many came into WrestleMania not only thinking Orton would win but KNOWING he would win, mostly because of the fact Kane has been treated like cannon fodder for months by John Cena. How would Cena beat Kane and Orton lose to him with little momentum behind him? Well, he did beat Orton and he beat him with a top-rope chokeslam. The finish wasn’t horrible literally but the fact that Kane beat Orton proves there is really no advanced plans for Orton in the least and I’d venture to guess there aren’t any for Kane either unless he becomes Sheamus’ first challenger and then BOY aren’t we wrestling marks in for a treat?

Cody Rhodes in my mind is one of the definitive breakout stars of 2011. With a big win last year against Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 27 along with a nice, long run as Intercontinental Champion despite very little in the way of title defenses, Rhodes has cemented himself as one of the future work horses in the WWE. Going into January, many wondered who it would be Rhodes would be facing at WrestleMania. Big Show spent most of 2011 out of the spotlight nursing an injury and returning in late 2011 against Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship in surprisingly good matches at Vengeance and Survivor Series events respectively. Once early 2012 hit however, Big Show began to slump. After finally defeating Mark Henry at the TLC pay-per-view for the World Championship, Big Show was beaten by Daniel Bryan after Bryan cashed in his Money in the Bank contract mere seconds after becoming champion. What followed was a decent triple threat cage match at the Royal Rumble in January and a fairly good Elimination Chamber match, both of which Big Show fell short in. So going into March, many wondered what Big Show had left. Cody Rhodes began to air what can only be called propaganda towards Big Show, highlighting the various failures at WrestleMania that Big Show has been a part of. After a month or so build up, we had it set for the Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes defending his long standing reign against The Big Show. This match was highly mediocre, mostly sloppy and just as many on various social networks put it, if any match at WrestleMania should have been 18 seconds this was it. Cody Rhodes should be given more props than anyone in his attempt to make this match good but it simply didn’t work, both men just didn’t seem to have much chemistry and following the five minute mark The Big Show finally got his WrestleMania moment and won the Intercontinental Championship. An unfortunate match in my view that Rhodes couldn’t salvage. I don’t hate The Big Show but I damn sure don’t like the man, he has become a forgotten giant in wrestling and when it comes to giants once you are expendable you’re pretty much worthless, not to mention there are really no challengers for Big Show to defend against. It comes down to a champion with a title he doesn’t need and a title that doesn’t need it’s champion.

The Divas Tag Team match has little to discuss. If you know about the WWE Divas style, you know it’s sloppy and leaves much to the imagination. Little actual skill and maximum sex appeal. At WrestleMania 28, what many have been describing the Divas division as came to fruition; it was literally shit. Maria Menunos is a socialite that is most known for her hosting jobs on various television gossip shows, most recently Extra. She and Kelly Kelly took on WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and the new heel of the division Eve Torres. The match was generic and sloppy until a certain point when the camera noticed something about Menunos no one wanted or expected to know: she had shit herself. Sure, there could be excuses in this instance. It was sweat, it was tanner, it was a combination of both. All I can say is it looked mighty spread and mighty brown from where I sat. Not to mention from that point on, the match went into a much faster gear, ending with Menunos getting a roll up win  for her team. There’s not much else to say about that, aside from the generic smart mark bickering that I will most definitely save you from.

Triple H and The Undertaker are easily two of the biggest stars in WWE and wrestling history. Both men have done it all and beaten virtually everyone there is to beat in wrestling, making money in an era that will be forever glorified and criticized; The Attitude Era. Both men are really the final relics of that era, evolving with the business and its demands. WrestleMania 28 was the collision course for both men because it was billed as “The End of an Era”: A Hell in a Cell match, with special referee and Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels. This is a match with many more gimmicks on paper than perhaps you would think it needed but come April 1st, this match was nothing sort of magic. From the elaborate entrances to the ringing of the final bell, there was little wrong with this match. Many could nitpick and complain, but they are the ones that truly don’t understand the way in which the wrestling business works. Triple H and The Undertaker did what very few in professional wrestling in 2012 can or want to do: they told a story with a huge assist by Shawn Michaels as the ref and really the anchor of the whole thing. The story read as so; Triple H spent the first few moments getting his ass whipped like crazy, he then spent a big part of the match beating The Undertaker literally black and blue with chairs, steps, sledgehammers and anything else you could name of. At one point, Triple H spent a good five minutes beating a prone Undertaker in the back with a chair so severely that a massive, purple bruise immediately was shown. Bloodied from earlier punishment, Triple H donned the face of a murderer and more so a man with a mission and purpose. Shawn Michaels attempted to make Triple H stop but was pushed to the ground and told to “End it then!”. Shawn tried and was choked out by Undertaker with his Hell’s Gate submission for his troubles. With Shawn out, another ref came into the ring just as Triple H had another upper hand. After what seemed to be a defeat, the second ref was assaulted by Undertaker and the match did not end. The final parts of the match were simply art at its finest, with Triple H and Undertaker going back and forth with maneuvers and weapons until a final Tombstone Piledriver for the Undertaker’s win and a 20-0 streak staying alive. I deplore anyone that love professional wrestling to watch this match, not only for the violence and the chaos but most of all for the true art form that is working in the pro wrestling ring. The final image was of all three men hugging each other in a pure sign of respect, leaving many to wonder is this the end of Triple H? The Undertaker? Both of them? Time will tell and regardless, I am in awe of the performance that was given and the effort on display. With Jim Ross on guest commentary thrown in, this match is flawless in the best possible way.

This leads us to Team John Laurinaitis vs Team Teddy Long for control of both RAW and SmackDown in a twelve man tag. Team John consisted of The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, Drew McIntyre and David Otunga while Team Long consisted of R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Booker T, Santino Marella and The Great Khali. This match was what you’d expect it to be, pretty low on psychology and pretty high in shenanigans. A pretty cool three man tope spot with Ryder, Truth and Kofi happened near the end and with Ryder looking to win the match, Eve Torres showed up and danced with Ryder in the middle of the ring in what has to be one of the most random and pointless parts of a match I’ve ever seen. The Miz took advantage, gave Ryder his finishing move the Skull Crushing Finale and won the match for his team, making Laurinaitis the complete GM of dandy. The man that botches promos more than he does them, is now in control of all WWE’s major television in storyline. After the match, Ryder tried to talk to Eve, who kicked Ryder in the nuts and walked away to the large jeers of the crowd. Why did this happen? Because we can’t be TOO obvious that Eve’s a heel and plus, WWE is really big these days on beating an idea into your head. So, we got a bad finish and an even worse result of that finish with Zack Ryder continually being shit on by just about anyone that can do so.

The WWE Championship match was one that I personally was more excited about than perhaps any other match on paper. CM Punk has become the obvious face of WWE since last summer’s “Pipebomb” promos leading into Money in the Bank and there after. After a lackluster at best feud with one Alberto Del Rio, Punk won the championship in November at Survivor Series and has held the title ever since through challenges by The Miz, Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, and many others in an Elimination Chamber match. On January 4th, after months of speculation with eerie vignettes displaying children in a classroom and in a playground claiming “The End is Near”, Chris Jericho returned from a near two year hiatus from professional wrestling in silence. Finally, the week before the Royal Rumble he only uttered one phrase: “This Sunday will be the end of the world as you know it”. Jericho would go on to be the last man eliminated in the Royal Rumble and subsequently went after CM Punk claiming Punk “plagerized” him regarding the moniker “Best in the World.” After a failed attempt to beat Punk in the Elimination Chamber, Jericho resorted to making things personal after making claims that various members of Punk’s family had many demons. That leads us to the pre-main event of WrestleMania, CM Punk vs Chris Jericho one on one for the WWE Championship. This match was very good, with much of the match spent on the mat in good chain wrestling sequences. Don’t get me wrong, there were some problems in the match. Certain moves were awkward and some of the spots were strange, however most of this match was fantastic and a true example of how good wrestling truly can be when two artists are given time and ability to create magic. CM Punk won by submission on Chris Jericho with the Anaconda Vice following incredible transitions from Jericho’s Walls of Jericho hold. While the opening chain sequence was awkward, the final sequence was amazing and the fans went wild with every transition. Now the question becomes: who can beat Punk for the championship? Also, is this the last of Chris Jericho we will see in some time?

So that leads us to the “Once in a Lifetime” main event between John Cena and The Rock. I’ve been quite vocal in both my podcast, Turnbuckle Radio on (cheap plug, Mick Foley would be proud) and also various social networks about my distain for the build up of this match. I’m not against this match at all, in fact at the beginning of the build up for this match all the way back to last year I was rather excited for it. Two top stars from two completely different times in the business going one on one after years of wondering if it would ever happen. It was indeed an incredibly strong match, however it went array. How did that happen? Overhype, plain and simple. I’m not against a promo package once, even twice a show leading into the event. However, to make a WHOLE DOCUMENTARY on just this match was too much for me. Eventually, the entire WrestleMania build became about two matches and only two matches: Triple H and The Undertaker and John Cena against The Rock. In my opinion, WWE spent far too much time building a match that in my view could have stood alone. I understand the importance just as much as any mark out there but let us be honest, the rest of the card could have used a lot of help. Even Jericho and Punk’s angle was given little to no hype and it WAS FOR THE WWE TITLE! It just got to be too much so I was more so excited once this match came up so that the hype would END, over if I’d enjoy the match. In the end however....I did enjoy the match. This was the best possible match you could expect out of Cena and Rock, one with lots of drama and cool spots. One spot in particular was when Cena hit his trademark leg drop from the top and looked like he drilled Rock head first into the canvas in legitimately one of the scariest bumps I’ve seen in a while. The end came after minutes of false finish after false finish, with Cena teasing a People’s Elbow attempt and at the last second, being caught with a Rock Bottom and pinned for three. Many were and continue to be both shocked and offended that The Rock beat John Cena but I’m neither of those things. I had Rock winning months ago, not because I’m a genius or because I hate John Cena, it’s quite the opposite. I respect Cena a lot and over the years have learned to like him for what he is; a power wrestler that can work with just about anybody out there. He’s been the face of WWE for the better part of the last decade and a very good one at that. However, John Cena is beginning to contract the same disease every great star in wrestling gets eventually; he’s getting stale. If you need proof of this, listen to any crowd on any given night when John Cena is in the ring. Do people cheer him? Of course. Does he deliver good matches? Yes but the simple fact remains that more and more, people are turning against him. The fact is you can only be one thing so long until you have to evolve and change your character, as proven by the longevity of The Undertaker. ‘Taker has been in the WWE since 1990 and has remained relevant not because he’s been the same for 22 years, he’s evolved. Going from the mindless zombie to the “creature of the night” goth chracter, over to the cult leader in 1999, to the “American Badass” biker gimmick from 2000 all the way to 2004 before regressing back with the nostalgia that he’s ridden ever since. Undertaker knew when the change and because of that, he’s remained one of the top stars of all time. John Cena must do that or lose his momentum and quite frankly this is beginning to happen. The Rock was the smartest of all the Attitude Era stars,he left when he still had so much left to give the business. In 2004, The Rock in his early 30‘s left to do movies not because he hated the business but because he knew that he would be much more valuable if he left and came back. He clearly was and is right, evident by WrestleMania 28 and the fan fare that has come with said event. You can say that it is wrong for The Rock to have won against Cena but you’d be missing the core value of professional wrestling; getting the people in the palm of your hand. Right now? Every single WWE fan is in The Rock’s hand and whatever he does, they’ll be paying attention. The Rock draws money and drawing money is something very few men in 2012 can do, THAT is why he beat John Cena on April 1st. John Cena means more as the come-from-behind contender than he would as the triumphant winner in this scenario, because now people have more of a reason to care than they would have otherwise.

All in all, I was disappointed in WrestleMania this year. I was expecting a solid midcard and interesting finishes, I got at least half that equation. Was it the worst WrestleMania I’ve ever seen? Time will tell, I’ll need honest time to digest this event and what it means in the long run but for now, it is absolutely on my Top 10 List of the Worst WrestleManias. With that being said, this event had some of the better matches that WrestleMania has had in ages with what I feel will be forgotten as a classic pure wrestling match with Jericho against Punk, as well as the incredibly emotional and violent Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker and Triple H, not to mention Cena vs The Rock. Yet again, I find myself both angry and inspired by the WWE and WrestleMania, however I’ve come to a very important epiphany I feel. Despite the high expectations that most fans have for the WWE, the company has a clear formula that they want to go with, mixing silly entertainment, comedy, drama, and in ring action. Regardless of what indy wrestling fans want, or what old school wrestling fans want, WWE will continue to be what it has become for better or worse. The trick for the world is to either accept it for what it is and find solace in that which falls into one’s personal taste or simply tune out. The true Sports Entertainment Age is in full effect, without a doubt after decades of decrees and rants about it and you either deal with it or you don’t, the McMahon Three Ring Circus will roll along from town to town with or without your support.