Fear and Loathing on the Road to Wrestlemania 31, Part One

(Hello from 2016. This seems to be the only thing that anyone looks at on the old WordPress version of the site, so perhaps you’d like to see the what I thought about Wrestlemania 32? Maybe?)

I haven’t made any overt mentions of it around in here in a while, but I’m a pro wrestling fan, and have been on and off since about 1986 or so.  With some notable exceptions, wrestling is a terrible thing; it’s stupid, violent, racist, sexist, and eventually destroys everyone who gets involved with it sooner or later. It’s a Very Bad Thing, and there’s no good reason for anyone to watch it, but after this long, I doubt I’ll ever be able to get the brain-damaged, steroid-addled monkey off my back. The disease is inside of me, so don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.

Anyway, I grew up watching the WWE, (or WWF, as it was back in my day) and for better or worse (spoiler alert: worse) I’ve always been a WWE guy. No matter what cool stuff has been going on in Japan or the U.S. indies or whatever, the WWE has been what I’ve paid the most attention to. And this is the time of year that’s traditionally the Best Time to watch the WWE, the period between January and April that they call the Road to Wrestlemania. There’s no more competition for viewers with football, so things get ramped up to eleven. Storylines that have been slow-burning for a year come to a head, friends betray each other, rivals clash, superstars rise, and all scores get (presumably) settled at Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania is the ultimate pro wrestling spectacle; a giant show in a giant stadium, where giant dudes do giant things. The production is a little bigger, the wrestlers try a little harder, and everyone involved will stop at nothing to make it the best show of the year.   It’s basically the Super Bowl of sports.

And it’s gonna suck real bad this year.

smackdownIf you listen closely, you can hear Daniel Bryan’s brain psychically screaming “I WON THE MAIN EVENT LAST YEAR”

Wrestlemania 30 last year was amazing, and the buildup to it was what made me actively start paying close attention again after a long layoff induced by various overdoses, suicides, double-homicides, and Diva Searches. Daniel Bryan had become the most universally loved wrestler since Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar actually seemed like a threat to end The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania winning streak, the Shield was awesome, the Wyatt Family was creepy in really fun ways, I hadn’t yet been back in the loop long enough to be sick of John Cena, Cesaro looked like they were finally on the verge of doing something with him, and none of us yet knew that CM Punk was never coming back, and what better time than Mania? And in the end, the show was awesome, the Streak that was never supposed to end was ended, Cesaro had his Wrestlemania Moment, the nostalgic Hulk Hogan-based parts of the show were fun and didn’t overshadow the present day parts of the show, and Daniel Bryan won the world title in the most awesome Wrestlemania main event since [name redacted] won in eerily similar fashion at Wrestlemania 20.  And aside from Undertaker or CM Punk fans, everyone went home happy.

Daniel-Bryan-Wrestlemania-Championship-CelebrationDon’t know what you got, till it’s gooooone

Then, the rest of 2014 happened. The Ultimate Warrior died three days after his Hall of Fame induction. Daniel Bryan was stripped of the title and was gone for close to a year, following career-threatening neck/shoulder surgeries. Brock Lesnar disappeared for most of the year, even after winning the championship. CM Punk’s exit became terrifyingly final after he went on Colt Cabana’s podcast and dropped The Final Pipe Bomb, throwing accusations at the WWE ranging from trying to withhold his merchandise royalties to trying to kill him by refusing to treat a staph infection. Every five minutes, there was another public controversy about racism, sexism, or trainees in the WWE NXT minor league system getting physically or mentally abused. The WWE Network became a financial disaster that burned up a third of Vince McMahon’s fortune in a single day. The WWE fired Alberto Del Rio essentially because someone else had been racist to him, and he reacted like a pro wrestler. For something like the thirtieth year in a row, Kevin Dunn DIDN’T get fired. Storylines got stagnant, championships got more and more devalued, and it started to seem like Vince was actively seeking to punish every wrestler under the age of 39 for the crime of being below the age of 39. Because of all of these factors and more, the WWE now prepares to limp into Wrestlemania as a multi-million dollar dumpster fire that no one wants to see. AND NOW, LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THAT DUMPSTER FIRE!


MAIN EVENT: WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar (champ) vs. Roman Reigns

Let’s go ahead and start at the top with the match that’s supposed to be the reason we’re all going to watch. In reality, it’s a match that no one anywhere wants to see, and the reason we’re all going to watch is the Disease of Wrestling that I mentioned earlier. Even if we know we’ll hate it, we’ll watch it anyway, because we are compelled by forces that we lost control of long ago. We’re already dead inside, every single one of us. Fuck. Anyway, this match is the last chapter of the meteoric rise of Roman Reigns to become the new Face of the WWE. And he’s become a really sad case study in WWE creative dipshittery, because he’s a guy that everyone used to like and really hoped would be in a position like this someday. He’s a big, strong, athletic dude, his Superman Punch looks cool when done properly, and holy god damn, he is one fine-lookin’ man. He looks like the offspring of a coupling between Jason Momoa and the world’s most beautiful lioness. He is a Golden Samoan God, and every time he appears on-screen, even his biggest detractors want to reach into the screen and caress his perfect hair, and silently wonder if it smells like fresh strawberries, like we all hope it does. I ain’t gay or nothing; that’s just how it is.


The problem is that he sucks. He looks lost in a one-on-one wrestling match, he sounds lost when he tries to speak more than one sentence in a row, and he still dresses like a SWAT team member for reasons no one can understand. Ever since the force-feeding of Reigns down the world’s throat began, it’s become more and more apparent that he was the third best member of the three-man team he used to belong to, and that he still needed a year or two in the middle of the card (or being sent back down to NXT) before he should be considered for a main event-level position. But no, Vince McMahon, perhaps mesmerized by his unmatched male beauty, decided that the time to make that move was RIGHT NOW, so a guy who once legitimately had an extremely bright future is now the most hated man in the WWE – in an “actual hatred” way, and not in a fake “wrestling bad guy” way – no matter how many times they scream “hey you guys, he’s related to the Rock!” at the casual WWE fan.  And so it goes that the Conquering Good Guy in a Wrestlemania main event is possibly in danger of being booed out of the building.

Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar is just sort of there in this match. Between the horrible inevitability of the Roman Reigns Era and the possibility that he just decides to go back to the UFC once his WWE contract runs out, he’s as lame a duck as ever stepped into the ring. I guess the excitement could revolve around whether he’ll accidentally concuss Reigns like he did to the Undertaker last year, or if he’ll concuss him intentionally, and cackle maniacally while taking the WWE belt back to the remote cabin in Minnesota where Sable sits alone all day, wondering how she got herself into this situation.

WORST CASE SCENARIO:  This whole goddamn match is the culmination of a whole pile of worst case scenarios. For comedy purposes, let’s just say a comet smashes into Levis Stadium.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Someone builds a time machine, puts Daniel Bryan in Reigns’s place, and then has this match happen at Wrestlemania 33 or something. Or Reigns wins, then Seth Rollins uses that Money in the Bank contract that’s about to expire to beat him cheaply and have the show end with an actual bad guy being showered with garbage by the crowd for winning the title.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Actually, this might be one match on the card where the best case scenario in my head seems possible. Yay?


Triple H vs. Sting

It’s the Dream Match that no one ever dreamed about. They keep selling this as the Ultimate Final Showdown of the Monday Night Wars of the 1990s, and there’s just so much wrong with that. First, why are we still trying to sell a wrestling match to people in 2015 based on things that happened between 1995 and 1999?  And we’re still apparently in WWE Fantasy Land, where Triple H (current real-life WWE board member and Executive VP, this is important to remember) was the Ace of the Attitude Era, because Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels never actually existed. Also in WWE Fantasy Land, Sting was the Face of World Championship Wrestling at the time, and certainly didn’t spend the final years of the company’s existence having his proverbial nuts repeatedly chopped off (alongside Ric Flair) by Hulk Hogan’s politicking. And yeah, in WWE Fantasy Land, Sting is appearing as a mysterious phantom that no one’s seen since 2001, and the dude that spent a decade in a wrestling promotion almost literally named “Tits and Ass,” losing matches to Jeff Jarrett and THE MONSTER ABYSS was some other guy.

tumblr_m6rnxsN6Rr1qhgb5lo1_400Presented without comment.

Not to mention that any sort of WWF vs. WCW dream match involving Sting was something that the world wanted well over a decade ago, and that the WWE’s current target market of 6-10 year olds wasn’t alive when all the things that are supposed to make this match matter happened. For years, wrestling fans wanted to see Shawn Michaels vs. Sting, and when Michaels retired, they wanted to see him wrestle the Undertaker. Instead, we get this, and we get it a decade too late. Sting is a 55-year-old man.  He meets the qualifications to join the AARP. Current WWE merchandise featuring Sting exclusively uses pictures of him from about 18 years ago, and their Best of Sting DVD features a cover image where they literally had to paste his head on another dude’s body. He made his in-ring debut when I was in kindergarten. He’s old enough to have been in tag teams with Lex Luger, “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, and the Ultimate Warrior, before he was called the Ultimate Warrior. All his friends are dead or crippled. And the guy tasked with carrying him to a good wrestling match is a 45 year-old corporate executive that no one wants to see in a match against Sting. Fuuuuuuuuuck.

BEST CASE SCENARIO:  People remember how much they genuinely like Steve Borden as a human being to forgive him for whatever pile of shit this turns out to be.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Triple H beats Sting using some sort of sledgehammer-based shenanigans, and then Hulk Hogan makes a surprise appearance to leg drop his lifeless body repeatedly while Triple H and Vince McMahon take turns taking huge dumps on a flag emblazoned with a WCW logo.Four-fifths of the audience stares in stunned silence, all wondering what the letters “W-C-W” stand for.  Vince McMahon then goes under the ring, rolls out a bound-and-gagged Ted Turner, and proceeds to douse him with kerosene and set him ablaze, as Triple H, Hogan, and Sting look on in horror, to stunned to even believe what they’re seeing, much less do anything to stop it. Vince then produces a pair of pearl-handled revolvers and begins firing them haphazardly, while repeatedly screaming “I’M VINCE MCMAHON AND I WON, GODDAMMIT,” mortally wounding several spectators in the process. Police rush the WWE Chairman, who uses the strength of forty years of steroid abuse to fight them off in a PCP-like rage.  In the aftermath, he plea bargains down to a misdemeanor.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Sting wins, we’re briefly happy because we like Sting, then none of it matters or is mentioned ever again until Sting goes into the Hall of Fame at Wrestlemania 32.

bray-wyattsee you next time


COMING UP IN PART TWO: JERRRRRRN CENA defends America’s honor against the evil Russian/Bulgarian RUSEV, and THE UNDERTAKER tries to not break a hip versus BRAY WYATT.