I have never been ashamed to say that I am a fan of professional wrestling. Yes, I know it’s choreographed and yes, I know it’s set up, but it’s, to me, a real business. I love the ins and outs. I love the behind the scenes stuff. I love the fact that most of the biggest rivals ever, are really friends and usually drinking buddies or just hanging out kind of chums. I do a weekly movie review for The Less Desirables and here, so I like acting. But, like in films I am a fan of the behind the scenes details of the film, usually more so than the actual film. And, in football, as much as I love the sport and watching the games, I really love the offseason: the trades, the draft, the free agency (although I don’t like free agency as a concept, I love watching the puzzles be reshuffled).
My favorite wrestler has always been The Undertaker. I love the mysticism, the mystique and the macabre elements of the character. Mark Calaway plays the part perfectly. Calaway’s been playing “Booger Red” (a nickname given him by Jim “JR” Ross) since 1990, although he’s been in the ‘rasslin bidness (thanks Dusty) since the mid-80s. He is the longest-reigning active superstar in the WWE locker room. He is the conscience of the company. He’s one of the most respected, if not the most respected person in the locker room and most of the other superstars look to him for guidance and direction. His character changed a lot over the years from a cartoonish old-west style undertaker with black and purple garb to pure evil to a biker-style gimmick that I really didn’t care for and back to an evil-ish dude. He has been in over 60 PPVs since he arrived (his first ever WWE appearance was Survivor Series 1990), but his true claim to fame has always been Wrestlemania. Eugene always makes fun and says it’s a lame gimmick because if he was truly undead then he’d have better things to do than wrestle. I always countered that it was no less plausible than this concept: if these superstars had this much trouble with each other, I’m sure they’d not wait until Monday night or a PPV to take care of it. It’s all story line and part of the process.
The wrestling business’ Super Bowl is Wrestlemania and it happens every year between late-March and early-April. It is “the big dance,” “the grandest stage of them all” and this year was known as “the ultimate thrill ride,” mostly because it occurred at Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl) in Orlando, Florida and Orlando is known for its theme parks and “thrill rides.” The Undertaker had in his previous 24 appearances in WM amassed a record of 23-1, the first defeat coming at the hands of Brock Lesnar in Wrestlemania XXX, just three years ago. Before that, he was 21-0. That’s a famed and revered record.
Last night was the 32 episode of Wrestlemania and I think it was one of the best ones I’ve seen in a long, long time. I’m warning you that I will be giving away spoilers, which I try to not do, but I will in this instance. So, if you don’t want to know what happened in last night, don’t read any further. I’ll wait as you make your exodus…
Okay, still with me? This will probably be long, so I apologize for that. Let’s start with the “pre-show.” I don’t know why they don’t just call it the main show and start at 6pm. Two hours of buildup on the day of the event is kind of pointless and they downplay some important pieces of the puzzle by making the matches part of “the pre-show.” It’s still in the ring in the middle of the huge set and on TV. Just make the show longer. I guess they have to justify paying Booker T, Jerry Lawler, Lita and Shawn Michaels their legacy pay for something. I like Renee Young. I wish they’d replace Mauro Ranallo or at least David Otunga on commentary for Smackdow. Mauro hasn’t been there in a month, getting over depression. I’m not making light of that, but get out of the way and let someone else take the spot. Renee Young is good, better than either Ranallo or Otunga. Get rid of the “pre-show” and extend the show, that’s what I say about that.
So, two championships were decided in the “pre-show:” The Cruiserweight Championship (Raw/205 Live) where Neville (c) beat Austin Aries; and one of the most storied championship belts in all of wrestling history, the Intercontinental Championship which saw Dean Ambrose (c) beat Baron Corbin. Why keep those in the “pre-show?” The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was also held in the “pre-show.” That was nothing more than a big advertisement for the WWE to kiss Rob Gronkowski’s rear end as he interfered, taking out Jinder Mahal and giving the win to his buddy Mojo Rawley. Why name something after one of the most recognizable superstars in history and build it up for something just to use it as an afterthought? That’s silly, especially the way it was booked. If you’re gonna disregard the match, why not just drop it instead of doing this? So, while I thought Wrestlemania was great, I didn’t care for the “pre-show.” It was crappy.
The actual event started and the first match was the Phenomenal A.J. Styles taking on the Smackdown Commissioner (and part owner of the company), Shane McMahon. Truthfully, this was a solid and fantastic match. Lots of “holy s**t” moments and Shane really held his own in there. A.J. won, by the way.
Next was Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho (c) for the United States Championship. It was obvious that KO was going to win, for a couple of reasons. 1) Jericho was a setup for Owens to have a belt with it not being the Universal Heavyweight championship, 2) Jericho is going on the road with his band Fozzy for the next few months. It was a great match because Jericho can carry anyone. KO wasn’t shabby, either, although I’m not really a fan of him, overall. He does have talent. I’m not going to give a bunch of move-exposing here, just who won or lost (at least for the most part).
In a fatal-four-way elimination match for the Raw Women’s Championship, Nia Jax was destroying Bayley (c), Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks until the other three ganged up on Nia. She was killing it. So, she had to be triple teamed to be eliminated. Then Sasha. It came down to Bayley and Charlotte. Bayley pulled off the win showing she didn’t need any help from anyone else to “take care” of Charlotte.
Big-pop moment of the night, which was a surprise/not-surprise, happened during the Raw tag team championship match. It was to be a triple threat ladder match with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (c) defending against Enzo Amore and Big Cass and Cesaro and Sheamus. Before the match started, The New Day, who were hosts of the show, said they had been informed that it was going to be a fatal-four-way ladder match but who would be the fourth team? I thought at first it was going to be them (that would have been obvious), but suddenly the Hardy Boyz music cranked and they come out to the delight of the crowd (and me). It’s unclear if they’ll use their “Broken” gimmick but as of right now, they are just back and that’s what matters. I actually got giddy, myself. I loved the Hardys before they left a few years back. So, a few swanton bombs and twists of fates off of tall ladders and you have new tag champs, The Hardy Boyz. Entertaining match, this. Welcome back Matt and Jeff.
John Cena and Nikki Bella, a real-life couple, have their lives broadcast on the E!/WWE production, Total Divas. They were called out by fellow real-lifers Miz and Maryse, mostly because Nikki talks about how much she wants to get married but John drags his feet on asking. Well, after several weeks of build up, Miz and Maryse get beat by John and Nikki. John then asks Nikki to marry him. I don’t know how much she knew about it before it happened, they insist it was unknown to Nikki and everyone except one (John refused to say who that was). It was sweet and the match was as good as you could expect a mixed tag match to go.
Triple H came to the ring on a motorcycle with Stephanie McMahon riding in the “b*tch seat and with a motorcycle cop escort. Seth Rollins was finally going to get his hands on Triple H after what he did to him (turned on him and cost him the heavyweight title after). There was no title here. Just a good ol’ street fight. Just not enough omph in that match. I really wish Triple H would go ahead and retire. He’s a legend and a former-in-ring-commander but he’s getting long in the tooth and has a powergrab problem where he’s got to be in the spotlight more than is usually dealt to us. I really dig Triple H, but jeez o’Pete! Run the company and stay out of the ring. Seth Rollins had had his second knee surgery in two years and they played up that injury but Seth Rollins took it home in the end.
The Smackdown Heavyweight title was up with the up-and-coming powerhouse and a new fave of mine, Bray Wyatt (c) going against Randy Orton. There was a bunch of gross-out moments with the ring turning into maggots, worms, and roaches. It was cool but over the top, really. Not a bad thing, just curious. I don’t think WWE knows what to do with Bray. Randy has been champ (now) 13 times and doesn’t need the belt. Let the youngsters do their thing. Bray has plenty of charisma, works the mic great and works the ring, too. Anywhat! The powers that be decided to give the belt to Randy anyway. Boo!
In the who really cares department, it was the third installment of Goldberg (c) vs Lesnar for the Universal championship. Goldberg had defeated Lesnar in short order the previous two instances but Lesnar had Goldberg’s number this time. Just under five minutes this match was moved along because the whole show was running late. Lesnar is the new champ, great (smell the sarcasm).
In a match that was supposed to be in the “pre-show” until the fans complained, the Smackdown Women’s belt was up for grabs in a six-pack challenge. Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss (c), Mickie James, Carmella, Natalya and Naomi fought for the belt. Naomi (who had to give up the belt due to injury a week after winning it earlier this year) is from Orlando and who didn’t see her win coming? So, Naomi, wins. Again, the show was running way late and they pushed that through with little fanfare. No one really seemed to care. They were tired at this point.
Then the main event. The Undertaker was taking on Roman Reigns in a “this is my yard” match. Not really, just what went on the whole time. JR returned a week after retiring and only a week after his wife was killed in a bicycle/car accident and that let us know something was up. That and it was after two heavyweight championship matches. It was a back and forth and then Roman speared ‘Taker five times and gave him his second and probably last Wrestlemania loss. Afterwards, Roman left kind of bewildered and conflicted. ‘Taker put his garb back on, the music played, the lights went purple and then he took off his gloves, placed them in the middle of the ring; took off his coat, folded it, dusted it off and placed it on the gloves; removed his hat, rolled his eyes back in his head, laid the hat on the pile and got out of the ring. He hugged his family and kissed his wife (TOTALLY out of character for him) and walked halfway up the nearly quarter mile ramp and disappeared on a trap door that lowered him down and out of sight.
This was the symbolic “passing the torch” from ‘Taker to Roman. The long 26 year run of Mark Calaway’s Undertaker character has come to an end. It was cool to see him out of character at the end. It was sad and surreal. I will miss that and I’m sure that he will be in the Hall of Fame very soon, maybe even next year. I’m used to him not being there often, but there was always the chance of him showing up. The match with Roman was kind of clunky but it was still there.
Overall, the show was really good. Good pops, good feel and the crowd in Orlando was electric. Thank you Mark Calaway and WWE for providing my plenty of fodder for my dark, mystical fantasies and my fantasy world that I’ve always said I live in. Undertaker (the gimmick) thank you for the memories.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Rest In Peace” – The Undertaker