Suspension of Disbelief: This Time, It’s Personal! (Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Triple H, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, The Rock, John Cena)
by Rey Mundo on March 16, 2012

Before I get started…

It’ll be 3/16 in about 44 minutes. This is awesome.

Also, I was just watching this clip:

…and man, I was in tears by the time Michael Cole (Michael Cole!!!) said, “…the dream of everyone who’s been told, ‘You can’t do it’…”

Moments like THAT are why I watch wrestling. Look at that crowd. At the height of, “HEY EVERYONE, WRESTLING IS FAKE!!”-A-Mania, people still lost their effing minds with happiness over seeing Mick Foley win his first World Wrestling Federation championship. Michael Cole absolutely crushes the call, and 13+ years later it still feels just as “real” and just as poignant and just as impactful as any Championship win in professional sports has ever felt.

Okay, let’s get on with it.

Suspension of Disbelief begins… Now!

The Deadman. The Showstopper. The Game.

So the stage is set. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell, with the Heartbreak Kid as the special guest referee. Legacies are on the line. End of an era and all that. This past Monday, Shawn Michaels came out and basically said, “Hey, you cost me my career on the biggest stage of them all. Now I have the opportunity to do the same to you, pal.”

I loved it.

I loved that this is so intensely personal and prideful for all three men. Save me the handwringing about how you would’ve done it or who Undertaker should’ve fought. We all know that I primarily concern myself with what happens inside the 3 walls of my television and how it makes me feel.

This has gotten SO personal SO quick that I gotta lay out all the particulars.

The Rocker: Shawn hunts and spends time with his family, but he didn’t go out on his own terms. Ending “The Streak” became his “Moby Dick” and to mix metaphors, ultimately became his Waterloo (home of the world’s most excellent water slides). He sat back last year and was able to live vicariously through his d-X cohort and was probably alternately disappointed and relieved that Hunter was unable to score the win. Now, there is a rematch, and Shawn knows, absolutely knows, that Hunter can beat The Undertaker. Hunter is younger, stronger, and just cruel enough to go for that sledgehammer a split second sooner. Shawn can handle not being the one to end the streak, just so long as he isn’t the only one home on the couch pondering what might have been.

The Brother of Destruction: The Undertaker beat Shawn Michaels at two consecutive WrestleManias. He defeated the man people say is one of the best performers of all time. Twice. He defeated the one they call Mr. WrestleMania. Twice. He will always have that over Shawn. Hunter though? Hunter might not have defeated him, but Hunter did beat him. For the first time ever, The Deadman looked human. He didn’t disappear into a freshly-filled grave. He didn’t escape in a blackened arena. He didn’t emerge like a Phoenix from the ashes of a charred casket. He was helped to the back like a an ordinary human being. Now, inside the very structure his matches made famous, The Undertaker wishes to accomplish his primary goal. Keep the streak alive? No. Vengeance? Yes. Vengeance against the man who almost destroyed the legend of the Undertaker.

The Other Man in the Two Man Power Trip: The Game has lived in Shawn Michaels’ shadow all his career. Shawn is the one considered an All-Time Great. Shawn is considered the Main Event. Shawn is the Grand Slam champion. Shawn is the one who started D-Generation X while Hunter just took the style and ran with it. Now Triple H has a chance to accomplish something that Shawn was unable to accomplish–something NO ONE has ever accomplished. He has a chance to defeat The Undertaker on a night, at an event where his name has always been announced as the victor. Hunter knows he was only seconds away from pinning The Phenom last year. He saw his victory and his name etched in the record books, only to be caught in the Hell’s Gate submission hold. His vision blurred, his grip on the sledgehammer weakened, and he meekly tapped out. Triple H is The Game, the C.O.O., the Cerebral Assassin. Triple H is not supposed to be seen as meek and vulnerable. Hunter’s pride is on the line… but is The Game hunting something that he can’t kill?

(see… it’s sentences like that last one what make me a good writin’ type guy.)

The People’s Champ. The Chain Gang Soldier.

Okay. Okay. Okay. I’ll admit it. I was pretty psyched to see The Doctor of Thuganomics back on TV. I liked seeing the chain, the backwards hat, the throwback jersey, and the scowl. I liked that it wasn’t “Cheese and Rice” John Cena (no, not cheesy and bland, but rather the hokey, “Gosh, Gee Willikers” faux-sincere Cena we’ve had since like 2007). He did his rappity rap and I found it amusing but–and you’re never gonna see this coming–my Team Bring It’ness meant my enjoyment could only go so far.

Rocky came out to do his Rock Concert and I thought it was funny. I know not everyone dug it, but I had a good time with it. I liked seeing the Cleveland fans smile their fool heads off and laughing and treating seeing The Rock as the special event it has become. Rock’s “Cena Insult Greatest Hits” were all there, but what brought this to a whole ‘nother level was when Rocky brought up Cena’s wife.

Now that was interesting. I mean, none of the announcers brought up Cena’s wife when EveGate happened. John never said anything. Zack Ryder never said anything. Eve never said anything. But Rocky? Rocky said something, and he had Cena dead to rights. This became personal, and to me, that very true shot was way more potent and powerful than the “Yo’ Mama” joke at the end of the song that I didn’t think was very witty at all.

Plus… a Team Bring It theme song? Over “We Will Rock You?” That insults John Cena? I *demand* this be available on iTunes. I can buy any number of entrance themes. I want to buy the iTunes version post-haste and listen to it when I’m feeling blue.

Ice Cream Bars. 1,004 Holds.

And now, the item that buried the needle on the “Insanely Personal Promo” meter.

For quite a while now I’ve been sick of C.M. Punk’s “I’m the coolest guy ever and if you ever have something valid to say I’m just gonna go “NUH UH YOU’RE BORING AND STUPID BEST IN THE WORRRRLLLLD!!!” burials and attitude. Nobody likes That Guy, and it especially sucks in the world of wrestling. I read it in one of the biographies a wrestler came out with, and it rings true:

Never bury the guy you’re fighting. If you win, you just beat a nobody. If you lose, you just lost to a nobody.

Taking it one step further…

I fucking hate Wolverine. Not Hugh Jackman. The character “Wolverine.” Ya know why? Because Wolverine was a smug bad ass who could act like a smug bad ass because nobody could ever beat him up. I mean, spare me the nonsense about what Magneto did to him (ripped all the adamantium out of his body) because ol’ Logan just grew some bone claws and Snikt-Snikt “Bub!”‘d his way through more adventures. No matter what happened, Wolderine could beat up anybody and he cracked his jokes and alllllll of the suspense and allllllll of the depth and possibilities were stripped from mine eyes.

C.M. Punk was getting to be like that. He buried Del Rio, John Laurenaitis, Kevin Nash, Triple H, John Cena… all moronic troglodytes who weren’t anywhere near as cool and important as Punk was. Then, once Chris Jericho came along and won a battle royal to earn a trip to WrestleMania, it looked like Punk was gonna go, “NUH UH, NO! YOUR FACE IS STUPID! BEST IN THE WORLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLD!” all the way to April 1st.

Then Chris Jericho was all, “Dude, you’re straight edge because your dad was a drunk but you’re addicted to tattoos because you’re destined to be a screw up just like your ol’ man George McFly,” and for the first time, Punk was flustered.

Gone were the witty retorts. Gone were the requests for ice cream bars. Gone was clobbering time and pithy remarks. C.M. Punk was speechless and wounded and it was the best damn mind game I’ve ever seen in my time watching wrestling. Jericho got inside Punk’s head, found the skeleton in his closet, and brought it out for the whole world to see, and now Punk is thinking vengeance and anger instead of trying to prove that Chris isn’t what he clearly is, as evidenced by Monday night’s ownerizing of Charles Montgomery Punk:

The Best in the World at What he does.

This has been Suspension of Disbelief.

Rey Mundo is typing this in boxer briefs and a Florida Gators t-shirt. That’s right, ladies. I’m single.

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Rey Mundo

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  • CJ Ambrosia

    Consistently the absolute best on IP right now (and maybe the best on the net), and my favorite since Tom the Actuary. Well done Rey, keep it up!

  • CB40

    I agree with this sentiment 100%. Rey you knocked it out of the park yet again, especially your section headers! Once I got to “Ice Cream Bars. 1,004 Holds.”, I was just completely hooked and my disbelief suspended yet again.

    Great points on Punk-Jericho too. I like how Punk sold the “get away from me” vibe to the cameraman after Jericho’s reveal. Classic, awesome stuff right there.

  • Joe DeSandre

    I totally forgot about the Rock bringing up Cena’s wife. Then a day or two later he talks shit about Cena “breaking kayfabe.” Oh, Rocky.

  • Zork

    I’m stunned, you didn’t like the fact that Triple H was “buried”?

    Seriously though, I pretty much disagree with that sentiment. It’s not really a burial if the worst you’re called is boring, implying that said boring people are predictable, repetitive, and not fun to watch…and in the cases of John Cena and Alberto Del Rio, that’s pretty much true.

    Now, he was running John Laurenaitis down pretty hard, but who cares about that? It’s not like he wrestles or anything. The were going for the Stone Cold/Vince feud repeat, didn’t really work out…but you may as well say that every Monday Stone Cold buried Vince McMahon.

    Again, this burial talk is stuff a majority of fans probably don’t even think about.

  • Mark Satrang

    Once again, Rey you destroyed it. It’s refreshing to have you back just in time for WrestleMania. And yes that Foley call by Michael Cole was one of his two watermarks, the other being his call of Eddie’s win in February 2004.

  • Sideshowbob

    Good article, but where’s the WM darkmatch revisited, or big red viper machine? Or is that supposed to insinuate that they haven’t made you care enough and im being captain obvious?

  • Ryan Alarie

    The Punk/Jericho development is great because it changes things up. To compare to a couple of TV shows recently: The Office and Breaking In. In both cases, there was a character that, like Punk or Wolverine, was basically pure awesome. They were the unstoppable force, an unflappable cool guy that was always in control, and everyone was basically in awe of. They were “the Fonz”. so to speak.

    And that works, for a little while. Just like someone given an undefeated streak, you can ride that for a while, but eventually you need to make the turn.

    On the Office, Robert California, a weird, strange, charismatic and manipulative genius suddenly had his facade slip when he was shown to be in total fear of his wife, and unable to confront her at all. As the weeks went by, he became more flawed, and his initial charismatic manipulative powers have been exposed as more of a need to avoid any confrontation.

    Similarly, Christian Slater’s character on Breaking In has, in the new season, suddenly been undermined by a new employer, and thus his total domination of the office, inspiring fear and respect in all within the office.

    Basically, once you’ve established a big fish, thrown them in a bigger pond, or bring in another fish. In the case of Punk, most of the people he has been up against, he can use the “I’m more entertaining than you” argument, and be right. Jericho, however, is someone who is on par with Punk, both in the ring and on the mike. So, even if they didn’t go into this personal thing, they really couldn’t have Jericho as the butt of Punk’s jokes for being boring.

    Also, Jericho was at risk of being cheered by a good portion of the audience. Punk’s fans are just as likely to be Jericho fans, and since Jericho started talking, the only heelish aspect is that it’s a little hypocritical to claim Punk is ripping him off by stealing a catchphrase HE stole from Wolverine/Bret Hart. By having Jericho go for the ‘cheap shot’, it makes him more of a full blown heel, instead of just “the guy who is going after the babyface we like”.

    Also, I do like how both the Punk/Jericho and HHH/Taker feuds work as a counterpoint of the Cena/Rock feud.

    With Cena/Rock, part of the feud is how Rock was the man, and Cena is now the man … but part of the underlying current is that Cena, despite being agreed upon as “the man” of the current era, is nowhere near the level of the Rock. That, in effect, despite Cena being the top of the pecking order of the current WWE, is the leader of a slump era, just like Bret was between Hogan and Austin.

    The HHH/Taker thing sort of feeds into the idea of “who is the man”. HHH has been around nearly as long as Taker. Counting HBK’s time off, HHH has basically been active around the same time as HBK. HHH’s accomplishments in terms of number of title reigns, Wrestlemania main events, etc … are arguably greater than Shawn or Taker. However, no matter how dominantly he was booked, no matter how many title reigns he racked up, HHH will always be seen as sort of an also ran. Taker is the Phenom, Shawn is the Showstopper, but HHH was the guy who married the boss’ daughter. He may have been “the man”, but that was during the period between when the Rock and Austin left, and when Cena rose to power, so worse than Cena, he presided over the period of decline, not just the flatline slump of today.

    And with Punk and Jericho, you have someone who was always butting up against the glass ceiling. Jericho, no matter how amazing he has been, and his many accomplishments (plus getting better as he ages), was never really “the man”. He never got a real chance to step up and possibly be the face of the company. And Punk, who spent a while in the undercard, misused and still doing great stuff despite seemingly no one having any faith in him, is suddenly given the opportunity that Jericho never was. While I assume there isn’t any legit beef between Punk and Jericho, there is definitely room for that kind of resentment to exist. Punk is, in some ways, living the life that Jericho could, or should, have had. The “What If” scenario of what could have happened if HHH didn’t bury Jericho (whether it was HHH or not, it was mostly his matches with HHH that did the damage to Jericho’s career … although most of his booking as undisputed champ are bad).

    All of these echo back to the Jericho/Shawn feud, that actually spelt out these sort of ‘between the lines’ things that are arguably about position both backstage and in the minds of fans. About things like “what do I have to do to get more respect than you?” which make sense as a motivation that could drive someone crazy. “Why is he popular and I’m not?” or “Why do the fans cheer him and boo me?” Those are the sort of things which sort of break the fourth wall, but don’t really expose the business, as it can still make sense in a world where the matches are legitimate. People, especially the older wrestlers, worrying about their legacies. Worrying about how they will be remembered in the long run.

    That also contrasts with the other angles, as while Kane and Big Show are closer to retirement, the other matches on the card are more about “now”, titles, and personal grudges. Which is good, as variety is the spice of life.

  • CB40

    Glad I’m not the only one here who likes Breakin In Ryan, great analogy there.

  • Mark

    Since his title win, Punk has buried wrestlers worse than HHH in his prime. By far.

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