Somehow I lucked out and got one of the post-Wrestlemania slots here on Inside Pulse. I was debating what to do – a ten thoughts? A stream of consciousness thing? Some sort of rant about how Bryan and Sheamus were better off last year getting booted from the show? It was a tough call.
But then I remembered something. And it’s going to be a sort of a d’uh moment, but: this was Wrestlemania. The 28th version. The grandest stage of them all. And this one was, quite literally, a year in the making. It was one of the more intriguing ‘Manias for a while because, on paper, it looked like it could blow the roof off the place.
And then came that opening 30-second “match”. I was ready to punch anything. These two could have gone for broke and delivered a great match to open the show and pop the crowd; instead we got the sort of treatment reserved for guys jumping to WCW or when some one is injured legitimately.
But, this was Wrestlemania. The biggest stage of them all. Even non-wrestling fans know vaguely what a Wrestlemania is. Sure, a lot of them associate it with Hulk Hogan still, but that is by-the-by.
Wrestlemania should be the pinnacle of wrestling. And in that regard, let me be a fan. Because WWE, in the last hour, let me be a fan again.
Yes, Wrestlemania XXVIII finished with me being a fan again, even if briefly (ask me again after RAW).
I watched the Team Johnny v Team Teddy match with a little smile on my face. Sports Entertainment and harmless, but Wrestlemania worthy? Really? So we hit that last hour following this.
And it started when Jericho and Punk put on a 25-minute clinic of how the wrestle a great match. They went out and all the crap about Punk’s family was just like Flair’s “she was mine before she was yours” with Randy Savage 20 years earlier – it was mind games. And, more to the point, the result was the same. These two were, literally, fighting to be regarded as the best in the world today. And while people who watch the independent scene may well disagree, that is what we saw – two men who wanted to prove to the world that they were the best.
Did they succeed? Yes! They succeeded. This was the sort of wrestling match that I thought a scant 5 years ago was never going to be seen again. It was what got me interested in wrestling in the first place. It did not require great amounts of extraneous bull-crap – it was two guys swapping holds, swapping moves, wrestling. Wrestling! This is wrestling! I marked out and had no idea who was going to win. And half an hour later I did not care because both guys deserved the win, and it was just that Punk came out on top. This was the best match of the night.
Then we got Brodus Clay, the Funkasaurus, and his momma. That was actually kinda fun. Then we get some… Well, I guess it’s what the cool kids call music. This wasn’t fun, but did allow me to rush to the toilet.
Then came the main event. The pure wrestling was not as good as the match that it followed (restholds seemed to be a weapon of choice). But the sports entertainment was off the charts. The crowd was hot for this one and I reckon they made the match. The pop Rock got when he entered was bigger than any I have ever heard watching wrestling for thirty years now. And Cena not only got booed, but seemed to absorb those boos. But by halfway through who cared who was face and who was heel? So many near falls and kicking out of finishers and having the crowd in the palm of their hands and playing with their emotions like that. I was suckered in completely, and even let out a cheer when Rock won. I wanted to hate this match just because of the way it was built and the way it had been promoted and everything else.
I couldn’t hate this one. It ran circles around Rock/Hogan at WM18. Did the right guy go over? Who cares? It was just fantastic. Seriously. I’m marking out again just typing this.
Okay, so we finished with two matches that went for about the same amount of time. One catered for fans of Wrestling, the other for fans of Sports Entertainment. Both delivered a face victory. Both had the crowds enthralled. Both were some of the best Wrestlemania matches ever. Sure, give me six months and when I rewatch the show I may change my mind, but at the moment, they were simply superb.
I felt like a fan again for that last hour of the show.
And I think this Wrestlemania showed, in the end, what Professional Wrestling has become. Is it the old school holds and counter-holds of the pre-cartoon Hogan era? Sure, if you want. Is it Sports Entertainment, more about the personalities than clean, crisp in-ring product? Sure, if you want. It’s taken 30 years, but Wrestling has found itself and found itself on the greatest stage of them all.
It’s a little bit of everything. Today’s audience can accept wrestling as being something for everyone. And it felt like, for the first time in too long, some one in power sees it that way, too.
Caveat: I know some are going to say that in the era of the Smackdown 6 and Heyman booking Smackdown we had a similar mixture. And I’d say, sure, maybe we did. But was it at Wrestlemania? Was it on the grand stage? And did it produce two matches to close out the show like the ones we saw at Wrestlemania XXVIII? That last hour was worth the price of admission alone.
Some are also going to mention my not mentioning the Hell in a Cell match. Fine. Mention away. I refuse to give an opinion. What mattered to me was that last hour. 60+ minutes. That’s all.
Sometimes it’s good to be a fan.