Last night (Sun., April 1, 2012) was professional wrestling's biggest night of the year. WrestleMania 28 came to us live straight from Miami, Florida to our television screens. And, as we've come to expect from "The Granddaddy of Them All," the show delivered some electric moments that will be remembered for years to come.
After all, over 78,000 wrestling fans can't be wrong, right?
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not the event was palatable to your tastes, there was a little bit of something for everyone. Glimpses of the past were found in the Triple H/Undertaker showdown as the two veterans wrote a brilliant story in the confines of the cell with a somber Shawn Michaels looking on. Two new school vs. old school clashes headlined the card as Chris Jericho and CM Punk put on a match that blended ring psychology and mat work, while The Rock and John Cena electrified the crowd to close out the night.
Looking back on the night, there were good, bad, and downright ugly moments. Follow me after the jump to hear about some of the lessons one could learn from last night's WrestleMania.
- All swerves are not created equal.
Vince McMahon just recently perfected his style of trolling. Sure, wrestling has always been a business where you can expect the unexpected. But the "Reality Era" the WWE has entered has been full of some of the most epic troll jobs known to man.
And if the response around here is a popular one, fans have eaten them up with a smile.
For example, the return of Chris Jericho was highly anticipated by the majority of wrestling fans. What isn't to love about Jericho? Talent in-ring and on the microphone has gotten him into the hearts of viewers. Well, what if he comes out to cut a promo and doesn't speak? And what if he tags into a match, hypes the crowd, then tags out and leaves? The era of this style of swerve, which came to be known as the "Jeritroll," was short-lived and much-loved.
And what about Brodus Clay? Everyone wanted to see the beast return to the ring and make an immediate impact as an unstoppable force. Instead, we waited week after week, only to hear Brodus blowing up the phone of our beloved John Laurinaitis. And finally, he is back! He is squashing mid-carders and jobbers and is the indestructible force we knew before. The catch? A Run DMC tracksuit, Soul Train-like dancers, and some funk to make the beast into the only living Funkasaurus known to man.
Not all swerves are created and loved equally, though, and this showed last night.
Opening up with the world heavyweight championship bout was not terribly surprising, although it is understandable why a few feathers could be ruffled. But our boy Daniel Bryan was going to be at his most dastardly to give Sheamus the fight of his life in what would be Daniel Bryan's definitive Wrestlemania moment up to this point, right?
Wrong. A kiss from AJ, 18 seconds, and a Brogue kick put an end to that love affair. And fans hated it. The numerous ringside attendees with "YES!" signs voiced their disapproval throughout the night with chants of Daniel Bryan's name and signature phrase.
And what about Randy Orton? No way one of the WWE's most popular talents would lose to the slow, plodding Kane who had been exposed by John Cena, right?
Wrong again. Also wrong? Those who thought Beth Phoenix and Eve would squash Kelly Kelly and expand upon vivacious heel Eve (although she had her moment later in the night) and the dominant Glamazon. But I suppose no one cares about the proverbial fallen Diva tree in the WWE's forest.
Finally, The Rock vs. John Cena. No way a movie star should have beaten the WWE's cash cow and the "most controversial and/or polarizing man in sports entertainment." But it happened at the hands of a Rock Bottom.
In all of those seemingly unexpected twists, there was good and bad. Bryan being finished in 18 seconds was not so good and fans reacted accordingly. Also, no one cares about Kane and having a guy that quite a few fans get behind drop a match to him isn't the greatest thing. Conversely, The Rock putting Cena down isn't making many wrestling fans shed a tear.
WWE's swerves are hit or miss and last night proved that. Hopefully we'll see Bryan regain some of the awesome sauce that got kicked out of him.
- Loose lips sink ships...and probably boost PPV buys a little, too.
If you weren't prepared to mark out over the return of either Brock Lesnar and Dave Batista (or his drastically different reality name, Dave Bautista), I'd have to call you a liar.
Lesnar brought me over from pro wrestling to MMA and I was on the edge of my seat when there was some down time in the main event. I was waiting for that blaring noise accompanied by the stomping beat of his entrance, followed by some swift F5s to both men in the ring.
Hell, a few Batista bombs would have been okay by me, too.
Unfortunately, all of this was for naught last night. But the rumors that circulated could have been just enough to get a few fans that converted to mixed martial arts to come back to the dark side for last night's proceedings. And that sits fine by me and I'm sure it sits fine by the collective McMahon family pockets as well.
- Storytelling and spectacle over technique and tactics works every time.
If you asked me what matches really caught my attention from beginning until end, I'd probably tell you that the pre-show tag team match and Punk/Jericho really caught my eye.
If you asked me what matches had me off my coach screaming and rooting for someone, I'd probably tell you that Undertaker/Triple H and John Cena/The Rock had me marking out. Also Daniel Bryan/Sheamus, but that's a whole different kind of emotion, folks.
CM Punk and Chris Jericho delivered a match that could get some solid pop at an indy event. Equal parts entertainment with Jericho's ring psychology and taunting and technical wrestling with some brilliant mat grappling at the beginning and end of the match would have fans applauding and getting some decent reviews by most critics.
Triple H and Undertaker didn't deliver a match that fans of Ring of Honor or Dragon Gate would have appreciated this weekend. The punches and finishers traded on and off seemed like a lackluster main event you could catch on RAW each week.
The electricity that the match delivered was very different. The vivid picture that was painted was beautiful. One man trying to end the livelihood of another with a biased friend in the ring refereeing the bout. The other man's will prevailing and halting his opponent in his tracks as he triumphs. The former aggressor realizing his fate and going out swinging on his shield. The referee pleading both to stop for their lives. The end of the battle where the winner shows honor and respect and helps his fallen foe. This was all captured brilliantly. Factor in a hot crowd for three legends in the ring and you have a match that will shine above the rest.
Story will prevail on a larger scale like this. The Rocky films are nothing special film-wise. There were no elaborate techniques from a cinematic standpoint. No flashy special effects. What echoes in those films that make them a classic series are the stories of willpower, heart, and the rising and falling as a human. The relation that people make to never giving up in the face of adversity prevailed here and will always resonate more than a grappling masterpiece on a large scale.
- Wrestlemania will always be the ultimate "combat sport" event of the year.
Nothing will ever touch WrestleMania in terms of sports entertainment, whether it be boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, etc. The atmosphere that has been created at numerous WrestleMania events will unlikely ever be touched by these combat sports.
There are numerous reasons that can attribute to this. Pure wrestling fans all agree (mostly, anyway) that they've come to see the biggest event of the year that is split between theatrics and athletics, with emphasis on the former. There will be surprises and guaranteed entertainment at some point in the night.
Pure fans of the other sports are treated to every event promoted to guarantee electrifying fights, which almost always leads to disappointment in one way or another. Not all fights will deliver. No one wants to expect that the potential Pacquiao-Mayweather bout will be a drab defensive battle or that Georges St. Pierre would like to hold Anderson Silva down for 3 to 5 rounds. But sometimes these things happen in combat sports.
Another factor is the lack of truly special marketing that these events get. The UFC presents the same product, for better or worse. You are promised combat and that is about it. Dana White emphasis on cutting theatrics can deter someone who wants a little glitz in their competition. This is one of the things that made Japanese MMA great in times past. Freak show fights, pyro, elaborate entrances, and entertainment blurred the lines that some MMA fans often scoff at and are afraid to cross.
Finally, the wear and tear of being promised the "best fights ever every week" can grind down the most passionate MMA fan. The lights and show that WrestleMania delivers every year trumps the biggest UFC event because the UFC tries to present the facade that every numbered PPV is as great as the one before it and it is simply not true. WWE has never minced words in saying that WrestleMania is their cash cow. This is why WrestleMania will out draw UFC 159, 160, and 161, etc.
In all, there was so much to learn and enjoy about last night. It is why sports entertainment can be so enjoyable and validating. Nothing will touch the over-the-top showmanship that is put on by the WWE at WrestleMania and electricity of the crowd and performers demonstrated that.
Do we really have to wait another year?