Brodus Clay's WrestleMania 28 appearance featured dancing "mamas." Did it take the stereotype too far? (Photo: WWE)
We all have questions. This is wrestling after all. Our curiosity is never satisfied.
After WrestleMania 28 last night (April 1, 2012), we're all still digesting what we've seen and what might be coming next.
So here's 20 of the best questions from the voice inside Jason Mann's head (borrowed from Randy Orton, what a gentleman) and Jason's answers, from whether Rock vs. Cena delivered on expectations to the disappointment of Daniel Bryan's 18-second match to whether Brodus Clay is an ugly stereotype.
Did The Rock vs. John Cena live up to the hype?
It didn't have the atmosphere that made Rock vs. Hogan at WrestleMania 18 so memorable nor the intensity of the Rock vs. Austin matches, but it was an exciting match with lots of drama and fun moments. Maybe it wasn't "great," but it was certainly satisfying.
Plus it had a surprise finish of Cena (who was a brilliant subtle heel throughout) mischievously trying the People's Elbow, only for Rock to pop up and hit the Rock Bottom for the clean win.
Hey, I'm asking the questions here, buddy. Do you want to see Rock vs. Cena again?
I'd be happy to see Rock-Cena II under the right circumstances, but I don't want another year of hype for it. But Cena losing gives him a chance to be plagued with self-doubt for a while against other opponents, and maybe we can revisit his issues with The Rock down the line, presumably SummerSlam or WrestleMania 29.
And it would be nice to see the Great One interact with someone new as well. Maybe WWE Champion CM Punk, one of the few in WWE who could match Rock on promos both in content and delivery.
Was Triple H vs. Undertaker the best match of the Streak?
If you want it to be, sure. I'm not going to take that away from you. It was certainly the most brutal, and probably the most intense. I really, really loved it, and I'm not the biggest fan of either wrestler.
Both men, and of course special referee Shawn Michaels, played their roles perfectly. The story they told was amazing, and Undertaker destroying Triple H with the chair, like Triple H had tried to destroy him, was super satisfying..
As far as ranking the match goes, I'd rather take a few weeks and let my feelings settle before getting into that. What should be indisputable, though, is that Undertaker has now had four must-see matches in a row at WrestleMania, which is really the streak we should be celebrating.
Would this feud have been better if they'd played a Faith No More song instead of Metallica?
Of course. Faith No More makes everything better. "Last Cup of Sorrow" would have perfect indeed. I will say those, though: Metallica and Triple H are a perfect match for each other: Each has been incredibly boring for like 85 percent of their careers.
So why did Undertaker have a mohawk?
Because he's an 8-year-old boy from southeast Ohio. Explanations the obsession with magic and fire, too.
Now that Undertaker is 20-0, should anyone end the Streak or should it live on?
It depends. If the right guy is there to do it in the right story, then I think it should end. No one will realistically come close to matching the Streak. So the only way it can benefit someone else is if someone ends it.
I will say this: I don't think there's a huge difference between 20-0 and 20 in a row with a loss in the final match. The potential moment in which we see Undertaker's expression when he loses at WrestleMania, with probably tears in many fans' eyes, would be incredibly powerful to see.
Who else could Undertaker face at WrestleMania?
I don't know how many matches he has left in him, but I see three realistic possibilities at the moment of wrestlers on the current roster:
- John Cena. He and Undertaker have been kept apart for nine years for a reason, and I feel like they need a WrestleMania match. Cena beating Undertaker to end the Streak would certainly be controversial, but I could see it as a Hogan slamming Andre type moment.
- CM Punk. He's the best overall performer in WWE and one of the few marquee attractions if Cena is busy next year.
- Sheamus. He's more of a dark horse (a very pale one), but he's big, charismatic, very good in the ring, and seems like someone WWE is invested in. If he was a bit younger than 34, I'd think he'd have a better chance than anyone at ending the streak.
Was C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho overshadowed by the other two big matches?
Maybe. But it was an incredible match as well, even if it took the crowd a while to figure that out.
Jericho bringing up Punk's father's alcoholism and sister's drug problems gave the story some extra emotional resonance, and I loved Jericho trying to get under Punk's skin and driving him to almost get disqualified. Just brilliant storytelling, and even better execution from two masters of the game.
18 seconds for Daniel Bryan v. Sheamus. Really?
I'm not sure I'm in touch with what the average wrestling fan thinks, but I doubt he or she thought "Wow, Sheamus sure beat Bryan quickly and decisively, there. Hooray!" after it was finished. More likely, they think: "I was looking forward to an exciting match, and I didn't get one. Boo!"
I'm actually in favor of more variability in match times for big matches (if you can call this, arguably the fifth-most-important match on the show, big), just to give a sense that a major match can end at any time rather than having to go 15:00 to 20:00.
But maybe this wasn't the place to start that. Or maybe go 3:00 instead and do the same finish with Bryan kissing AJ and being distracted. You still make the same point, and it feels less cheap.
So Bryan is ruined now, right?
Stop being silly. Steve Austin lost to Jim Duggan in 30 seconds. The Ultimate Warrior squashed Triple H at WrestleMania 12, after kicking out of his finisher. Life goes on, and supreme talent can rise over embarrassing booking. That doesn't mean this wasn't dumb, but Bryan will be just fine.
So since Bryan vs. Sheamus was the pre-show match last year and the opener this year, will it be the second match at WrestleMania 29?
Ha, you're a funny guy.
So Kane vs. Randy Orton wasn't as awful as you expected, right?
Well, I'd rather it have been the match that went 18 seconds, but you're right that it ended up being OK. The super chokeslam at the end was pretty cool (I was expecting the finish of Diamond Dallas Page vs. Giant at Starrcade 1998), and Kane actually winning was a surprise. Although that probably means the feud will continue, and that's a boo.
John Laurinaitis being in charge of both Raw and Smackdown: A great thing or the greatest thing?
If he keeps wearing Col. Robert Parker tribute suits, it's the greatest thing. Although I'm torn here: Another wrestling story involving a domineering authority figure is beyond tired, but Laurinaitis is wonderfully dry and witty. Laurinaitis punishing the members of Team Teddy who opposed him could make a fun few weeks of TV.
Is Zack Ryder the dumbest man in wrestling for being suckered by Eve again?
Ever? I'm not sure he's passed the Sting threshold yet, but he's getting there.
Was Big Show breaking his WrestleMania curse by beating Cody Rhodes everything you hoped it would be?
It was emotionally satisfying, for sure, thanks to Rhodes being an excellent dirtbag and Show being a good Tommy Dreamer. Also, it's a nice way to move Rhodes into something better than not defending the Intercontinental title. He's come a long way in his presence, though his character isn't quite as fun and weird as it was a year ago.
Who are the tag team champions?
Is this a quiz now? Uh, let me think ................. Strike Force?
No, try again.
It's a trick question: The tag team titles don't exist anymore.
The champions are Primo & Epico. They had a pre-show match at WrestleMania.
Well, it should be Strike Force. And you've stopped asking me questions.
Fine. What were your feelings on Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve?
I don't know if it's something you could say that I have feelings about, but it seemed like everyone executed their roles competently. Kelly did a flip that got people pretty excited. Phoenix is wasted in this role, but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.
Did you just quote Sean O'Haire?
I only steal from the best, my friend. And, occasionally, Sean O'Haire.
Fair enough. One last question: Is the Funkasaurus a crude, stereotypical caricature of a black man?
Come on, it's my first week here at Cageside Seats. Are you trying to get me into trouble?
Fine, let's talk about this.
When Clay debuted, I bristled somewhat at first at that suggestion, though I didn't completely dismiss it either. Even though he was doing the old shucking and jiving bit that many African-Americans have been reduced in wrestling, I didn't think of Clay as "black" (Clay's actual racial background is irrelevant here; I'm referring to the character, and not the human being) and I doubted most fans saw him that way, either.
But after the spectacle of dozens of dancing gray-haired, black "mamas" with exaggerated bosoms and bottoms dancing around at the stage, it's clear what we're meant to see the Funkasaurus as. And it's ugly.
Wrestling has a historically awful track record with how it treats black wrestlers, both as human beings and as characters. WWE isn't to blame for all of it, of course, but it has its own checkered history.
Characters in any form of entertainment, particularly in wrestling in which most are narrowly drawn, are going to incorporate some stereotypes: It's certainly not just black wrestlers who fall victim to this. But look back at all the black wrestlers in WWE over the past 30 years, how many of them have been awash in the crudest, most base stereotypes imaginable. Most of them get to be thugs or dancers. And that's when they get the opportunity in an industry with historically low participation rates.
Listen, some of these characters I enjoyed. The Funksaurus himself has made me smile a few times. Brodus Clay takes the role with enthusiasm.
The trouble isn't one character. It's when they are taken together, and when a company has a near-total absence of black characters with normal human complexity, when it becomes a track record that's hard to ignore and impossible to justify.
I imagine some of you are thinking something along the lines of "Why are you taking this seriously? It's only wrestling" or "This isn't supposed to be politically correct."
To that I can only say that WWE touts itself to be family entertainment aimed at a global audience. Perhaps it would be good business to present characters that reflect that world a little bit better.
You are a politically correct pansy.
I hope these questions have been illuminating, Cagesiders. Please feel free to share your own answers, or any other questions of you own, in the comments.