I’m Claire Elizabeth, and this is writing a preview for a shockingly well-built WrestleMania match in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty-two.
Seriously, who had “a celebrity feud with Sami Zayn somehow ended up being the most coherent and consistent build to WrestleMania 38” on their bingo card?
And yet here we are, and with perfect characters for it. Jackass might as well be pro wrestling stripped of the sport, a steady stream of ultraviolent high spots designed to make you say “Holy shit how did he survive that?!” mixed with more good-natured shenanigans. Johnny Knoxville, a natural showman, is the kind of guy you could easily imagine being a beloved star of the squared circle if only he had gotten mixed up with pro wrestling earlier in his life.
And Sami Zayn, in this paranoid conspiracy theorist character, eager to see himself as a shining knight standing high upon pro wrestling’s mountain, beloved of everyone and the main character of the show, is poised exactly right to have a cartoon meltdown anytime anyone tries to interject a little reality into his life, especially if the person doing it is a puckish and charismatic outsider like Knoxville.
They had their initial encounter in the Royal Rumble and it was good fun, they’ve bickered back and forth and made a singles encounter at WrestleMania 38 official, and Johnny has cost Sami his beloved Intercontinental Championship. The stage is set, but as always with these celebrity guest matches, the question is— can Johnny perform as well in a wrestling ring as he can staring down a bull?
Or actually, if you think about it, the fundamental question of this match is really this— we know Johnny Knoxville can take a beating. The man’s had over a dozen concussions, shattered bones, torn muscles, herniated discs, a torn urethra for Christ’s sake! If you can break it, bend it, or tear it, Knoxville’s done it. So likely, there’s nothing Sami Zayn can throw at him that will keep him down.
Not the half and half suplex, not the suicide dive Tornado DDT through the turnbuckles, not the Helluva Kick, not the Blue Thunder Driver, not even long-dormant indie standbys like the double pumphandle Orange Crush or the avalanche brainbuster into the turnbuckles. Hell, Sami could probably shoot Johnny point-blank with a gun and he’d stand back up and try to throw another forearm.
No, Knoxville’s main issue here is that he lacks offense. To his credit, at the Royal Rumble we saw him throw a crisp and violent forearm that would make Katsuyori Shibata begrudgingly not in approval, but unless you’re Chris Hero it’s hard to finish folks off with a simple elbow. He’ll need to have been training, working up a finishing hold, but his own lack of experience means that should be simple and classic, a sleeper hold or a piledriver, to avoid getting too fancy. But that also means that Zayn already knows the countermeasures to anything he might bust out!
It’s a conundrum for Johnny, and it’s made worse by the way that he lacks wrestling acumen. Sami might not be able to keep him down for the count with brute violence, but can Mr. Knoxville counter La Casita or a European Clutch or even a simple small package? Has he taken the time to learn basic things like wristlock reversals or the side headlock > headscissors counter package? To say nothing of the fact that Zayn can use his time to prepare himself, to learn increasingly arcane and interesting holds— few expert wrestlers can escape a Paradise Lock, does Johnny Knoxville even stand a chance?
All this means that Johnny’s greatest asset isn’t even his ability to absorb punishment. No, it’s that Sami Zayn looks down on him as an interloper and a fiend, a jackanape, a base villain, a... well, a jackass. If Sami walks into that ring thinking he’s got an easy payday and he’s gonna trounce Knoxville and walk out a hero to his people, well... he’s got another thing coming. (Judas Priest intensifies.)
Can Sami Zayn defend professional wrestling’s honor or will Johnny Knoxville be able to hang with him?
Who will win?
This poll is closed