Wrestlemania XXIX: Sweatin’ to the Oldies – what else!
I grew up in Kansas City. There are a few absolute truths if you grew up in Kansas City.
1. Your sports teams are horrible. I am a Chiefs apologist, and I point to the era of Derrick Thomas – but the Chiefs have disappointed even when they were good.
2. You will have an argument with someone at some point about BBQ. Most likely the debate will be “Which is better – Arthur Bryants or Gates?” (Young buck answer to this question – Oklahoma Joes).
3. You will know something about professional wrestling.
I know more than my fair share. To be fair to the loyalists, I’m not a crazed fan anymore. The WWE’s (Post WWF, for those of you who aren’t on the World Wildlife Fund’s mailing list) monopolization of sports entertainment left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Though, in recent years, art has imitated life, as wrestlers with the same “worldview” have voiced their unhappiness with the trend of the company.
See Phillip Jack Brooks.
Nobody wants to be told who to be. Nobody wants to be a product of the man. That is, unless the price is right.
See Theodore Marvin DiBiase.
I get excited this time of year, though. Because this Sunday is the Superbowl of professional wrestling, Wrestlemania 29.
That’s right, 29.
The event that turned Hulk Hogan into a household name when he bodyslammed and pinned Andre the Giant is almost old enough to lie about its age.
There are different levels of wrestling fans in my estimation. If you are interested in entertainment of any sort, you cannot deny wrestling’s appeal and scope of influence.
I’m going to preview three matches at Wrestlemania, and I’m going to put them into different categories based on your level of wrestling knowledge.
The Hulk Hogan Level Match – Whether you know Hulk Hogan from his run as WWF Champion in the 80s, his role as Thunderlips in Rocky 3 or his reality show, you know him. This is the match where the WWE is trying to pull in the casual viewer.
The Dean Malenko Level Match – If you have ever enjoyed good professional wrestling, then you know Dean Malenko. From Extreme Championship Wrestling to World Championship Wrestling to the WWF, Malenko never had a bad match. This match will impress casual fans and please the die-hard fans. This is the match that the WWE hopes raises their viewership for next years worth of shows.
The Bulldog Bob Brown Level Match – When I was watching Central States Wrestling as a little kid, Bulldog Bob Brown was a staple on my television Sunday afternoons. He was Marty Jannetty’s tag team partner before Jannetty teamed up with a young and swollen Shawn Michaels to become The Rockers. Only the most avid fan would know Bulldog Bob Brown, so only the most avid fan will respect and enjoy this match at Wrestlemania. The rest of the watching party will be deciding between Bud Heavy or Light and nachos or wings.
So, without further adieu…
The Hogan Level Match –
John Cena v. The Rock
The Rock had a movie (G.I. Joe 2: C-Tate’s Dies in the First Act) and a TV Show (TNT’s “The Hero”) to promote. The Rock, soon to be Hercules in a Disney adaptation (live action, not animated – though that would work), doesn’t need wrestling anymore, but it seems his projects (or the people in charge of his projects) feel that wrestling is a good place for him to keep the fan base they need to spend money on their fare.
So, here’s Dwayne Johnson at Wrestlemania matched up against the company’s longest-running face, John Cena.
Cena tried the action movie route (see 12 Rounds) and failed. He dedicated himself to wrestling, and he’s a household name in households where NASCAR, gun racks and Nickelback reign.
However, after a feud in 2012 with CM Punk, Cena sort of became a man without a country. CM Punk skyrocketed to fame with his antihero “me-against-the-man” persona, and Cena took a back seat being the hard-working company man. Maybe not the best message for WWE to send to the masses at a time when the US is trying to rebuild an economy, but you give the masses what they want… And they’ll keep buying.
Cena, still popular among the young kids, and the parents that aren’t militant enough to get them to turn the dial, settled into the backseat knowing that he was going to get a year buildup to this match – with the biggest star to come out of professional wrestling in this century. It was an opportunity for Cena to showcase himself and shine against The Rock.
Only problem is, The Rock is better with a microphone than almost anyone this side of Ric Flair. John Cena is out of his element. Had Cena come around before Hogan, he would have been just as big. He’s got heart, he’s built like a Defensive Lineman, and he’s a decent worker.
I’m not saying he’s on the level of a Bret Hart in his prime, but he’s serviceable. He’ll be around for awhile, but they are trying to repackage him as a heel… And, while it might work in the longterm, right now, he’s getting his ass kicked by the artist formerly known as Rocky Maivia.
Cena will complete a full heel turn at Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon is too good of a businessman to make this match unimportant. This will be highlight you see on SportsCenter the next day. Just don’t expect any self-respecting wrestling fan to give a damn.
And, don’t get me wrong. I love The Rock, but know that he’s there to sell a movie, not stick around to be the WWE Champ.
Honorable Mention: Triple H v. Brock Lesnar
The Dean Malenko Level Match –
The Undertaker v. CM Punk
WWE was kind of forced into this matchup. The Undertaker winning at Wrestlemania is pretty much the Groundhog Day of professional wrestling at this point.
For those of you who don’t know, the Deadman is undefeated in 20 Wrestlemania appearances, defeating a veritable Who’s Who of wrestling greats (and A-Train).
In the aftermath of Paul Bearer’s death, the WWE has made the storyline of a feud between Punk and Taker a little hard to stomach, but pure wrestling fans know that’s only a story for the kids and the cynics.
The beauty of this match is you know CM Punk is going to pull out every stop in the book in order to win, and he’s going to lose. The freedom in putting a guy over is that you can work your ass off and show that you’re a great wrestler. That will ingratiate you to the fans. Punk is the last WWE superstar that needs the love, but after this match, Punk can check another thing off of his bucket list and never worry about obscurity again… providing he stays on McMahon’s good side.
Honorable Mention: Wade Barrett v. The Miz
The Bulldog Bob Brown Level Match –
Alberto Del Rio v. Jack Swagger
Most Americans don’t know Alberto Del Rio. But they will. He’s the future of the WWE. A bilingual Mexican Champion is exactly what the doctor ordered when you look at the ratings. This isn’t a secret, which is exactly why I wonder what took wrestling so long to come around. Then again, wrestling is infamous for being slow to change.
Del Rio is a great worker. He’s good in promos (Editor: loved his rendition of Swag’s “Weeeeee the Peeeeeee-polllllll”), and he’s relatable to a huge percentage of the audience who have only had fringe stars (Tito Santana) and pint-sized talent (Rey Mysterio) to cheer on for decades in the WWF/E.
Jack Swagger is a bit of a different story. He’s nothing if not inconsistent. The WWE has pushed and pulled with his character in order to figure out where he fits in the grand scheme of the company. He’s obviously physically imposing. He’s 6’7”, he’s an athlete. He just doesn’t bring it every night, and to be a star in a land of stars that’s what you have to do.
His mouth kinda freaks me out too.
But, lately, he’s had some great matches with Chris Jericho, who was once a great wrestler but isn’t capable of putting anyone over anymore if they don’t at least have a modicum of talent.
This is Swagger’s chance to prove himself or get out of the way.
If nothing else, this match is worth watching to see Del Rio become even more of a face than he already is. This guy could probably run for President of (The United States) Mexico someday and win. Oh Idiocracy.
Honorable Mention: Chris Jericho v. Fandango