By Josh Krubner
As the years went on, I was able to identify less and less of the roster, learning only from the annual obligatory video game purchase who the likes of “Heath Slater” or “Zack Ryder” were. “Obligatory,” that’s a good word… despite racing off across the country or going up to Toronto on multiple whims just five or ten years prior, it was a chore to even find the energy to go to the “New York/NJ WrestleMania.” It was 27, 28, or 29… shows you how memorable it was. I remember a disappointing Jericho match, one of the nameless Rock/Cena main events they still insist were the “bestest in WM history” and I think Undertaker vs CM Punk? I guess that was ok.
We’d catch the “Big 4” (Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and of course, Mania) and even a year out of “practice”, you’d be able to pick up where you left off. You watch thousands of matches, or in our case, get drunk and “try them at home/at the very least referee them” and you learn to telegraph spots; when a reversal is coming, when a finish is coming. I guess it takes the fun out of it, but it’s no diff from being able to call where a pitch will end up.
I think it was last year we finally got to see the NWO vs DX and Sting. This was what we “wanted?" A bunch of geriatrics and relics of the past most of the in person audience wasn’t even born in time to remember? What was “Christmas for the Attitude Era” was pretty much the glorified “pee break” for Cee-Nation. It was sad, and just another of those exclamation points saying “it’s time to move on.”
One of my old roommates has “the network” and I even sucked it up and watched NXT with him. Those guys are great, and it’s nice to see a legitmate IC title picture/midcard picture beginning to form again. The kid friendly, no blood, no boobs, no butts idea has to go. I don’t know who thought that was a “good” idea or how they were able to carry it as long as they did.
Sadly, I don’t really remember the Rumble. This is partly due to my non-caring as of late, and partly due to Roman Reigns, the new “Samoan wrestler related to the Rock we’re supposed to like but everyone hates”. Reigns, the worst part of S.H.I.E.L.D., or The Shield - two guys who would be an awesome early 90s tag-team, a great competition for vintage Hardy Boyz vs Edge and Christian, and what way back in the day ECW was screaming for when Tommy Dreamer needed his own stable - two super talented guys… and Roman Reigns. In true “good guy who is stiff monster with crappy moveset” fashion, Reigns entered at number one, and had to win the Rumble to stay or win the title… and of course Triple H who is like 56 now, comes out and screws him becoming the champ for the ungodliest number of times, likely tying or passing his idol, Ric Flair. And that’s all I remember. Except for New Day.
During the years I was enough of a fan to go into the city and check out shows, Kofi Kingston was a rising star on that coveted IC title circuit, and I knew he was going places. So when they turned him heel or face – these guys are SO over, it’s pretty much impossible to tell at this point- and paired him up with then “BIG GUY” and the mouthpiece of group, they caught fire immediately. I still don’t think ANYONE likes the Usos, and it’s a shame almost every time I’ve caught New Day here and there over the years, they’ve gone up against… the Usos, but damn if the crowd didn’t love them!
I text my sister to be ready that we had to head out to our friends’ new apt at 6:15 for what will likely be a disappointing evening where we can lament good times gone, and just catch up with friends/chat about their impending wedding. I should also mention that like me, my sister was raised on Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, Macho Man Randy Savage, HULK HOGAN – yes, he’s a thing that exists - and of course Ric Flair. She’s also not quite 13 yet.
We arrived at the soon to be newlyweds’ apartment and after a comedic mishap involving me running home to get my laptop to play the show off his television the cable company can’t figure out how to make PPV happen, we are treated to the spectacle of WrestleMania 32… er “WrestleMania.”
It made perfect sense to Mike, who explained it as “they felt numbers dated the show with the new fans”, and I guess it made perfect sense to me. In the twitter universe, attention spans went from 30 seconds to 0.3.
Everything is a retconned rebooted sort of sequel, this past calendar year alone we got seven or eight by my count.
The show opened with an impressive video package recapping things as they always do, a nice set, some great pyro, and yes, they even made the new Dallas stadium look good.
I missed the opening match/matches running home to get wires and a laptop, as the poor bastard watched “the grandest spectacle of em all” on his tiny laptop screen. I got back just in time for the first real match I wanted to see, Chris Jericho past his prime, jobbing to TNA hotshot I’d seen in clips here and there, AJ Styles.
And then… Jericho had one of the best WrestleMania matches since WrestleMania XIX…a nd he won. He won clean. “Jericho won?” I thought confused. “huh, not bad."
I didn’t have much time to think on it, as they hit the stage. The New Day was out - dressed like the Ginyu Force in one of the best and most obscure DBZ call-backs I’ve ever seen. Mike himself, who insists he’s “not a fan,” was cracking up at the absurdity and we both agreed that love em or hate em, the crowd DEFINITELY goes along with them.
I looked at the on paper card, and ran the rest of the check-list:
“Lesnar vs Ambrose - that’s gonna suck”
“Charlotte v Sasha Banks v the super hot irish redhead – this should be one of the three good matches period”
“undertaker vs shane - the over the hill pathetic match I can use as a smoke break”
“The battle royale - this was probably on the undercard/dark match”
“the main event - my excuse to leave early”
As the Lesnar/Heyman video package played, I laughed to myself how someone who stopped watching in 2002 could pick up tonight and think “wow, they’ve been together this whole time?”
Ambrose is an ECW wrestler born in the wrong era. Lesnar is a brick shithouse who thinks wrestling is real, and he’s not winning unless he’s actually hurting people fo realsies. The match was fairly decent! “What is going on? This is WrestleMania! Why is it…good?”
I wasn’t the only one thinking these things, as the texts about the honest actual quality of the event started pouring in. That familiar feeling of being invested in a show started to come back. I wasn’t thinking about things I had to do at work, or even taking a break to smoke.
The women’s match might very well have been the match of the night. It really could be the best [modern] era for Women’s Wrestling. It was nice to see Lita there, but imagining Lit and Trish in their prime against any of these girls would have made for a hell of a bout.
When HBK and Stone Cold hit the ring, Mike and I were on our feet like the first time we saw them live way back in high school.
The Undertaker portion of his match was “tired and pathetic” but Jesus if Shane McMahon didn’t have something to prove to the fans, his brother-in-law and his father. Dude almost killed himself pulling a Mick Foley and falling off a Hell in A Cell. Shane, you’re like 50. You have nothing to prove to us! You were always crazy and we always loved you for it. Sadly, it was Taker who looked worse for the wear after that fight.
Then the main event happened. Triple H let himself lose at his own rebooted Wrestlemania…where he put his wife in a “Looks that Kill” outfit. What a guy. The fans booed their new “hero” – I guess it’s appropriate being as his finisher is the “SUPERMAN PUNCH”- and the show ended.
With it, my faith and even my hope had been renewed. “Summerslam is in Brooklyn? Maybe, we should look into getting tickets.”