WrestleMania 27 or How I learned to take the good with the bad.
Time has a way of clouding reality and it can change perceptions. What we hated then, might be not be so bad now. What we love now and hold up high as the standard, might be getting more credit than it deserves. Case in point: Saturday Night Live. It is never “as good as it used to be” and “the original cast was the best.” Yet when you actually sit down to watch complete episodes from SNL’s first five seasons those moments of groundbreaking genius (of which there certainly are many) tend to be surrounded by just as many bad sketches or failed characters as present day shows. And while the original cast IS nothing short of a legendary troupe that set the bar high, to say they were the best would mean overlooking talent like Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Kristen Wiig; to name only a handful. And so it is with WrestleMania 27.
WrestleMania 27, the most electrifying commercial for Team Bring It T-shirts ever, was nowhere near as bad as some want to believe. Yet, somewhat sadly, it was definitely not as good as we needed it to be.
Ying and Yang. Shades of Gray. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.
Going into an event this grand in scale, fans everywhere are going to have BIG expectations. The fact that we such expectations of the event is just a testament to the event itself. If you’re a fan over a certain age…. say twenty or above… your expectations might be based on the memories you have of your first experiences with said event. My first real experience with WrestleMania was WM VI. Though I was a big fan during ‘Manias 1 through 5, I wasn’t yet at that true age of understanding what I was really watching. I saw the first five because my parents were cool enough to go down the street to the video store and rent a few VHS tapes from the Titan Sports library every few weekend or so. WrestleMania III was just the next tape in the stack they brought home for me. (I watched WM I after WM III and was kinda confused why people were booing Roddy Piper now.) But ‘Mania 6 was the first one I watched “as it unfolded.” It was the first one I waited for. At that time, Hulk Hogan versus Ultimate Warrior was the biggest battle I had seen since Luke fly at the first Death Star. This was a happening and, some twenty plus years later, that match still is. Yet the show as whole? Hmmm. Not sure if that holds up from start to finish. My memories of that entire event have glossed over some rather dull moments. I’d rather watch WM 27 again than to sit through Rick Martel versus Koko B. Ware, The Barbarian versus Tito Santana, or The Big Boss Man squashing Akeem.
So, WrestleMania 27 is in the books for better or worse. I’m going to lean toward better.
Small moments that made it better than you want to admit…
1.) The Scamper
The debate over the true place in history of the ‘Taker/ Triple H match cannot really be settled for awhile, but it should at least be nominated for “Instant Classic” status. I’m not saying you give it that mantle just yet, but it will certainly rank high in the history books. While most of the match might not rise above a “normal” hardcore match found on most Indy shows, the story was set up well and the ending, including the hard sell by The Undertaker, was executed to perfection. (Seriously. You have to think that even for a moment Michelle McCool had a flash of spending her golden years spoon feeding her husband porridge.) The best moment of the match, though, was carried out by Triple H. After he hit The Undertaker with his own trademark Tombstone piledriver and covered him for the history defining pin, ‘Taker did the unthinkable and kicked out. Triple H’s shocked scamper back with a look a sheer fear-driven panic sold not only the ending and the theme of the match, it sold the theme of ‘Taker’s career: That no matter what you throw at him, you cannot kill the Deadman. Triple H carried that out just as well as his famous sell of the return of Cactus Jack.
2.) JR and the lesson of silence.
As a professional comedian and former radio jock, I can tell you one of the hardest things to swim in… is silence. The natural instinct as a performer is to fill those gaps of dead air, but there are great rewards for those not afraid to live in the silence of a moment and to let everything hang in the air and be digested. The great sports announcers know this more than any one in entertainment. While Vin Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s game winning home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series was historic, (“Annnnd she iiiiissss gone.”) his call included some silence. He knew when to let the moment play out. This is what Jim Ross brings to wrestling. He is, above all else, a great sports announcer. While his understanding of wrestling and the advancing of the business’ stars and story lines forms the structure of his great talent, it is his courage to shut up that elevates him above the rest and changes the very level of the matches he’s calling. It was not his best performance. How could it be? You can’t take that much time off and just jump back in. But ole’ JR’s performance reminded us of what is wrong with present day announcing. And that is not just a generic swipe at Michael Cole or WWE announcers. It is just a sad truth about announcing across the board. WWE announcers are the ONLY sports broadcasters that have producers in their ears constantly dictating what they can say and how they can say it. Personality has been drummed out of broadcasting by the little voices in the headsets and the suits behind them. It’s not necessarily Michael Cole’s fault any more than it is Joe Buck’s fault that he is not allowed to be as distinct as his late father Jack. These are just the homogenized times we live in. But, for at least one more night, we got to slow down and take a breath of silence with Jim Ross.
3.) Rey Mysterio’s respect for the biz.
I’ve gone from hating Cody Rhodes to discounting him to completely and totally enjoying him… and it sounds like I’m not alone. The good wrestling press and vibes for Cody have been flowing ever since Rey Mysterio crunched his face and the Dashing one was forced to wear a protective mask. (“Everybody’s looking at me!!” is still gold.) WrestleMania 27 was Cody Rhodes big moment. Was it a career making classic? No, but the match absolutely did its job: Rhodes is now a prime time player. Maybe he’s still low on that depth chart, but he certainly got called up to the big leagues. All of this is possible because of Rey Mysterio’s respect for the business and the time honored tradition of putting over the future. And this is twice in a row now. First, he helped establish Del Rio and now, on the biggest stage, he jobbed for Rhodes. Did he do it willingly? I don’t know. Sometimes rumors float around of Mysterio’s grumblings about his position in the company or his eventual retirement. But, you know what, that’s what they are: rumors. Idle speculation and talk. While I have no more access to the situation than you, I choose to believe that Mysterio understands and believes in the business. Someone had to put him over at some point and now it is his turn. He is in a great position to do so as a famous veteran not quite at the end of his game. Beating him means you’re defeating a present day threat, not a washed up nostalgia act. To let it happen at the, cough, Showcase of the Immortals, should be considered a self ego check to celebrate.
What made it fall short more than I care to admit…
1.) No title changes.
I don’t know the exact stats on this, but I can’t remember the last WrestleMania without a title change. Now it is hard to have title changes when most of the titles aren’t even defended or a part of the broadcast, but Edge and Miz retained. While I’m all for The Miz walking out with his gold and I can (kinda) understand while you might want to keep the strap around Edge’s waist, there is just something fun about seeing a new champ walk out on Raw the night after. When WrestleMania ends, the landscape of the WWE should look a little different. The day after WM 27 looks the very same as the day before. That’s just not fun.
2.) Lack of Pacing
For the well-oiled, precision crafted machine that is the WWE, this broadcast just seemed a little off. There was a distinct lack of pacing. The Rock’s opening segment was awesome for the first two minutes. Too bad thirteen more minutes followed. They cut Sheamus/ Bryan, a match pegged by many to be the show stealer, but allowed the Cole-Lawler match to linger. (And I’m including Steve Austin’s beer fest. I love the guy. He’s one of the All-Time greats, but how many beer cans do we need to see cracked open?) The switching of announcers was cumbersome. Just bring JR out at the beginning and be done with it. Cut to Cole in the back preparing for his match. The flip flopping voices made getting into a rhythm a hard task. The backstage comedy moments were OK, but not anything above a normal Raw (Outside of Ryder and Piper. Loved that moment.) and, like most bad comedy in the world, took too long to get to the point. Pacing is key. Without it, you’re disjointed and hard to follow.
3.) Main Event let down.
It started out great. The video packages for both Miz and Cena were perfect. They really, really captured everything said and thought about those two. It addressed the issues head on (not a credible champ, just hero for the little kids, etc.), added depth to their characters, and made the match feel like it was bigger than it was. Which… well… was the problem… the match itself wasn’t treated as big. Which was not entirely the fault of Miz and Cena. It seemed like both were just told to hold the elevator door until The Rock could get in and the crowd, in turn, reacted as such. Cena looked bored at times. Everyone just seemed to be waiting until the script called for The Rock to come out. And then he came out… and it just didn’t seem as important as it did when he came roaring out on Raw just a few weeks ago.
But what does it all mean?
At the end of the day, you have to be able to just sit back and enjoy what is in front of you. Take what is for the taking. I had fun on that Sunday. And that’s what I’ll remember more than anything. I think WrestleMania is meant to be experienced among friends and unhealthy food. It is the Super Bowl of this business. And to that end, I submit every WrestleMania is a success.
I mean, I’ve always loved WrestleMania IX because I have yet to attend any other event in a toga… and not be questioned.
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