columnist’s note: I know I’ve dropped the ball recently, but a trip to Los Angeles, a flood of work, my girlfriend and I parting ways, organizing the WRESTLEMANIA MADNESS polls and some other misc bullcrap has pulled me away from the computer. My sincere apologies for the last two weeks and next week (I’ll be having someone filling in for me) after that, it’s 100% full
on Deconstructing the Moveset.
for the Mania Madness, check out the wrestling features section. thanks.
skipping the appetizers this week, we go right to the meat and potatoes
WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE WRESTLEMANIA
With Wrestlemania coming up, you can’t help but get swept up in the fever surrounding the event. Every year the WWE turns up the volume on wrestling to an eleven, and doesn’t let up either.
This year in no different. Kurt Angle brought back Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri. Randy Orton’s dealt with Superstar Billy Grahm and Jake Roberts. The Hall of Fame has brought Hogan and Piper back to names that, once again, we’ll talk about at Wrestlemania. A movie deal has brought Stone Cold back home to the WWE. Wrestlers are appearing on Conan O’Brien and the Best Damn Sports Show Period. The WWE has been supporting the “Road to Wrestlemania” tour which has been going since BEFORE the Royal Rumble, criss-crossing Hillybilly Jim across the country. Not to mention the flood of personal appearances.
Much like New Years Eve in Times Square, the eyes of the world will watch in anticipation as the main event comes to a close, and much like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the eyes of the world will move on almost as soon as it’s over. But why? Why does everyone begin to plan for next year as soon as this year is over? Doesn’t anyone look forward to January 2nd in Times Square?
The answer is relatively simple: New York City doesn’t treat January 2nd like a big day of the year. Yes, the WWE turns on the hype machine to full blast once January rolls around and Wrestlemania’s only a few months away. But why doesn’t Backlash or Armageddon or Bad Blood get attention that’s even close? Occasionally we’ll see Randy Orton on the Jimmy Kimmel show or Mick Foley on WWE programming, but we won’t see veterans or legends returning on a regular basis to promote events.
I know that when I heard Jake the Snake’s music hit on RAW, the first thing I did was call my friend who was the biggest Jake fan as a kid. Or when Marty Jannetty’s name was merely mentioned on Smackdown!, I called a buddy who’s been obsessed with Marty Jannetty (we suspected it was because it was Michaels’ jump point in his career and our buddy was always a Bret Hart fan) and he watched Smackdown! to see it. A third example would be my father only watch wrestling in passing… unless it’s Ric Flair, where he’ll sit down to see how the Nature Boy is still involved with wrestling.
These wrestling personalities draw people in, making RAW, Smackdown! or a PPV feel special when someone out of the ordinary is appearing. Think about the publicity Summerslam 1999 garnered when Governor Jesse Ventura was signed on to be the referee.
Let’s rewind the tape to Wrestlemania XV to the Hell in the Cell match. This is by no means a great match, but it DID involve a certain wrestler who returned to the WWE around that time. A friend who only watched Wrestlemania every year was having a conversation with someone else when the Big Bossman was announced. Immediately his head turned,
“Oh man! If I knew he was wrestling I’d have been watching this whole time! I love the Bossman!”
True story. The same day a girl who was there challenged me to a wrestling match in the living room. It stopped after a light spine buster on the floor. How was I supposed to know she had breast reduction surgery recently? She slapped me in the face as the match started and told me not to go light on her. If Sara’s reading, 6 years have gone by and I’m sure she doesn’t even remember. But anyway…
Why doesn’t the hype machine stay on eleven all year long? There are certainly enough wrestlers that have retired or were forced from the company that could provide enough nostalgia to disenfranchised fans and help the younger guys out at the same time which would please the audience that watches intently each week of the 52 weeks wrestling season.
There are three arguments against this idea. The first is easy for the WWE to say, the second is easy for the average fan to say, and the third is hard for everyone to hear.
The first is that if the hype machine is on eleven all year long, how will you make Wrestlemania special? How will the person who never watches wrestling except for Wrestlemania know it’s Wrestlemania time? If they’re bringing in veterans for special appearances all year long and promoting every PPV like they’re proud of every PPV, it will get exhausting to the WWE and the fans.
It’s a hard pill for the fans to swallow that the WWE thinks they know how the fans think; but it’s not nearly as hard a pill to swallow for the WWE as the next argument against this idea.
Not every PPV deserves attention. Occasionally the WWE will put out a stinker for one reason or another. Poor planning, injuries, personal injuries and poor performances are among a long long list or reasons a PPV might not be well received by the fans. Some PPV’s simply don’t deserve the attention that Wrestlemania does. Maybe it’s hard for the fans to give certain main events as much attention. Backlash 2003 saw a rookie named John Cena fight Brock Lesnar, who had just beaten Kurt Angle, for the WWE heavyweight title. It just couldn’t produce the same magic that Lesnar vs. Angle produced. It was special to the Worcester crowd because Cena was a hometown boy and was a fan favorite, but outside the bubble that is Massachusetts, not too many people cared. Did that hurt the other main event of Goldberg vs. the Rock? Absolutely. Angle vs. Lesnar benefitted from being n the same card as Hogan vs. McMahon just as much as Angle vs. Lesnar helped Hogan vs. McMahon.
And the third reason…
It’s hard for the wrestlers to admit it, it’s hard for the WWE to accept it and it’s harder for us, the fans to wrestling accept. These wrestlers can’t produce like it’s Wrestlemania on a daily basis. Not for their whole careers. In a business where longevity is king, daily Wrestlemania’s will shorten careers. Look at Brock Lesnar’s shooting star press. Even Ric flair said “If that were me I’d still be lying there.” And speaking of the shooting star press, was everyone as nervous as I was as Kidman stood on that top rope ready to jump into the crowd of cruiserweights standing below him.
Although there was a company where the wrestlers were of this mindset, and anytime you wanna see it, throw in an old ECW tape. Rob Van Dam admitted that wrestling in ECW was like wrestling dog years. Each year you spent there took seven off of your career. And I believe it too.
So what’s the answer then? Maybe it lies with the fans. Maybe the reason the WWE goes full hype around Wrestlemania is because it’s the only time the fans accept the full hype. Do we develop a “not buying it” attitude towards the rest of the year? We’ll never really know, and until someone does. We’ll always have Wrestlemania.