The match no one wanted: Is Shane/Undertaker the new Bret/Vince?

 

In 2010, Bret Hart returned to RAW for the first time since the infamous Montreal Screw Job in 1997. People were pumped. He called out his longtime nemesis, Shawn Michaels, and the two hugged, putting years of bitterness behind them. It was a nice moment, despite Hart’s decision to wear jean shorts.

Then Hart called out his other longtime nemesis, Vince McMahon. The two also appeared to reconcile, but McMahon ruined the feel-good story by kicking Hart in the balls, kick-starting (#fireable) a feud for a Wrestlemania match.

I and many others were happy to see Hart once again involved with WWE, but I and many others also had no interest in seeing him go one on one with McMahon inside the squared circle. Hart, one of the greatest in-ring wrestlers of all time, was limited physically as the result of a stroke he suffered years earlier. McMahon, one of the great wrestling characters of all time, was limited physically by being a man in his mid-60s.

The feud was weird: McMahon refused to accept Hart’s challenge, then Hart was hit by a car, then McMahon changed his mind since Hart had a broken leg as a result of the accident, then Hart revealed that he faked the car accident and actually didn’t break his leg after Vince signed the contract. Actually, what am I saying: that’s a perfectly acceptable pro wrestling feud. But the whole thing felt off.

The match itself was … not good. And I was in the building for it! My first Wrestlemania (I’ve since been to two others, no big deal). I expected it to go for about five minutes, with Hart quickly dispatching of McMahon with the sharpshooter. Instead, it went for like 15 minutes, with Hart’s extended, dysfunctional family first coming out as though they had aligned with McMahon, then immediately turning on him and siding with Bret. The entire family basically destroyed McMahon who — while not the most sympathetic character in the world — was still an old man being pummeled.

The highlight of the match was McMahon finding a crowbar and yet somehow becoming less powerful with it, flailing aimlessly. Eventually, after teasing it about six times, Hart finally put McMahon in the sharpshooter and won the match.

Screenshot 2016-03-22 at 4.09.57 AM

The reason I bring this up, other than the fact that this MLBlog hasn’t been updated in months and I’m bored, is the current match that appears to be slotted for the main event of this year’s Wrestlemania: Shane McMahon vs. the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell.

A few weeks ago, Shane McMahon returned to RAW for the first time in years (he has been pursuing another career outside of the WWE) to confront his dad, Vince, and his sister, Stephanie. I wasn’t watching, but my brother @poolhalljames sent me a text that said “SHANE O MAC!!!” People, myself included, were pumped. Then he sent me another text that said “He’s fighting Undertaker at Mania.” People, myself included, were puzzled. It’s great that Shane is back with WWE, but why the hell has he returned to wrestle, of all people, the Undertaker?

Now, there are some legit reasons this match is happening. WWE’s roster at the moment is decimated by injuries, with John Cena, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan (who had to retire due to concussions), Sting and Seth Rollins, among others, sidelined. And they’re holding Wrestlemania 32 at Cowboys Stadium, which means they need plenty of star power to get 90,000-plus people in the building. Also, I guess Naked Mideon is busy, as I would’ve personally gone with him vs. the Undertaker over Shane.

But, so far, this feud, like the one between Hart/Vince, has felt off. The stipulation for the match is, if Shane wins, he gets control of RAW. Why would Undertaker, a guy who shows up about five times a year at this point, care who controls RAW? No idea.

It seems at first they wanted people to just accept that Vince is the boss, and Undertaker doesn’t particularly have any reason to not beat up Shane, so he was fine doing it. But that didn’t really track. They then had Shane call Undertaker a “bitch,” which — someone calling another person a bitch has certainly fueled plenty of fights in human history — but I’m not sure if that’s enough for the main event of the Showcase of the Immortals. Last night, Vince announced that if Undertaker loses, he will never wrestle at Wrestlemania again. I kind of feel like that one won’t stick.

And, in the most egregious part of this feud so far, Vince called Shane the Undertaker’s most formidable Wrestlemania opponent of all time.

giphy

All that being said, the match could end up being amazing. Shane, despite being a not-overly-intimidating-looking 46-year-old, is a maniac; the Undertaker, despite now resembling Frasier, is a legend; and I, despite being a super smart person, am often wrong, as last year’s Wrestlemania proved.

But it definitely won’t be as good as Asuka/Bayley.

1611001_10207892792890647_915988666832521306_n

Brian Cougar

Advertisements
The match no one wanted: Is Shane/Undertaker the new Bret/Vince?

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX

Aviary instagram-com Picture 1

After attending Wrestlemania XXX on Sunday in New Orleans, I got separated from the group I was with, my cell phone was dead and when I arrived at the spot in the lot where we had been doing some pre-Mania tailgating (the best kind of tailgating), all I found were two empty parking spaces.

Following 30 minutes of wandering back and forth in front of the Superdome in the hopes that I — a 30-year-old white dude in a wrestling T-shirt — might be noticed by my group among the thousands exiting the show, I eventually stopped to get my bearings. A man with a title belt draped over his shoulder started talking to me, and while we were chatting, I explained my current predicament of being lost with a dead cell phone in a city I was visiting for the first time with no idea where — or, more specifically, at which bar — my girlfriend/her friends were. In a show of extreme compassion, he said, “Man, that sucks. And can you [expletive] believe they had [expletive] Brock Lesnar end the [expletive] streak!”

Since I started watching WWE regularly again around Wrestlemania 25, the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania winning streak — The Streak — has been treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL (and it had already started being treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL a few years before that).

This year, however, everything about The Streak seemed boringly inevitable. Inevitably Undertaker was going to show up around Mania (the past few years, that’s basically been the only time he appears). Inevitably he was going to find an opponent/victim (Lesnar had always seemed to be the likely option, although the annual Sting — or John Cena — rumors also started popping up). Inevitably Michael Cole would shout about all the legendary wrestlers Undertaker had beaten at Wrestlemania (Giant Gonzalez! A-Train!). And inevitably there’d be a match, Undertaker would kick out of an F-5, Lesnar would kick out of a tombstone, but in the end, The Streak would move to 22-0.

The Lesnar/Undertaker feud leading up to Wrestlemania XXX — outside of the initial confrontation when Undertaker stabbed Lesnar in the hand with a pen, signed the match contract in Lesnar’s blood and then chokeslammed him through a table — didn’t feature any memorable moments. And despite Lesnar’s manager/representative, the amazing Paul Heyman, trying as hard as he could to sell Lesnar as an actual threat to The Streak — and Lesnar is a terrifying man — everyone knew Undertaker was walking out of Wrestlemania 22-0.

I was up in the cheap seats — WHERE I BELONG — at Wrestlemania XXX, part of a group of 30-plus people in their mid-to-late 20s who were attending the event as part of an extended wedding celebration weekend. Many of the group were non-wrestling fans who were there mostly for the chance to see the glorious spectacle that is Wrestlemania one time and to participate in the equally glorious pre-Mania tailgate. By the time the Undertaker/Lesnar match was about to begin, some were getting restless, and one dude in particular was entertaining himself — and annoying me — by yelling out random nonsense (although, to be fair, many actual wrestling fans do this very same thing every week during RAW).

The match itself — at least watching live — was not very good (I have yet to rewatch it). It was slow, Undertaker, even from where I was sitting, looked old as hell in the ring, and the crowd was mostly quiet. When Lesnar hit the third F5, I was thinking to myself, “It seems a bit silly to have Undertaker kick out of three of these.” And as I finished that thought, the ref counted three. What followed was the strangest reaction I’ve ever been part of at a sporting or pro wrestling event. First it got completely quiet as many — myself included — thought something had gone wrong. Then, once they started flashing 21-1 on the screens, people started booing. When Undertaker finally got off the mat and took the long walk to the back, there was some clapping, but once he disappeared, the booing started again. The woman a row in front of me who stood and screamed during the entirety of the Undertaker’s entrance headed for the exits.

When you watch a pro sporting event, while there are times the outcome heading in looks clear, you know in the back of your mind  — as a result of things like the Giants beating the 16-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, or the Red Sox coming back from down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees — that anything can happen. When you watch a pro wrestling event– especially once you learn the outcomes are fixed (thanks for letting me know, @poolhalljames!) — there are times when you know without a shadow of a doubt the inevitable is going to happen.

As a kid who still thought pro wrestling was real, I knew Hulk Hogan wasn’t losing to turncoat Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII, because he was immortal, had 24″ pythons and USA! USA! And Hogan eventually dropped the leg and got the 1-2-3. As a teenager who had half a brain and the internet, I knew Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t losing to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV, because he was the most popular wrestler to come along since Hogan, Michaels could barely walk after suffering a real-life back injury and “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” And Austin eventually hit the kick-wham-stunner and got the 1-2-3. As a 30-year-old, I knew the Undertaker wasn’t losing to Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX, because he was 21-0, The Streak would never end and “Rest … In … Peace.”

And then he [expletive] lost.

Brian Cougar

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX