Everyone who has ever liked anything hates to see it change. We are all under the illusion that everything was at its best when we grew up with it, that our music is better, the movies are timeless and the style (sans Zubaz Pants and Jyncos) is superior to that of the younger crowd. I am no exception to this person. Super Nintendo games are way better than these overly-complicated Playstation things, and my pants that zip off into shorts are not only stylish, but practical as well.
And wrestling, too, was better when I was growing up. I’m convinced that is true, despite many arguments with my 13-year old brother, who swears I just don’t get the mass-hatred appeal of “The Miz.” I tuned into Wrestlemania last night with an open mind, hoping to see the appeal of the new generation of wrestlers, but all that happened was a reaffirmation that I was correct. Professional wrestling sucks now, and I’ll tell you a bit about why.
Characters have no distinction anymore. I grew up with Gold Dust, The Undertaker (who is still around, but clearly is from my generation of wrestler, and was one of the highlights of Wrestlemania last night), Sting, Mankind (my all time favorite), The Rock (we’ll get to him more), Stone Cold Steve Austin, NWO and DX, Hogan and Ric Flair’s middle years. The characters knew their roles. They were vibrant actors, with characteristics unique to them. Masks and personalities and entrances and catch phrases.
Last night, I frequently lost track of who was who in the middle of some matches, as everyone is now a tan-skinned, gel-haired man in a speedo. No one had anything to say, and there were no deep-seeded feuds. Wrestlers used to represent personality types. The Undertaker was for the rejects, those picked on at school. The Rock was the people’s champion. Stone Cold Steve Austin was loved by rednecks and Coors Light fans, and supergroups like NWO and DX had marketability with t-shirts and suggestive celebratory moves.
There is also a weird separation and confusion as it pertains to titles in the WWE (dang you, World Wildlife Foundation). There is a World Heavyweight Championship, which utilizes the late-WCW’s title belt as its seal. There is also a WWE Championship, which has a ridiculous (even for wrestling) belt with a spinning logo at its center. I’m not sure what title is more important, but at Wrestlemania 28 the former was won by Sheamus (who was the only current generation wrestler that even had my attention for more than a minute) in 18 seconds. The latter was retained by CM Punk (a current wrestler who was extremely boring last night) after he beat Chris Jericho in a snooze-fest of a match involving yelling back and forth. This confusion about which title is the true champion creates the same type of disconnect that all of the various titles in professional boxing does; it makes it difficult to find a horse in the race to root for.
Back in my day (I have been waiting all article to say those words), there was The World Heavyweight Champion, and he was king. You knew he was king because he had the biggest belt.
World Wrestling Entertainment must know that I am right. They are desperately holding on to wrestlers of the past. Last night at Wrestlemania, there were two matches I would deem completely entertaining. The Rock versus John Cena and HHH versus The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell. Three of the four wrestlers involved are 90s / early 2000s wrestlers, and Shawn Michaels even made an appearance as guest referee of the Hell in a Cell match.
I will give credit to John Cena, who is singlehandedly pushing forward the current generation of wrestlers. His match against The Rock last night lived up to all of the hype, and both put on a fantastic show. But the match of the night was The Undertaker’s victory, bringing himself to a perfect 20-0 record at Wrestlemania. It had everything a good match needs: back story, energy, random stipulations (special guest referee, the fact that they’re fighting in a cage, no disqualification) and huge stakes (the end of an era: the loser must retire). There is a reason that these two matches are the only ones fans will remember from Wrestlemania, and that is because they were driven by great wrestlers with even greater personalities. The Rock has superhuman charisma, and Triple H / The Undertaker are timeless personalities inside the squared circle.
If you’re a fan of wrestling now, driven by The Miz (who was on freaking MTV’s The Real World) and all of those other guys who have nothing unique about them, delivering dry lines and awfully fake emotions, I am sorry. Aside from Cena, your Monday Night Raws and Pay Per Views are completely void of a reason to watch.
If you disagree, let me know why in the comments. I’ll be watching YouTube videos of Mankind falling off the top of Hell in a Cell onto a table before he pulls a sock out of his pants. That’s true entertainment.