Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How 15 minutes changed the face of Professional Wrestling

I get it, you think you’re better than me because I watch pro wrestling.  My excuse is, I’ve been watching since I was 7 years old, what’s your sad excuse for watching “The Bachelor”?  Anyway, I’m not here to debate with you why I watch pro wrestling.  I am here to talk about last night and the 15 minutes that changed the face of pro wrestling.

Wrestlemania takes place the first weekend in April.  Normally, the WWE will spend from the beginning of January building the storylines to culminate in Wrestlemania, the WWE’s Super Bowl.  The past few years have mainly seen the usual suspects feuding with each other (Cena, Orton, etc.) and the Undertaker extending his winning streak, most recently having the 2 best matches I’ve seen in 20 years with Shawn Michaels, ultimately ending HBK’s career.

Thing is, storylines have gotten a bit vanilla and complacent. Bad guy vs. Cena, Cena prevails. Done. Sure, you had some great characters like a CM Punk or the Miz who could work a stick and the ring and get heat from the crowd, but the pops came from the new segment, the PG crowd.  Everyone remembers the wrestling boom of the 90’s – the Attitude Era.  Cussing, blood, heavy and overt sexual content – these were the calling cards of the Stone Cold Steve Austin’s, Mankinds and DX.  When the boom ended, the WWE shifted gears into PG programming. Gone were the beer-swilling, middle finger throwing foul-mouthed heroes, in came the clean-cut, all-American, love the troops, hustle, loyalty, respect John Cena.

And it worked.  A new audience was grown.  Wrestling is extremely popular, mainly with kids and not so much with adults – and that’s because that’s the demo they’re going after.  The adult crowd was turned off – like going from watching internet porn to watching Skinemax – you don’t quite get the same response that you got before.  Where were the guys you wanted to hate and the wanted to hate you?  Where were the guys that were so bad that they were actually the good guys?  What happened to the guys that could get you so worked up on the microphone, it didn’t matter that they sucked when it came to actual wrestling?

The game changed last night.  Finally, the Rock came home.

The Rock announced as the official host of Wrestlemania, and in 15 minutes, he kicked off the most exciting speculative set of “what’s going to happen” since WCW Starcade in 1997 (that’d be the one that saw me and Big jumping around a buddy’s living room for a solid 20 minutes because Sting beat Hogan. yes we both had girlfriends, no they weren’t imaginary).

In 15 minutes, the Rock gave heed to the following:

  • He will be back in a near-full time capacity.  Does this mean he’s the “anonymous GM”?  Will he stay after Wrestlemania?
  • He will not hesitate to fight – will we get a dream match at Wrestlemania?
  • He called out the Miz – he basically called the champ a bitch.
  • He called out Cena

Ahh, now we have the most intriguing part.  John Cena is the modern day Hulk Hogan.  The eternal good guy.  The role model for kids.  The guy that the WWE pushes in EVERY marketing campaign.  Cena = WWE.  The Rock came out and called Cena out on everything that the older wrestling fans hate…and the ENTIRE crowd love it.  There were no boos.  There were no Cena cheers.  So, it begs the question, is now the time for Vince to deliver the biggest turn since Hogan joined the black and white?   Will Cena turn heel and face the Rock in the mother of all dream matches at Wrestlemania? 

Makes sense – think about it.  HBK goes into the HOF. Seamus wins the Elimination Chamber takes on the Miz for the title.  Orton v. CM Punk.  Del Rio v Edge.  Undertaker retires Triple H. You’ve got your top 9 names players matched up and you biggest star is without opponent.  Enter the Rock.  Vince played his card masterfully.  I think this is Vince’s swan song.  This will be his Wrestlemania to put the WWE back on top for good, and from there he will officially hand the reigns over to Triple H and Stephanie. 

Either way, the WWE has done something that has been lacking for damn near 5 years.  The took predictability and punched it in the nuts.  Every show is a must watch from now through April 2nd.  

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