Everybody get those pointer fingers ready… the sign is up, the Rumble has come and gone: It’s time for the Road to WrestleMania!
And as we journey along this winding and treacherous path together, I thought I would pause with a few thoughts I had from the last few days of WWE programming, including NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, the Royal Rumble, and both of the main roster shows.
1. The WWE is taking their future seriously.
One thing you can usually count on in the 30 man, and now woman, over the top rope Royal Rumble matches is a healthy dose of nostalgia. The buzzer goes off, a familiar theme is heard, and one of the stars of yesterday returns to hit a few spots and get a nice pop from the fans.
This year, the focus instead was on the massive amount of talent that is currently working in the WWE and on its two NXT brands. The women’s match saw five women make their main roster debut and featured the second appearance of NXT Female Competitor and Overall Superstar of the Year winner, Kairi Sane.
Aside from a quick comedy spot with Jeff (that’s Double J, now) Jarrett, both Rumbles gave young talent the chance to show off and put in some serious Rumble minutes.
2. Chris Jericho is firing shots.
For those that don’t follow wrestling on their Twitter machines, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla lit us up with a few shots at the competition for his new home, All Elite Wrestling. He made light of the “randos” being sent their way and commented that AEW was only interested in five, maybe six, guys from WWE, ROH and Impact combined.
Now, obviously this is just some expert trolling on Y2J’s part to get people talking about AEW on the eve of a Big Three WWE event. But, it was still fun to get into some “shots fired” talk, even just on Twitter.
The more interesting tweet, to me anyway, was the shot at Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and his gut. Now, if the legend is to be believed, Jericho once almost came to blows with Brock backstage after a hardway bleeding incident involving Randy Orton. Brock is also a guy that Jericho rarely talks about on his pod, and I can’t recall a time where they ever worked a program. Is there some real heat there? Maybe. Or, maybe Jericho is just taking aim at the biggest inmate in the yard to earn some street cred. Either way, the guy knows how to get us talking.
3. Becky vs. Ronda is your WrestleMania main event.
There is still time for things to change and, obviously, we won’t know the order of matches until we see them, but is there a bigger money match possible for this years ‘Mania?
Brock vs. Rollins, or anyone else for that matter, is not a match people are hungry for, in my opinion. I feel like the Brock story has been told and rather than him making the belt, he is devaluing it with each passing day of his seemingly neverending title reign. While Rollins going over is a great story and one fans will enjoy, I just don’t see it being a money draw like seeing Becky hold up that gold as fireworks go off on the grandest stage of them all.
While I do think the Daniel Bryan match will be excellent (I’ll get into him in a moment), it’s tough to think of anyone that will carry the level of anticipation as an opponent for him to make the WWE championship match a marquee attraction. It will be a workers match and could very well earn that elusive fifth star from Dave Meltzer, but a money draw? I don’t know.
The WWE has captured lightning in a bottle with Becky. Planted signs and overuse of “The Man” gimmick aside, when she gets out there, people go nuts. Not Austin coming out during Rock vs Mankind for the title nuts, but she is clearly the most over performer on the roster.
On the same side, Rousey has done really well in-ring (promos not withstanding) and is the biggest name brand character they have at the moment. The pairing of these two, with Becky going over as the people’s champ, is the kind of WrestleMania moment Vince McMahon has been serving up since the days of prayers and vitamins.
4. Playing a heel is way more fun than working as a face.
Just ask the “new” Daniel Bryan. I have seen a lot of great work in my days of watching wrestling, but throwing out the WWE championship after naming the dead cow it was made from before replacing it with a belt made of hemp? Dear lord, that was good stuff.
I also really like the addition of Rowan as a heater for Bryan to help him heel his way out of situations. It’s like Shawn and Diesel, only with bio-fuel and obscure literary references. Also, the “O” in Rowan’s video entrance has been replaced with the green recycling symbol.
Bryan is clearly comfortable, happy, and speaking from the heart like a true villain that believes he is right in what he is doing and and that everyone else is wrong. Getting this second chance at a wrestling career is such a gift for Bryan and him turning his white meat babyface act into a Whole Foods Heel is everything I didn’t know I needed going into 2019.
5. For the first time in a long time, WWE featured intergender wrestling.
(Inhales and speaks in best Vincent D’onofrio/Kingpin voice) When I was a boy… women, old, young, big, small, got put through tables on a weekly basis followed by a bad pun about Bubba Dudley “getting wood”. I saw women take Stone Cold stunners, Rock Bottoms, and chokeslams. I also cheered when Lita joined the Hardys in battle, when Chyna won the Intercontinental championship and, yes, when Sable powerbombed Marc Mero.
I have zero interest in seeing any of this again.
Outside of action movies and super hero comics, I do not want to see women fight men. Full stop.
Now, this is not because I don’t think women are tough, can’t fight, or aren’t interested in competing with the men. I look at Shana Baszler and pity any man that would look at her sideways. However, I also imagine seeing Baszler or any other woman, badass as they may be, getting punched in the face by Brock Lesnar and think, nope. You cannot put that on TV, not in 2019, not ever again.
Part of wrestling is suspension of disbelief. I have to make the leap of imagination that a guy like Finn Balor can, by hook or by crook, compete in a fight with the likes of Braun Strowman. This is not easy, but if the story is told right, I can get into it. One reason for that is that in all other sports, you do see men of different sizes competing against each other successfully. However, in physical contact sports like hockey or football, some times those smaller guys pay the price when a guy twice their size lines them up with a perfect hit and takes them out. It’s part of the game, but it is still ugly to watch a guy hit the ice/ground and not get back up.
You know what would make that worse to me? If that guy on the ground was a woman.
“Real” sports do not have intergender competition at the professional level because men and women are built differently. I have no doubt that Charlotte Flair is just as strong and certainly as talented as her male counterparts. I also know that Nia Jax outweighed most of the guys she was in the ring with Sunday night. But that does not, in any way, shape or form make me want to see them get kicked in the face by a man.
Women’s wrestling is money right now because there is a level of believability and competitiveness to it that is sometimes lacking on the men’s side. Charlotte, Becky, Sasha, Asuka, and the rest all look like they can kick ass and work hard to put on intense physical matches that the crowd buys into.
What this moment in time does not need is an angle, or worse, a real situation, where one of these women is stretchered out after taking the F5.
I know this was probably a one-off event and that lots of folks disagree with me, but I really hope that more intergender wrestling is not in our future.
So there you have it, fans, four thoughts and one rant on the world of wrasslin’. Til next time, I’ll see you around the loop.