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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: I Choose Not to Choose WrestleMania
By Samuel 'Plan
Feb 4, 2017 - 2:45:59 PM




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Just Business: I Choose Not to Choose WrestleMania


I want to start this wrestling column not by writing about wrestling, but instead about a film I was able to go and see just this last week: T2: Trainspotting 2, the follow-up to Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult classic.

For the uninitiated, the original Trainspotting told a vibrant, hard-hitting and darkly comic tale about the anarchy of youth and the chaos of heroin addiction. The sequel is a prime example of how to contribute to the original while doing something different, watching as far more tame in its borderline melancholia as the characters we once saw tearing through the streets of Edinburgh looking for their next fix we now see tumbling off treadmills looking for their last hope.

This observation has a WWE-related point. T2: Trainspotting 2 is itself best summed up in a line from one character who, when failing to feel sorrow at what he is told is a memorial for a lost friend, informs his compatriot that what they’re doing isn’t a memorial, but nostalgia; “You’ve become a tourist in your own past,” he decries.

So has WrestleMania.

This was an issue that cropped up as we discussed the fallout of Royal Rumble weekend on last night’s The Right Side of the Pond and, curiously enough, is a topic broached by my fellow LOP writer Chad “The Doc” Matthews on his social media accounts, with us all quite naturally beginning to question whether the identity of WrestleMania has now shifted so much it has become unrecognisable to us long-term fans. With each passing year, this famous season confronts us WWE Loyalists with the same question of increasing pertinence; to paraphrase LOP’s Maverick, “Is WrestleMania still for us?”

This is not just an issue limited to the mundane conversations we see bandied back and forth among internet circles every year regarding casual fan bases, part-time performers and mainstream media attention. It goes deeper than that, reaching into the foundations of WrestleMania as a concept and how, it appears, WWE’s mindset has, perhaps without the company even realising it, altered completely; just like the characters in T2: Trainspotting 2 WrestleMania seems to be going through what could best be described as a mid-life crisis.

Randy Orton’s victory in this year’s Royal Rumble proved controversial, in part because of WWE’s continued inability to simply commit to the next generation of talent. I wrote about this in my Performance Art Review from last week and, while my opinion on this front has mellowed somewhat as the days have passed, I still remain irked by the recent list of Rumble winners. Among that number stands only one man of this fresh generation, who just so happens to be the one man fans appreciate and perhaps want to see least from that generation. On either side of him sit a list of winners that were also winning Royal Rumbles as far back as ten to fifteen years ago. This has now reached enraging levels of obsession.

There are many reasons behind it, and it’s not my intention to broach those today. I raise the point here instead only for an illustrative purpose: Royal Rumble winners of recent years reflect WWE’s WrestleMania philosophy and reveal how the Show of Shows increasingly clings onto its aging past with despondent romanticism. WrestleMania is no longer the wild-eyed experimentalist it was in its early days; indeed, since its birth. Instead it has retreated into a formulaic, repetitive and artificial safe space that would instead sooner idolise its past achievements than create new adventures. It even goes so far as to hide its age for fear of looking old. It has become “a tourist of its own past;” a past it is addicted to.

WrestleMania is bigger than it’s ever been; has perhaps swelled to an unmanageable obesity. Year after year it generates more money for its host city than ever before, boosts Network numbers and hopes to pack out the very biggest stadiums on earth. Like anyone in the midst of a mid-life crisis, if WrestleMania had a voice, it would probably tell you that it’s never ever been better. But for all of its achievements and surface gloss, at its heart sits something terribly sad: an inability to move on.

For some time now this hasn’t proven too much of a problem. WrestleMania has always had a part-time vet waiting in the wings to try and let the Show of Shows relive its former glory. But every year rumours of Undertaker’s retirement swell. Triple H openly admits to enjoying the in-ring work less and less. Brock Lesnar’s contract is up in a year, and how much more life does his character have left? Kurt Angle may be back, but WWE has proven hesitant to let him wrestle in the past. Chris Jericho only ever comes and goes, and after this career-best run would he risk spoiling the high? Even mainstays have one foot out the door: Orton pursues a lighter schedule; Cena pursues further exterior work; and lower down the card men taken for granted for so long are not getting younger – Big Show and Kane, for instance. And let’s face it: Goldberg, as fun as he’s been since returning, is not a basket in which to put all your eggs. WrestleMania’s need to commit to its future has reached crisis point.

This is why WrestleMania 32 felt like a tipping point. It was a show sold on an undefined appearance by The Rock before it was sold on anything else. Triple H disappointed in the main event opposite the one man of the next generation least loved. Undertaker and Shane McMahon took up an hour of the broadcast for the sake of a single moment lasting mere seconds that desperately sought to recreate a famous moment from history. Jericho beat Styles, and no less than seven young stars played second fiddle to the nostalgia fix of three legends returning to hit a finisher. WrestleMania 32 was the show where WrestleMania admitted its addiction.

Some will find the prospect of this addiction continuing to be galling, because for the longest time WWE have bred a mindset among its fan base that WrestleMania Season is the one time of year you should be the most excited. Be the most excited for WrestleMania because it’s where the big stars come out to play and the big stories climax. Be the most excited for WrestleMania because it’s so much bigger, and bigger means better. Be the most excited for WrestleMania because if it happens there it means more. Indeed, if WrestleMania is addicted to the past, WWE is addicted to WrestleMania, and it wants you to be too. And like any addiction, this has resulted in an erosion of the body of WWE’s product that has gone, for some time, pretty much unnoticed.

Now, the biggest matches in our minds can only happen at WrestleMania – like The Shield triple threat, or Rollins vs. Triple H. So when these matches happen on a different show, or look like they simply cannot happen at WrestleMania – like The Shield triple threat, or Rollins vs. Triple H - we become disappointed or angry or resentful, like an addict denied a fix. Have you ever asked why? Why are big matches less good simply because they don’t happen at a time of year far from interested in the here and now and far more interested in what’s been and gone? The simple answer is that they’re not. They are what they are, and they are often still fantastic.

So let WWE be addicted to WrestleMania, and let WrestleMania be addicted to the past. Like my friend Maverick said, WrestleMania isn’t for us anymore. You can still enjoy it, and may enjoy it more if you learn to not obsess over it. There’s nothing stopping you; me; anyone. It is, after all, a choice.

So, it’s like Renton says in Trainspotting, if I might paraphrase the character’s words: Choose one night of the year. Choose an ungainly stadium. Choose upwards of seventy thousand fans. Choose over-produced entrances and cheap costumes. Choose committing hours of your life to a lacklustre wrestling show, predictable story outcomes and over-wrestled “epics.” Choose part-time performers. Choose artificial “moments.” Choose sitting on your sofa watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing anti-climaxes as the very thing you didn’t want as a fan inevitably unfolds before your very eyes to such an antagonistic extent you feel compelled to log online and spew your unfettered angry guts up all over the internet for weeks on end. Choose the past. Choose WrestleMania.

Or choose something else. Choose not to choose WrestleMania. Choose The Shield Triple Threat at Battleground. Choose the Brand vs. Brand Survivor Series Match. Choose the Cruiserweight Classic, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and the UK Championship Tournament. Choose NXT, Takeovers and 205 Live. Choose Royal Rumble, Summerslam or Money in the Bank. Choose the post-WrestleMania boom after the pre-WrestleMania lull. Choose story and character and the natural flow of fictional events. Choose Rollins and Ambrose and, yeah, even Reigns too. Choose Owens. Choose Zayn. Choose the Wyatt Family. Choose freedom from the chains of unnatural expectation. Choose tomorrow. Choose the future. Choose the rest of WWE.

You’re an addict.

So be addicted.

Just be addicted to something else.



The quotes paraphrased in this column are inspired by Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting and T2: Trainspotting 2.






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