IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Well, I Guess It's Just Us Now
By Al Laiman
Apr 7, 2014 - 4:16:59 PM
credit Tom Jenner
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Well, I Guess It's Just Us Now
Live on the air, Will MacAvoy couldn't move. Right before he was to go back on the air for his final segment of a live news broadcast, he found out his father had died. While growing up in an abusive household, he procrastinated on the chance to reach out and connect with him when finding out he was in the hospital. It took nearly a minute for MacAvoy to finally look back toward the camera, his face a solemn void of emotion, and he addressed the camera, though truly only his now-fatherless siblings.
"Well, I guess it's just us now."
When Triple H announced the new "Reality Era" last Monday night on RAW, many didn't realize how much of a benchmark he was setting. Yes, I know, he borrowed the phrase from CM Punk to piss off those who remembered him coining that term, but that's not the point. What is the point is that none of us truly realized that, at that moment, we weren't witnessing a Farewell to the Yes Movement. We were witnessing a Farewell to the Attitude Era.
Ever since The Rock and Stone Cold ended their primes, carrying the wrestling world on their shoulders for several years, WWE has been struggling to find a new identity. John Cena was the best they could offer for quite a few years, but he was never fully accepted by the masses. A mixed reaction at best is what he saw for the majority of his lone hold on the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, during WrestleMania after WrestleMania, the stars of the Attitude Era were called upon time and time again, taking the spotlight from the rest of the roster and using it to sell Pay-Per-Views and tickets. Despite even the younger stars of that time getting into their 40s, it seemed the only surefire way to make sure people would watch the show, mostly because outside of Cena, the casual fan wasn't going to tune in for anyone else.
But Monday night, as Triple H addressed us all, he was saying more than the words that were coming out of his mouth. For the first real time, the Internet Wrestling Community was the target of a promo. A new network, a WWE Network, with affordable access to Pay-Per-Views, has been launched. A simple exclamation, used once as a joke by a post-WrestleMania crowd, hit the mainstream at Michigan State and PNC Park. Something big was about to happen, and telling us all in his coded, arrogant character voice, was the man who drew ire from the earlier days of the IWC, Triple H.
A product of the Attitude Era himself, even he would be making a seldom-seen return to the squared-circle for competition, squaring off against the epitome of the meteoric underdog rise to stardom. The remaining few from the last true boom in wrestling popularity held scattered places throughout the card, but in nearly every match booked, a chance for a new star to truly be born on a great stage existed. A turn of the tide was finally possible, and headed into New Orleans, I don't think any fan watching expected everything we got.
Those fans who are my age, give or take a few years, grew up in that wrestling boom, and have been constantly waxing nostalgic about it since. It was our basis of comparison, not necessarily because it was actually better, but because as kids during its insane popularity, it seemed better, mostly because our judgment wasn't clouded by a basis for comparison of our own. We held on to those few years, clutching it desperately while at the same time, wanting desperately to feel that way about wrestling again, but not getting the product necessary for that to happen.
At WrestleMania 30, the three biggest stars in wrestling history stood in the ring and shot the shit for 24 minutes. The Rock, Steve Austin, and Hulk Hogan shared a toast, a common tradition for saying goodbye to a person or a time, it still hadn't really processed what we were seeing.
Then, as Triple H lost cleanly to the chosen one of the fans, Kane and the New Age Outlaws did their best Triple H-WrestleMania 12 impression against the Shield, and the Big Show was the aging giant lifted by a younger emerging star, the Attitude Era was finally passing the torch to the newer generation, the cavalcade of stars finally primed to take over for the Attitude Era, a good decade after it had officially ended.
What really sealed the coffin (see what I did there?) was the unexpected, stunning, and to some, infuriating defeat of the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Nobody saw it coming, nobody expected it, and given that the opponent was a part-timer who once walked out on the company after being given the ball to run with, few particularly wanted it. While I still have a tremendous problem with the one chosen to get the biggest rub in wrestling history, that was the official moment that the Attitude Era died.
The Undertaker, the Phenom, the legend who had somehow pulled seven straight amazing WrestleMania matches out of his opponents, looked like the rest of Attitude Era stars clinging to their glory days: Old, tired, and being outworked by younger cohorts. It was time; in fact, it may have been past time. I recalled the moment at WrestleMania 28 where Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker hugged it out after their grueling Hell in a Cell match. That, to me, felt like an appropriate send-off.
However, if the Streak was going to finally be broken, the timing couldn't have been better. As previously stated, the other stars remaining from that time passed the torch. New stars were made last night. Unfortunately, a win that could've gone to make another new star was instead wasted on a man already made, 37-years-old, and who might wrestle a few more matches before he inevitably leaves.
But the shock overrode the anger at who had defeated the Streak. The stunning silence in that building told the entire story. Not only had we witnessed a 24-year-build to be wasted on a part-timer, not only had the infamous Streak come to a shocking and surprising end, and not only did all the other stars from that era lose in similar fashion...
We had that moment.
Some of my younger readers might not have reached this yet, and some of my older readers may have had similar moments in the past. The Attitude Era is gone forever. Triple H is an authority figure. The Undertaker has been defeated at WrestleMania. We've closed the book on our childhood.
The big stars that kids will be saying goodbye to in fifteen years were made last night. Daniel Bryan became WWE World Heavyweight champion in a strikingly similar fashion to a certain someone whose moves were both utilized by Bryan and Triple H in the opening match. In one night, Cesaro turned face and 27 years later, slammed one giant to lift another high, completing his slow rise to becoming a made star. Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt may be the new Undertaker and Mankind of this era. While one fell in defeat, which will not end the momentum of this unique and compelling stable, another looked nearly as dominant as the fallen hero of darkness once did. Where one streak ends, maybe a new one begins, with Roman Reigns earning his first two WrestleMania victories. He beat Kane's Rumble record this year, it may be the start of a streak that will see a similar shocking end in 20 years. Maybe not, but it's possible now.
We're adults now. The fans of the Attitude Era are no longer the kids they were, and the wrestlers are no longer the performers in their prime they were in the late 90s. They gave us more than we could've ever asked for, and continued to carry the biggest event as long as they could...
Until the time was right. Until there were enough new young stars ready to be made. Until the torch could be conceivably passed. Until fans were ready to accept a new generation, not to mention a new era. Until, after years of transition, one era could end and be permanently relived on an all-encompassing Network, but be finally placed in the past where it belongs now.
Those of us who watched back then and are still watching now have witnessed the completion of this transition. We're the ones left, while many new young fans may have seen their equivalent of WrestleMania 13.
Well, I guess it's just us now.
2012 - Daniel Bryan
2013 - Paul Heyman
1-6-14 - Dean Ambrose
1-13-14 - Big Show
1-20-14 - Big Show
2-3-14 - Bray Wyatt
2-17-14 - Titus O'Neil
2-24-14 - The Undertaker
3-3-14 - Paul Heyman
3-10-14 - Stephanie
3-17-14 - Randy Orton
3-24-14 - Dean Ambrose
3-31-14 - Bray Wyatt
4-6-14 - Roddy Piper