Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maximizing Wrestlemania

Wrestling was huge in my elementary school, especially the WWF. I remember really getting into it after being subject to non-stop previews for Wrestlemania VI shortly after we got cable in our house. I remember the morning after the event, sitting and listening on the school bus as practically half the kids recanted every match. I wanted to know every detail -- the Hart Foundation won in how many seconds? Did Jake the Snake steal back the Million Dollar Belt? Hogan missed the legdrop?!? I was hooked.

My friend Nick however was a NWA/WCW fanatic. It was from him I learned about Ric Flair, Nikita Koloff, the Road Warriors, Sting, Lex Luger -- it was an entirely different universe, or at least it seemed like it to a 9 year old. Nick and I would often waste time in class coming up with a Dream Wrestlemania card (Nick always insisted on calling it Starrcade, but c'mon) that would feature matchups that would more than likely never have a chance of ever happening -- Hogan vs. Flair, Sting vs. Macho Man, the Midnight Express vs. the Hart Foundation -- I'm sure we probably came up with about 27 different variations.

Then in March of 2001, the unthinkable happened. Vince McMahon actually bought WCW. He now owned the tape library, the wrestlers, the intellectual property, and if Nick and I were still 9 years old, he would have owned our bladders since we would have pissed our pants from excitement. The possibility was now suddenly a reality: we would actually be able to see a WCW vs. WWF dream card.

Of course, in archetypical Vince fashion, he used a golden opportunity by which all over golden opportunties should be measured to inflate his ego. He buried everything related to WCW, made them look like schmucks, and eventually made a hackneyed attempt at an "invasion" similar to the nWo storyline. There was one glaring problem with that approach -- half the invading force with now filled with WWF guys who had "defected". The only real WCW wrestlers involved were Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, and a slew of lesser names that nobody gave a crap about -- Chavo Guerrero, Hugh Morrus, Lance Storm, et al. Every wrestling fan rolled their eyes. "This isn't WCW!"

The whole thing was finally put out of its misery at Survivor Series 2001 where the WWF guys beat the "WCW" guys, thus making them disband as per the match stipulation. The show ended with Vince triumphantly walking out to the entrance area and celebrating like a madman. He had successfully whizzed the the most antipated wrestling storyline in history down his leg.

Almost 8 years have passed since then, and some of those aforementioned dream matches have trickled in as Vince finally ponied up the cash to sign some big names. We've seen Hogan vs. the Rock, Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Booker T vs. Triple H, Ric Flair vs. the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho, Al Snow vs. Justin Credible, the list goes on. Around 2007 or so, Vince ran out of "dream matches" and had to go back to the tried and true method of "throw a lot of money at a celebrity and put him with some lesser known guy in the hopes that he gets famous from this". It was Donald Trump in '07, Floyd Mayweather in '08, and this year it looks like it might be Mickey Rourke. It would appear that almost all the conceivable dream matches people wanted to see have come and gone. Almost.

With Wrestlemania coming up in a few weeks, I couldn't help but fire up the wayback machine and start thinking up a Dream Wrestlemania card. Surprisingly, I was able to conjure up something that would live up to the hype.

First, before I start listing off a card, I'm just throwing this out there: if they really want to maximize the importance and impact of Wrestlemania, they need to get a few scheduling things right first. One of the worst things that's happened to wrestling is the monthly pay-per-view. It's blatantly oversaturated the market and totally rips off the audience since we see just as good quality matches on free TV these days anyway.

So I propose: One, get rid of the December pay-per-view and move the Royal Rumble to the last Sunday in December, which usually coincides with the last week of the NFL regular season, which has proven to be less than meaningless the past few years. Two, keep the January and February PPVs off the schedule entirely. Three, move Wrestlemania to the third Sunday in March. The Super Bowl through March Madness is the most dead area on the sports calendar, and sticking Wrestlemania right after the Selection Show would be the better spot for it than any else since there's nothing else going on. The gap between the Rumble and Wrestlemania would allow for a huge buildup towards the big event that would do a much better job getting fans excited.

Now, on with the show...

Sting vs. The Undertaker
The case of Sting baffles me. Sting/Undertaker is a huge, HUUUUUGE money match, and it's been sitting right there for the taking, only Vince doesn't seem to want it. All he would have to do is sign Sting for a year for X amount of millions, which he would earn right back in spades just from the Wrestlemania buys, the merchandise and the "Best of Sting" DVD sales. As for the match, the buildup writes itself. Lights go out in the middle of some random Undertaker promo, Sting appears in the ring and slowly points his black whiffle ball bat at the Dead Man ("Wait.. WAIT A MINUTE!! That's... THAT'S STING!! MAH GAWD! STING IS HERE!!"), the lights go out again, and he's gone. You're telling me the crowd wouldn't shit itself in excitement over this? Neither guy would even have to cut a promo, outside of Undertaker muttering "You... me... Wrestlemaaaannniiaaaaa-uhhhhhhhhhh."

Goldberg vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
This is the match everyone wanted to see back in the day. The argument du jour circa 1998 -- "Goldberg's just an Austin ripoff!" vs. "No way! He's way more jacked up than Austin! He'd kill him!" It's inexplicable that this hasn't happened yet. Granted, the WWE had no idea what to do with Goldberg during his run in 2003, but if they brought him back to have him destroy random guys in less than a minute for a few months, his mystique would be back in no time. Unlike most "legends", these guys can still at least move and put on a competant match that won't insult the viewer's intelligence.

John Cena vs. Hulk Hogan
Now, Hulk Hogan on the other hand, his "ringwork" post-2002 can very much insult any viewer's intelligence, but the match itself isn't the point here. If the Rock/Hogan match at Wrestlemania 18 is any indication, the heat on Cena vs. Hogan would make the Rock's experience seem like a July weekday at the Metrodome. Hogan not being able to take a simple clothesline bump anymore is irrelevant. Everyone seems to love to hate Cena, and this would be the best opportunity to see that manifest itself into one huge cacophony of boos the likes of which nobody has ever heard. A-Rod would look like Santa Claus compared to Cena. (Analogy not valid in Philadelphia)

Batista vs. Brock Lesnar
If one Vince McMahon were to throw a boatload of money at Brock Lesnar to come back for one match, who would his opponent be? Resident musclehead Batista would make the most sense, since he did the best job filling the Huge Indestructable Ripped Guy void since Brock's departure in 2004. (No, we're not counting the useless Bobby Lashley experiment.) Both these guys work very well as big men, so this has some Tremendous Upside Potential (TM Bill Simmons) to be a great power match. (And no, I don't care if Brock is UFC Heavyweight Champ. This guy would come back for one match if the price was right.)

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
Replace Chris Benoit with Angle in the Wrestlemania XX main event, considered by many to be the best WM main event ever, and I think it's a better match. Also worth noting: The WWE would love nothing more than to completely eliminate Chris Benoit from its archives, and this would do its part in topping the WM20 main event as the greatest three-way match ever. I toyed with the idea of including Randy Orton, but four-way matches aren't as fun.

The Hardys vs. Edge and Christian
A Dream Wrestlemania would need a badass old school tag team match. Formulaic but effective and damned fun to watch: Babyface A falls into the wrong corner via nefarious means and gets the holy shit beat out of him for a solid 15 minutes, coming oh-so-close to making the tag several times, before finally making to Babyface B, who cleans house and eventually leads the team to victory. These teams did it better than anyone the past decade, and they're all still in their primes. Tons of backstory to be had here too, since all four have gone on to singles success.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton vs. Big Show vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison vs. Vince McMahon
Every Wrestlemania needs to have a crazy ladder match, and that's right up Jericho's alley, since he's been in about 87 ladder matches. Benjamin and Morrison are in there to take what are known as the "HOLY SHIT" bumps. Big Show is in there to do some "big guy obliterates everyone with a ladder" spots, plus it would be goofy to see such a huge guy trying to climb a normal sized ladder. Orton's in there to win the thing. Vince is in there strictly for comedy. Who doesn't love seeing a 50something year old man do ridiculous things for his company? Plus, there would have to be a spot late in the match where it really looks like Vince could win. The crowd freaking out as the possibility becomes more real would be worth the price of admission.

Rey Mysterio vs. Rob Van Dam
Here's your opening match. I love it when pay-per-views start with two smaller, lightning-quick guys that are determined to stick it to their boss for being put first on the card. The Rockers used to be experts at this.

You've got almost every kind of match on that card: the high flying match, the technical/workrate match, the spotfest, the hot tag match, the power match, the "boo John Cena as if your life depends on it match", and three "dream" matches fans never thought they would see. Vince knows he's got a can't-lose commodity in Wrestlemania -- I just wish he'd strike while the iron was still hot. Time's a-wasting.

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