From time to time, I will give up control of this blog and hand it over to my fellow JOE-DOWN reviewer, Joe Brown. This is one of those times.
A Note From Joe Brown
Professional wrestling may be one of the lowest forms of entertainment. And I love every bit of it.
Having an older brother in the early 90s, I got to watch a lot of old WWF (now WWE), where guys like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Jake “The Snake” Roberts captivated me. It also helped that we had a bunch of the old Mattel action figures with the big blue ring to reenact the action. I wish we would have never sold those in a garage sale.
We even went to the old St. Paul Civic Center to see a live WCW show, with the main event of Sting vs. Big Van Vader.
Then as my brother’s tastes changed, I had a neighbor move into the neighborhood who had walls of video tapes and I’d go watch old matches of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, among others.
For a long time, being a wrestling fan was an embarrassment I’d rather not explain to people. But now I’m near my 30s and I don’t care anymore. If people can enjoy the litany of trashy TLC shows, I can enjoy some pro wrestling with no shame.
And, yes, wresting can be stupid. Extremely stupid. But sometimes, it can be some of the finest storytelling in entertainment. It’s as close to Vaudeville as we get nowadays and if done well, there’s something on a card for any level of wrestling fan.
On Sunday, the biggest wrestling show of the year takes place in AT&T Stadium in Dallas: Wrestlemania 32. So instead of my usual shtick on this blog as a movie reviewer with Joe Froemming, I wanted to talk about the card for those who don’t follow pro wrestling, think it’s beneath them or will be too busy watching the season finale of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday night.
Here’s the rundown of Wrestlemania 32 (subject to change).
Wrestlemania 32 card
(Preshow) 20-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Why are we doing this?: We’re here to make sure that those wrestlers who don’t have a main card match get a Wrestlemania payday. The Andre the Giant Battle Royal is in its third year and features a comically large trophy of Fezzik from “The Princess Bride.” This has been won in the past by an up-and-comer (Cesaro) and WWE’s current giant (the 7-foot Big Show). This year, it’ll probably go to Mark Henry, the World’s Strongest Man and one-time father to a hand (I’ll let you folks Youtube that clip). Or, there’s Kane, who occasionally wrestles in slacks. It’s as dumb as it sounds.
(Preshow) The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
Who are The Usos?: Jimmy and Jey Uso are real-life twin brothers who have found their niche in the WWE’s tag-team division. And being twins, even the announcers can’t keep up with who’s who. They wear face paint on different sides of their face, but I’ll be honest: They’re basically the same person.
Who are The Dudley Boyz?: Bubba Ray and Devon Dudley are one of the most decorated tag teams in WWE history with 18 championships. They are also a staple of the bygone 90s era of wrestling where it was OK to bleed every night and use garbage cans full of foreign objects. They are an EXTREME team. You know this because there’s a Z instead of an S in their name.
Why are we doing this?: Because tag-team matches are so underutilized despite how fun they can be. For as 80s as The Usos are, they’re high flyers and they sport colorful face paint. Perfect for kids and WWE’s PG product. And, because it’s The Dudleys, there will be a table involved at some point. All things considered, this won’t be a bad match.
(Preshow) The Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox and Eva Marie) vs. B.A.D. & Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Emma and Summer Rae)
Who are The Total Divas?: In its effort to be an entertainment company instead of a wrestling company, WWE has a show on the E! Network called “Total Divas,” which is your typical “reality show.” And, all the ladies on The Total Divas are on the show. Because what a bunch of wrestling fans — that dress in black T-shirts and attends heavy metal concerts — enjoy is faux-relationship problems.
Who are B.A.D. & Blonde?: The group is a motley crew of underutilized talent in WWE’s women’s division. Of note is Emma, who has become a workhorse in NXT, WWE’s developmental brand, after a brief stint in the big leagues ended after a mishap at a Wal-Mart self-checkout. Have real people check you out, folks, and deal with the social awkwardness.
Also, Emma has a Youtube cooking show and it’s adorable.
Why are we doing this?: Because WWE has a TV show to promote and wrestlers have bills to pay! Typically, WWE’s women’s division gets one match at a Wrestlemania, and this year they have two. Progress.
(Preshow) Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback (United States Championship match)
Who is Kalisto?: A Mexican lucha-libre high-flyer that uses moves that look awesome but actually lack any real impact. If you had wrestling matches with action figures like I did as a child, all the insane flips and physics-defying moves… Kalisto can actually do a lot of those things.
Who is Ryback?: If you had wrestling matches with action figures like I did as a child, and had some inhuman muscle-bound meathead that took the brunt of tall the insane flips and physics-defying moves from the way cooler action figure… Ryback is the living, breathing version of this. Plus, his catchphrase is “Feed me more.” I’m concerned he has a tapeworm.
Why are we doing this?: Because WWE needs a match to either allow fans to take a bathroom break or to let the crowd find their seats before the main show begins. Really, that’s all we have here, folks. Move on. What are you doing? Scroll down.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Who is AJ Styles?: For a decade, arguably the top American wrestler in the world not employed by WWE. Constantly called a rookie despite being 38 years old and wrestling since the Clinton administration. Once the poster boy for TNA, which is competition for WWE that is so much of an afterthought that I don’t remember what channel it’s on. Also a long-time fan of sleeveless vests with hoods.
Who is Chris Jericho?: A wrestling legend since the 90s. The man of 1,004 holds. Once made reference to Dexy’s Midnight Runners in a promo. Now the self-proclaimed “Best In the World At What I Do,” which was hard to argue in the early part of this decade. Legit sings in the hard rock band Fozzy. Long-time fan of sparkly vests and Lite-Brite jackets… Neither one of these men have a good fashion sense.
Why are we doing this?: Because it’s about time AJ Styles got his shot in the WWE. And Chris Jericho is the kind of opponent that lets the casual viewer know the guy is for real. Jericho isn’t the wrestler he was even five years ago, but he’s a big name that can make a guy like AJ Styles look like a main-eventer. Plus, it gives the crowd a reason to listen to Styles’ infectious Southern hip-hop theme.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations
Who are The New Day?: The New Day features Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E. They used to be jerks. But now, through the power of positivity, unicorn horns and a trombone, they have become unlikely fan favorites. I’m not being facetious, that’s actually what happened. Yeah, I’m bewildered, too.
Who is The League of Nations?: The League of Nations is a four-man stable of foreign wrestlers: Sheamus (Ireland), Alberto Del Rio (Mexico), Rusev (Bulgaria) and King Barrett (England). And this group exists namely to get crowds into a rage because they’re the real-life version of The Foreigner from “Futurama.”
Why are we doing this?: Because the nerdy wrestling fans, like me, that spend the most money on Wrestlemania seats LOVE The New Day. I mean, this is a group that once held something called “The New Day’s First Anniversary In-Ring Country Music Jamboree.” And, Xavier Woods plays the “Final Fantasy” victory fanfare on trombone. In a fictional world that has a lot of brooding like “Batman v Superman,” it’s a breath of fresh air to have a little fun.
The League of Nations… yeah, they’re here because The New Day has to wrestle somebody.
Seven-man ladder match (Intercontinental Championship match)
A brief rundown of the contestants
Kevin Owens (c): Think of Hulk Hogan (80s heyday Hogan, not modern-day lawsuit with Gawker Hogan). Now, think of the complete opposite. That’s Kevin Owens: A burly Canadian with pockmarks, a sleeveless T-shirt and gym shorts. And he’s awesome.
Sami Zayn: If you went to high school in the 2000s and saw that pale kid who wore Chuck Taylors and a checkered fedora covering his Walkman headphones that were blasting Reel Big Fish, that’s who Sami Zayn is. And like Kevin Owens, awesome.
Dolph Ziggler: Imagine, if you will, grown-up Johnny Lawrence from “Karate Kid” with the Raman noodle hairstyle of late 90s Justin Timberlake from *NSYNC. Another fantastic wrestler.
Zack Ryder: One-time Youtube star that has faded to oblivion because WWE is a weird, weird place. His resurgence over the last couple weeks has actually been one of the company’s highlights.
Sin Cara: A generic lucha-libre wrestler, like Kalisto. Because of how clumsy he’s been shown to be, I’m convinced the mask is there to hide his identity from relentless wrestling fans.
The Miz: A cast member from MTV’s “The Real World: Back to New York” in 2001. No, seriously. Also, he headlined a Wrestlemania once. No, seriously.
Stardust: If David Bowie and a housecat had a love child, it would be Stardust. RIP Bowie.
Why are we doing this?: People love to see car wrecks, and ladder matches are chalk full of chaos.
If you really observe a ladder match, it’s just two guys in a ring doing spots while the rest of the group are on the outside waiting for their segment of the match or nursing whatever unseemly injury they suffered from falling off a ladder. All for a secondary title. It’s like risking your well-being for employee of the month when what you really want is a raise.
And every guy in this match has something to prove with guys who are beginning their ascent in WWE (Owens, Zayn) and those who are trying to finally break the glass ceiling (Ziggler, Ryder, Sin Cara, Miz, Stardust). Dangerous gimmick match + wrestlers with chips on their respective shoulders = entertainment.
Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (Divas Championship triple threat match)
Who is Charlotte?: A legacy in pro wrestling. The real-life daughter of all-time great Ric Flair, who accompanies his little girl to the ring on a regular basis. Woooooo. Would have been a perfect fit in the Pi Delta Pi sorority in “Revenge of the Nerds.”
Who is Becky Lynch?: A butt-kicking lass from Ireland that just so happens to look like Leeloo from “The Fifth Element” raided the wardrobe of Sparkster from the Sega Genesis game “Rocket Knight Adventures.”
Who is Sasha Banks?: A hip-hop diva that may or may not actually be a real-life cousin of Snoop Dogg (who’s getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday). And she’s legitimately one of the best wrestlers in the company. In NXT, she had my favorite match of 2015 with fellow women’s wrestler Bayley.
Why are we doing this?: Because WWE FINALLY cares about women’s wrestling.
WWE acting is a grade below soap opera most of the time, and for as long as I can remember, the one talent WWE required of its female wrestlers was look good. If you can at least seem competent in the ring, all the better.
But now, WWE has female wrestlers who actually encompass the word wrestler. And now, women’s wrestling matches are becoming must-see television. Charlotte is arguably the company’s best bad guy, and Sasha Banks is a wrestling savant. And Becky Lynch is dang good as well.
Look, at least it’s some sort of progression in WWE. Now, we just need to see a black WWE champion. Yes, this is still a thing in 2016…
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar (No holds barred street fight)
Who is Dean Ambrose?: Probably the most cheered man in WWE, which is off because he’s a Joker from “The Dark Knight”-style lunatic who’d hurt himself just for the sake of wounding his opponent. He also once wanted to fight the ghost of Andre the Giant.
Who is Brock Lesnar?: Only the scariest human being on the planet. A former NCAA wrestling champion, former UFC heavyweight champion, WWE heavyweight champion and prairie dog hunting enthusiast. And because he frightens me, Brock Lesnar is one hell of a model American.
Why are we doing this?: Well, we don’t feed the Christians to the lions anymore, so Dean Ambrose/Brock Lesnar will have to do.
This is the one match in the night I am really looking forward to because it’ll be an all-out brawl. Hell, in consecutive weeks, Dean Ambrose got a barb wire-wrapped baseball bat from hardcore wrestling legend Mick Foley, followed by a CHAINSAW from another wrestling legend/former bouncer of the Double Deuce in “Road House,” Terry Funk. And Brock Lesnar is a living, breathing viking warlord who grew up on a dairy farm in Webster, S.D.
The question will be how far they can go in this match. WWE is a PG product, so blood is a big no-no. How a barb wire-wrapped baseball bat can be incorporated into a bloodless match is beyond me. Maybe, just maybe, they say to hell with it and strike each other down until one of them is sporting a crimson mask.
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell)
Who is Shane McMahon?: The real-life son of WWE chairman Vince McMahon who nearly killed himself a couple times in matches to quell any talk of nepotism. Also looks like a dork wearing Jordans with slacks while walking out to the ring with the greatest theme song currently in WWE.
Who is The Undertaker?: A walking, talking legend in pro wrestling. A man who has (rightfully) so much clout that he works one night a year. Once upon a time used to come to the ring on a motorcycle with Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock because, hey, nobody’s perfect. One of the all-time greats nonetheless.
Why are we doing this?: That’s a good question because I am fresh out of theories. The idea seems to be that because so many wrestlers are hurt right now (wrestling is predetermined and choreographed, but they abuse their bodies like football players), Shane McMahon has returned to TV for the first time since 2009. And his reason is to challenge for ownership of the WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw. And really, all corporate takeovers should take place in a wrestling ring. Donald Trump’s flying hairbutt is deadly, after all.
And The Undertaker is involved in this because… He’s free that night? Undertaker matches at Wrestlemania tend to steal the show but against a 46-year-old who hasn’t been in wrestling for seven years? It’s in Hell in a Cell (a cage with a roof surrounds the ring), so it could be interesting… It could also be a total non-sensical train wreck. Hell, with Shane McMahon being insane, I won’t rule out the slim possibility that he jumps off the gigantic mid-field scoreboard at AT&T Stadium to try and slay The Undertaker.
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns (WWE World Heavyweight Championship match)
Who is Triple H?: A 14-time heavyweight champion in WWE. Now a real-life executive behind the scenes for the company. Both a Motorhead enthusiast (with TWO songs by the band as entrance music) and Arnold Schwarzenegger enthusiast (coming to the ring at various points dressed as Conan the Barbarian and a Terminator).
Who is Roman Reigns?: The future face of WWE. A wrestler who does battle in a flak jacket because reasons? Also comes to the ring through the crowd, which is kind of awesome. Looks like every mid-2000s action video game protagonist. A thorn in the side of WWE’s on-screen powers-to-be, but gets title opportunity after title opportunity because reasons?!
Why are we doing this?: Because WWE wrestlers hate the bourgeoisie! Since Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE has profited (or has tried to profit) from the struggle between wrestler and management. And in 2016, the new iteration of this is Roman Reigns vs. The Authority and its leader, Triple H.
If you’re way into pro wrestling like I am, this whole premise is insulting because Roman Reigns is clearly the WWE’s chosen one. And because of that, the fans in Dallas will boo Roman because they don’t like having their intelligence insulted.
If you’re a casual viewer, you will probably see a hard-hitting match between the old guard and his Lemmy Kilmister facial hair versus the action figure-looking new face of WWE as he fights a devilish company that only… plans on making him a megastar.
Wrestling is awfully stupid when you think about it. So, don’t think and just have fun with it.