The braintrust at World Wrestling Entertainment probably wouldn’t know literary symbolism from an Irish whip reversal, but sometimes, their presentation magnetically drags the pieces into place for a picture of change.
Or maybe WWE intentionally painted the strokes they painted at WrestleMania, hoping that we’d tilt our heads, and see the same meaning that they’d brushed on that canvas.
When WWE Network launched on February 24, you and I and millions of others (after enough lags to win the Network a job working for a transit authority) were besieged with a maelstrom of yesterday. WWE makes their money off the past. As ESPN Classic, The Angry Video Game Nerd, and every production company that lives to pump out remakes can tell you, there’s dollars and cents in yesterday.
WWE knows this, but at WrestleMania XXX, they flipped the calendar forward for a change.
For one thing, did you know that WrestleMania XXX is the first Mania since 2000 (fourteen years!) to have nobody over the age of 40 win? Undertaker turned 40 in 2005, so you can write off 21 onward through 29. 20 had Flair win, 19 had Hogan, 18 had DDP, 17 had Iron Sheik (in an old-timer’s match, but still).
Just how many 40-year-olds did this year’s show throw out there?
You can start with the super-duper-mondo-extended intro in which Hulk Hogan couldn’t remember the venue’s name (though his favorite 1980s sitcom is still Super Spoons). He, The Rock, and Stone Cold shared the stage, WWE’s three greatest stars of all time, in a surreal love-in that, while excessive, was still more fun than Rock’s “when I say Yabba!” bit three years ago.
Hogan, Rock, and Austin jerking the curtain. Sure, it wasn’t a match, but other than one comedy bit with Hogan later on, the three took their bow, and exited stage left, as they’ve done to end eras prior.
As for the elders that donned tights (or ‘work slacks’, in the case of a certain pencil-pushing demon), I count Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Goldust, The Big Show, and Mark Henry. You can also add Batista and Great Khali, but for this point, they can take a seat.
Those first eight names, do they look familiar? Maybe you were like me, sitting there in junior high and high school, watching them on Monday nights as they shoveled coal into the furnace of the locomotive that demolition derby’d WCW into oblivion.
Yep, Attitude relics, all of them. None of them were victorious.
The King of Kings laid down first, performing in his best non-Undertaker match in at least six or seven years. Daniel Bryan needed the rub if he was going to take the torch, and a great match was had. As much as Stephanie irks me, I was glad she was at ringside, chewing the scenery with her last obnoxious nerve. Reminded me of 2000 WWF.
Then Bryan ripped that page off of that dingy wall.
Kane and the Outlaws didn’t get a fraction of time Hunter got. The Shield, all of whom were in elementary school at their opponents’ apexes, dispatched the trio in about three minutes.
Then strongman Cesaro wins the Andre battle royal, outlasting Henry and Goldust, ultimately slamming Big Show over the ropes in a way that would make Hulk’s slam of Andre look like a school-yard foot-trip.
You don’t have to tell a Rec Center devotee that the first three matches were won by Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black, Claudio Castagnoli, and their Cage of Death cohort, Jon Moxley. All at the expense of the hangers-on of time.
Then Cena beat Bray Wyatt after a long, psychological war (had Wyatt won, you could say Luke Harper was the fourth ROH alumnus to stand tall), but even Wyatt going down wasn’t as shocking as the ultimate defeat following.
Nobody expected Undertaker to go down, outside of the know. When Brock Lesnar landed the third F5, I said to my viewing party, “is Taker really kicking out of a third?”
Then the hand dropped a third time. And the astonished faces in the crowd said it all.
You expected Kane and the Outlaws to be crushed. You expected Bryan to go over. You kinda figured a young gun would get the Andre trophy if one-time purported son Big Show didn’t.
But Undertaker losing at WrestleMania? That’s bleeping crazy.
Then Lesnar beat him. It felt as though an unbreakable chain snapped with one mighty pull, and that chain was the restraint that kept ‘yesterday’ from falling over.
Method actor Paul Heyman couldn’t believe his client pulled it off, pulling the black and purple sword from the stone. The hush was louder than any catcall could have been. The last thing from our past that felt real, without artificial propping, finally cracked and crumbled to the Earth, and even us jaded dweebs who say, “yeah, it’s fake, but…” double-taked with eyes bulging out like silent film comedians.
When Triple H promised a ‘reality era’, it may well have been Paul Levesque promising a ‘different’ era. Nostalgia is fantasy, after all, gussied up by our memories, and we roll in those memories like a flowery meadow.
When the rug was swept out from under Taker’s calling card, what was left?
The new era. The literal, actual, 100% certified Reality Era.
Once the Diva clusterfack subsided, Daniel Bryan took center stage, in effect becoming what fans had wanted him to be all along: the main man.
With the floor his to save the day, Bryan was booked to come through against Randy Orton and Batista (the era after Attitude, though Brock and Cena are of that cloth too, but eh, go with it). With Bryan standing tall, YESing the arms up with a belt in each, WrestleMania XXX became his show, and the WWE became his yard, to borrow a phrase from a departing icon.
WWE will still present their nostalgia for the quick dollar, and they do it better than any. Still, it’s refreshing to see an era give way to another, because that’s how it should be, right?
I’m pretty sure I can get a yes on that.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
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