I’ve been a professional wrestling fan ever since I was a kid, when my old man used to take me to matches in Hawaii, featuring guys like Ripper Collins, Tex MacKenzie, and Curtis “the Bull” Iaukea.
As a 13-year-old boy, I was hooked instantly. And it is something I carried all the way into my adult life.
But it’s been pretty tough being a wrestling fan the past few years.
You see, professional wrestling is a cyclical business.
And the cycle has been decidedly on the “down side” for the past couple of years…ever since Vince McMahon and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) basically won the interpromotional wars of the nineties (the last time professional wrestling was really hot) and absorbed all of the competition.
Back then, at least for a time when wrestling was at it’s peak, there would be competing pay per views nearly every week between the three major players in the game:
Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (or the then WWF); Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW); and Paul Heyman’s revolutionary upstart group, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
Like I said, it was a great time to be a wrestling fan.
And it all came together each and every Monday night…when WWF’s Monday Night Raw would square off with WCW’s Nitro on cable, in what came to be known as “The Monday Night Wars”.
Since those glory days, Monday Night Wrestling has been in a steady, undeniable creative decline. Oh sure, there are the occassional weeks when you still get a decent show.
But nothing compared to the shock a minute thrills of the original “Monday Night Wars” of the nineties.
That was when the big boys of the then WWF and WCW went head to head in a constant battle of oneupmanship for wrestling supremacy…and of course, for ratings.
Meanwhile, the upstart Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) kept the heat turned way up (literally) on the big boys with it’s own mix of edgy storylines, (catfighting lesbian vixens we’re a regular fixture) and staged ultra violence (things like barbed wire and flaming table matches…with lots of blood).
As a reference point, I highly recommend checking out the recently released DVD Bloodsport: ECW’s Most Violent Matches.
Vince McMahon’s WWE eventually won the Monday Night War, largely by duplicating the ECW formula and bringing it to the mass cable audience via it’s Monday Night Raw flagship show on USA.
While the competition over at WCW was chugging along on the carcasses of it’s aging stars Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, WWE was introducing it’s then hot new made for prime time properties The Rock, Mick Foley, and Stone Cold Steve Austin (a WCW castaway who found new life in McMahonland) to the world.
Me and my buddies would watch those shows absolutely transfixed on Monday Nights.
We would also burn up the phone lines during commercials calling each other to compare notes (“did you see what Austin just did to McMahon?)”.
And on Sundays we would always get together for the Pay Per Views.
There was no bigger event on the wrestling Pay Per View map than Wrestlemania.
The Grandaddy of Em’ All…Wrestlemania…at least for diehards like us…was the World Series, the Superbowl, and Christmas all rolled into one.
Back in the day, we would have like twenty guys gathered round the tube for the Sunday PPV. There was plenty of cold beer, bad pizza, and abundant testosterone in the room back then. We’d also defend our own championship belt…based on our predictions of the PPV results.
This weekend, that tradition continued for Wrestlemania. But there we’re just six of us.
Like I said, times change.
I am myself a two time (“Thats Two Time! Brrrutha!”) champion. Tonight, my good buddy Wendall Rose regained the belt, correctly calling nine of the eleven Wrestlemania matches.
On paper, this year’s Wrestlemania did not look good.
But in spite of all odds, it delivered.
Mick Foley and Edge had a hardcore match that tore the house down, climaxed by a great “holy shit!” moment…Edge spearing Foley through a flaming table.
Trish Stratus and Mickie James had what is probably the best women’s match I’ve ever seen…despite a botched finish.
Rey Misterio became WWE champion in a spot fest that probably could have gone a bit longer…but was still memorable for both the tons of great spots and the backstory of his win being a tribute to his friend, the late, great Eddie Guerrero.
Ric Flair got what may be legit injured in a “Money In The Bank” ladder match. It was a match he really had no business being in. Flair, the once great “Nature Boy” is pushing 60 years old, and has definitely seen better days. The match was eventualy won by the long deserving Rob Van Dam.
Meanwhile, Triple H, the self proclaimed “King of Kings”…considered by many wrestling insiders to be the most selfish, self serving wrestler this side of Hulk Hogan himself…tapped out to John Cena in what proved to be the night’s biggest surprise.
Cena, by the way, is quite possibly the most unpopular “babyface” (that’s insider wrestling vernacular for “good guy”) of all time.
A fact which the hot (and quite vocal) Chicago Wrestlemania live crowd let him know in no uncertain terms.
This wasn’t the best Wrestlemania…and I’ve seen em’ all. Not by any means. But it was far better than it had any right to be, judging it by what they had going in on paper at least.
Can you say “Whoo”?
Wrestlemania 22 Match Results
World Champion John Cena regained his title, defeating Triple H by submssion
Rey Misterio won the WWE Championship over Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in a three way dance
Shawn Micheals defeated Vince McMahon in a “No Holds Barred Match”
Rob Van Dam won the “Money In The Bank” ladder match over Ric Flair; Shelton Benjamin; Lashley; Fit Findlay; and Matt Hardy
Undertaker defeated Mark Henry in a “Casket Match”
Edge defeated Mick Foley in a Hardcore Match
JBL defeated Chris Benoit to win the United States Championship
The Big Show & Kane defeated Carlito and Chris Masters to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship
Mickie James defeated Trish Stratus to win the WWE Womens Championship
Boogeyman defeated Booker T and Sharmell
Torrie Wilson defeated Candace Michelle in a Playboy Pillowfight