This article comes courtesy of Art0Donnell’s cousin, Rocky Melvin, entertainment reporter for the website of a major cable news outlet.
In just a few weeks, it will be time for Wrestlemania, the World Wrestling Federation’s biggest smackdown of the year. Laugh if you will, but wrestling can be big business, drawing tens of thousands of loyal fans to see their favorite superheroes in spandex battle cartoon-like baddies. Yes, there is still a sizable number of folks who still believe, thanks in part to the lack of internet access in rural areas, parents’ basements, and mobile home communities across the country.
To see what all the fuss is about, I watched a “match” from the most recent Wrestlemania show, Wrestlemania 21. Come with me as we enter a strange world where referees are blind and masks count as formal wear. Just don’t call it “fake,” unless you want a punch in the face from the federation’s die-hard devotees!
Shawn Michaels is the good guy whose preacher character is very popular with the kids…
…whom he urges to say their prayers and take their vitamins.
His opponent is Kurt Angle, who is supposed to be a real wrestler from the Olympics. He even, claim the announcers, won the gold medal, which is shocking because in real wrestling, you lose if you whack your opponent with a metal chair. Yet somehow, the greatest amateur wrestler in the world still can’t beat Hulk Hogan for the championship belt. Fans have showered Angle with crude chants of “You suck!” ever since the former hero shaved his head like “The Crusher” Steve Austin and proclaimed that he didn’t like black people.
The two stare each other down for what feels like ages as they gear up for the smackdown. Finally, Michaels slaps Angle right in the face, deciding to toss this match’s special amateur rules right out the window. I guess the reverend expected his bad guy opponent to turn the other cheek!
This makes the Olympic villain mad, we are to believe, so he tries some “amateur” moves that look convincing to the untrained eye, but scream “phony” to anybody like myself (a former co-captain of my JV wrestling squad) with real experience on the mat.
Michaels breaks loose and knocks down Angle with a body slam…
…before getting the first big smackdown of the night.
Kurt Angle surprises Shawn Michaels by pinning his shoulders down for two whole counts by the referee, but under WWF rules, you need to pin the shoulders for three seconds to win.
Meanwhile, despite (or because of) the villain’s racist skinhead schtick, scattered chants of “Let’s go Angle” can be heard throughout the arena. Not really surprising, considering the audience that wrestling appeals to, but it’s probably not the image that owner Vince McMahon wants to display now that his traditionally southern company prepares to go public on the New York Stock Exchange.
Some fans hitchhiked from Appalachia.
It may have even cost his wife Linda a seat in the Senate, although you could also blame the 37-year-old trophy wife’s choice to run for office in Connecticut of all places!
Not that all rassling fans are racists. A good 70% of the crowd cheers when good guy Michaels hits some slaps on Angle’s chest that, sorry guys, don’t even come close to connecting.
Later, Kurt Angle throws an illegal dropkick at Shawn outside of the ring, but the match continues because the referee doesn’t see it. This sends the fans into a rage, ready to throw beer bottles at the hated “Olympian.”
After Angle hits the hero with a move called the “arm bar,” the fans in attendance think Michaels is in mortal danger.
And they really think Michaels is in trouble after he misses a flying body slam, jumping off the top ring rope and landing on the mat. The fans are sure Shawn Michaels is finished for good. Unbeknownst to them, however, there are actually wrestling “schools” where the fighters are trained how to land on their backs so that it doesn’t hurt (although the fact that they bounce around on what is essentially a giant square trampoline helps just a bit, too).
One of the highlights of the bout is when Shawn Michaels springs off the ropes and does a backflip onto Kurt, who absorbs the impact thanks to a specially-constructed table. Both men recover quickly enough to return to the wrestling ring before the referee counts to ten. It’s a very slooooow count, of course, because Vince McMahon knows his audience.
Shawn performs, with the help of his “opponent,” this unusual-looking move.
Kurt ends up with a mouth full of stage blood and, thanks to a special mouthguard, looks to be missing a good portion of his teeth. You can’t blame the wrestlers for the trickery, though. Do it for real, and they’ll end up looking like one of the fans!
After a “kick” to the face, it looks like Kurt Angle is finally finished…
…but he escapes from a really pathetic attempt to hold his shoulders down.
Instead, the bad guy grabs Shawn Michaels’s leg and makes him say “Uncle,” delivering the final smackdown for a victory.
This year, will do-gooder Michaels finally get his revenge on Kurt Angle? I have a pretty good feeling he will…
Wrestlemania will be in New Orleans this year on April 6th. Tickets are sold out, but if you still want to have some tongue-in-cheek fun, you can order it on pay-per-view from your cable provider or subscribe to the WWE Network: that’s the WWF’s first, unproven foray into the Information Age. Watch while you can, because once wrestling fans get online, they’re liable to find out their favorite sport is rigged, stop seeing the matches, and drive the Federation into bankruptcy.
Or, if you dare to see what the madness is all about, tickets are available for many smaller wrestlemanias in smoke-filled arenas throughout the country. Just be sure to line up early at the box office; die-hard fans tend to park their trailers at the front of the line days in advance!
A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell.
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