COMMENTARY: I wrote a similar piece like this one a few years ago that still holds true If Vince McMahon’s wrestling ring could talk, it would tell all of us the tale of 33 years of the greatest wrestling event ever. It would stretch its arms and lean back against the turnbuckle, take a deep breath and spin a yarn of how Hulk Hogan and the son of Vince McMahon Sr. set a course to change wrestling history. It would forever link the idea of sports and entertainment to create something called a “business.” For wrestling fans, WrestleMania is McMahon’s biggest accomplishment.
By the looks of things, they succeeded.
With the stroke of genius and the idea of making professional wrestling the media icon it has become, WrestleMania is by far the grandest soap opera ever created in sports entertainment. It continues to defy logic, however trumped up it seems. Although the ending is predestined and predetermined, everything is established to make us want more. Year after year, fans eat this up faster than any Thanksgiving dinner, drink it smoother than any cocktail at the local bar.
Of course, wrestling matters in the WWE and so does WrestleMania.
If I were to sit in the middle of McMahon’s ring right now, I would hear a story of how Shawn Michaels had a match with a ladder, and some guy named Razor Ramon came along for the ride. I would hear about how Rick Steamboat and Randy Savage had the greatest match in WrestleMania history. I would hear about how two guys named Rock and Austin defined the event with a historic three rounds of epic battle. And I would hear how the likes of Mr. T, Liberace, Muhammad Ali and Pete Rose were all part of its specter.
And of course, I would hear about some “Dead Man” who continues to will himself into a ring to perform for the masses when he can barely get out of bed or bend over to tie his boots.
Those are highlights I remember. There are many more, but you see where I am going with this. Wrestling matters in the WWE and it always will.
It matters when Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and John Cena perform year after year. It matters when Roman Reigns still cannot win the affection of the WWE fan base. It matters when a tearful Shawn Michaels knocks out his idol, Ric Flair, and retires him from the business. It matters when we see some guy named “Mr. McMahon” and his “employee” Steve Austin fight in a ring, and fans wish they had been the man to give their “boss” the middle finger.
Yes, to us fans, wrestling matters. McMahon has proven to the best storyteller, even better than the Almighty Oz.
It isn’t often we see a connection between fans, mainstream media and something so rehearsed as professional wrestling as a “must see” event in our society, but this is the case. It is better than any soap opera, any reality television series, any first-rate movie.
It is the core of which we the fans live and die for to some extent, and it is the reason we watch with anticipation for Undertaker’s first appearance of the year or the chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime match like Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles or Asuka and Charlotte. And we pray to the gods to give is Bayley and Sasha Banks one more time.
If the ring could talk, it might tell us of a “Dead Man,” a “Big Red Machine” and a man who was scary to look at and listen to bringing those two creatures together. Only in professional wrestling, only through the fertile mind of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. There have been others before him who crafted a great tale and some outstanding matches like Dusty Rhodes, Eddie Gilbert, Eddie Graham and Verne Gagne. None took what they knew and ran with it like Vinnie Mac. And no one in this business will ever have his kind of stoke again.
Yes, to the owner of the WWE, wrestling matters.
The ring symbolizes so much for so many reasons. It is a place of safety and security. It is a place of great drama. It is a place where nothing matters but the action in the ring and the outcome of the match. And this year it will again be the focal point of drama, chaos, confusion, twists and surprises.
And we will all be waiting to see what happens. And our full attention will be on that ring. We already know the framework of this year’s event in New Orleans is solid, if not spectacular. We wait and hope and pray we leave entertained and wanting more.
Because whether we see it or not, wrestling matters. And WrestleMania matters most of all.