Tuesday, April 8, 2014

‘Rasslin’ 2014: Insanity, Vanilla Midgets and Expectation

Doing something the same way over and over, and expecting the outcome to be different?

That’s insanity.

Expecting anything and everything to happen, and still coming away shocked – even dumbstruck?

That’s ‘Rasslin’, even if the McMahon Clan of Connecticut insists on calling it “Sports Entertainment.”

The essence and appeal of a professional wrestling promotion is that moment that makes you say, “Tell me I didn’t just see what I just saw.”

Vince McMahon and his creative crew manufactured one such moment two nights ago. One did not even need to be watching (either on Pay-per-View or the newly launched WWE on-line network) to emit a hearty “Say what?”

Amidst all the hoopla in the so-called Internet Wrestling Community regarding the presence of Bryan Daniel and the absence of CM Punk (a couple of 190-pound six-footers in a land of giants, guys who’d initially risen to prominence on the “indy scene”)…

Amongst all the generations of “Superstars” being trotted out (even posthumously, e.g. Andre the Giant, perhaps even Scott Hall or Jake Roberts) to hype WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans…

With all the angst about WWE Executive Paul Levesque (aka HHH, Vince’s son-in-law) instituting his own little “old-boy” network, case in point the not-so New Age Outlaws…

Overlooked was the oldest and most respected of “The Boys,” the Undertaker. Sure, he had his spot on the card, paired up this time with fellow part-timer and former MMA titlist Brock Lesnar. Sure, a segment here and there on the “Road” had been provided for promotion of the match and ‘Taker’s 21-year undefeated streak. They even utilized “heat magnet” Paul Heyman to drum up a few more buys for what all assumed was a sure bet in a world of pre-determined outcomes.

No way was an “outlier” like Brock Lesnar going to be the performer given such a career-defining WrestleMania Moment. Considering the death-defying nature of the very character, it seemed more likely that the streak would continue in perpetuity. It’s not as if the business has never passed on character portrayal from one performer to another. (Anyone else recall JR’s new Diesel and Razor from back in the Monday-Night-Wars days? Didn’t think so!)

But it appears that Big Brock reversed an attempted second Tombstone Piledriver into his own F-5 finisher, and…No Way became Way!

Who’d’a Thunk, huh?

Perhaps a couple of seeds had indeed been sown. Atypically, it was UT who issued the challenge this time. Then there was the untimely death last year of William Moody, better known in wrestling circles as Paul Bearer (even to older fans like me as Percy Pringle), long-time manager and mentor to both the character and the man.

Maybe the inevitability of such an outcome was established almost twelve-and-a-half years ago, on Nov.26, 2001 in Oklahoma City and on live TV.

The Evil Mr. McMahon, in an obvious grab for the voyeur demographic, had decided to induct announcer Jim Ross into his Kiss-My-Ass Club. In the course of the segment, the Undertaker heroically strode to the ring and rescue. Alas, the big guy “turned heel” on Good Ol’ JR and the ceremony went on as planned.

Well, maybe not entirely as planned…

In the course of this “heel turn,” the following words (or pretty darn close, I’m trusting recollection for now) were uttered: “I’ve been kissing your ass for ten years.”

There’s little doubt that the antecedent of the pronoun “your” must be Vince McMahon (rather than the Evil Chairman character – McMahon was still playing the baby-faced broadcaster for the likes of Ventura and Heenan in the early ‘90’s).

But I’ve always wondered whether “I” was Undertaker or Mark Calloway.

If the latter (and given McMahon’s penchant for holding a grudge), perhaps it was inevitable that such an iconic feat have such an “anti-“ to its climax.

In the grand scheme of things, it probably is, as the new generation of WWE Authority prefers to say, “Best for Business.”