Yakkin' About WrestleMania: They're Coming Home (And Leaving a Mess)

Tom and Nick get to the nitty gritty about the WWE's biggest event
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Tom Breihan: Wrestlemania! The Super Bowl for obsessive dorks, a magical time of year when vlogger hordes converge on a WWE-determined urban location to watch Dragon Gate shows and get mad at how the WWE treats Daniel Bryan. This year, it'll be adjacent to the company's historic stomping grounds, at the Meadowlands complex. Nick, you'll be there this year, yes?

Nick Bond: Yes. It's my first WrestleMania, my second time watching John Cena and Rock work a PPV together and the last time I willingly go to New Jersey. I kid, of course: I'm not willingly going to New Jersey, I'm just having my friends put a sack over my head so I can't see or smell anything on the way in. Better to be safe than sorry, that's my motto. That and "I'm twice the man you are, and have half the brain you do".

Tom Breihan: As a first-time Wrestlemania attendee, are you going to be doing it big? Paying a few stacks for an Ultimate Warrior autograph at Wrestlecon? Going to the Iron Sheik roast at Caroline's? Hitting the Hall of Fame ceremony at a venue large enough to host most PPVs? I'm going to be watching here in Virginia, in a living room full of amped-up 10-year-olds, and I feel like I'm doing it the right way.

Nick Bond: Unfortunately, as a "professional" sportswriter in my mid-20's, I can only really afford to go the show. If I had my druthers (or disposable income), I'd go to Caroline's, have a couple of Tracy Morgans (a Long Island Iced Tea in the Mark Henry of drinking glasses) and yell at him to make jokes from his Twitter account. So, I’d basically treat it like a Rob Delaney show. But funny. And with (presumably) more sequins.

Tom Breihan: Well, the big event is the reason we're writing this anyway, so it fits. Going top-down: I like how the storyline, in recent weeks, has turned John Cena away from hyuk-hyuk heroics and toward seething deposed-dictator egotism -- the one guy who never loses obsessing about the one time that he lost. Cena's constant talk about the odds being against him even works for this, since he's the only one who actually seems to believe any odds are against him. Still, there's been something so death-march inevitable about the Rock/Cena rematch that I can't bring myself to get excited about it, and I say this as one of the few people on the Internet who likes to watch both of these people wrestle. At the risk of transforming into Stereotypical Internet Wrestling guy, CM Punk should be in there in some capacity, both because he deserves it and because the reliably amazing Punk/Cena sequences would give the Rock some time to regain his wind. But since this match was always going to happen, I'm fairly confident that I'll enjoy it. What say you?

Nick Bond: Punk needs to be the number one heel. Beating Cena and/or Rock doesn't do that. Wiping himself with the not-actual ashes of the actually-dead Paul Bearer? Seemingly does. Though, considering that people were cheering him for it, that's hard to say definitively. As for the Cena-Rock match, I'm most excited to argue with drunken Rock fans. As the rare vehemently pro-John Cena Internet Wrestling guy, I'll need something to do during the inevitable half-dozen rest holds.

Tom Breihan: In major coastal cities (and Chicago, duh), Punk could go full-on King Joffrey and still not get boos. The WWE's cheer-this-guy/boo-this-guy Pavlovian mechanics have almost completely broken down, and nobody seems to know what to do about it. But I am enjoying the living hell out of Punk transforming himself into a Buffy season-finale big bad, giggling to himself while he violates every guideline of decent human behavior.

Paul Bearer's death is the sort of thing that turns every wrestling dork emo, but Punk is treating it like a goddam Christmas present, and I love how "he stole the urn" has become a totally legit story-point in 2013. It's a bit weird how the Undertaker is literally only wrestling once a year at this point, but every one of those Wrestlemania matches has been ruling ass in recent years, and I am confident that this one will do the same. I don't know if it's the Mania match I'm most amped for, but I know that I will turn into a little kid when Undertaker gets his hand around Punk's neck.

Nick Bond: In terms of my total amptitude (I'm trying it out, I want to start having catchphrases), it’s never been higher for a match than Mark Henry's making of Ryback. Using himself as bait to get Ryback attacked by The Shield before swooping in to pick on the carcass, then loudly explaining why he did it in between World Strongest Slams was the WWE's version of the T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park. In this scenario, Heath Slater is the blood-sucking lawyer, Jinder Mahal is Muldoon the hunter, and poor Drew McIntyre is Nedry, the one who gets killed by the Dilophosaurus (played by Ryback).

Tom Breihan: Someone in the WWE front office definitely sees Drew McIntyre as Newman from Seinfeld, and this will never stop being puzzling. I am all the way with you on the mastodons-slamming-into-each-other appeal of Mark Henry Vs. Ryback, though. The storyline is pretty much "big strong guys hate each other," and I wish more storylines were just that. I started getting that oh-shit-here-we-go feeling in my stomach the first time those two exchanged side-eyes a month or two ago, and I have not been disappointed by any development since that. When Ryback used Santino Marella as a human missile on Raw last night, it was my favorite Santino Marella-related thing since Daniel Bryan tapped him out at Elimination Chamber last year. And when Henry looms in the entranceway and blocks out all the light, it rivals New Japan's Kazuchika Okada Rainmaker-gesture zoom-out as my favorite recurring camera-trick in all of wrestling. I hope they spend the match throwing tanker trailers at each other like Superman and Doomsday.

Nick Bond: If Mark Henry and Ryback are Superman and Doomsday, what does that make Fandango and Jericho?

Tom Breihan: I don't know enough about comic books to know what that makes Fandango and Jericho. It's probably Kid Flash and Mirror Master or something. I love the idea of a ballroom-dancing villain who flies into a rage when people don't correctly intone his name. But this feud mostly just makes me sad for Jericho. One of the greatest professional wrestlers ever! His current WWE run is over next week! It could be his last one ever! And if Lionheart Chris Jericho finished his wrestling career by attempting to turn a villainous ballroom dancer into a real thing, I would not feel right about the way the universe has turned.

Nick Bond: If you think about it more as him making NXT-winner (and Derrick Bateman comedy partner) Johnny Curtis than "Fandango", it becomes an easier pill to swallow. Also, in terms of "the danse macabre", I don't think Fandango makes the top 3. "Sweet Tea" being the first time people have stopped chanting "Albert" every time Matt Bloom has stepped in a ring since his return is more existentially depressing than Jericho making somebody on his way out. And, to be fair, he refuses to pronounce the guy's name correctly. It's very rude.

Tom Breihan: Jericho's two-minute bit about Fandango's name was a hard, deep cringe moment, and it may have given me entirely new facial crinkles. The WWE's institutional sense of humor is the greatest possible obstacle to me telling people to watch more wrestling, and that might've been the worst example of it in recent memory. The ongoing trudge of a Matt Bourne saga comes close, though. I've watched enough YouTube videos of Giant Bernard throwing around smaller guys in Japan to know that Tensai should spend Wrestlemania ripping the skull tats from Randy Orton's upper body. Instead, smartasses wouldn't stop it with the Albert chants, and now he's a bonus sidekick Funkasaurus. (Maybe you should've saved the Jurassic Park analogy for this match.) It could be a fun match, though, if Bourne can hypnotize himself into thinking Brodus Clay is Karl "Machine Gun" Anderson and Cody Rhodes is Satoshi Kojima. Uh, probably not, though.

Nick Bond: Who will you be pretending Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger are, other than a prism through which we can see all the racist colors of the WWE Universe while they chant "USA!" as Swags breaks Ricardo's ankle?

Tom Breihan: Has Swagger gotten those cheers? I keep seeing online hand-wringing about how he might get those cheers, but I haven't actually heard the cheers. In any case, I've already written about the Swagger/Del Rio feud, which is pretty fascinating and which led to a deeply strange comments section when Salon ganked my piece about it. But I'm more interested in thinking about the feud as a tool of the McMahon's families political-positioning machinations than I am in seeing these two human beings wrestle each other. Del Rio is great, Swagger solid but clumsy and ineffectual, and I'm not expecting anything much exciting from this one. Do you think this will turn the New Jersey massive into a Hobbesian hate-mob?

Nick Bond:  Having spent my life in the Tri-State Area, I'd say: yes, unequivocally. With/regards/to public intoxication, I'm happy it's probably going to be the curtain jerker. Even the Tag Team title match will be later in the evening because Kane is more famous than anyone involved with the World Heavyweight Championship match. Also, when will they realize that Big E. Langston is the future John Cena? Do you think the company follows his particularly wonderful twitter?

Tom Breihan: Big E.'s Twitter is so good! Big E.'s Twitter is the best thing about wrestling at this exact moment. The second-best thing might be his ability to twist Kane's chokeslam-hand backwards before picking that big fucker up and just dropping him. I'm pretty excited about the tag title match because we haven't quite seen this combination before and because everyone involved is very good at wrestling in the right context.

Tom Breihan: Look at the time on the imaginary clock and we still haven't talked about one of the main attractions!  Do you think, it's really necessary for Triple H to get his win back from Brock Lesnar? Does anyone other than Triple H think Triple H is remotely believable as a threat to Brock Lesnar? And is there still that possibility of Brock going full King Kong, escaping from his chains, and murdering everyone in the stadium?

Nick Bond:I don't see a real problem with Trips technically winning the match. Brock lost to Cena in the best WWE match of the year in 2012, and it didn’t slow him down because he completely dominated the entire match. The same goes for this -- because Triple H is hurt more by losing than Brock gains by winning -- as long as Brock "wins" the match. I think fantasy booking is the equivalent to pleasuring yourself to pictures of things that make you feel smart, but I'd think some sort of screw job with Punk/Heyman on Brock to allow Trips to "continue his career" while giving Brock the opportunity to start a new feud with Punk AND make Punk into the Ric Flair of the "Reality Era", or whatever we're calling it now, is in order. That’s my best case scenario for what I think will happen. What I want? Whatever gets them quickest to what EVERYONE wants: the Three Man Power Trip with Heyman/Punk/Brock.

Nick Bond: And, as for "going full King Kong"? I assumed that's what the Big Show in that completely useless Shield match or Stephanie is there for.

Tom Breihan:I both share your wariness of fantasy booking and your paradoxical desire to really, really will this Brock/Punk/Heyman unit into being. Because, really, that's the best possible outcome of this year's Wrestlemania: Wrestling's most excellently slimy manager, its greatest elemental kill-force, and its number one avatar of wounded pride and indignant martyrdom. Individually, these are three of my favorite people on the entire professional wrestling landscape. Collectively, they've got a chance to become one of the purest, strongest forces of bad in quite some time, especially if we throw the Shield in there somewhere. They've been hinting at some kind of Heyman-led Brotherhood of Evil Wrestlers for a while without pulling the trigger, and I can't imagine anything more satisfying than watching these fuckers form like Voltron on Sunday night. And if that means we get a year-long build to Brock/Undertaker at next year's Mania, so much the better.


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