Two things about being a wrestling fan: 1. Suspension of disbelief. 2. The only way to make yourself heard is to engineer some sort of chant.
It all feels rushed and here’s why: there are three matches tonight that will need a huge amount of time for their stories to unfold effectively: CM Punk vs Chris Jericho, HHH vs The Undertaker, and The Rock vs John Cena. More on all of these later, but first,
Cody Rhodes vs The Big Show
Part of following wrestling deeply enough to be aware of the backstage goings on is that you begin to notice the obvious ways that said goings on influence the product that you enjoy. The logical conclusion of this is to make up backstage goings on that will influence the product (since the average fan obviously can not actually know as much as they think they know). It takes the same brain-muscle to be a smart wrestling fan as it does to be a conspiracy theorist.
Anyway, so with Cody and Show, you have almost the exact same dynamic that you had with Bryan/Seamus. You have a big man who is physically impressive due to his size, but who can’t really move around all that well and Isn’t nearly as entertaining to watch as his opponent, in this case the hyper-talented Cody Rhodes. The difference between Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan is, though, that Bryan had made a name for himself in organizations that are technically WWE’s competitors before eventually being signed by WWE, while Cody Rhodes came up the way a talent with his pedigree should, limiting even his earliest endeavors to organizations owned by the WWE. Which is to say that every modicum of fame that Cody Rhodes has is owed entirely to the WWE. Which is, itself, to say, that there is more incentive for the WWE to make Cody Rhodes look good than to make Daniel Bryan look good. The stars are about equally marketable, they are about equally young, and though Daniel Bryan is more talented the gap between him and Rhodes is considerably smaller than between him and most other WWE talent.
But the question remains: did the WWE stifle Bryan’s match and give Rhodes’ match plenty of time so that Rhodes and Show could have all of the Big Man/Little Man dynamic without the crowd seeing any of it as stale?
The question remains.
Big Show wins, which doesn’t do anybody any good.
 Seamus, whose character is based largely on being able to beat bad guys without stooping to their level, kicks Daniel Bryan in the face right off the bat to win the championship, taking advantage of the fact that DBry was playing a little bit of tonsil-hockey with his valet in the corner before the match, whereas Kane, whose masked persona is synonymous with malice and evil, allows Randy Orton ample time to pose for the crowd before commencing with their match.
 “Daniel Bryan” chants abound throughout the rest of the event. This is the hive minded Greek chorus of the wrestling crowd voicing simultaneous approval of Bryan himself and disapproval with the way his match was booked.
 The booking of this year’s WrestleMania does seem to follow a “man with a nickname versus a man with a plain name” kind of pattern.
 Son of Dusty Rhodes, WWE Hall of Famer and infrequent nostalgia-superstar (meaning that he will on occasion stroll out into the ring to the delight of the crowd, who remember what he used to be like and don’t really care what he’s like now).
Let’s talk a little about Kane. Alright? Good
To do that we need to first talk about The Undertaker
The Undertaker debuted in the WWF in 1990 at Survivor Series, and is generally cited as the greatest marriage of gimmick and performer in the history of professional wrestling. There’s only one real piece of evidence in support of this, and it’s as subjective as it is reliably accurate: no one but the man Mark Calloway could pull of that Undertaker business.
For every successful, long-term gimmick in the WWE, there are tons of failed characters, even with the same wrestler. Even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, by most accounts the most popular wrestler ever, was a kind of pseudo-Ric Flair knock off for a while named “Stunning” Steve Austin (in WCW) and The Ringmaster (in WWE). Ultimately, the most successful gimmicks are the ones that stop being outlandish characters and start being uncomplicated and sort of self-evident: The Rock’s character is that he’s The Rock. Same with John Cena, same with Triple H, and believe it or not, the most likely response you’re going to get to the question “what is The Undertaker’s gimmick” is “he’s The Undertaker.”
So the Undertaker strode into the WWF in 1990 and reigned supreme even into the industry’s less fantastic (which is not to say that it wasn’t a good era, just less based on fantastic elements then say, the Hulk Hogan 80s) era.
In 1997, in order to engineer a feud, the WWF introduced Kane, The Undertaker’s Brother. There’s a term in videogames where two characters are essentially the same thing just with slightly different color schemes (“palette swap” in case you’re interested or still reading) and initially Kane was not much more than that. The character evolved as it became popular with the fans, though (industry terminology for becoming popular with the fans: “getting over”), and his back story was subsequently changed in several ways. He went from being horribly scarred in a fire to being simply psychologically scarred (this was done so that he could wrestle without a mask), the WWE de-emphasized his ability to control fire, and he went from being mute to being able to speak with the aid of a device, to being able to speak freely (his first words? Thanks for asking. “Suck it,” the popular D-Generation X catchphrase).
Kane’s character has at times been diabolically evil and uncompromisingly just, but his ultimate downfall is that he’s not a truly stand alone character; he’ll always be mentioned alongside The Undertaker. In a lot of ways, that’s not a bad thing; ‘Taker’s got a pretty legitimate claim on one of the handful of “best of all time” handles you can toss out, he’s got longevity and is (reputedly) a class act. There are far worse trailers to be hitched up to forever.
That said, the WWE is a strange universe, where objectively gigantic men go to stop being novelties (Vince’s WWE is so high on big men that even the most physically impressive giants stroll out to a sentiment that’s essentially “oh another giant freak of nature…yawn”).
Kane’s success, and by any measure his career has been a success, is therefore more an impressive ability on his end to transcend the limitations of his size and association to one particular wrestler, and connect with the crowd (which by now you’ve learned is called “getting over”).
The appeal of Kane is, ultimately, of his own creation. He has managed to engineer his own coolness, something that the most popular wrestlers are able to do and the other ones simply are not.
Kane’s ‘Mania opponent, on the other hand, is Randy Orton, whose coolness is manufactured by the WWE and is stuffed down the throats of the audience. (The beauty of being a wrestling fan is that as subjective as my opinion is, it’s no less right than that of someone who likes Randy Orton).
For a while, Orton went by the moniker “The Legend Killer,” which was kind of a meta-gimmick that both played with his status as a Legacy, and saw him get the best of older WWE Superstars. His continued annihilation of the gimmick-dependant superstars of old was both a means of getting Orton over and a symbol of the new wave of WWE characters, who are mostly plainclothes muscleheads. Every time Randy Orton beat up a Jake “The Snake” Roberts or a “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, it was as if the WWE was saying “this is the future, suckers, who cares if it’s not particularly talented or charismatic?”
Ultimately, though, Orton’s got whatever “it” is, and he’s forged a path largely by dominating heavy-handed “character” wrestlers, like Kane.
In short, this is the exact kind of match that the gimmickless Orton (in fact it’s a stretch to even call him a character, really) would win.
I don’t much care for Orton, and I like Kane a lot. Will the WWE give me two dissatisfying match experiences right in a row?
Turns out, no. Kane is allowed to win in a match that lasts a respectable amount of time. It is wonderful.
 “Gimmick,” another industry term referring generally to the confluence of characteristics and ideas and speaking patterns and clothing that make up a character’s “character,” in the case of the Undertaker it’s the weird mystique surrounding his quote unquote lord of darkness/deadman persona (between 2002 and 2004, however, he inexplicably changed his gimmick to an uber-patriotic biker, but he was so popular by that time that no one cared).
 Notable examples: Mark Calloway (The Undertaker) was once a part of a tag team called “The Skyscrapers,” whose gimmick was simply that they were quite tall. Current WWE Wunderkind Dolph Ziggler has had stints as both a male cheerleader and a golf caddy. Glenn Jacobs, who portrays Kane, was once…wait for it…an evil dentist (Dr. Isaac Yankem, in case you were wondering).
 It’s best to think of pro wrestlers’ histories as fluid, changing things that don’t always remain even or consistent but still contribute in some way to the essence of the fictional characters, like the setting of “Hamlet” from stage to stage.
 Nowhere is the proverbial “it” that superstars have and lesser stars don’t have more real. Not sports, not music. It’s also worth pointing out that Glen Jacobs (who portrays Kane) has a degree in English from a respected liberal arts college and at one point hosted a Libertarian talk-radio show.
 Orton’s father and grandfather are both former professional wrestlers.
 Again, just my opinion.
One of the things I like about professional wrestling is that it has little to no crossover appeal. Fans of football, for example, may enjoy hockey due to similar levels of violence, fans of soccer may enjoy lacrosse because of their similar strategic elements and ball-in-goal type aspirations, but you can’t really go up to any hardcore fan of a particular sport and say “hey, you dig rugby? You might like the athletic pageantry of elaborately staged violence.”
It resembles sports too much to be of any real appeal to a drama junkie or film scholar, it is too dramatic to draw in someone with a thirst for pure competition.
And so then the only people who like pro wrestling are pro wrestling fans, and these are the people who really don’t mind being sucked into a universe where storylines play out in real time for years and years and years. As such, real life events have a tendency to bleed into the storyline universe (which by now you’ve learned is called kayfabe).
PM 6:08: Seamus vs. Daniel Bryan
This is one of those matches where the storyline is somehow less important than the real life circumstances of how it came about. Seamus is your prototypical WWE superstar: hired by Vince McMahon based on huge stature more than charisma or actual ability (and a guy whose rise to prominence in the organization coincided exactly with his decision to start lifting weights with Triple H, a future WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, now a talent-relations guy for the WWE and probable heir apparent to the whole organization once Vince McMahon lies down for life’s final three count).
Daniel Bryan is the exact opposite: by all measures too small to ever succeed in Vince McMahon’s WWE, too athletic and not easily pigeonholed into the pageantry-over-pugilism focus of the organization, he was the top talent in an organization called ROH for years and years, and when he was eventually signed by WWE, it felt like it was because Vince couldn’t put it off any longer. Each measure of his success had a similar feel: he was given a more and more prominent role because management had run out of reasons to not feature him and somehow he ended up holding the second most prestigious title in WWE.
Anyway here’s the advantage the WWE has over organizations like the NFL and, say, college basketball: characters. The WWE deals in creating characters for the audience to either love (“mark out over”) or hate (a hateful reaction is referred to as “heat,” the process of obtaining said reaction is referred to as “drawing” as in “drawing major heat”). Often times, the audience will take these characters and project whatever they can of themselves onto them (Steve Austin made a living in the 90s flicking off Vince McMahon entirely because everyone in America wants to flick off their own boss, not because he flipped a particularly entertaining bird, even though he did). I can project abstractions of derisions of “too small,” “not charismatic enough,” “not athletic enough” onto Daniel Bryan a lot more easily than I can onto Seamus, therefore I like Daniel Bryan more, therefore I want him to win, therefore I watch WrestleMania to see him win. Ultimately, that kind of a relationship between me, a fan, and a talent, whom I’ve never met and who might be an asshole, is what professional wrestling is built on.
(meanwhile, the NFL outlaws essentially any display of individualism on the field, reduces players’ roles to that of faceless commodities of a team, the entity you are supposed to cheer for and support financially)
This is the opening match. The opening match of a show is critical for a number of reasons, the most apparent being that it warms the crowd up (believe it or not, emotional frenzy is not the default setting for a crowd at a wrestling show, it has to be coaxed out of us, earned, something The Rock is good at and, say, Festus was bad at, which is why you’ve heard of The Rock and not that other guy).
The crowd is hot for this match already, with the favor being skewed plainly towards young Daniel, who even though he’s a storyline heel (bad guy) he’s the kind of everyman that a lot of wrestling fans enjoy (Seamus on the other hand is a freak of nature, and as such hard to cheer for even though he’s the face in the storyline). This match can be a classic, an emotional roller coaster to kick off the biggest wrestling event of the year.
Guess what happens?
Daniel Bryan loses in 18 seconds to restore Vince McMahon’s order.
So it goes.
But still, damn it.
 Fans of actual wrestling, the kind you’ll see in the Olympics and in Iowa are notorious for harboring real hatred towards professional wrestling.
 There is a huge difference between the storylines in wrestling and the “storylines” in sports like football or baseball, one that justifies the use of quotation marks: emotional response in real sport comes entirely in response to a fans desire to see his/her team win, or in dramatic events that come up organically, whereas professional wrestling attempts to engineer those responses by creating characters for fans to like/hate and making sure storylines arise. This is not to say that one is more emotional than the other, but wresting is by its very definition more dramatic, because it is drama in the theatrical sense. This is as good a time as any to say that the industry term for fans is “marks.”
 HHH who himself rose to prominence only after palling around with a fellow named Shawn Michaels. It’s a business of connections, if you can make them.
 Think of ROH (Ring of Honor) as the Broadway to WWE’s Hollywood.
 Daniel Bryan is about 5’9’’ and the WWE is notorious for taking talent with successful backgrounds in other organizations and continually squashing them to prove that the WWE really is the “big leagues.”
 I say this without a modicum of irony, but with complete knowledge that all of these titles are meaningless to non-wrestling fans.
 This is possible only because the extreme athleticism of pro wrestlers is presented in less quantifiable ways than a football player or baseball player: it’s a lot easier for me to say “oh, I could totally pull off an elbow drop if I just rallied the old mind to it” than it is for me to say “oh, I could totally throw a football 80 yards if I just rallied the old arm to it.”
Hunter Whitworth Liveblogs WrestleMania 28 Part 1
(Obviously not an actual liveblog, but I will be framing my thoughts on this year's WrestleMania and wrestling in general via a time frame of that event).
By not asking for this, you all asked for this
April 1, 2012
I have decided that since I subject everyone in the residency to various aspects of my wrestling fandom and experience every summer, and every summer someone says “hey, you’re writing about this, right?” and I generally either lie and say “yes” or shrink away mumbling incoherently, I owe some sort of attempt of sophisticated wrestling analysis and writing to the one or two people who know that this website exists. Also, I’d like a break from revisiting my nanowrimo failure.
A critical wrinkle in the landscape of the current WWE is the need for WrestleMania to be bigger than everything else. This is critical both to the powers that be in the WWE (who need money) and to the fans of WWE (who need some pure thing to look forward to, some objectively wonderful experience that justifies the complicated ups and downs of being a wrestling fan for an entire year between WrestleManias). This was easier for WWE when there were only four Pay Per Views a year, but has become increasingly difficult as the PPV schedule has evolved to once a month.
That said, WrestleMania does indeed feel huge every year. Maybe it’s because it’s marketed well (which it mostly is), maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be big (and perception is reality) and maybe, and most likely: it’s big because fans like me really really really want it to be big (and desire has a great capacity to augment reality).
Also, there really are a few ways that WWE succeeds in making ‘Mania feel like an enormous event every year. Generally, there is real storyline closure at ‘Mania (which is why there was such outrage at last year’s WrestleMania when the main event (!) ended in a victory for The Miz without him winning cleanly).
Also, the yearly WWE Hall of Fame inductions occur the night before ‘Mania, and it’s an opportunity for an organization that is not normally associated with sophistication (see: a storyline in which Trish Stratus has to strip to her bra and bark like a dog to keep her job, see: a storyline involving Kane and necrophilia) to show some class.
Case in point: this is how much Ric Flair means to the business: in 2008 he was given the greatest sendoff in wrestling history. Ric Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame while an active wrestler, and his last match was against Shawn Michaels, the opponent of his choosing, at WrestleMania. Keep in mind that most wrestlers
a. are not performing when they are Ric Flair’s age
b. are certainly not performing on television when they are Ric Flair’s age
c. do not even live to be Ric Flair’s age.
So the fact that Ric Flair, a near 60 year old man and the greatest wrestler of all time, was performing in the main event on literally the most widely-viewed wrestling show in the history of the planet is ludicrous beyond my ability to convey. It was the biggest deal in the history of a man whose career was made almost entirely of things that were a really big deal.
I was there, and it was beautiful. I drove through the night after WrestleMania ended (in Orlando) to get back just in time for a Monday morning class (in Greenville, SC), and me and my friend were forever changed. A giant bowl full of tens of thousands of people had just helped the most prolific figure in the history of this niche bastard art form ride off into the sunset. Giant men cried. The closest approximation would be if everyone who Superman ever saved got to shake his hand when he retired. Attending a wrestling show is a paradoxically intimate event, and so to convey the emotional complexity of the situation is nearly impossible to do in worded communication, and yet I could say to another wrestling fan “Ric Flair, WrestleMania 24” and we’d both get the same weird homesicknessey feeling.
Put it this way: The Undertaker, whose mysterious and vague “deadman” persona has kept him squarely in the upper echelon of WWE talent for 22 years, which persona is so guarded by the WWE that he is forbidden from attending any of their constant publicity tours, was allowed to totally break kayfabe the next night during Ric Flair’s retirement ceremony on Monday Night Raw, in front of probably their biggest tv audience in years, just so he could give Flair a hug. That’s how big of an era was ending.
Which was why it was such a shock, and an almost personal slight to a lot of individual wrestling fans, when Flair stayed retired for less than a year, due to fiscal need (a lifetime of financial irresponsibility) and came back to crap all over his own legacy in TNA, a much lesser known wrestling promotion (though technically the WWE’s biggest competitor). The ego of Flair was also on full display, since he surely could have made money in some capacity with the WWE, but instead chose to go where they would allow him to actually compete in-ring.
Vince McMahon (owner of WWE) famously holds grudges, so this was perceived as Ric Flair taking the last bridge he would ever want to burn and dropping an atomic bomb on it.
But here’s the class: the WWE worked out a deal with TNA, an organization that they won’t even acknowledge most of the time, so that The Four Horsemen, a group that Ric Flair led, could be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Flair included. In short, the organization that will generally do anything for a buck took a financial hit so that they could induct Ric Flair into the Hall of Fame for a second time. Simply because it was (and we’re dealing with entertainment industry and therefore very specialized ideas of “right” and “wrong”) the right thing to do.
In short, WrestleMania is epic, because it’s supposed to be, because I want it to be.
 That is, events that you have to pay for to watch. Traditionally, the big four were The Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, and SummerSlam.
 A lot of “smart” fans view this, an obviously revenue-chasing maneuver, as one of the downfalls of modern wrestling, and a continued justification for extreme nostalgia (perhaps the most defining characteristic of the modern wrestling fan).
 The classic model for selling wrestling PPVs is unchanged since the days when promoters were merely trying to sell more tickets, not glitzy televised events: send a storyline careening towards a conclusion, make the stakes high, and wrestling fans will pay to see their desired outcome. The old(ish) rule was that the desired outcome would be achieved at a PPV, but with one every month nowadays, the WWE can’t maintain really long storylines without having some matches at PPVs end under questionable circumstances in order to keep the storyline going. All of this is to say that payoff is often denied even at PPVs, but generally ‘Mania is a time for storylines to reach final denouement.
 Official attendance: 74, 635
 Basically an all-encompassing industry term for the fictional universe in which the WWE storylines play out.
 The kind of ego that can only come from a 30-plus year career of emotional manipulation of large crowds, and the better Flair got, the larger the crowds got. This was a man who became larger than life; he had to believe at least part of his own hype.
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