When professional wrestling is good, there's nothing better.
You want to argue? Bring it. You bring your Tony Soprano ethering Christopher Molitsanti. You bring your Red Wedding. Bring Jimmy Stewart's poem about his dead dog Beau. You bring every single solitary piece of evidence you've got. Everything you think is some imperial magnus of dramatic storytelling and I'll show you five moments in professional wrestling that are just as affecting, affirming, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and so flawed that it becomes flawless in it's value as entertainment. It's that good.
I admit pro wrestling is something of a mess more often than not but that's not the point here. The point here is what works. What feels good. What gives the viewers just as much serotonin and adrenaline as an epi-pen after eating something with peanut butter. That is pro wrestling.
Your throat is swelling up and you think you're gonna die but... holy fuck, they just broke The Undertaker's Streak!
Your fingers are swollen to the size of hot dogs and one of your optic nerves is hardening as we speak but... Jesus, Seth Rollins closed out Wrestlemania with the world title.
You have a 102 degree fever and a case of the flu that feels like meningitis but... Dean Ambrose has some pretty catchy music.
That's pro wrestling.
And in the interest of The New Nice, there are the top ten "warm and fuzzy moments" in WWE history:
Since this, Barrett has been utterly mishandled, deliberately sabotaged, and had his Stone Cold-level momentum directly cut off and squelched by the creative team backstage (The culprit's name starts with a "V" and ends with "incent Kennedy McMahon". John Cena deserves a kick in the balls, too.) But this one match, in which an old, tired, and unmotivated Rey Mysterio is a victim of nothing but the smartass post-Wrestlemania Raw audience (now the stuff of legend) combined with Bad News Barrett returning in all his evil, badass glory (check out the cape) was the stuff of goosebumps.
Immediately winning over the crowd with his swaggering attitude (watch the vibe of pure confidence Barrett exudes during his entrance), and sporting a random but badass cape representing his upgrade in pure evil, a talented and charismatic future megastar seemed to finally find his grove.
The cape itself is very important. After years of Barrett wearing a random but distracting sport coat with a flower in the button. For no other reason than he's British, apparently. But the coat did it's job and got us used to Barret's egomaniacal desire to "unveil" himself. And he did. Wade Barrett, leader of the loser crew Nexus, the even worse loser crew The Corre, and a year after tapping out to The Miz on the Wrestlemania pre-show was now Bad News Barrett. A cocky supervillain ready to turn our heroes into dust.
In this match, a perfect example, he faced a respected and beloved veteran who had just run out of gas. Wrestling gave me goosebumps for the first time in years when Barrett broke out a simple finishing move custom made for the fans to participate (including the little detail of turning the pad inside out... just because)... and the fans did. The WWE had done something right, on purpose, and the crowd was sold. It was as close to magic as the alchemic chemistry of pro wrestling fumbles its way into despite itself. Wade Barrett himself, after eating shit and calling it ice cream, took his shot and made it happen. They gave him the mic and he dropped a bomb.
So... what do they do then? They actually seemed to understand.
He wins the Intercontinental title (getting a rare but important clean pinfall over Sheamus) and looked primed for the Money in the Bank briefcase. Injuries got in the way and Barrett sat out the rest of the year but came back ready to rock. So they feed him to Dean Ambrose, another of the WWE's potential megastars that's stuck in a holding pattern. These two pro wrestlers that should have made magic together came off like mashed cauliflower with a glass of lukewarm water to wash it down. On a random episode of Raw this happened.
The match that should have had the intensity, tension, hatred, anger, and borderline mania of The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family from only a year prior suddenly became a multi-man mess just in time for Wrestlemania. Instead of Dean Ambrose riding a Harley into Levi's Stadium ready to fight Bad News Barrett to the death in a no hold's barred match for the Intercontinental Title, we got the Intercontinental Championship In The Bank Match. I enjoyed it but I never want to just "enjoy" Wrestlemania.
I wanted to see a British bare knuckle fighter who got mugged, stabbed, refused to give over his money, and went on to study Marine Biology fight a lunatic who loves wrestling so much he'd marry it if he could. Dean Ambrose would literally cut off his index finger on camera if it looked cool on camera. Barrett vs. Ambrose (much like Goldust vs Stardust, Sandow vs. Miz, Ryback vs. Big Show, Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler, and Undertaker vs. Sting) was apparently not "best for business".
Now Bad News Barrett (or as he once stated "it's me, it's me, it's BNB!" which was so random it could have been out of a Coen Bros. movie [more on them later]) is known as King Barrett because Vince doesn't think the heels should have catchy catchphrases that catch on with the fans. It looks more and more like Vince is deliberately trying to prove that unless he has to rely on the fans with no other choice, the WWE is his sandbox with his toys. Wade Barrett is a reminder of what happens when the toys take things into their own hands. Vince seems either resentful that he's lost his touch... or genuinely losing his mind. That's a bigger issue than Wade Barrett, a teflon performer and an urbane personality who will get over no matter what crappy gimmick he gets.
The worst news to come from this is that Vince is legitimately losing his grip on reality. It's sad, unbecoming, and a fate not fit for a man who gave us such a mythology as modern pro wrestling.
Yet King Barrett can trip during his entrance, pull 0.5 Shockmaster, and immediately play it off cool as fuck. The high speed cameras that the WWE can't use because it exposes the majority of their roster makes him look like something out of a Marvel movie. The WWE should be careful or Barrett could definitely find a niche in Hollywood. He has SNL host-caliber charisma and the WWE just... doesn't seem interested.
Regardless, Bad News Barrett, April 7th 2014, was on top of the world. And he loved it. The nodding as he flung the cape away, screaming at the top of his lungs, immediately picking up on the hot crowd and training them to "BOOM!" with the Bullhammer, and being unable to resist getting on the mic and belting out his catchphrase to the appreciation of the 18-40 male demographic in the crowd. The winning streak was tremendously booked, the IC title win gave the belt the swagger only a "cool heel" can provide, and restored credibility simply because Barrett was Bad fucking News. When the elbow pad turned red, things got serious.
08/2015 A.U.: Bad News Barrett is forced to face Dean Ambrose in a No Holds Barred match at Summerslam 2015. Ambrose wants the IC title so his picture will be on the wall at WWE HQ... and Roddy Piper thought highly of the IC belt so Ambrose wants to do Hot Rod proud. Barret's fifteen month strangle hold on the belt ends and Ambrose celebrates much like Roddy Piper (more on that later). Then Dean Ambrose before setting off to become the first man to hold both the IC and US championships at the same time. Barrett then introduces his new "advisor" and fellow countryman: Norman Smiley. Together they form a badass babyface tandem to take down and hunt the Greatest White Shark of all: Brock Lesnar.
I'm not a CM Punk fan.
But I want to be. So badly.
For all his traits that get him raked over the coals, Punk always had one very unique trait that is criminally undervalued in our society: if he likes you, he doesn't give two fucks who knows it. Punks in general don't tend to be foot soldiers, hand to hand fighters, or dying on the front lines of war, but they make up for it with their endorsement. They're cool. They're iconoclastic and are well aware of the transitive qualities they possess. Punk made Paul Heyman look cool. A middle aged, pudgy bald man running up for a high five (http://i236.photobucket.com/albums/ff11/Tenac_G/1347936897279.gif) from a young, smart ass heel would be prime for some Vince-style "haw haw" humiliation. Punk pulls his hand back at the last second and looks at Heyman like he's the lamest thing he's ever seen.
Except Punk doesn't do anything of the sort. He goes full force with the high five, doesn't give a shit how Heyman looks, and slaps him some skin because... they're friends. Heyman's reaction sells the moment perfectly as he seems alternate relieved, overjoyed, and a bit cocky that CM Punk of all people gave him a high five. Huh.
Vince McMahon telling Michael Cole it shit all over The Fink's moment tries to ruin it but Booker's pure enthusiasm saves it. Completely.
2013/2014 A.U.: Punk got his match with Cena at Wrestlemania 29. Cena ended the 480+ day reign. OR... Punk breaks the Undertaker's streak and becomes the 1 in 20. Next year, Undertaker avenges Paul Bearer by beating Brock Lesnar and retires at 21-1. Punk becomes the corporate champion and drops the title to Royal Rumble winner Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30.
2015 current A.U.: Punk turns face and redeems himself by beating Triple H for control of the company at Wrestlemania 31 and installs a fair and balanced authority figure (R-Truth) as the Executive Producer/Chief Creative Officer of the WWE. Truth makes fair matches but gives the heels chances instead of preferential treatment. The WWE starts drawing 5.0+, Max Landis takes charge of creative, and eventually the WWE Network is free because merch and live events bring in so much cash. Vince steps down, Triple H steps up, Shane McMahon buys NXT and puts it on Smackdown to finally win the war for the family business.
Roddy Piper made wrestling fun. He transcended title belts but on this occasion, The Mountie would not stand in the mind of Hot Rod. An arrogant, bombastic, yet hapless loudmouth who frequently engaged in police brutality. Roddy usually let guys like that be their own punchline. Then The Mountie scored a fluke win over Bret "The Hitman" Hart, a close friend of Roddy's, and gained a lot of hubris. Too much hubris. Roddy stepped in, beat The Mountie, and zapped him with his own cattle prod. And that would usually be enough for Roddy Piper.
But happy coincidences do happen on occasion.
Roddy won his first title in the WWF and he did it for his blood brother.
Check out this reaction:
2015 A.U.: This one is okay. Roddy was that great at what he did.
Bret Hart was gone after Montreal. The WWE had an unstable, injured champion and half of the midcard defected to a competitor funded by Ted Turner. But Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were ready to take the wheel and they did. Not even Jesus could take the wheel in such a time of crisis and turn a car around like Austin and The Rock did.
What makes it fairly impressive is that this was done in less than six months. By the spring of 1998, wrestling was red hot. By winter 1999, wrestling was mainstream and competing with the Super Bowl half time show. By spring of 2000, The Rock was hosting Saturday Night Live and wrestling had it's best creative year ever.
Steve Austin turned the company around 180 degrees despite a broken neck that would have killed a mortal man. As of 2015, he's uncovered a gift for podcasting and creates catchy sayings with zero effort. The Rock subverted every unpleasant stereotype about professional wrestlers and has become one of the most successful, beloved, and by all accounts, one of the nicest men in Hollywood.
All they needed was a shot.
Things officially start at this point: