– First and foremost I’d like to
thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give a huge thank you to Bill Hanstock for filling in on the WWE Raw Open Discussion Thread and to Chris Trew for his excellent fill-in job for me on yesterday’s Best And Worst Of Raw. I’ve been in an airport for seemingly the last month and a half so I had to miss everything. Yes, it was spoiled for me before I got home. No, it won’t be as good when I get to write about it next week.
– Comments are appreciated. I’ve gotten a lot of WHERE’S THE WRESTLEMANIA THING feedback, so let’s hear what you thought about the show below. Shares, Facebook likes, Pinterests (?) and Google Plussage are all appreciated.
– Thanks again to THESTINGER for helping me out with show images and gifs. Anything that wasn’t grabbed from TV was taken by me, or someone holding my camera.
– I am extremely tired!
Please click through and enjoy my take on the live experience of WWE Wrestlemania 28. It was … something.
First of all, yes, they were selling those shirts at Axxess. I’m pretty sure they were only selling them at Axxess. Yes, finding out I could by one was the best thing that happened to me all weekend.
Well, one of the best.
Best: WWE Fan Axxess
At the risk of immediately making the biggest column of the year too personal (“Blargh, I’m a vegan! Blargh, I have a girlfriend!” et al.), regular readers may be aware of the two things that make me happiest in life:
1. Taking mark photos with sports mascots, because I had a really traumatizing introduction to “regret” during a Smurfs stage show at King’s Dominion when I was like six.
2a. Pro Wrestling
2b. Taking mark photos with pro wrestlers
It’s not the aspect of my wrestling random I’m most proud of, but if, I don’t know, Abyss is standing ten feet away from me I’m not gonna NOT say “hey Abyss, stand beside me while I make a fist at my camera”. It’s weird. I’m like George Costanza — when he stops thinking about sex, he becomes a beloved genius. If I liked math as much as I like pro wrestling I probably would’ve grown up to be the millionaire scientist who cured algebra.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that WWE’s Fan Axxess event was right up my alley and allowed me to pose for pictures with all sorts of people you might barely care about (Layla! Johnny Curtis!). To make it even better, I put my Wrestling Hipster thing into overdrive by going to Axxess on Saturday night during the Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, meaning all the main-event level guys were off wearing tuxedos and I was left to mingle with the lower-level guys I love, like Drew McIntyre and Sin Cara.
If you get a chance to go to a Mania, go to Axxess, too. Even if you don’t want to stand next to Hornswoggle for 5-second meet-and-pose you can look at Bret Hart’s jacket and touch Mr. McMahon’s exploded limousine tomb.
Worst: No Funkasaurus As Advertised
When I explained my plan to go to Axxess during the Hall Of Fame, the first guy I mentioned was always The Funkasaurus. Not only was Brodus Clay advertised, but Naomi and Cameron (the “Funkettes”), too. “Okay, we’ll stand in this line until we find out who’s signing next, and if it’s R-Truth or whoever we’ll run around and try to find the Funkasaurus.” I think I said that sentence more than I said “hello”.
As you may have gathered from the emboldened header, no, the Funkasaurus wasn’t there. He wasn’t at the afternoon event either, I was told. I thought maybe he’d missed a flight or had been deemed “suddenly too dangerous” again and taken off TV. At some point near the end of WrestleMania I figured out why. We’ll get to that later. Spoiler alert: IT IS SUPER RACIST.
Best: Me Destroying The Impersonation Contest
Best Announcer In WWE History Scott Stanford was in the “watch Antonio Cesaro wrestle even though you don’t know who he is” Axxess ring and asked for anyone who could do an impersonation of a WWE Superstar. My hand shot up.
“Who are you gonna do?”
“GET IN HERE.”
So I got in there. There were a few of us, and the guys around me were doing terrible impressions of Stone Cold, Triple H and The Rock because I guess I’m the only one who watches the shows every week and doesn’t pretend we’re still playing Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth. The production guy started playing duck quack noises because we were doing so terribly.
Then, it was my turn.Subscribe to UPROXX
I’m sad the video cuts out before the YES chants get going. Stanford described the impression best: “A little pitchy in parts, but he made it his own”. I was trying to do the “voice fading out before you can hear what he’s trying to say” thing and it ended up sounding like Peter Brady. Regardless, I won in a landslide and did a second, unsolicited Great Khali impression to celebrate. My prize was this amazing photo with Scott Stanford. If you look at the bottom right you can tell he put his leg up on my butt to hump me.
Best: Derrick Bateman’s Autograph
He gave it a worst, but he’s wrong.
Best: An Awkward Chickbusters Thumbs Up
And in case you were wondering exactly why this was the Axxess to attend, please enjoy this picture of me doing my best patented Chickbusters-taking-pictures awkward thumbs up with AJ and Kaitlyn.
There will be no more wrestling coverage on With Leather. This is the end. I have reached the mountaintop. Goodbye forever!
Best: Finally, A Chance To Sit In One Of Those Empty Orange Florida Marlins Seats
As a longtime baseball fan I was excited to do something no-one else had had the opportunity to do before: visit both the old and new Florida Marlins baseball stadiums in a single day.
The first is the monolithic Marlins Park, the brand new Infinity Billion Dollars stadium that someone’s 10-year old daughter was put in charge of designing so it looks like a spaceship on the outside and a swimming pool on the inside. You can take a look at my pictures from the game in The With Leather Photo Tour Of Marlins Park. If you don’t follow baseball, oh god, go look at it. You’ll want to see the motorized metal fish machine that spins around like a hippie freakout when someone hits a home run.
The second is Sun Life Stadium, the artist formerly known as Joe Robbie, the home of the Miami Dolphins and former home of the Marlins. The greatest running joke about the Marlins is that nobody in Florida gives a sh*t about them, so they can win two championships in ten years and still have an annual attendance of four buckets of orange paint. Sitting in one of those empty, orange-ass seats was one of the weirder things on my bucket list.
My excitement wore off pretty quickly when I realized my WrestleMania viewing experience could be recreated at home by standing with my nose to a tree.
Worst: These Goddamn Palm Trees
See those four gigantic palm trees holding up the lights? That’s all I was able to see from section 138, one of the unfortunate sections built diagonally from WWE’s prop masterpiece. For a while I thought the bark part was gonna come down, because hey, at least if they were metal support columns they’d have holes in the middle and we could still kinda see.
Nope. I paid x-amount of a hundred dollars to watch WrestleMania on a big TV screen at WrestleMania.
Best: Cena Kids
Kids are the best part of any wrestling show, and a great reason why companies who put too much emphasis on the “extreme” should remember to also at least throw in a guy who doesn’t tell everyone to suck his dick for these guys to cheer for. My Team Johnny shirt created a lot of heat between me and the kids I’d pass, including one in a friend’s section who badgered me so badly I promised to come back to his section, shake his hand and apologize if Team Johnny lost.
The kid directly to the left of Green Cena Kid was my favorite. When I stood up to cheer for Laurinaitis, he looked back at me, saw my shirt and engaged this conversation:
Him: “Boo! John Laurinaitis sucks!”
Me: “No he doesn’t, he’s gonna be the General Manager of Raw AND Smackdown!”
Him: “He sucks!”
Me: “His team’s gonna win this match!”
Him: “Nuh uh he sucks!” (continues doing double thumbs down at me)
Me: “Team Teddy is the one who sucks, have you seen who he picked for his team? Those guys are terrible! Team Johnny’s gonna win!”
Him: “He sucks!” (thumbs)
The great capper to the conversation is that when Miz got the win for Team Johnny, the first thing that kid did was look back at me with his eyes all welled up with tears. I remember how that feels. And I say “remember how that feels” like I didn’t spend 20 minutes with my head down and my back to the ring after Sheamus did his goddamn thing.
Best: People Taking Off Their Hats For America The Beautiful
You don’t have to do it. You shouldn’t do it for the Star-Spangled Banner either, because of how hilariously f**ked up its third verse is:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Yeah Francis Scott Key, f**k those hirelings. Anyway, what I’m saying is that if you take off your hat for America The Beautiful, you might as well be taking it off for Lee Greenwood, too.
Best: Seeing All The People Who’d Hoped They’d Get On Television But Didn’t, So They Had To Be Dressed Like Idiots All Night
Nice job on your Ric Flair costume, guy! Now enjoy watching four hours of wrestling in public in your f**king bath robe.
Worst: This Is The Last Picture I Took For 25 Minutes
Worst: 18 Seconds
You guys are lucky I spent the entirety of Monday sitting around in an airport, because when it happened, my paragraph about the Daniel Bryan and Sheamus World Heavyweight Championship match read something like this:
ARE YOU F**KING KIDDING ME, I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING THIS GUY FOR 12 F**KING YEARS, HE’S THE BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD AND HE KEEPS GETTING OVER NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO TO HIM, EVERYONE LOVES HIM AND HE’S GREAT AND YOU FARTJOB HIM OUT TO F**KING SHEAMUS BECAUSE OF YOUR GODDAMN BODYBUILDER FETISH AND YOU’RE SO OBSESSED WITH CREATING MOMENTS THAT YOU DON’T GIVE A SH*T ABOUT WRESTLING FANS AND F**K YOU, I JUST PAID LIKE 200 DOLLARS TO SIT AND STARE AT A F**KING PALM TREE SCULPTURE WHILE THE ONLY F**KING WRESTLER I HAVE A LEGITIMATE F**KING EMOTIONAL CONNECTION TO GETS KICKED ONCE AND I’M SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT’S IT AND WORTH THE PRICE OF MY TICKET
I AM GOING TO PULL DOWN MY PANTS AND TAKE A SH*T IN MY HANDS AND F**KING THROW IT AT YOU SO HARD IT DECAPITATES YOU, WHOEVER DECIDED THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA
FROM NOW ON I’M ONLY WATCHING PWG TAPES AND F**KING CHONO MATCHES, YOU EAT SH*T AND DIE AND STOP PRETENDING TO BE A WRESTLING COMPANY, CHANGE WWE NETWORK’S NAME TO THE DRUG-ADDLED PEOPLE WHO COULDN’T FINISH HIGH SCHOOL AND THE FAUX-TANNED WHORES NETWORK, I’M F**KING DONE WITH YOU
That describes roughly the first … let’s say 20 minutes after that 18-seconds-in Brogue Kick went down. Thankfully, I was with friends and there were no bridges within walking distance from which to throw myself. It felt like the most indescribably large middle finger to me — to me personally — ever. I wanted to leave. I really did. I wanted to say f**k it, leave WrestleMania and drive back to my hotel room, where at least sleep wouldn’t disappoint me.
Also thankfully, time and a few deep breaths help put things into perspective.
Best: The Silver Lining Of Where That 18 Seconds Took Us
That gif is the entire match, in case you missed it.
The crowd at WrestleMania loved Daniel Bryan. We loved him before he showed up, and we loved him after he lost. That carried into Monday night, where the YES~ YES~ YES~ chants took on a life of their own, and Bryan was forced to be namechecked by guys like Cena and personally address the crowd.
It’s common knowledge, but as much as we like to believe they do, wins and losses don’t really matter in pro wrestling. The emotional connection I feel to Danielson when I see him wrestling doesn’t go away when something bad happens, and I’m stupid for letting myself get caught up in it and scream about it. He’s going to be fine. He’s the best wrestler in the world, and eventually every single person who pulled that “he’s a vaniller midget he’s boring dur-hur” thing over the last two years will be wearing his t-shirt. Punk was fine, Danielson will be fine. It’s fine.
(I was really upset.)
Best: Randy Orton Vs. Kane Actually Ending And Being A Thing
At the time, Randy Orton versus Kane was the best wrestling match I’d ever seen while staring at a 90-foot tall palm tree.
I don’t remember a lot about it except being surprised Kane won (cleanly, even), then realizing how Kane had been treated like so much Viscera (in both definitions of that) since he’d returned as a “resurrected monster”, so yeah, unless they want to team him with Big Zeke and have them get Backedcracker on the reg they needed to have him beat some dudes of worth. Plus, this sets up a rematch at Extreme Rules and another month wherein Kane has a chance to logically explain any of his motivations ever.
The chokeslam off the ropes was cool, but I (and the entire crowd) was calling a Kane Flying Clothesline into an RKO. Orton matches these days are almost built exclusively around which signature move he’s gonna turn into an RKO, and that one made the most sense. When Kane came off the ropes and Orton dropkicked him, the crowd went HERE IT COMES OH YEAH BOOM WAIT NO WELL OKAY DROPKICK YEAHHH.
Worst: This Crabnabbers Segment Is 40 Times Longer Than The Daniel Bryan Match
Between Daniel Bryan losing in less than twenty seconds and the follow-up segment involving Mick Foley and Santino wasting food with the guy from ‘Deadliest Catch’, this is shaping up to be the least vegan WrestleMania ever.
Best: Ron Simmons Should Change His Catchphrase
While I enjoy Simmons showing up at only the worst possible times to say “damn” (I think he should show up during a championship celebration or something and go “oh, okay, this is actually pretty good” at least once), I think he should change it to “dammit”. That would change the entire point of what he’s saying, and come a lot closer to mirroring how I feel every time a segment is bad enough to necessitate Ron Simmons showing up and ending it.
Secondary option, have Simmons show up in harmless segments (like those ones where CM Punk is backstage tying his shoes and the cameraman is zoomed in SUPER CLOSE because I guess before they got interrupted by Zack Ryder or whoever they were filming an instructional video), stand around for several seconds and scream DAMN only for Punk (or whoever) to ask him what his problem is. Maybe Simmons got shoved into the same electrical power supply that gave Goldust curse-Tourrets.
Best: The Attendance Record Would Be Even Better If You Didn’t Have To Tarp Off The Top Two Rows To Avoid Fire Injuries
At WrestleMania 24 (the only other WrestleMania I’ve been to), John Legend sang America The Beautiful and Kim Kardashian gave me the attendance announcement. At WrestleMania 28, Lilian Garcia sang America The Beautiful and Lilian Garcia gave me the attendance announcement.
What, did MGK cost you so much money you couldn’t fly out Bella Thorne from Disney’s f**king ‘Wizards Of Miley Cyrus’ to read from a piece of paper? Maybe that explains Flo Rida’s “shoving Heath Slater” segment — he had to get Bella Thorne’s announcement money AND look better than all the people who’ll be here next week.
Worst: These Palm Trees Aren’t Going Away, Are They
This was my epic view of the Big Show/Cody Rhodes Intercontinental Championship match. Not that I needed an intimate, independent wrestling-style experience to enjoy it, but Jesus, maybe I should try watching Extreme Rules next month from about 100 feet away from the television with a goddamn cat tunnel around my head.
Best: Dick Spear
The most painful moment of the night (besides maybe “CM Punk kneeing Chris Jericho’s head into the ring post” and “watching Kelly Kelly run the ropes”) goes to the Big Show’s high-workrate DICK SPEAR to counter Cody Rhodes’
Beautiful Disaster Kick.
Look at that thing. More wrestlers should counter moves like that. “Oh, are you trying to Codebreaker me? Just let me fall body-first into your dick.” “Oh, you’re gonna try to leap frog me? Just let me stand here under you and make your dick land on my shoulder.” It’s good for the reality of the in-ring product, but I guess it’s terrible for the guys’ dicks.
Best: Big Show Winning Sucked, But Was The Right Call
As I’ve mentioned several times during the one episode of Raw they’ve been showing for six weeks, Cody Rhodes’ incessant condescending video packages and Intercontinental Title Reign With No Defenses set it up so that anything other than a Big Show win would be backwards. Cody Rhodes is shoot one of the best pro wrestlers in the world right now and Big Show a 40-year old fat guy who does things like Dick Spears, but Cody dropping to show decisively was the right call.
Of course, it would’ve made a lot more sense to give Show/Cody the Daniel Bryan/Sheamus 18-seconds record. Bell rings, WMD, boom, new champion. It would’ve accomplished mostly the same thing, given Show more of a “WrestleMania Moment” than being a former World Champ who gets awarded a secondary title before he retires, and we would’ve gotten to see Daniel Bryan wrestle a wrestling match.
Worst: Maria Menounos Winning Sucked And Was The Wrong Call
WWE loves celebrities and it doesn’t make sense to have the people who’ve never wrestled lose to the professional wrestlers who are champions in your professional wrestling league (wait, what) so here we are watching Maria freaking Menounos wrestle with injured ribs and still pin Divas Champion Beth Phoenix with a roll-up. It seems entirely possible that we could’ve accomplished Maria’s WrestleMania Moment and had Kelly take the pinfall for her team at the same time. Especially considering that it’s Maria Menounos and not an actual celebrity who can get you ANY nominal publicity or sell a ticket.
That was the running theme for the night. On the same show, the biggest show of the year that some people make the ONLY WRESTLING SHOW THEY WATCH EVER, we saw:
1. A retired movie star defeat Only Marketable Guy Left John Cena
2. A TV co-host with injured ribs pin your best female wrestler
3. A rapper threaten and shove down a much smaller man who happens to be one of your wrestlers
So hey, if Extreme Rules has The Rock, Maria Menounos and Flo Rida competing on it, go right ahead and have those things happen. And have a guy from a Discovery Channel reality show about fishing stop by to make one of your beloved former champions look like a fat psychopath while you’re at it!
Worst: Two Stinks-Face In A Row, Really?
Big Show rubbed his asshole in Cody Rhodes’ face during their Intercontinental Championship match, so Asshole Rub Standard Bearer Kelly Kelly had to up the ante by pulling off a double Stinkface to Eve with Maria Menounos. When did Stinkfaces at WrestleMania become brainbusters on an indy show?
Best: Eve’s Tanner Skidmarks
The only good thing about
1. This match
2. All those Stinkfaces
is the fact that Eve Torres’ self-tanner rubbed off on Maria’s bright white pants and gave her skidmarks.
Best: Triple H Emerging From Castle Grayskull
Before memes became a thing, there were two big “this wrestler looks like x” comparisons on The Internet:
1. Edge looks like Sebastian Bach from Skid Row
2. Triple H looks like He-Man
Eventually people forgot who Sebastian Bach was (how the hell did they even remember him in the late 90s?) and Edge started looking like the guy from Puddle Of Mudd, but I’ve always enjoyed the Triple H as He-Man comparison, especially since it affords me a chance to call Stephanie McMahon “Trapjaw”.
That being said, I was extremely excited to see him embrance his Eternian roots and emerge from Literally Castle Grayskull. He should’ve ridden out on a green tiger. Regardless, it was a step up from that crummy 300 “Spartans with cardboard shields” thing where the only good part was the Metallica song that got scrubbed away on the DVD from last year.
Worst: Thanks A Lot, Hell In A Cell
I’m holding Hell In A Cell responsible for the big ass palm trees. I know they probably would’ve been there anyway, as they need to hold up the lights and we’re decades away from that cool World Class Championship Wrestling thing where you just stick a wrestling ring in a football endzone and make Kamala wander around in it, but still, how cool would it’ve been to see an outdoor wrestling show where the wrestling is also really outdoors? Besides, if I’m chancing being rained on, Zack Ryder should face those same chances.
The worst part of Hell In A Cell is that they didn’t even use it. There was some light “we’re gonna go outside and shove each other into the mesh” stuff, but it was largely pointless, and I’m wondering if it was only there to differentiate the stipulation from the “no holds barred” stuff at 27 so they could do No Holds Barred twice and not get sh*t for it.
Next year I hope Kane and Undertaker have an Inferno Match that ends with Taker just chokeslamming Kane and pinning him.
Best: Going Out For Pretzels And Sh*t During Inappropriate Ponytail Theater
Be reverent all you want, that’s your prerogative, but I literally do not give a dancing f**k about Triple H and The Undertaker’s third WrestleMania match, especially after having to write five pages of column about them over the last month and a half. They were chairshotting each other to preserve the integrity of an era of THIS BUSINESS about to go by, and I felt it would be in my best interest to go to the bathroom and buy a Super Pretzel and peruse the Zack Ryder medallions or whatever while they did it. It was a good call.
I remember trying to buy a shirt at WrestleMania 24 and getting a panic attack because of how many people were crammed up against me. This was the opposite of that so I’m Besting it, and now I have a souvenir soda cup with Daniel Bryan on the side.
Best: Okay Okay, This Turned Out Pretty Great
The best thing about bailing for the first 20 minutes of the match is that I came back in time to catch the last 10, which were fantastic. Well, here’s a mini-breakdown of what I did and didn’t like:
– I am not enough of an elitist dick to pretend like the H/Undertaker match has no significance in the context of a WWE-led wrestling Universe, so I enjoyed the story they told. I feel like they should’ve written that story, then worked backwards to build to it with compelling programming over the last two months instead of just having them grimace and pat each other, because that might’ve been wonderful.
– I like that they told a smaller, more classic story WITHIN the match, and one that nobody ever tells these days: wherein a wrestler does something dastardly early in the match (Triple H hitting Taker a thousand times with a chair) and eventually gives the wrestler comeuppance FOR that act (Taker hitting Triple H a thousand times with a chair) in the same match. Now they push everything to a four week cycle and we don’t remember what happened to cause the issues and we never get closure on anything.
– That superkick into a pedigree spot was money. I’ve never heard a crowd flip out for a nearfall like that, whether my jaded old man brain could or not.
– Mohawk Undertaker in a spiked Super Shredder suit is easily my favorite thing the Undertaker’s looked like since he was a biker with light sensitivity problems.
– I’m guessing the 20 minutes I missed would not have enhanced my experience.
– Shawn Michaels should’ve stopped being emotional about the one job he’s been asked to do in the last like three years and relax. I get that he’s selling the emotion of the story, but christ, Triple H once got dropped from a crane while he was still in the car and HOW many times exactly has the Undertaker been literally murdered? He gets buried alive at least once a year. Like ACTUALLY buried alive. Those chair shots probably hurt, yeah, but not as much as being suffocated to death for real.
Best: Undertaker Lighting
Another big Best for this match is the post-match lighting, which distracted me from the nonstop congratulatory Bro Hugging by making me feel like I was living out the ending to Close Encounters.
Editor’s note: This is also the light I see whenever Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston are in the ring together on Raw.