WholesomeMania

The last time I wrote about professional wrestling was in November 2012,  if in case you wanna have a look.

For the last few years, the annual wrestling extravaganza, WrestleMania has left me with a sour aftertaste. That was only cured by the following episode of Monday Night Raw. Because the fans that converge upon the WM host city decide to stay back for Raw as well. These episodes have been hot shows, often leading to earth-shattering, F5-raising, YES! chanting, Fandangoing and so much more. The build for this year’s edition was particularly tepid and extremely limited in terms of its marquee matches, given that it was the landmark thirtieth anniversary of the event.

The Rock and John Cena main evented for two years in a row with their boring encounters, the hype was there but neither of their matches could actually deliver the same level of intensity that the undercard bouts could. Thankfully, The Rock isn’t wrestling anymore. This year, there was nascent hype derived from the hoopla surrounding Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake” Roberts a[phend “Razor Ramon” Scott Hall returning. Hogan was announced as the host for the show, and the latter three were being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The only story with a drive and strong continuity was Daniel Bryan’s struggle for the WWE Heavyweight Championship and his fight against the Authority’s (Stephanie McMahon and Triple H) bias.

The most revered run at WrestleManias, The Undertaker’s undefeated streak was challenged by Brock Lesnar. Taker is perhaps the most senior member of the current actively performing roster. But he stays away for a major part of the year and has only been returning around after Royal Rumble. Lesnar, a beast, is also at best, only around for two months at a stretch, twice a year. The development of their rivalry was often one-sided, and you could never even imagine that The Streak will be broken, let go Lesnar, no one could break it. And then there was John Cena’s “legacy” being threatened by Bray Wyatt and his family. A simple good versus evil saga with convincing performances.

Earlier ‘Manias have had strong undercard matches to offer, but here, it was just these three marquee attractions and a random battle royal, a haywire women’s ‘invitational’, and a six man tag match involving the best three-man team in pro wrestling: The Shield. Not to mention, some booking decisions gone awfully wrong (read Batista’s win at the Rumble, Bryan becoming champion twice and yet not holding it for more than a day) and Punk’s ‘sabbatical’, I wasn’t overtly excited for WrestleMania 30.

Yet I sat patiently to stream the Hall of Fame ceremony and I knew I won’t be watching Mania live because I had a presentation at college. This year’s class was special, the class of hall of fame that is. Jake Roberts, and Scott Hall have been struggling with their demons for the last decade or more. Roberts has had broken marriages, distant children and self-claimingly lost out on his own potential by getting into hardcore drugs. He’s wished for death to come faster. Hall couldn’t walk on his own feet, he was slurring his words all the time. ESPN did a feature on his downfall and depicted his poor health conditions. One man, Diamond Dallas Page, reached out to them. DDP, with his own brand of yoga and obnoxiously loud inspiring quotes and energy, tried to help these two legends.

Their inductions and respective speeches were special and heartwarming. They make you believe that things can always get alright if you try hard and have someone’s support. The two of them got incredibly emotional and if they couldn’t crack your hardcoated shell, nothing else can. Then there was Warrior coming back to the juggernaut to headline the class. He’s had his own issues with the WWE and he’s never shied to make them publicly known. His reconciliation was fun and more nostalgia-evoking. WrestleMania day was finally upon me. YES, I COULDN’T WATCH IT LIVE , so I had to cut off from all internet in order to not spoil any of the match results for me.

As I fixed my butt on a ‘fourth seat’ in train for college, I received a text claiming that the Undertaker had lost. It honestly took me an instant to assume that the person was playing a prank on me. I warned him to not let off any spoilers or he’d face MAJOR consequences, like me blocking him on WhatsApp. Yeah, I’m a total Indian Badass on a local train, instead of Harley. For hours I kept away from the internet, and almost twelve hours after the show originally started airing, I got around to watching it. I avoided the pre-show and went directly for the main show’s spectacle. The stage looked brilliant and the SUPER dome shined with all its bright lights. The moment with Rock, Hogan and Austin was sheer fun and didn’t hurt the staunchest of wrestling purists.

That visual of those three standing together in the middle of the ring, clunking beer cans with each other, was what generations of fans have clamored for. And to follow that, a smart video package of Daniel Bryan’s wrestling history and his clash with Triple H was played, indicating their match was up next. I’m not going to describe how that match went by, but it was an important crease in Bryan’s story. He had now advanced to the triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with Randy Orton and Batista. In case you[phe haven’t seen the show or this match, start skimming through your channel guides for the repeat of the show. The Shield’s mauling of the New Age Outlaws was just perfect and Cesaro is on his way to greatness.

The Wyatt Family entrance was simply spectacular and totally in sync with their character. Cena made his second consecutive “normal” entrance. Wyatt got Cena to go rough, angry and like a madman on a hound. He never got this intense with The Rock, not with Kane, not with Orton. No one in recent times has come close to extracting such rage from Cena. And Wyatt’s evangelic laugh, the swaying of his hands while singing “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” They told a story of how Cena was resisting to go to the ‘Dark side’ but they hadn’t built upon it in the weeks preceding to the match. In isolation, the match was a riot.

During the build to this year’s streak match, whenever a casual fan asked me if I thought Lesnar would defeat Taker, I’d give out a cocky “Hell no!”. This overconfidence in the streak wasn’t completely without a reason. The WWE made it last 21 years and it looked too big a record to be broken. Just like that favorite character on your favorite TV show that you never want to die. The match itself was concentrated on telling the story of Undertaker’s weakening. Of his being a mortal. But no one expected any surprises. Until Brock pinned Taker for the three count. The disbelief was back. The cocky confidence was thrown off. Had it really happened or was it a collective nightmare?

The choice of the person who got awarded the honour of breaking the streak is surely questionable, but a man of Taker’s stature must have had a say in the decision. If it had been HHH, or Shawn Michaels or even CM Punk, we wouldn’t be as shocked. And shock was the emotion the WWE were aiming for. Just the way how Breaking Bad had to end, the streak had to end too. I do not think that it should have ended, but for the entertainment that it offered, even in its shocking end, it was excellent while it lasted. It’s still hard to digest that it’s been over a day since the streak broke and a part of our nostalgia and growing up is over. Perhaps, the casual viewers need to find a new reason to just catch up on WrestleMania now.

The main event, Daniel Bryan’s biggest chance at finally winning the title was upon us after this point. After a dramatic display of wrestling ability and a few shenanigans, Bryan was the champion. What’s great about Bryan’s journey is that like CM Punk, he wasn’t a cutout WWE superstar. He weighed 190 pounds, didn’t talk with catchphrases, had a scraggly beard and phenomenal wrestling abilities. He symbolizes being anti-system, but still isn’t displeasing. He ate up all that was thrown his way ever since he’s been here. The 18 second loss at WrestleMania 28, the innumerable screwy finishes, stolen chances. Everything. And yet he persevered and was rewarded the greatest honor in the industry. At the biggest stage of them all. Daniel Bryan is our undisputed WWE champion!

The entire WrestleMania weekend was amazing for me. It was just like a film that kills off your one favorite character at the halfway stage, making you want to wait for that silver lining to come your way in the form of another character’s victory. As cliched as it sounds, WM30 was a wholesome experience that actually took us on a rollercoaster of emotions. From nostalgia to jubilation, from upset to reveling in one man’s celebration and the victory of the fan. The crowd at this WrestleMania was just as awesome as the weekend. Feels great to be a wrestling fan. Again.

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