Sunday, March 23, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania III

OK, y'all. Shit's about to get real. With WrestleMania III, we officially enter the era of the World Wrestling Federation where i started following the goings-on. It was a few months before WMIII that my little brother Kris, all of 3 years old at the time, started expressing a desire to watch the work of one Hulk Hogan. Probably caught an episode of Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling or something, i dunno. At first, the idea of watching grown men beat each other into a pulp was repellant to this good young 13-year-old Catholic boy. But when my dad told me it was all "fake," that made it acceptable (not realizing that they still beat each other into a pulp--it's just in service of a narrative), and one night my brother and i, along with our babysitter (look, they weren't trusting a 13-year-old kid to handle three other rugrats, and i'm grateful they didn't), stayed up late for the Saturday Night's Main Event episode where Hulk Hogan defeated Paul Orndorff in a steel cage match that was restarted after both men hit the floor outside the cage at the exact same time. My brother was hooked, but i still wasn't paying a ton of attention until that November, when "Macho Man" Randy Savage, fresh off a babyface turn that was building his character into a red-hot commodity, beat Bret "Hitman" Hart on another SNME, a win that exacted revenge for the Hart Foundation and Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man's attempted assault on Miss Elizabeth one month prior. Man, that was it. 13-year-old me was marking out for the good guys like a 13-year-old John Cena mark does now.

WrestleMania III was the centerpiece of this period in the WWF/E's growth, as it attracted a ton of new fans like myself and set the benchmark for how a 'Mania should be executed for several years to come. The myth-makers spun some great yarns at the Pontiac Silverdome, then-home of the once-hated, then pitied, now hated again Detroit Lions. The indoor attendance record! A superstar's revenge on the man who sidelined him for months! The World Champ vs. his former friend and (literally) larger-than-life special attraction who was "undefeated for 15 years (*cough*bullshit*cough*)!" To this day, the phrase "irresistible force meets immovable object" brings memories of the main event of WrestleMania III into my brain. And then of course, there's the David vs. Goliath drama...

...Of King Kong Bundy elbowdropping a midget wrestler named Little Beaver. Ok, now you're interested, aren't you? Oh yeah you are. Let's do this.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania 2

What needs to be understood about Vince McMahon is that he's one of the great risk-takers in all of show business. While a lot of people, including me, thought of the WWE Network as a slam-dunk no-brainer, there were a lot of questions surrounding it. How would cable companies react to PPVs included at $9.99/month? How would the Network affect the roster's PPV bonuses? Would wrestling fans be able to grasp the concept of a network not available on traditional cable?

It's not the first insane risk McMahon has taken, and it's not the first that he's struck gold on (at least, based on the WWE's stock hitting an all-time high not long after the Network's debut). The first WrestleMania, at the time, was a tremendous risk, as was his decision to up the production stakes the following year, holding WrestleMania 2 in three different cities: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sure, the lack of subsequent WrestleManias being held in multiple locations is evidence that this gamble went the way of the World Bodybuilding Federation and the XFL, but no one can ever say Vince McMahon's scared to roll the dice. Now, maybe the main issue with this show wasn't the ridiculous production, but the near-complete lack of quality wrestling. Who knows? But here's what happened in 1986, regardless.