Do you want to feel like a kid again? And I’m not even talking about being a kid in the arrested development, Peter Pan on a Razor scooter, adult preschool, eating grilled cheese sandwiches going to adult dodge ball. If you want to feel like a kid again, then watch wrestling. Hear me out. Watching wrestling has a direct line into your brain that still believes in wonder, that still is willing and able to get swept up fully, completely into the present moment. Wrestling is kinetic mindfulness. It doesn’t even need to just be WWE product. Go to a Hoodslam show in Oakland. Watch Lucha Underground on El Rey. Watch the English commentary dubs of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Find independent promotions on Smart Mark Video (shoutouts to Inspire Pro Wrestling, CHIKARA, Dragon Gate, Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, SHIMMER, CMLL, AAA, and so many others).
Photos: April Siese
Sunday’s Wrestlemania 31 drew an attendance record at Levi’s Stadium with 76,976 people. Wrestlemania taking place around Easter makes sense because Wrestlemania feels like a secular version of a megachurch’s production Passion Play and Christmas Mass combined with a rotating cast of characters every year. Wrestlemania is the most talked about WWE event of the year, with plenty of people on the outside pondering out loud on social media about wrestling still being a thing, or perhaps trying to remind us that wrestling is fake (oh, tell me what other secrets of the universe did you uncover during your sojourn into the heart of human understanding?). It’s not for them to find out, it’s for us to enjoy.
Related: A Guide To Wrestlemania 31 For Non-Wrestling Fans
Wrestlemania 31 Friday: WrestleCon, Pizza With John Cena, A Love Letter To NXT
Wrestlemania 31 Saturday: Axxess, Ringside With JR, And The 2015 Hall Of Fame
Watch LL Cool J’s introduction to Wrestlemania 31. He mentions how “entertainment as evolved. The mediums has changed.” But humans are the constant. We’re our own constant and we are each other’s connections. If you want to stretch the metaphor to the breaking point, wrestling is what people actually mean when they say they’re spiritual, not religious.
These are moments.
I may have experienced my first ASMR experience from watching 70K people do the Daniel Bryan’s Yes! chant after Bryan won the Intercontinental championship ladder match but not before engaging in a head butt off with Dolph Ziggler on top of a ladder.
I’d like to say that my earlier suspicions that the secret sub-theme of Wrestlemania 31 was “future Bay Area tech dystopia” was only strengthened by the WRESTLEMANIA marquee onstage, and was completely confirmed by Triple H’s bombastic Terminator-themed entrance. 2015 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Arnold Schwarzenegger even made an appearance in the entrance video as the Terminator (sidebar: does Triple H’s entrance count as #sponsored #content for Terminator Genisys?). The match between Triple and Sting wasn’t just the battle of baseball bat versus sledgehammer, it was the story of taiko drumming vs. Skynet which turned into 90’s rival wrestling staples NWO vs DX running down the ramp (translation: men in their 50’s and 60’s running down the ramp to pretend beat the hell out of each other) transforming the match into Super Smash Bros. or Marvel vs. Capcom. And it’s absurd, and it’s kooky, but everybody in attendance adored it.
Where else can a Bulgarian man posing as a Russian national hero ride on top of a tank surrounded by Russian troops with anti-tank cannons fight a man walking to the ring with a video package narrated by Ronald Reagan to fight for the United States Championship?
It’s a shame that Santa Clara wasn’t able to go completely dark for The Undertaker and Bray Wyatt’s entrance, it would have been a great test run for whatever tech company has been secretly developing a weather control device to blot out the sun (as an on-demand service, naturally).
Hayward-born Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson flying in after hosting Saturday Night Live in New York in order to put the East Bay over and bring in his friend UFC women’s batamweight champion and known professional wrestling fan Ronda Rousey to perform Judo on Triple H and put Stephanine McMahon in some law enforcement arm-compliance move was the kind of segment to further drive home that this is mainstream. Also, we’re all getting secretly worked to watch Terminator: Genisys and Furious 7, not like weren’t going to watch them anyway.
Any and all decorum in the press box fell out in the window by the the main event of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Instead, it turned into a giant private room at Chuck-E-Cheese’s in the best way possible. Seth Rollins coming out to successfully cash his Money in the Bank briefcase was an angle I didn’t know I wanted, but now that I know I want it, I need it.
Professional wrestling is a genre unto itself, but it takes bits and pieces from all over the cultural spectrum. Just like anything else in the cultural lexicon, it should be open to interpretation and criticism, and it’s not going to be great all the time, but when it’s great (and when you add pyrotechnics) it juts memories into our heads and that becomes our own new, collective myths.
By the way, how did April and I do with our predictions from Friday?
Paolo: 5 of 9 (Oh, wait did I call Seth Rollins cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Friday?)
April: 5 of 8 (April abstained from the Diva’s tag team match for completely understandable reasons)
As a personal note, I want to send a shout out to Brandon Stroud, the editor of wrestling blog With Leather. I met him on Friday at WrestleCon, and his write-up of Wrestlemania 30 last year was one of the main reasons why I got back into wrestling, and now a year later I find myself covering Wrestlemania. Brandon is the catalyst for getting to cover Wrestlemania this year. Lastly, if you can to sit next to anyone during a Wrestlemania, I would highly suggest you sit next to KPCC’s Mike Roe.