Of the 5 million people who will watch WrestleMania XXX this Sunday evening, almost all of them will have decided to do so well before World Wrestling Entertainment began announcing this year’s matches a month ago.
After all, the primary appeal of WrestleMania is that it’s WrestleMania, a spectacle for the sake of spectacle that many fans choose as the only show they watch all year.
As the WWE’s tentpole event, Sunday’s pay-per-view broadcast from the New Orleans Superdome will feature a little bit of something for everyone, or at least something for everyone who would consider watching dudes roll around in their underwear pretending to fight each other for three hours.
As Business Insider’s resident wrestling obsessive, I’ve taken it upon myself to create this handy guide to let you know which little bit of WrestleMania is for you, based on your interests.
If you like underdog narratives, facial hair, and/or radical progressive movements as presented by multinational corporations …
You’ll probably enjoy: Daniel Bryan’s pursuit of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
For many of the WWE’s regular viewers, the success of this year’s WrestleMania hinges entirely on whether or not Daniel Bryan leaves New Orleans with the WWE World Heavyweight championship belt around his waist.
At just 5’10” and 210 pounds, Bryan is smaller than the average WWE Superstar, and he has for years wrestled faster, smarter, and more seamlessly than just about anyone else in the company.
What’s different this year is that he is now also the WWE’s most popular character, having been launched into the stratosphere by his underdog appeal, a truly excellent beard, and his irresistible “Yes!” chant (see below).
Alas, the small stature and aw-shucks demeanor that have endeared Bryan to the WWE faithful are the qualities that have drawn the ire of the 13-time world champion Triple H, Bryan’s on-screen boss and the real-life son-in-law to WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
In a storyline that has blurred the line between fiction and reality, Triple H has for eight months now abused his power in various ways to prevent Bryan from winning the championship, claiming that he has neither the size nor the “it factor” to serve as the “face of the WWE.”
Despite Triple H’s assertion that Bryan’s success would destroy the company’s business, or perhaps because of it, the antagonism has only intensified Bryan’s love affair with the WWE Universe, which is at this point absolutely desperate to see its hero triumph over the tyranny of corporate rationale. In fact, many fans repeatedly threatened to stop watching the show if he does not.
Where Bryan’s predecessor in pro wrestling anti-authoritarianism, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, practiced a decidedly violent and individualist brand of anarchism, Bryan is a kindly vegan who instead favours collective action.
In an Occupy-inspired segment on Monday Night Raw, he and his fans staged a protest in the middle of the ring, refusing to leave until Triple H agreed to fight him at WrestleMania.
After a furious Triple H agreed to his initial demand, Bryan went one step further and requested that the winner of the bout be entered into a three-way match for the title later in the evening against the loathsome human steroid vessel Batista, and the insufferable reigning champion Randy Orton.
The screaming hordes of the “Yes Movement” got their wish, and at the same time lost the power to vote with their wallets that has to this point been the only counterbalance to Triple H’s atrocities.
All they can do now is wait anxiously for Bryan’s triumph and, with it, the sublime moment of pro wrestling catharsis that makes this whole stupid thing worth watching.
If you enjoy True Detective, blood feuds, and/or jorts …
You’ll probably like: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
The formula that makes pro wrestling work is pretty simple: Take two dudes with obviously contrasting worldviews, have them piss each other off for a few months, then let them beat the mess out of each other while the crowd loses its collective wig.
All-American good guy John Cena’s beef with the creepy cult leader Bray Wyatt is a perfect execution of this formula.
John Cena has been the face of the WWE for about a decade a now. He wins most of his matches, is extremely photogenic, and has granted more than 400 Make-A-Wish requests. He is also corny as all get-out, a guy who wears jean shorts to the ring and spouts the same boilerplate wrestler-talk ad nauseum.
He speaks constantly of his tireless work ethic and refusal to give up, yet his decade of dominance makes it difficult for anyone to buy into his claims of being an underdog.
The result is what the WWE’s announcers refer to as John Cena’s “usual mixed reaction,” whereby the children in attendance chant his name and the adults in the audience, or at least those without children, boo heartily.
Enter Bray Wyatt, a mystifying Bayou cult leader not unlike the serial killer from True Detective. He thinks the kids have it wrong idolizing Cena, and he’s hellbent on disabusing them of the notion that the world is a kind, just place that rewards those who practice Cena’s mantra of “hustle, loyalty, and respect.”
For the past two months, Wyatt and his two followers (collectively known as “The Wyatt Family”) have sneak-attacked Cena inside the ring and out in an attempt to break his spirit and destroy the innocence of his fans.
What’s intriguing about WrestleMania is the idea that the generally untouchable Cena might not only lose the match, but fall from grace, as well.
Cena has shown signs of ageing of late, and the story seems to suggest that defeating Wyatt and his band of terrifying hillbillies might require him to match their levels of blood-thirst and depravity.
And if Cena is forced to meet Wyatt in a dark place en route to winning the match, he will have already lost something much greater.
If you like freak shows, (scripted) athletic dominance, and/or zombies …
You’ll probably enjoy: Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Of the people mentioned thus far, you are probably most familiar with the Undertaker. If not, he’s basically a 7-foot-tall undead zombie person whose magic powers allow him to do crazy things like appear in previously empty caskets and turn out all the lights in a 20,000-seat arena.
At 49, the real-life guy who performs as the Undertaker is starting to get old, so WrestleMania is the now the only time he’ll wrestle a full match. This works out well for the Undertaker, who is an unmatched 21-0 at the so-called “Showcase of the Immortals.”
The Streak has become an annual attraction in and of itself, with people tuning in each year to see who will be the person to finally topple Undertaker at the biggest show of the year. After the Undertaker inevitably vanquishes his mortal foe, there is a small fireworks display to celebrate another year of (scripted) athletic accomplishment.
The Undertaker’s opponent, Brock Lesnar, is an absolutely out-of-his-mind, muscle-bound monster and a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, meaning that even in non-scripted real life, he can beat up pretty much everyone living in the world right now.
Professional wrestling is an art form born out of 19th-century carnival strong-man contests, and this match most delightfully lives up to the genre’s freak-show roots.
The appeal is pure and simple: “Come see the incredible 7-foot Deadman! Step right up and watch the Beast Incarnate!”
If you like American exceptionalism, 80s nostalgia, and/or unfortunate celebrity sex tapes …
You’ll probably enjoy: Hulk Hogan as the “Host of WrestleMania”
As part of the WWE’s attempt to bring still more of the masses under its WrestleMania tent, the company has enlisted all-time most famous wrestler Hulk Hogan to be the “Host of WrestleMania.”
The appearance caps Hogan’s return to the WWE fold after a four-year stint with the perpetually in disarray minor-league wrestling outfit TNA, a run that yielded no shortage of evidence that Father Time has caught up to the 60-year-old Hogan. Also, that sex tape.
Though Hogan’s body is likely too broken down for him to do much in the way of fighting off bad guys, his presence at WrestleMania should be enough to satisfy fans’ yearning to wax nostalgic about the days when men were men, and declared their manliness by wearing garish red and yellow boas and ripping their shirts off in public.
WWE’s on-screen hierarchy structures are notoriously ill-defined and schizophrenic, so it remains to be seen what, if any, powers or responsibilities Hogan’s host title will give him.
Either way, people who remember the 80s can rest assured that Hogan will walk out to the amazing theme song “Real American,” cup his hand over his ear to hear the crowd’s screams, and flex his 18-inch pythons for all to see.
At the end of the day, what more could you possibly ask for?
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