By: Detroit Larry
This Sunday night in Miami, Florida, the WWE will present their version of the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, World Cup, and Olympics all rolled into one for the 28th time. That’s right, it’s Wrestlemania 28, which could truly be the end of perhaps the greatest era the industry has ever and may ever see. For those unfamiliar with this whole thing and thinking that it would be a waste of time, let me educate you a little bit.
After buying the WWF from his father, Vince McMahon basically took everything he had and put it into an idea called Wrestlemania. The stakes for the original event were so high that had it not succeeded, the WWE might not exist anymore. Vince banked everything he had on mixing wrestling with entertainment, in the hopes of becoming a worldwide entertainment giant. By having the likes of Wendi Richter, Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, and the Rockettes, mixed in with Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Andre the Giant, Vince had done something no one had seen before. His gamble paid off, and in the next 27 years he took over the wrestling industry, bought out his competition, and now reigns as the greatest promoter in wrestling history. Now, while he did struggle at times along the way, he has turned a one day pay-per-view event into a week-long extravaganza, complete with community events, a pro-am golf tournament, meet and greets with Superstars, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and of course, the event itself. This year is no different, as Vince and company have taken over South Beach in Miami, and will undoubtedly leave everyone around the world on the edge of their seats.
For only the third time in the event’s history, Wrestlemania will take place outside at Sun Life Stadium. This obviously was a risk with weather concerns, but with clear skies in the forecast the gamble looks as though it will pay off. The event this year is, and has always been, centered around one match: The Rock vs. John Cena. They booked the match last year after Wrestlemania XXVII, where the Rock cost John Cena the WWE Championship against former MTV Real World star The Miz. The most intriguing part of this whole thing is that these two guys legitimately do not like one another. The Rock made his name in the WWE, before heading to Hollywood and becoming one of the most popular actors around. While he was gone, he dropped the name “Rocky” and went with his real name, Dwayne Johnson. He has shown up seldomly over the last seven years, while younger stars have tried to fill his shoes.
Enter John Cena. No one wrestler in my lifetime has been as polarizing as Cena since 2005, when he first won the WWE Championship. He is cheered by every child and woman in the audience and booed to death by every male over the age of 17. However, he has become a decent wrestler and works a tremendous schedule in order to continue to build the reputation of the WWE. Vince McMahon loves him and trusts him in any big spot, and there is no bigger spot than in the main event of the biggest event of the year, against one of the greatest superstars in wrestling history. Nine years ago, a similar match occurred between the Rock (playing the up-and-coming star) and the legendary Hulk Hogan. The Rock won that match, in which the proverbial torch was passed from one generation to the next. I expect the same thing to occur this time around, with the Rock passing the torch from his generation to Cena’s. Now while things could change, I doubt you’d have the face of your company lose at Wrestlemania to a guy who only shows up every now and then. As much as I don’t like Cena, he must win this match and take the torch from the Rock. While people won’t like the outcome, it is the best one for business, which is what Vince has always done.
The Rock defined an era of wrestling known as the Attitude Era, where rebellion was the accepted rule, and many guys made tremendous names for themselves – guys like the Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. They brought the WWE from the brink to the greatest wrestling company ever. And four of those five men will be in the ring this Sunday in some capacity.
This brings me to why this event will truly be special. While the Rock helped define an era, the Undertaker WAS the era. He is the greatest character in the history of the WWE and a true company man. When guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and others were jumping ship to WCW for more money, the Undertaker remained loyal to McMahon and put together one hell of a legacy. Since his debut in 1990, he has put together a hall-of-fame career and the most revered record in the WWE, a 19-0 record at Wrestlemania. Over the past 20 years, he has faced a who’s who of great superstars at the event, including Jimmy Snuka, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Kane, Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, and Shawn Michaels. This year, he will take on Triple H for the 3rd time at the event. They competed last year in the Undertaker’s last match to date at WM 27, a match in which Triple H dominated, yet lost when ‘Taker made him tap out. The Undertaker wants to prove he can do it again this year, but the stakes have been raised. First, the match will take place inside the “Hell in a Cell” (a steel cage with a roof) and second, Shawn Michaels will be the special guest referee.
Michaels is the real life best friend of Triple H, and the man whom the Undertaker defeated at two straight Mania’s in matches that will go down as two of the best ever. These three men helped put the WWE on the map in the ‘90s and early 2000s and having all three in the ring at the same time this Sunday will truly be something special. Many expect this to be the final match in the Undertaker’s career to complete a 20-0 record at the grandest stage. Triple H is not a regular wrestler anymore, due to his corporate duties within the WWE (he married Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie both on TV and in real life), and this could likely be one of his final matches. Michaels was retired by the Undertaker two years ago and is no longer active. Following this match, three of the greatest superstars of all time may be done, and the Attitude Era will truly be over. Throw in the Rock and this could be a night people look back on as when the new crop of wrestlers really took over business.
Knowing that this could be the last time I ever get a chance to see these three in the ring along with the Rock (whom I have never seen in person), I bought tickets and am flying down Saturday to attend the event. I know in the back of my mind that I will never get to see these four again, so I am going to enjoy every second of the event and cherish the memories they give me. I grew up in their era and am happy to be there at its likely end. I just hope the next crop of superstars can live up to half of what these men gave over the last 20 years. Because if they do, Vince McMahon will be strutting all the way to the bank again in his next era of success.