Pain & Pleasure. I have been a wrestling fan for nearly 50 years. Yes, you read that correctly. Along the way, I’ve watched innumerable WWE pay-per-views live (and occasionally in person) and experienced the spectrum of emotions. From the sheer joy of seeing Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania 3 elevate wrestling to Art- to Shaemus beating Daniel Bryan in seconds and feeling disappointed, angered, and downright cheated. Thus, I want to walk you through just what this old-school fan thinks and feels as he watches one of these supposed “spectaculars.” And there are similar peaks and valleys in pretty much every WWE pay per view.
First, the hype machine rages for weeks. That big name from the past is returning, or a celeb may be worked into the mix. You’re primed for a particular match or blowoff of a feud. Yet when all is said and done, Wrestlemania quality-wise may end up being no better or worse than the “lesser” pay per view that proceeds or follows it. In short, pretty much all these PPVs are good for their two or three excellent matches, and the rest of the show is pretty much workmanlike, forgettable, and even godawful.
This brings me to this past Sunday’s SummerSlam. Going in, there was that initial hope I had for the event- hey, isn’t this their #2 show of the year? But that was immediately tapered by the mediocrity of the opener. In AJ Styles and Randy Orton, you had in opposing corners two of the biggest names in the business, and some would list them on all-time great lists. Mired in a meaningless and mediocre tag, it was a match that was nothing more than ok, and instantly forgettable. I have deflated already.
Pain & Pleasure
Then an hour or two in, there’s a wave of boiling anger that started to arise as there’s that revelation of just how much great talent is being squandered on pablum. Promos are scripted and stilted. Comedy that isn’t funny is the WWE’s forte. The announce team is shrill, grating, and obnoxious. Nakamura, once Top 5 in the world in New Japan, is a cartoon now. He struts out. Leaves. Doesn’t wrestle. They’ve killed him dead. Ok, then.
This leads to the mid-point where a numbness sets in, leading to vague sleepiness, but there’s no rest for the weary as the anger keeps you awake despite the proceedings.
Then a bit of confusion hits me as I look at the money marks ringside who spent thousands for the honor of all this, and they seem to be having the greatest of times. Add the shrieking announcers, again and again, saying, “THIS IS THE PARTY OF THE SUMMER!!!” and deep in my brain, something says to me,
“But this doesn’t feel like a party. I’m just trying to make it to the finish line.”
Then comes the really tough part. Edge and Seth Rollins remind me why I watched in the first place. They are putting on a stellar match. I fight through my numbness to absorb it, appreciate it, savor it, as I just invested an evening in this. Amazingly, I suddenly care about what I’m watching. You see, I seek wrestling amid “sports entertainment.” Silly me.
Thank you, guys.
Then, of course, they follow that with an all-time stinker in Goldberg- Lashley. Ironically, I LIKE both of these guys, but it’s just cringeworthy. And I’m back to,
“Oh, my God. When is this over? I feel like I’ve been watching this for a week.”
It’s like I’m jetlagged on my couch. And to add to my confusion, the main event of Cena-Reigns is excellent, too, which won’t even allow me to pan the whole ponderous show. I can’t even have the catharsis of venting; while I can comfortably say RAW is mindless throwaway so-called entertainment, this card indeed had TWO excellent and memorable matches. It only took me 4 endless hours to get there. And suddenly, I feel exhausted from it all. Not that cathartic, “I can breathe again” feeling I felt after a Piper-Snuka or Flair-Steamboat match. More a drained “life sucked out of me” from the highs and lows—the range of emotions.
And in a few weeks, there will be another WWE PPV. Not as big on the prestige scale as SummerSlam, but trust me, it’ll be that same mix of Art and utter pablum. They’ll on the very same show, wow me and numb me worse than the dentist after the Novocain. WWE pay per views never change and never will. It is what it is. Joy, pleasure, and pain.