My name is Tom and I’m a really big pro wrestling fan. Not physically – I mean, I have a weight problem, but it’s not ridiculous. Anyway, April 6 is the biggest day of the year in the mystical, magical world of sports entertainment – WrestleMania.
Every year on WrestleMania Day, I gather with a large group of friends to enjoy the spectacle on live pay-per-view, sort of like sports fans do with the Super Bowl. And every year, without fail, there’s at least one person at whatever WrestleMania party I attend, dragged by a friend or significant other, who is not a wrestling fan, will never like wrestling, and is totally confused by what is happening on the screen.
If the WrestleMania parties I attend are like the many, many others held across the world every year on this faux-fisties holiday, there are thousands of you who will be that person at the party who got dragged by a friend or significant other. You don’t necessarily mind the delicious food served or the good company being had, but just don’t give one care about professional wrestling, let alone why a seven-foot-tall old man wearing eyeliner is fighting a guy who looks like a Nazi experiment.
I am here for you, the disinterested WrestleMania party-goer. My guide will allow you to occasionally look up from your phone for a second, think “Hmm”, and go back to Instagramming pictures of your host’s nacho platter without feeling the need to ask any questions. It’s just enough information to get you by, but not to the point where your eyes glaze over like I’m your cousin who’s REALLY into trains and has no shame in telling you everything about all of them.
Let’s run through the characters, matches, storylines, and pageantry that will make your grown adult friends scream like toddlers whose parents hand them an iPad because they just can’t handle it anymore. But we’ll only run far enough that we won’t get that annoying pain around your kidney area that pops up when you’re a fat kid and your body tells you that you shouldn’t be running in physical education class.
Prepare to be mildly informed and then promptly forget all this information until the next time you need to patronize your more socially awkward friends come WrestleMania season.
Daniel Bryan versus Triple H
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Champion Randy Orton versus Batista versus (winner of Daniel Bryan vs Triple H)
Daniel Bryan’s two-year story leading to WrestleMania 30 could fill a really, really long Reddit post that would get lots of downvotes due to both its length and sheer number of times you would have to differentiate between what’s a pre-planned storyline and what’s shaped the story from reality. To save both you and me a lot of time, go to Netflix and watch the episode of Saved By The Bell where they drill oil and prepare to sell Bayside to a wacky tycoon before the kids come to their moral senses after their science projects/animal friends’ lives are risked. I’m serious; stop reading right now. Go watch it, and then come back. I’ll be waiting.
Okay, good. Now, replace “oil” with “giant muscles and bad tattoos”. In this scenario, the role of “Mr. Belding” is played by wrestler-who-is-super-into-Nazi-symbolism-turned-authority-figure Triple H. WWE Champion Randy Orton and Batista both kind of play the oil tycoon who would benefit from ruining the environment, only I imagine they’d want to build mixed martial arts gyms and Buffalo Wild Wings franchises where the school used to be. Of course, Becky the Duck is Daniel Bryan. But in this story, all of Bayside’s students get really angry at Mr. Belding for wanting to kill Becky the Duck because she isn’t totally covered in oil, so they stop doing their tests and homework, and bring Becky back to life to kick Mr. Belding and the oil tycoon upside the head. Daniel The Duck has to destroy Mr. Nazi Belding to get to the main event, where he’ll fight both evil, tatted-up oil tycoons with the World Heavyweight Title on the line. Got it? Then everyone will get so excited they will literally scream “yes” over and over again. It’s a thing, and you don’t need to know why. Just go with it.
Also, in case you’re wondering – it’s totally a normal thing in pro wrestling for the owner to fight his employees in hand-to-hand combat if he thinks they’re getting mouthy.
The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar
Before we start, let’s just throw it out that The Undertaker is undead and can do magic. Are we all comfortable with this? Okay.
One of the big themes of WrestleMania every year is that The Undertaker has been undefeated for over two decades at this event (this year, he goes in at 21-0). Pro wrestling is predetermined, so it’s not like he earned those victories, but pro wrestling’s showrunner is an insane elderly man who has been known to literally change his mind about what’s happening on a television production as the scene is being performed live. Suffice to say, the fact that The Undertaker hasn’t lost a WrestleMania match since 1991 is a huge accomplishment on multiple levels.
This year’s threat to “The Streak” is Brock Lesnar, a cartoonishly musclebound former World Heavyweight Champion. Brock was a main event-level pro wrestler after years of dominating the NCAA collegiate wrestling scene, then quit to become an NFL player. But apparently, that’s really difficult to just up and do in your late twenties after having not played in college. So, he became a mixed martial artist and quickly won the UFC title from Expendables star Randy Couture before diverticulitis robbed him of a foot of his colon. Fighters figured out that, if you punched Brock in the intestinal area, it was similar to when the Power Rangers would punch a Putty in that giant circle on their stomach. That was the end of Brock’s foray in to MMA and he came back to pro wrestling, quickly reclaiming his spot atop the pro wrestling food chain (literally – wrestlers eat each other).
Much like smoking and gay marriage, Brock Lesnar has an advocate. He’s a neurotic, middle-aged Jewish guy named Paul Heyman. You’ll probably see him at some point and wonder who put Paul Giamatti in the microwave too long. I give you permission to steal that joke to amuse all of your friends during this match.
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches in recent years have been filled with really close, dramatic near-finishes. Your friends will scream at the television, count to two, and then shout, “OHHHHHHHH!” when the match doesn’t end. If this annoys you, just tolerate it because it will eventually end and they probably will not be that excited about anything else in their lives for a year.
John Cena versus Bray Wyatt
John Cena (“Fred’s Dad”; Fred: The Movie) has conquered practically every major superstar in the modern history of professional wrestling. Last year, he defeated that one wrestler you’ve heard of. No, not Hulk Hogan (“Dave Dragon”; Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain). Yeah, you know – The Rock (“Pain”; Pain & Gain).
So what’s left? Much like Dateline NBC, he’s going after an underground Southern baptist cult.
Bray Wyatt is a cult leader. Like, he has a compound and stuff. They haven’t explained where exactly he’s from, but they have produced lots of videos with him hanging out by a river and he often bounces between five different accents, so my guess is that he hails from “outdoors”. He leads a gaggle of creepy, furry men (as in they have beards – they haven’t had sex with any school mascots yet). They have been slaying hero after hero since debuting last summer. At one point, they kidnapped a seven-foot-tall movie monster-type dude and he returned as a Libertarian human resources guy. That’s a real thing that a group of television writers that work on an internationally-broadcast prime time cable television show sat down and came up with.
So now, the crazy cult dudes want to take down John Cena because they’re jealous that he had the idea to recruit children to his cult with colorful merchandising and a funky hand jive before they did. They’ve beaten him up week after week and even tied him up in the ring ropes in a Jesus-esque pose, while wearing a sheep mask on a live televised show in Brooklyn. Sometimes, the line between “pro wrestling theatrics” and “sparsely-attended douchey performance art showing” isn’t just blurred, it’s smeared like feces on the wall in a mental ward.
To make it simple: the fat guy in the Tommy Bahama get-up wants to beat up the big muscle guy in jorts so that all the children in the audience will join his underground moonshine factory masked as a religious group. The big muscle guy in the jorts wants to beat the fat guy in the Tommy Bahama get-up because we cannot have children wearing straw fedoras unironically in 2014 and thinking it’s cool. America just can’t deal with it.
The Shield versus The New Age Outlaws & Kane
Remember that Libertarian HR guy I mentioned earlier? That’s Kane. The Shield are these SWAT team-looking dudes who are young, handsome, and whose antics often appear on Tumblr in .gif form. The Shield used to be assassins for Kane and Triple H (Kane’s boss). But much like most young people at their first major job, they got bored and eventually became resentful when Corporate took away paid lunches and the right to listen to their iPods while working. As for the New Age Outlaws – remember when you were in middle school and all the boys would go around pointing at their ding-dongs and telling everyone to suck it? That’s their fault.
This match really isn’t that important, but I included it just because I wanted to point out that one of the New Age Outlaws is named Mister Ass. This means that, at some point, someone walked up and said, “Hey! Billy Ass!” and the man responded, “No, no, no – the name is MISTER. Mister Ass.”
ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL 30-MAN OVER THE TOP BATTLE ROYAL
Battle royals are pretty much the most awesome thing ever. Most normal wrestling matches are one wrestlers against another wrestler, or a team of wrestlers pitted against another team. In a battle royal, it’s literally just a bunch of dudes in a free-for-all with NO RULES. The only way to win is to be the only guy left in the ring after everyone else is physically thrown out.
WrestleMania 30 host Hulk Hogan (really — just like The Tonight Show or Total Request Live) named this match after Andre the Giant, who he spiritually bonded with in 1987 after murdering the aforementioned giant with a humongous bodyslam at WrestleMania 3 to determine the new World Heavyweight Fezzik From The Princess Bride Champion. It was a big deal since, as Andre’s name would suggest, he was really heavy (which is a deterrent when being lifted and slammed through the earth’s core). Plus, it was the first homicide by bodyslam ever recorded in the state of Michigan. Andre’s family agreed to never press charges as long as Hogan promised that, twenty-seven years later, he would name a pro wrestling match with a bunch of guys in it after the corpse he just slayed.
Here’s a character guide for some of the more important wrestlers entered in this free-for-all:
BIG SHOW – Used to be the fake son of Andre the Giant. Wore a diaper on New Year’s Eve.
SHEAMUS – Super-duper-duper Irish. Last name might be “Drunkpotatoleprechaunjig”.
DOLPH ZIGGLER – Nicknamed “The Showoff” because he will walk into your living room and shut off your television if Nick-at-Nite is on. Amy Schumer has claimed in the media that his sex is “too athletic”.
THE MIZ – The guy from The Real World: Back To New York who was mega-racist to Coral.
DAMIEN SANDOW – Hyper-intellectual braggart; will probably end up sleeping with Marnie on Girls next season, but they won’t last because he won’t believe in her singing career and then she’ll sleep with Ray again AND WHY DOES SHE MAKE SUCH BAD DECISIONS?!?! SHE IS SUCH A PRETTY, SMART GIRL WHO COULD REALLY BE SOMETHING IN THIS WORLD!
MARK HENRY – Former Olympic weightlifter; once fathered an antique sex toy with an elderly lady wrestler. I wish I had an explanation for you, because literally, it was never explained.
GOLDUST – Former(?) sex pervert. Cured himself of tourettes once.
ALBERTO DEL RIO – Mexican aristocrat. Has never walked into a talent agency with his family to describe their lewd talent.
CHRISTIAN – Man of unknown faith. Known to eat too many carrots.
BIG E – Full name is Uppercase Vowel. Can lift heavy things. His Instagram game is strong.
FANDANGO – Ballroom dancer who went viral for a week last year. Doesn’t have movie tickets.
3MB – Three-man air guitar band. One of them wears a turban, but everyone’s super-tolerant and supportive.
DARREN YOUNG – The gay wrestler who came out this summer on TMZ. That’s it; he literally has no other character traits on WWE television.
TITUS O’NEIL – Ex-partner of the gay wrestler who came out this summer on TMZ. Friends call him “Big Tit”.
(NOTE: Despite the name, this match has nothing to do with arm wrestling.)
Hopefully I have done my job and given you just enough knowledge so that you don’t know more about WWE than you want to, but you will never feel the need to take time away from your fledgling Tinder ranking stint to ask any questions about the absurdities happening on your friend’s friend’s friend’s big screen TV and can just focus on taking advantage of all of the loaded nachos that they’ll let you stuff in your mouth.
This pro wrestling stuff can be fun, but it’s not for everyone. I hope I’ve been of service to you, everyone.