In case you missed it, last week I went a little off the deep end in regards to how the WWE is handling the build to Wrestlemania. For those of you who prefer a TL;DR version essentially I declared that by making simple stories too complicated and not going deep enough on the stories that do have depth, they have utterly failed to build a set of compelling matches heading into the biggest show of the year. For a generally positive person it was uncharacteristically scathing, however in the week after posting that column a strange thing took place as I slowly felt my negativity towards Wrestlemania purging itself from my body. Slowly I let myself get wrapped up in the excitement that comes with being a wrestling fan at this time of the year and while I’m not overlooking the flaws in this Wrestlemania build, I am starting to enjoy myself.
I always like to think of myself as a fan first and a critic second so this week I want to balance out the negativity of last week with a few quick hits of adrenaline to my fandom and focus on the things I am looking forward to at Wrestlemania and as a bonus add on a quick review of the HBO Canada documentary about Kenny Omega that came out this week.
Sir Sam’s Super Happy Wrestlemania Weekend Guide
Seth Rollins is odds on to win the Universal Championship
Dean Ambrose will always be my favourite wrestler but with him poised to leave the WWE, going forward Seth Rollins is going to become ‘my boi’ in the ‘E. I’ve made it no secret just how much I have disliked the Brock Lesnar Universal Championship run however all that is ready to finally come to and end at the hands of one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
I’m hoping Seth gets the chance to put in 15-20 minutes with a motivated Brock before doing to the Universal Title what he did to the Intercontinental strap last year: defend it anywhere and everywhere. However at the bare I’m just excited to see him get the win and finally do away with the spectre of Brock Lesnar at the top of the card.
That doesn’t even touch on the cathartic, multi-year story that Rollins is verging on completing when he finally topples The Beast but for more on that you will have to come back next week…
G1 Super Card at MSG
Is it cheating to put a non-WWE show on this list? Well too bad if it is because this is my court and I make the rules here.
More seriously this is quite a historic event being the first time in fifty years a non-WWE wrestling company has put on a show at the world’s most famous arena. NJPW and Ring of Honour have not taken that fact lightly either, putting together an absolute banger of a card from top to bottom. Mathes like Will Osprey v Jeff Cobb and Tetsuya Naito v Kota Ibushi are bound to amaze, while in the main event Kazuchika Okada is poised to act as the heart of the card as he gets a chance to finally avenge his betrayal at the hands of Gedo and IWGP Champion Jay White.
If you want to see all the details you should check out Imp’s preview column for the card. The WWE has been kind enough to move Takeover to accommodate this card so I think this is one for any wrestling fan and you can watch it for just $10 if you sign up to the excellent NJPW World (hit me up if you want some match suggestions for the rest of the month you’ll get).
Pete Dunne v WALTER
Of all the Takeover matches ro excited about (and yes, they have yet another stellar card prepared) this is the one that I am most pumped for. From the very moment WALTER arrived in NXT UK and sized up Dunne, this battle has been looming. Both wrestlers have such an aura of danger about them and are such incredible physical presences in the ring it is hard not to let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of what kind of violence they will do to one another when the bell rings.
I’ve been a Pete Dunne fan since he first made his presence felt no the first UK Special but to be quite frank I don’t even mind if The Bruiserweight finally loses his UK Championship to WALTER. He is more than ready to take on a feature role on the main card and WALTER has already shown me enough to know he will be a natural fit at the top of the card in the kind of role Samoa Joe probably should have on Smackdown. A post-Mania debut for Dunne would blow the roof off the Barclays Center and I have waited long enough for my Dunne v Rollins, Bryan, Joe and Styles barn burners (just to name a few).
KofiMania Runnin’ Wild
What’s not to love about KofiMania? I was an early advocate for Kofi to take the spot opposite Daniel Bryan at Mania and while I said I wanted him to have to fight for it boy have they made us wait. Come Mania though the climax will be all the sweeter for the build up that has made Kofi jump through hoop after hoop in his quest to prove himself. The WWE have stumbled into a powerful program here and now just have to drive it home to the right conclusion.
One underrated aspect of this story that I have enjoyed immensely has been how the WWE has portrayed the bond between The New Day members. Between this and the recent Shield program it has been quite heartening to see so many positive examples of genuine male friendship.
Let’s now all cross our fingers that Kofi and The New Day get the happy ending they deserve come match day and pray they don’t put him in a segment with Hulk Hogan.
Women’s Wrestling In The Main Event
In some ways it doesn’t matter how we got there, yes it has been absurdly convoluted but in years to come when we look back at Wrestlemania 35 it will be most remembered for one thing: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey wrestling as the first women to main event Wrestlemania.
Just six years ago at Wrestlemania 29 the women had their match cut while they were standing at Gorilla waiting to go on. From there to the main event is a long way to come in a relatively short period of time. This match will be a genuine historic moment that the women have earnt by true merit and thus is something that will be worth taking a moment to savour when it comes about.
The Demon Entrance
Finn Balor’s demon entrance is wrestling pageantry at its best and by all accounts it will be getting its first outing on ‘the grandest stage of them all’. I don’t know what kind of spectacle they have planned but I know one thing at Wrestlemania in the WWE’s mind bigger is always better.
I’m sure Balor could put on an in ring masterclass but I’d prefer he spend less time in the ring than he does making his way to it. If it happens I’ll even forgive them flip flopping the Intercontinental Title around so much just so they could make it happen.
Pizza, Wings & Beers with my mates
For me wrestling fandom is usually a solo affair, I’ve made some great friends here on LOP but when it comes to my ‘real life’ I don’t have a whole lot of people around me who are die hard fans. However somehow I have convinced a few of my mates that taking a day off work and watching Wrestlemania with me each year is a great tradition to have and for the past two years it has freakin’ rocked.
I’m going into my third year as the defender of The Big Deal Championship, a cardboard championship belt I made for the person who gets the highest score in the guessing competition, I will cook wings, we will eat $5 Pizzas from Coles, drink cheap Aussie beers and it may not even matter too much if everything goes wrong for the fourth year in a row because I’ll be enjoying it with my mates.
Omegaman – A Wrestling Love Story Review
“If Elvis was a wrestler alive today, he may be Kenny Omega”
These are the bold words of Chris Jericho at the very beginning of Omegaman – A Wrestling Love Story. The quote sets the stage for what is to come in this documentary that explores the career and cultural influence of Kenny Omega, the biggest name in wrestling outside of the WWE.
Omegaman – A Wrestling Love Story is an hour long documentary by HBO Canada, aired in the country on TSN just this week and is part of the network’s six part series, Engraved on a Nation, that explores notable Canadian athletes and accomplishments. The very fact Kenny Omega became the focus of a mainstream sports documentary series that features the likes of Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson is a feat in itself. This is a guy who three years ago was not even well known by a majority of pro wrestling fans and is now being exposed to a mainstream audience in an unprecedented way.
While the focus is on Omega for me the best thing this documentary does is highlight the philosophy behind pro wrestling to a mainstream audience and explore the tangible cultural influence it’s stories can have. A lot of this explanation is wisely placed at the start to cushion the non-wrestling audience coming in, however hearing the likes of Chris Jericho describe it as “live action theatre,” and NJPW President Harold Meij say it is “like a two hour movie condensed down” really helps show why it is a storytelling medium that should be taken seriously.
Of course Omega is the star of this show and in his lengthy explanation describes wrestling as “its own universe where anything can happen” and as a human storytelling medium where he can express deeper themes such as “unity and equality”.
The key example of this kind of storytelling that the documentary goes deeply into is Omega’s ten year long epic beside and opposite his Golden Lovers tag team partner Kota Ibushi.
If nothing else it is clear from this documentary that Kenny Omega is an extremely introspective human who has thought long and hard about how he can use his craft to make the world a better place. The way he tenderly explains his “art” is a far cry from the blunt way most wrestlers talk about the programs and stories they were involved in. Kenny is clearly very much invested in the creation of art and wants to challenge the negative preconceived notions many even within the industry hold about the sophistication of wrestling and what is possible in the business.
However that is not to say this is a perfect documentary. Too often it undercuts itself by very rigidly sticking to the kayfabe of the Golden Lovers narrative but simultaneously letting pundits like Dave Meltzer chip in talking in ‘inside baseball’ terms such as ‘five star matches’, how Kenny ‘worked’ and how NJPW were ‘building Okada up’. While I have no problem with the presence of the backstage elements, Meltzer’s far more direct delivery is a poor contrast next to the more emotive and narrative language of every other interviewee.
This is also a documentary that seems to initially promise to explore the grander cultural impact Omega has had, only to focus almost solely on the story with Ibushi before reverting back to the original premise and quickly tacking on five minutes about All In and AEW at the end. The fact the groundbreaking Omega v Okada feud only got a brief mention as the climax of the Gold Lovers saga feels like a missed opportunity to explore how Omega has been at the forefront of the Western Expansion of Japanese wrestling and also the explosion of indy wrestling in general.
Ultimately I think this was a very enjoyable documentary if for no other reason than for how it explored storytelling in wrestling and presented it so seriously to a mainstream audience. It is the kind of piece that I would not hesitate to show someone who may be intrigued by wrestling but off put by its low-brow reputation and also acts as a great stepping off point for WWE fans interested in exploring the hype around Kenny Omega.
Thanks for reading LOP, how are you feeling about Wrestlemania, will you still be able to get in on the fun or are you just waiting for it to all be over? Also what did you think of Omegaman – A Wrestling Love Story?
Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or you can even write about it yourself on the LOP Columns Forum. It is where every columnist on this site started and will make you both a better writer and a more engaged wrestling fan. You can sign up here.