Friday, May 15, 2015

Wrestlemania 31 and the Art of Losing

I recently read somewhere that Triple H has the most losses at Wrestlemania, which I think currently stands at 10. If I'd have known that before Wrestlemania 31, I probably wouldn't have been so surprised by Sting's loss. One of the talents that makes Triple H a legend, one of his greatest skills, is the ability to lose strategically.

Wrestlemania 31 was the greatest wrestling pay-per-view I've ever seen. The main event match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns was one of the most realistic matches I can recall since the days of Mick Foley. It was as rough a match as your going to get from the PG era of wrestling and it worked so well because of who lost, not who won. We all know wrestling is fake, the entertainment for us old fans is in seeing who puts over the other guy best. Wrestlers play characters, usually characters with big egos, so seeing which wrestler is going to swallow his pride and take the loss is part of the entertainment. Before I watched Wrestlemania 31, I went back and watched 30, the year of Daniel Bryan and I knew once I'd finished it that Roman Reigns was not going to win the title. Wrestlemania 30 was the year of the underdog, the chances that the WWE would repeat the same type of story the following year was very slim.
Strangely, I'd never actually seen anyone cash in a Money in the Bank case. As much as I hated the idea, I felt it was going to happen. What other possibility was there? Once Brock Lesnar announced he was going to stay with the WWE, Roman's chances went up in smoke. That's not a bad thing, a lot of people felt he wasn't ready for it, I personally think his in-ring moves need a bit of work but I genuinely like the guy. It was painful to watch him give so much of himself in his match against Brock only to lose it all in the last couple of minutes. But that is what wrestling is all about, not just the art of combat but the art of losing as well. I'm sure it was a lot easier for Brock Lesnar to lose, with his new contract locked up tight, but Roman was so close to the ultimate prize and opportunities like that, even in a sport with a fixed winner, is a rare thing. Which brings me back to Triple H and the history of losing at Wrestlemania.

Great matches are made of up two things: A winner and a loser. But it is a precarious perch to be on; win too much and you put yourself out of the game, lose too much and you lose the support of the fans. That is why every match needs to be a good story and why every match needs to be the most important match of a  wrestler's career; because you can never tell for certain when you might get another one. The reason WCW fell apart was because nobody wanted to lose, everybody joined the NWO and there was no one left to put the NWO over. Any time they had a big competition, every time two giants met in a WCW ring, somehow there was never a clear winner or loser. They would pull out every angle they could to avoid a clear 1,2,3, victory. Nobody would put anyone else over and so young talent never got a chance to develop. Vince McMahon always had the brains to think ahead and Triple H is an even better creative director than Vince because Triple H understands better than Vince how to build a champion. Vince McMahon knows how to build superstars, but he doesn't know how to maintain them over time, at least not as well as Triple H.

Which brings us to Wrestlemania 31. Every match was exceptional and in every match, a story was told. Cena finally triumphed over Rusev, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar fought a hard match and a new Intercontinental Champion was crowned. In fact the only person who didn't shine at WM31 was Dean Ambrose, who took a bad slam through a ladder and left the six man IC title match. Nice to see Dean is back on track and fighting it out for the WWE World Championship.

Triple H holds the record for Wrestlemania losses. Big Show has never won a Wrestlemania match. Yet both men are titans of the sport, mainly because of the fact they aren't scared to take one for the team. When Triple H loses, its always in a grueling, physical competition where both men give all they have to conquer the other. Same applies to Big Show, when he is beaten it is to make his opponent look stronger, to give the other wrestler and edge and a future. If no one is willing to take a loss, then no one can win a victory. Every time Triple H lost, it was for the fans, every time any wrestler takes a loss it is for us, the viewer, the audience, the WWE universe.

Wrestlemania 31 was a grandiose spectacle that hit all the right notes and gave fans everything they asked for. The title match was one of the most entertaining matches I've ever seen and even though both Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were forced to take a loss to Seth Rollins, they still gave it everything they had. That right there is what defines a champion. Roman's got time for another shot, so does Brock. This is Seth Rollins era and both men put him over, and continue to put him over, every week because that is the story that WWE thinks we'll enjoy the most. But here is something to think about:

What if the Triple H is setting himself and the Authority up for a loss at Payback? What if Seth Rollins has been lying this whole time and Payback sees the reformation of The Shield? If the Shield reforms and takes out Randy Orton, they will have every WWE superstar on the roster after that title. Now that would be one hell of a swerve, wouldn't it? It's been a long time since anyone screwed the people in charge, its been a long time since we saw a Stone Cold style rebellion, maybe Triple H is taking the ultimate fall to put over not one, but three superstars?

Can't wait to see what happens this Sunday at Payback.

Next week I'll be posting a Payback run-down with some thoughts on Extreme Rules and my thoughts on Daniel Bryan. Cheers!

(EDIT): I am currently pushing a social media campaign to have Daniel Bryan as the manager for the Bella Twins! Use the hashtag #maledivas and let the WWE know that even if he can't wrestle, he can still be a force in the WWE, helping his wife Brie Bella take out those damn Amazons!

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