When WWE-PG Was ‘Buried Alive’
This is not going to be your typical historical-reference column.
This coming Sunday, WWE will present its second-ever ‘Bragging Rights’ pay-per-view with a main event featuring Kane defending his World Heavyweight Title against The Undertaker in a ‘Buried Alive’ match. Before I go any further, I repeat, this is not going to be your typical historical-reference column.
I’m sure you will be glancing and perusing over other professional wrestling news-sites and message boards, recollecting all of the previous ‘Buried Alive’ matches (4) and potentially browsing on YouTube for said matches. I don’t blame you, it has been nearly 7 years since we have had a ‘Buried Alive’ match; if you haven’t been a fan for that long, I can definitely understand how a history lesson may be in order.
This week’s ‘Reality’ though is not meant to relive the past, reminisce of happier cartoonish times, or scratch our heads in confusion on why there was a tag team ‘Buried Alive’ match on a 1999 edition of ‘Smackdown’. This week’s column is meant to quite possibly put the most outlandish claim on the table for all of the Interwebs Wrestling Commune to feast on.
Of all the hot topics that are debated inside this intangible utopia, the chastising or applauding of WWE returning to PG programming seems to be a very prevalent one. Those who crave violence and sexual innuendo have been putting up fence posts and lining them with electrified barbed wire for over three years now; pointing, yelling, and cursing at the families and children on the opposite side with their brightly-colored John Cena t-shirts and Rey Mysterio masks.
The definitions of our favorite avenue of entertainment have been disputed ever since there has been a reason for doing so. Does it need blood? Do we need conversational segments and on-location vignettes to drive a good story? Do we need to know the name of a maneuver more than we need a performer to sell it before we even consider it something to react about?
What I enjoy/abhor about professional wrestling could be the exact opposite of how you or anyone else enjoys their version of professional wrestling. The WWE-PG discussion supplies the fence posts in this separation of generational and cross-societal fans. The ‘Buried Alive’ match is one of the largest of the fence posts or the potential hinged gate.
During this WWE-PG era of professional wrestling, many have been wondering when it will end. Will it be due to the debilitating injury of a prominent face of the era itself? Will it be due to the aging of its new crop of fans? Will it EVER end?
One thing is for certain, WWE’s marketing and branding philosophy is cyclical. What was Hulk-a-mania started to get an ‘Attitude’ then went through therapy, found a small patch of land in the world of professional wrestling, colonized, and formed ‘CeNation’. It is all about money and finding a new generation of professional wrestling fans; getting their attention at a young age and maturing alongside them.
While many on the Interwebs may be asking when the WWE-PG era will end, a more revealing question should be asked: When did the WWE-PG era end the first time around? When did ‘The Attitude Era’ begin?
Undertaker vs. Mankind, Hell in a Cell, ‘King of the Ring’ June 28, 1998
There is no question of the historical implications this match had on professional wrestling as a whole. It introduced the unnecessary need for excessive violence and disregard of humanity. However, you can’t have such unless someone willingly agrees and volunteers to do such.
In 1998, I was 19 years old and in college. Blood and violence intrigued me. For my birthday, someone had bought for me a VHS tape from RF Video titled ‘The Best of Explosion Matches’, featuring many gruesome displays of blood and gore from Atsushi Onita, Mr. Pogo, and Terry Funk.
What may have entertained me over 10 years ago disgusts me now. My definitions of professional wrestling have changed over time, just as many others’ will; but with Taker-Mankind ‘Hell in a Cell’, it fed on the maturing professional wrestling fan like myself and its intrigue for heightened action and more graphic depictions.
The birth of Stone Cold Steve Austin, ‘King of the Ring’ June 23, 1996
He is the performer that many consider synonymous with the ‘Attitude Era’. Foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, and an ‘I just don’t give a good goddam’ disposition, Stone Cold Steve Austin represented everything in the ring that an angst-ridden teenage male in high school or a slave-driven blue-collar male in lower/middle-class America wanted to do to those who held them down.
As in any era of professional wrestling, fans look to identify. Austin was as easily identifiable in the ‘Attitude Era’ as Rey Mysterio is in this WWE-PG era. His legions of grade school fans gobble up his merchandise and sing his praises not because he cuts a good promo in their eyes and ears (according to them, not me) or that he executes jaw-dropping moves inside the ring. They latch onto him because he looks like them: diminutive, a David among Goliaths, where people twice his size and weight succeed, he does the same.
The birth of Stone Cold is a viable starting point for the ‘Attitude Era’, but there is one match that I believed ushered in the ‘Attitude Era’ that is directly correlated to this Sunday’s ‘Bragging Rights’ pay-per-view.
Undertaker vs. Mankind, Buried Alive, ‘In Your House: Buried Alive’ October 20, 1996
I can see you rolling your eyes and sighing in disgust in my choice, but hear me out. This was WWF/E’s first-ever ‘Buried Alive’ match, one full year before their first-ever ‘Hell in a Cell’. Stone Cold Steve Austin did perform in this pay-per-view, feuding with Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the opening bout. So by virtue of chronology and relevancy, this match is placed in front of ‘Hell in a Cell’ ’98 & Stone Cold.
Yes, I know… this was an incredibly horrible match. Terry Gordy as an executioner, the heel roster coming out to help bury the Dead Man just as they did in his Casket Match loss at Royal Rumble ’94, the cartoonish lightning bolt/pyro/hand from the grave ending; yes, this was a very weird and awkward match.
The content of the match is not my argument for this being the gateway to the ‘Attitude Era’; it is the premise and stipulation of the match. This was the first stipulation used by WWF/E that had a morbid sense of finality through the actual DEATH of a performer!
Yes, I know it’s fake. There’s a trap door inside the grave, I get it… but little 9-year old Jimmy doesn’t. You may know it is fake, but would the youth know? And how do you explain all of this to them when the buried performer returns? There may have been Casket Matches in the past, but none of them involved the physical burial of them within the casket.
This Sunday, Kane attempts to retain the World Heavyweight Title against Undertaker in the fifth-ever ‘Buried Alive’ match. Will this mark the end of WWE-PG?
Until next time, mouth-breathers!
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