Last year’s Wrestlemania weekend Nosebleeds focused on Wrestlemania’s stale aura acquired over years of lackluster shows. Wrestlemania XXV joined that stale string and ultimately, with the exception of Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and the Chris Jericho-Ricky Steamboat exchange, became probably the worst Wrestlemania since XIII in 1997. This year’s Mania weekend column will not put Wrestlemania XXVI in that string. This Sunday’s show has officially broken the pattern and become the most quality-stacked card since WM XIX.
This week has obviously had a lot of Wrestlemania talk. Just on Friday alone Jose Marrero wrote a great piece on Shawn Michaels retiring and David Stephens wrote an excellent column on the possible outcome of the HBK-Taker bout. That said; this week’s Nosebleeds will not focus entirely on the WM subject. However, there are a few last tidbits I would like to put out there.
If someone had predicted one year ago that Bret Hart would not only return to WWE, but end up competing in a match at Mania, the response would have been ?Yeah right. And Triple H will be in a mid card match.? Well?yes he is. Hitman haters think Hart is a hypocrite for coming back to WWE. Maybe he is. Maybe money had a big role in his return. Here’s the deal; regardless of what one thinks of Bret Hart, the man has been through a lot. Wrestlemania is significant because he has come full circle. The sense of closure coming Sunday is incredibly surreal. A seventy year old man fighting a stroke survivor may not make for the greatest technical encounter, but it will mean a great deal to those involved and those who know what Hart has been through.
Randy Orton’s placement on the card is reminiscent of what WWE did with Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XVIII with Scott Hall. The difference is Orton’s place this year is actually very fitting for him. The breakup of Legacy was inevitable. Orton is in a transnational point with his character and this match will showcase him very well while he maps out his new course. Triple H vs. Sheamus has been built as best as it can be. There is no better place to put these two this year than where they are. Money in the bank is what it is and what it always will be. CM Punk and Rey Mysterio will have the sort of match that Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle had at WM XVII, a match between two of the best workers on the roster overshadowed by big matches, but it will become the sleeper show stealer. Batista and John Cena is the best main event they could have for the show. The crowd reaction may surprise those watching at home, similar to that of Rock-Hogan and Big Show-Mayweather. Edge vs. Jericho is a Mania dream match. Even though the build has been underwhelming, it will still be a fantastic match. Taker and Michaels symbolizes the end of an era. This is likely the last great match that these two will be remembered for. And it should be. It’s the culmination of two legends from the same genre, but on opposite ends of that genre. It’s like watching a shoot out between John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
The tag team match between Morrison/Truth vs. ShowMiz provoked groans from tag match fans, but WWE has done a nice job of solidifying the Morrison/Truth team to the point that they pose a legit threat to the champions. That leaves the Divas match. This match was not even announced until Thursday night. Women are already not given the best of chances in WWE, but recent Wrestlemanias have showcased that neglect even more. Yes two of their best Divas are on the injured list right now, but the division has a ton of potential. Even though a few of them are nothing special, Maryse has been on fire for the last year or so and others are ready to step up. Heck, Beth Phoenix vs. Nattie Niedhart would be a WM dream match for Diva advocates. While Sunday’s tag match is not the most flattering of booking for the division, it’s nice that we at least get to see them on the card.
Speaking of the Divas, it is now time for Nosebleed Trivia.
This week’s subject is the Women of Mania. Enjoy!
What is the longest Women’s match at Wrestlemania?
Wendi Richter vs. Leilani Kai (WM 1)
Trish Stratus vs. Jazz vs. Victoria (WM 19)
Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James (WM 22)
Alundra Blayze vs. Leilani Kai (WM 10)
What is the shortest Women’s match in Mania history?
Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre (WM 2)
Chyna vs. Ivory (WM 17)
Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme (WM 21)
Terri Runnels vs. The Kat (WM 2000)
Who is the Diva(s) to compete in the most gimmick matches at Wrestlemania?
Who is the Diva(s) to compete in the most Wrestlemania matches overall?
What is the latest on the card a Women’s match has ever been placed?
How many times has the Women’s title changed hands at Wrestlemania?
Last week’s answers:
Question 1. Can you name two tag teams that split up, with one man from each team going on to wear the WCW title, while the other floundered in the mid car, but still made more money than Ric Flair.?
Steiner Bothers and Harlem Heat
Question 2. What team has had one of the most dramatic love/hate relationships in wrestling history, one half of which likes dead chicks?
Brothers of Destruction
Question 3. This tag team worked for the WWF for two years in the early 1990s. They fought for the tag team titles and had a pay per view title shot against the Natural Disasters, but never attained gold. By the end of their run they were used mostly to ?put over? other tag teams. Who is this team?
Question 4. What is the only team to hold ECW, WWE, WCW and TNA tag team gold?
Question 5. What tag team has shares a last name with two legends and are arguably the greatest tag team today who hasn?t signed with WWE?
A couple of weeks back TNA made what was considered an awful decision to turn Sting heel. WCW tried to do just that back at Fall Brawl 1999 and it bombed. Nobody wanted to boo Sting. In fact, him turning on Hulk Hogan elicited more cheers than boos. The Sting heel experiment in WCW lasted all but a month before he was back to the baby face ranks. TNA tried a heel turn recently with him in TNA with the Main Event Mafia, but again, it didn?t take. In early March TNA decided to do it one more time. Sting appeared on Impact and turned heel by attacking Hulk Hogan and Abyss.
Most fans watching groaned at the turn. On his way backstage Sting was confronted by Dixie Carter, who suffered a choking at the hands of the Stinger. Later on in the show Sting would suffer a humiliating loss to Rob Van Dam, only to retaliate by beating RVD with a baseball bat. That Monday TNA’s aggressive push for Sting to get over as a heel came across fairly lame at an attempt to make him a bad guy.
It’s not that it’s not a big deal to turn Sting heel. It’s that turning him heel is more forced than natural. With the failed attempts in the past one has to wonder if maybe the Sting character just cannot be a heel. Imagine if Ricky Steamboat had turned heel. That would have been awful. Some wrestling characters just aren?t meant to be heel and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it shows just how strong the character is as opposed to its limitations. A character can be so true to itself that it cannot be swayed to the other side just for the hell of it. How is an audience supposed to believe that the Sting so many grew up with would just come out on TV one week and start choking a woman? Watching that segment you could tell he didn?t feel comfortable doing it. The hard heel turn didn?t feel natural, but forced. That sort of turn makes it hard for the audience to suspend its disbelief.
That’s not to say it hasn?t worked for some. Hulk Hogan is the obvious example in this case. He was a THE good guy for over a decade before he turned heel. The turn revitalized his career and made him relevant in an ever-changing wrestling world. Even though it was a shock turn, the audience got the sense that Hogan really believed he was right. That’s what is so intriguing about heels. They feel they have been casted out by society and all they have left is their resentment and their belief that what they did was right, that they will be vindicated at some point. In the end, it leaves the road open to a baby face turn, but allows for the heel to perform some awful deeds in the meantime. The dirty impulses they act on seem so because the heel has grown indifferent.
That is why this heel turn for Sting just may work. The Sting character really feels he is right. For the first time in his career Sting may be on the verge of a fantastic heel run. When he returned to TNA and choked Dixie and turned on Hogan he became a heel to the general audience but a baby face to the cynics. There has to be a lot of fans who want to choke the powers that be in TNA. There has to be a lot of people that want to hit Hulk Hogan with a baseball bat. When he told Dixie that he didn?t owe her anything he was right. He doesn?t owe TNA anything. Look back to his days in WCW. He didn?t owe WCW anything, but he stuck by them through their war with the NWO. He has been burned before and as he enters the twilight of his career, he plans on going out on his terms. As he continues to develop over the next several weeks, he could become the most hated man in TNA.
The best move TNA has made in all of this was to put Sting as the captain for Ric Flair’s team at Lockdown. Pairing Sting with Ric Flair is brilliant. They obviously have a history and a respect for each other. If you want to teach someone how to be a heel, have them learn from Flair. If the Flair-Styles relationship can begin to layer itself and actually mean something TNA could be on the cusp of an intriguing stable, a three man alliance between Styles, Flair and Sting. You have Styles as the champion in the prime of his career with Sting as the veteran and enforcer, all the while Flair is the devil whispering in their ears.
Looking back at Sting’s opponents over the years shows just how perfect of a folly he was. From a character standpoint Sting was the absolute best opponent for heels such as Flair, Vader, Lex Luger, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle. By going to heel mode and adding a whole to new dimension to himself, Sting could be that guy again for baby faces like Abyss, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy and Pope.
Other than the motivations and reasoning behind the heel Sting the man really needs makeover. As he became outdated in WCW and became the Sting we see now, he needs to put this look behind and pick up a new one. He doesn?t need to cut his hair or dye it blonde. A new face paint design or new ring attire would certainly help.
As critical as many are of TNA, much of it is deserved; they may just have across something incredible with the Sting turn. It is still very early to tell for sure. It may still bomb or he may be a baby face again in one month. Yet maybe this will work out. Perhaps Sting may have found a new niche. Maybe it’s time to put the old Sting out of its misery with the swing of a baseball bat to the head.
Thanks for reading and enjoy Wrestlemania weekend!