Off the Bottom Rope
WrestleMania, A Quadless McMahon, and the Most Intelligent Man in Wrestling.
When Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes clashed in the ring Sunday night at WrestleMania, Inglewood hadn’t seen such a heated rivalry since Magic took on Bird,
The end result, though, was Bird taking the win on a referee’s non-call. And, the announced 81,000 at SoFi Stadium were not happy.
Reigns’ reign as WWE Universal champion continued as it is approaching three years — the longest run since Hulkamania in the 1980s.
Fans and wrestling critics disapproved of the booking. For most of the 38 prior WrestleManias, the good guy emerged victorious in the main event. Fans wanted Cody Rhodes to win. His motto heading into the main event was “Finish the Story,” a reference to winning a title his legendary father Dusty Rhodes never captured.
Cody will have to wait another time.
The fans were ready to explode as it appeared Rhodes was about to win. Before he could finish Reigns, the referee got knocked down, Reigns’ cousins, The Usos, interfered. But, they were neutralized by their adversaries, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn making the save.
The referee Dan Engler magically came back to life. Cue “advisor” (the fancy new word for manager) Paul Heyman distracting the referee and another Reigns stooge — Sola Sikoa, another cousin — interfering and causing Rhodes to lose.
Buy, Buy Vince McMahon
This is likely the last WrestleMania with the McMahon family owning a majority of WWE. News broke on Sunday, and confirmed a day later, that Endeavor — the corporate entity that owns UFC — will merge with WWE.
Vince McMahon re-emerged after a nearly eight-month public hiatus to make the announcement. He will head the WWE side of the new company, but no longer be a majority owner. The McMahon family has owned and operated the WWE and its precursors since the mid-20th century.
Last year, McMahon left day-to-day operations after allegations of sexual and financial misconduct came to light. Those were serious accusations deserving of serious punishment.
But, don’t let consequences get in the way of a billion-dollar business deal.
Related Story: UFC, WWE Combine to Form $21.4B Sports Entertainment Company
Shane: Like Father, Like Son
WrestleMania is always full of surprises. Just like Vince McMahon, his son Shane made an unexpected appearance.
When Shane was introduced after a 15-month layoff, I told a noted wrestling author in the press box that Shane is the worst promoter’s son in wrestling since George Gulas. That may not be true. I forgot about Mike Von Erich.
Shane’s return lasted about two minutes. He blew out his quad when he leapfrogged over his impromptu opponent, The Miz. Snoop Dogg saved the segment, taking over the fight against Miz.
The quad injury seemed familiar. Father Vince blew out his quads at Royal Rumble 2005, held in Fresno.
The WWE said they set several records at WrestleMania 39. It generated a $21 million gate from 161,000-plus in attendance for the two-night event.
Attendance figures can be tricky. There is the real number, then the “worked” number that sounds good on TV. I asked an insider whether the 161,000 was legitimate. I didn’t get a straight answer, but was told that figure could include anyone in the building, from paying fans to the popcorn vendors.
Either way, the stadium looked packed.
Other records the WWE said WrestleMania set: most viewed WrestleMania on Peacock, The WWE Network, and pay-per-view), sponsorship, ($20 million), and social media response.
Kevin Nash: Wrestling’s Intellectual
WrestleMania weekend means more than just the big WWE show. It also means dozens of wrestling cards and events. WrestleCon brought hundreds of legends and modern-day fighters to the historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
The Biltmore hosted eight Academy Awards in the 1930s and 1940s. Historic photos adorn the wall. And, there is a long history of wrestling and movie crossover.
The biggest star, The Rock, did not make an appearance. But, Kevin Nash did.
The near seven-footer is a Hall of Fame wrestler — former WWF champion as “Diesel,” founding member of the New World Order — and has several acting credits on his resume.
I find him to be the most intelligent man in wrestling. Nash hosts a weekly podcast, “Kliq This.” He talks about wrestling but can hold a decent conversation about anything. Travel, politics, life after 40.
A career taking bumps slowed down Nash’s knees, but fortunately not his mind.
Don’t Meet Your Heroes
I enjoyed WrestleCon (expect future OTBR stories from my interviews there) and seeing the legends of wrestling.
Some older wrestlers seemed to have slow a mental step. Others remained hustlers. After interviewing one name of the past, he asked if I wanted to buy merchandise.
Bushwhacker Butch, scheduled to sign at WrestleCon, fell ill and died. The Hall of Famer was 78.
Then, there is my fellow University of Michigan alumni Rick Steiner. In his post-wrestling career, Steiner is an Atlanta-area real estate agent and elected school board member.
I enjoyed a brief chat about Ann Arbor, with Rick and Hall of Fame brother Scott. Another Rick Steiner conversation that weekend caused a stir.
Steiner allegedly made transphobic and homophobic comments to another modern-day wrestler. He was reportedly asked to leave by WrestleCon organizers, and witnesses told OTBR that only Scott Steiner was at their table the next day.
A text to Rick Steiner (real name Robert Rechsteiner) went unanswered. Neither was a message sent to the accuser, Gisele Shaw.
Shaw was not on the official WrestleCon guest list.
Sometimes, memories of my favorite wrestlers are best left in the ring.