There’s been a lot of talk in the post-brand split era about repeat matches. Hell in a Cell is itself a rematch-a-thon. Which is why WWE’s main event on Raw this week puzzled the heck out of me.
To go back a bit, our story starts at Wrestlemania 20, when we had to sit through what was one of the weirdest matches I’ve ever seen between two guys who didn’t really want to be there and a special guest referee who seemed troubled by the fact he was there.
The match was terrible, and that’s from a guy who rarely criticises actual performances for their quality knowing that the guys in the ring are busting their butts to put on a show for the paying audience watching in whatever format they’re watching in.
But on this occasion the match wasn’t terrible despite that, it was terrible because I didn’t get the sense that either of them were busting their butts, as both were leaving the company and everyone knew it. It didn’t even have the excuse of being an ‘end of an era’ match, we knew that both were leaving the company because they didn’t really want to be wrestling any more. Because they had no passion for it. The crowd weren’t really invested and the match didn’t really mean anything.
Fast-forward 12 years and I’m about to go through the same match and I don’t really know why.
To promote WWE 2K17? To give Goldberg a final send-off? Because there’s nobody else creative has built up sufficiently or free from other feuds to challenge Lesnar on one of the few dates he’s available? Because WWE thinks it is money?
It is probably all of those things, because this touches on what I wrote about last week – having Lesnar in any match is money and having Goldberg is too. It will guarantee some loyal WCW viewers tune in, even if they hated him. Enough time has passed that it’ll be ok for Goldberg to come in, hit a few signature moves, not do much else, lose and still get a pop. We’re not looking to the future here and developing a rivalry or feud to last the test of time and provide a series of great matches.
But isn’t that the problem? We’re not looking to the future here. We’re not looking to develop a rivalry or feud to last the test of time and provide a series of great matches.
This is an exhibition – and I have never liked exhibitions. I know a lot of people like, for example, house shows – but to me if the match doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t lead anywhere (or end something) then I don’t see the point. They’re like the comedy filler episodes in lengthy episodic dramas on TV – I just don’t care about them. Tell me the story. Further the plot. Develop the character.
But we all watch wrestling for different things, don’t we?
And you know what? Some people watch wrestling to watch big guys slug it out. I remember one previous writer on this site who absolutely loved a HOSS FIGHT and I don’t tend to disagree with him. I don’t want a match card filled top to bottom with high flyers doing similar things with four dives through the ropes in a show. I don’t want a match card full of hoss fights either, I want a good mix of both and there’s one thing about this match that none of the other matches have in the same way.
Big name draw.
The second chapter of my story had that as well – The Rock returning to face John Cena at Wrestlemania. I thought Rock vs. Cena I was terrible. I thought it was boring and I didn’t think the end of the match justified a Wrestlemania main event billing. But I was interested in it because it was Rock vs. Cena.
Now it was great that I wanted to see that match and had it been left ad that I’d have put it down to a once in a lifetime match and been glad of it, as I was glad of Rock vs. Hogan years earlier. I DEFINITELY DIDN’T want to see Rock vs. Cena II, not only because it was predictability itself but because I’d seen it before – the big match feel was gone.
I’ve seen Brock vs. Goldberg before. I’ve written a couple of articles about who Brock Lesnar should face in the coming months (maybe the last ones we have him for) and Goldberg, someone he’s faced before, wasn’t one of them. I thought it was a waste having 3 matches between Trips and Brock and I thought it was a waste having a series of matches between Undertaker and Brock after the streak was broken – who cared if Undertaker got his W back after the streak was gone? I don’t’ get it. The significant thing, the big thing, in Undertaker’s career maybe the biggest thing, had already happened, what else was there to say in those following matches?
But the significant thing about Brock vs. Goldberg II is that despite the fact it has already happened, and that when it did happen both guys were in great wrestling shape, it still has a big match feel. It feels like a one-off return (although I doubt it is) and that gives it a better atmosphere than the first.
Even though Goldberg is now in his fifties and Brock doesn’t seem to want to wrestle like the wrestler he used to be any more, whether through his own design or WWE’s, I think this match is going to matter.
I also think that the match is going to suck, again.
But is that the point?
Wrestling needs more than pure wrestling masterclasses, otherwise everything would be a house show with no need for storylines. Wrestling needs over-the-top, larger-than-life characters, for kids to relate to. Wrestling needs storyline and character development to stop it from becoming procedural and formulaic. Wrestling needs big events to distinguish one event from another.
Goldberg vs. Brock I should have been a big event, but it was so overshadowed by the crowd knowing they were abandoning wrestling shortly afterwards, that it never had a chance.
Goldberg vs. Brock II is a big event, featuring larger-than-life characters, developing the story that Goldberg is one of the few people to beat Brock Lesnar un-avenged. It’s a match that whether you like neither guy, either guy or both guys, I think we can say they deserve. This is the proper send-off for the one thing WCW got right and one of the very, very few grudge matches left for the Beast Incarnate.
So that proves the WWE needs the match, right?
In my view, yes, it does. I’m interested in it personally, it’s undeniably a big event, a talking point and a draw. We saw the ratings spike this week for his return. It’s already worked.
I fully expect the crowd to dump on Goldberg when the match actually happens, but that won’t matter. That will be another story. If it does, that will, paradoxically, make people want to go back and see the match, to see how bad the reaction was.
Any way you look at it, this increases interest in the product and therefore it’s a good thing.