The Anti-Antagonist: No Fighting Allowed

Adam Gorzelsky

WWE WrestleMania 28If you haven’t been able tell from some of my previous columns, I’ve been watching professional for a really long time…Not as long as a lot of other people, but I blame my parents for that…They should have conceived me sooner.

Because I’ve been a fan of wrestling for a considerable period of time, I’ve been privy to countless buildups to events with varying degrees of importance. In all of that time, I honestly cannot say that I have ever experienced the road to any Pay-Per-View, let alone Wrestlemania, as devoid of physicality between eventual combatants as this year’s Wrestlemania.

Just look at the three main Events. Ever since the Rock Bottom at last year’s Wrestlemania, the Rock and John Cena literally have done no more than lay a finger on one another. The Undertaker and Triple H have done nothing more than talk and watch vignettes of their previous battles…Hell, Shawn Michaels, the special guest referee, has been the victim of the most physicality to this point, being poked and prodded by the combatants at various points in time.

Even Punk/Jericho has been limited from a physical perspective. Jericho hit Punk with the Codebreaker to begin their feud, the two tangled briefly in the Elimination Chamber, Jericho attacked Punk once on the stage, and Jericho scored a rollup victory in a tag match…Other than those brief examples, the two have avoided physicality altogether, with Jericho not even appearing in person on the last three episodes of Raw.

This lack of contact hasn’t been limited to the Main Events either. Despite being involved in various tag matches together, Daniel Bryan has managed to skirt any and all physical confrontations with the Great White. The Kane and Orton feud, along with Cody Rhodes’ impersonation of Floyd Mayweather, probably represent the gold standard of physicality for this Road to Wrestlemania. Ironically, the Kane/Orton feud has received the least amount of buildup of any match other than the bathroom break…errr…Diva’s match.

Nobody has stood toe to toe with their foe, exchanging blows. We haven’t seen security pulling apart two hate-filled rivals…Hell, we haven’t even seen a faux contract signing end in some horrible physical calamity. Yet at the end of the day, my excitement going into Sunday is at an all-time high.

How is that possible? Have I gone soft? Has constant repetition of the term “Sports Entertainment” brainwashed me into forgetting that professional wrestling first and foremost is supposed to be about action?

While it is entirely appropriate to speculate about my susceptibility to being brainwashed, I truly don’t believe that I’ve forgotten my roots in any way. In reality, my excitement for this event hinges on the fact that the general avoidance of contact has made perfect sense…And I mean this not only from the perspective of leaving us in anticipation of finally seeing the superstars meet in the ring…A lack of contact also has made sense from the perspective of the character and storyline development that we’ve seen unfold.

Take Daniel Bryan for example. He has built an extremely entertaining character around the concept of claiming to be an accomplished, fighting champion, while in reality hiding behind his girlfriend when the shit hits the fan. Avoiding physicality has built the anticipation of Sheamus finally getting his hands on Bryan and also has left fans speculating as to how Bryan could possibly engineer another escape.

It makes sense.

Chris Jericho’s entire return has been built around him becoming the ultimate troll. He played on the emotions of the crowd for weeks, snuck away with a cheap roll-up victory in a tag match, and then viciously assaulted Punk’s family via satellite. Why? Because any other return would not have garnered the type of heat necessary to make this feud effective. Had Jericho simply played the “best in the world” card, insulted the fans a few times, and resorted to brawling with Punk leading up to Wrestlemania, there’s little doubt that most marks would not have accepted Jericho as a full-fledged heel.

It makes sense.

Taker/HHH speaks for itself. This feud has not been built upon hatred between the two men. In fact, the purpose of the feud has centered on the respect that each man has for the other. The Undertaker only can solidify his status as a Wrestlemania icon by once again defeating the one man who pushed him to the brink of utter destruction. Triple H can crown his hall of fame career by accomplishing the one feat that has eluded every superstar in the business. It’s all about Wrestlemania…Fisticuffs before that date would have been a tremendous mistake.

Rock/Cena is no different than Taker/HHH. These two could have gone at it the night after Wrestlemania 27, but a deliberate course of action has been chosen to preserve any physicality until the “Once in a Lifetime” match. I may have grown a bit tired of the endless promos involving these two, but I never once wished to see these two fight prior to Sunday. The pure anticipation of an entire year in the making is more valuable than any assault or toe-to-toe slugfest.

It makes sense.

At the end of the day, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t watch wrestling for the action. If I only wanted to see a story told with words, I’d watch a drama. However, I’m willing to endure an action drought when it serves a greater purpose…When it makes sense…When it leaves me biting my nails instead of scratching my head.

I’ve understood the logic of the booking for the past 6 weeks and am fully confident that Sunday’s payoff will be a satisfying reward for patience. I’m pretty damn excited and I hope you are too.

Just as a reminder, I will be spewing my usual nonsense via twitter throughout the show. You can follow me @PolishHMR if you care about what I have to say. Even if you don’t care what I have to say, feel free to send entirely justifiable insults my way. I take well to that sort of thing.

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