January 31, 2011

My night at the Royal Rumble.

It began, as it always does, with a Shawn Michaels DVD.

I've never tried to hide my love of wrestling, but it was an infatuation that's mostly died out. I don't watch any of the weekly shows, and I haven't been to a live wrestling event in seven or eight years. Several of my friends gamely try and keep up, but it's not what it used to be. The heyday of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon is long over.

But I was there live when The Undertaker hung the Big Boss Man at WrestleMania XV, which was maybe the worst Mania of all time, and I also attended the epic duel between Michaels and Mankind at the Mind Games event in 1996. I stay on top of the older guys that are still chugging along, and I'll watch the occasional pay-per-view if someone else invites me over. I wouldn't call myself a fan, but there's a lingering, begrudging respect I maintain for wrestling and its entertaining theatrics.

So when I heard that the Royal Rumble was coming to Boston, it was a no-brainer; I was going. The Rumble is by far the best wrestling event of all time; the excitement of all the stars in one ring, the spectacle that is the 10-second countdown before each new entrant and the allure of a title shot for the winner. Nothing else can compare. WCW came kinda close to repliciating it with World War 3, but it fizzled out early and never rose to the level of the then-WWF's original offering. You can't copy perfection.

In preparation, my friend Matt and I relived some of the good old days by popping in the aforementioned Michaels DVD. We watched several of The Heartbreak Kid's matches, including his No Holds Barred match with Diesel and the first-ever Hell in a Cell between Michaels and The Undertaker. Nothing we'd see in that night would come close to replicating the classic mid-'90s action, but it did remind me why I liked "sports entertainment" in the first place; it used to be pretty damn entertaining.

Matt and I then met up with a work associate at Boston Beer Works; I can't imagine being over the age of 20 and attending a wrestling show sober. And luckily, this one catered to the drinkers out there. The Rumble itself is always the main event, which gives fans plenty of time to get lubed up during the early matches, and the women's title match that directly preceded the battle royal provided 10 solid minutes of boring action that could be used for beer procurement and a bathroom visit.

Then it was Rumble time. My friends and I each bet $5 on a possible winner; I had John Morrison. I thought he was the prototypical young star that would greatly benefit from a Rumble victory; they could even rev up a feud between Morrison and his former tag team partner The Miz, who coincidentally is now WWE Heavyweight Champion. It seemed like the obvious ending...which, of course, means that it didn't happen.

It turned out that Morrison's big moment was his crowd-pleasing Spider-Man impression; Alberto Del Rio, someone I'd never heard of before, turned out to be the young guy getting the huge push. And hey, it made the three Hispanic guys next to me extremely happy, so good for them.

But it's the little moments that made the night special, not the $10 I frittered away on Rumble bets (the other $5 was lost at the last second on a knee-jerk Wade Barrett-versus-Del Rio wager). The return of Diesel and Booker T, in particular, was a great bone to throw older fans like myself. I'd argue that Booker T got the biggest pop of the entire night, and Diesel's ranked right up there next to Cena's. I doubt the company will do any more with those guys, but it was quite a thrill to see them one more time.

Will I go to another wrestling event anytime soon? Absolutely not. I even turned down a ticket to WrestleMania a few months ago; this was quite enough for me. But if I were to stumble upon another Rumble ticket in a few years, even if I'm married and have kids at that point, you better believe I'd be there. Even for a wayward former fan like myself, there's just nothing like it.

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