Not everyone is a professional wrestling fan, but everyone no matter you age, economic or social status seems to know what "Wrestlemania" is. With "Wrestlemania XXX" emanating live from New Orleans on PPV and from participating Cineplex locations, I got the chance to talk to the Doc Chad Matthews, the author of "The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment" to talk about what it is about this year event that has thrived over all of these years.
It's the 30th Anniversary of the showcase of the immortals, and when you say something like "TLC" or "Money In The Bank" non-wrestling fans just scratch their heads, but what is it about "Wrestlemania" that has survived in the pop culture lexicon for all these years?
Chad Matthews: The thing that has always set it apart from the rest has been the early involvement of celebrities and this what helped really get it off the ground. If you look at one of this year's Hall of Fame nominees, Mr.T, he played a huge part in that. And while some hard core fans may dismiss his accomplishments I dare say he did more for professional wrestling then some of people's favorite wrestlers. Back in the day he was a pretty big deal and with the transition now from the early days that used to be wall to wall celebrities, now we just get them here and there like a Floyd Mayweather and a Donald Trump has just helped the events main stream credibility truly explode, it's a tangible factor that has allowed this even to set itself aside from others in sports and entertainment.
In the history of professional wresting or sports entertainment, no matter how athletic and talented you were, it was always the guys with the charisma, the guys who could talk are the ones who could get over and get paid, however these days there is a shift a little more towards the middle as guys have needed to be able to work the crowd physically and verbally, how do you feel that the fans perception has changed over the years?
CM: Yeah, that really has been one of the more interesting things to watch over the years. I think a lot of does come from the rise of the internet and the rise to greater access to be able to get closer to these guys. If we rewind the clock to the prime years of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior and times we just simpler back then and we weren't as close to the product as we are now. These days, a 7 year old can jump on the internet and read a backstage rumor about John Cena, that really has nothing to do with the on screen product. Because of the internet, the access we have has just changed the dynamic and I guess you could say that the fans are just smarter. It was easier for the WWE, to play the puppeteer and tell the fans what they want them to like but these days, it's the exact opposite and someone like Daniel Bryan right now on the current product is a perfect example of that, with a guy with that kind of look getting over to the extent that and to watch that play out is amazing.
It does amaze me that in this new day and age, how booking and the office really does have to go week by week to gauge the audience reactions and building an event four, five months out is really a thing of the past.
CM: Yeah it really is, and I think that in terms of up at the top in the office they really just have to study the trends like us fans. Wrestlemania has become so big over the years and when we have these past stars that are now really the celebrities that they lean on to make it such a big event, and before the advent of the WWE Network they've had to base most of their business model around Wrestlemania being this hugely successful event. For them at this point it really is about trying to find that guy that they can put on the marquee and sell to the masses, and a guy like Daniel Bryan really doesn't fit that mold at all because even if you go back in history, even a guy like Chris Jericho who isn't this big huge guy, he makes someone like Daniel Bryan look small by comparison.
It's just that organic underdog story where the fans recognize that this guy is just really good, and his "Yes" movement really caught on, even going back to Wrestlemania 28 where he lost the title in 18 seconds to Sheamus, and they really marked the beginning of that underdog moment for him. I remember going to a pay per view event in Raleigh, North Carolina about 2 months later and at the time CM Punk was very popular, but Daniel Bryan in the role of the antagonist or the heel was just as popular based on the reactions I was seeing from people around me. As much as they want to ignore it sometimes, the guys at the top just can't after awhile. The WWE has always been pretty smart about eventually figuring out what works and just going with it.
What is it about the underdog story or that Wrestlemania moment that we've seen play out in various connotations over the years keeps us coming back for more?
CM: It's just such a natural story, as easy as it is for us to get behind the ultimate hero, it's just as easy for us to embrace that ultimate underdog story. You look back at someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin, who certainly wasn't an underdog but he certainly appealed to people in a non traditional way. He had a very lunch pail attitude and that "Us vs. Them" kind of story is something that really resonates with people and he never fit the mold of the traditional main event guy. I mean something like March Madness that is just wrapping up now, and without fail, every year there is one underdog team that the nation just gets behind and it's just such as easy story to get wrapped up in. Back in the day it was good vs. evil, now it's us vs. them who represents us as the fan base. The guy whose not supposed to be there, but gets everything thrown at him and will overcome it all. It resonates with people so easily.
"The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment" by The Doc Chad Mathews is available at all major retailers. "Wrestlemania XXX" is available on PPV from all major providers and at select Cineplex locations.
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