END OF THE MANIA: World

END OF THE MANIA: World Wrestling Entertainment held its 19th annual Wrestlemania event last night, and it proved once and for all that WWE’s time in the zeitgeist is long gone. While the event featured a few moments of excitement in four hours, the bulk of the event just underscored that the magic of the former WWF is all over. In fact, just about the only “sport” that’s in worse shape right now than wrestling is its companion ringsport, boxing.
WWF/E experienced a second renaissance in the late ’90s because it was able to create new stars (like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple-H) and tell original and engaging stories while, at the same time, rival WCW was recycling over-the-hill stars (Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, etc.) and putting them in weak, contrived, and unbelievable storylines. Since putting WCW out of business two years ago, the WWF has made one bad decision after another: the launch of the XFL, the botching of the WWF vs. WCW angle, the change in name to WWE, the inexplicable decision to split the federation in half (the “brand extension”), and perhaps worst of all, they’ve borrowed WCW’s penchant of using lazy, over-the-hill wrestlers who are of little use outside of their name value (since the merger they’ve brought in Hogan, Flair, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, and Shawn Michaels, among many others whose best days are far behind them). On top of that, the federation has seemingly run out of convincing, groundbreaking, stories to tell.
Wrestlemania XIX was headlined by four matches: the third different WM tilt between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin; a battle between world champion Triple-H and the overmatched Booker T; a fight for the other world title between former amateur champions Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, and (worst of all), the years-in-the-making battle between Hulk Hogan and chairman Vince McMahon, two men with a combined age of almost 110.
On top of gratuitous appearances by marginal celebrities Ashanti, the Miller Lite catfight girls, and (gag) Limp Bizkit, the matches themselves were rather lackluster: Rock-Austin was been-there-done-that, Triple-H-Booker boring, Hogan-McMahon ridiculous and plagued with a surprise appearance by the equally geriatric “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and the otherwise strong matchup between Angle and Lesnar was spoiled when Lesnar botched an off-the-top-rope move and landed right on his head- making the new champion look especially weak after suffering a concussion (Angle himself is facing up to a year out of action with a neck injury of his own). What looked on paper like a strong card turned into a dud; not even the scheduled three-way match pitting Chris Benoit and Rhyno against Team Angle against Los Guererros lived up to expectations.
For the WWE to have a third renaissance, it’s going to have to tear itself down and build up again, as it did after its early-’90s nadir. Perhaps new acquisition Goldberg will help, but he can’t do it alone. Indeed, Goldberg made his debut tonight on RAW, and his entrance and brief confrontation with The Rock had more electricity than the entire four hours of Wrestlemania combined.
In the meantime the world’s greatest business columnist, Christopher Byron, takes a look at the WWE, drawing parellels both with the war in Iraq and Martha Stewart’s recent difficulties. Don’t miss it.

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