Today is Wrestlemania 26. And this is the 20th Issue of the mighty Tendown. Had I started a month and a half earlier, that would have been a helluva sweetass coincidence (another coincidence: earlier this week was the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which someone should have pitched as a stip to Russo when he was still booking TNA by himself - a Triangle Shirtwaist Fire match; they lock the doors of the Impact Zone, put some underage factory workers on a pole, that would have drawn a big quarter hour number) Did you read Last Week? You really should've; I did a Cake v. Pie tournament that turned out well, I think. It was an extra productive week for me in addition to that - my Wrestlemania preview is here, and my two fantasy baseball draft boards are here and here. I'll put up my picks for the upcoming MLB season at mid-week, which is when you'll also get the March Athlete of the Month and Counterfactual Wrestlemania Silver at the the other place.
Extra busy! Let's get to it.
First: Hey, look - It's a Book Tournament - 2009 books battling it out for literary supremacy, here's the final four:
Let the Great World Spin: A Novel v. The Lacuna LP: A Novel
Wolf Hall (a Om) v. The Book of Night Women.
I'd say I can't speak about this as informatively as could I the hoops tournament - but given the condition of my brackets, you should probably move to someone else for your basketball thoughts (the smart bracket, however, got the Duke/WVA half of the final four right).
But I am a good source for wrestling questions, and despite my general disapproval of most matters WWE (for you non wrestling fans who only associate professional wrestling with WWE - think of it like music or movies or whatever is the form of the culture in which you're most invested - WWE is the big corporate product, the most dumbed down, homogenized version of the craft - it's the 300 million dollar summer blockbuster; it's that Nickelback album that charted a half dozen different singles. You wouldn't define it as the whole of the art form. But you probably listen to the songs at the top of the chart and watch the films that make a lot of money; and sometimes, the machine produces something that fits your taste - or a director whose smaller movies you liked makes a giant studio film that has enough of who he used to be that it really works. That's what it's like) Wrestlemania 26 is tonight, and that means that, as I did with the ten Best Picture nominees for the Academy Awards, I'd like to structure the Tendown loosely around the 9 matches scheduled for tonight's show. I won't, I'll segregate my graps talk as best I can, keep it in a wrestling ghetto to avoid frustrating my readers who are disinclined to partake. I'm good like that.
I watched the Hurt Locker this week, incidentally. It wasn't any better than Black Hawk Down, both have that bang-bang vibe with a war setting, and, of war movies of recent vintage, I preferred Three Kings (and none of them are close to the documentary Why We Fight, which I'll take over Taxi to the Dark Side and the Errol Morris movie about Abu Ghraib). I also saw Spread (better premise than execution, and after a promising first 40 minutes it lapses into a pretty conventional story) and The Proposal (bad, but not as bad as rom-coms are these days; in the past handful of years, romantic comedies have moved from formulaic to godawful; I blame Gerard Butler, who is as untalented as Megan Fox without her level of photo friendliness - you know who is a good looking dude though is Ryan Reynolds; I know he's in superhero shape for whatever comic book movie he's shooting - but he and soon to be single Sandra Bullock get naked in a slapsticky scene and that guy is put together. Look how fat I am - I think as I watch the Proposal. How will I ever keep my lady friend happy being this fat while men like Ryan Reynolds make movies that aren't as bad as the movies Gerard Butler makes? These are the important questions for consideration.)
My encyclopedic understanding of Wrestlemania probably doesn't serve as a romantic point in my favor, but I do take a somewhat exaggerated pleasure in being of an age where I've watched every Mania; either on PPV or within a matter of months via video, dvd, or today, more rapid, technologically sophisticated means. I had tickets to VIII; memory eludes me as to why I was unable to attend. Men, as you are aware, can use sports as means to communicate (I've previously coined the term wrestleationship) I started watching wrestling with my brothers when I was about eleven and they were 3 and 4 years old - we were, for the first couple of years, barred from watching by our parents, a rule which, like most which have been imposed on me, I completely ignored - we'd pile into my room, keeping the sound low, and spend Saturday and Sunday mornings watching WWF. I went away to college in the fall of '88, but came home to watch Mania with them for a couple of years before the family moved across the country when I was a junior. I started law school in '92 and hadn't seen my brothers for a few years when I visited in January of '95 - they had stopped watching wrestling, but when I showed my brother Joe Wrestlemania X, which featured what are still the two best matches in Mania history, he was back on board. A few years later I moved near my family, and the combination of Japanese tape trading and the internet providing access to information made us both more sophisticated fans; we were able, for about a decade, to see each other once a week for a multiple hour viewing of current matches - I have a terrible, just painful time relating to other human beings, I've located it recently as Aspberger's (like Peter Krause's kid on Parenthood, which, as of yet, is watchable largely because of the likeability of a few of the actors as opposed to any interest in the storylines; I'd watch Lauren Graham read the phonebook and so far, it's not a lot more interesting than that) and whether that's clinically true or not - the level of panic in my head whenever in any social situation is difficult to express (I skipped my own 21st birthday party; I had a girlfriend once throw a costume party for Halloween and not invite me) and one of my very, very, very few occasions where I've looked forward to being in the same room with another person is when I get to watch wrestling with my brother. In most situations, when I'm in a room with someone else I feel like I can't be me, that I need to crawl as deeply inside my head as possible - but when I watch wrestling with my brother -- Barthes wrote a dissection of professional wrestling a half century ago, he said:
In wrestling, as on the stage in antiquity, one is not ashamed of one's suffering, one knows how to cry, one has a liking for tears
Wrestling facilitates, as opposed to suppresses, expression - it draws me outside of my head. Most of my passions are solitary; on my table right now are stacks of papers preparing for the baseball season, for the NFL Draft, filled with numbers only I will ever see; my brain runs on a fast but circular track, endless churning to arrive at only familiar stops. I'm Groundhog Day.
But not so much today. Today is Wrestlemania 26. It's the best thing about this week.
After the jump - the rest of the Tendown