After a long and illustrious career, I retired as a wrestling fan about five years ago. Once they added that second weekly show (“Smackdown”) and changed their name from the “WWF” to the “WWE,” that was it for me — I scaled back to three pay-per-views (WrestleMania, Survivor Series and SummerSlam), stopped watching “Raw” regularly and banned myself from any wrestling Web sites. Eventually, I stopped watching altogether. Wrestling is like anything else — either you’re into it or you’re not.
But when I heard about the Hulk Hogan-Shawn Michaels main event for this year’s SummerSlam, deep down, I knew I would be forking over $34.95 to DirecTV. Who cares if they’re a combined 100 years old and have maybe 75 hairs between them, or that I knew heading in exactly how the match would play out? I didn’t care. Not only did I shell out the $34.95, I even kept a running diary.
Here’s what transpired
8:00 p.m. — I love when the WWE kicks off its pay-per-views with someone performing the national anthem, like it’s a real sporting event. Isn’t that a little like the competitors at the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest saying grace right before they inhale dozens of hot dogs?
8:05 — Well, we have seven announcers tonight: Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross and the Coach (Raw crew), a Spanish crew and Michael Cole and Tazz (Smackdown crew). Are they trying to top the number of announcers in the “The Naked Gun” or something? Where are Curt Gowdy and Jim Palmer?
8:10 — Our first match is for the U.S. Championship: Orlando Jordan against Chris Benoit, who has an “I used to headline some of these things, now I’m wrestling some guy named Orlando Jordan?” look on his face. This match will last about as long as Jose Cruz Jr.’s career did with the Red Sox.
8:11 — Yep, Benoit used the German suplex and the Crossface to win the title in about five seconds. Good to see the WWE is still practicing the old SD Jones Policy with black wrestlers — in other words, come out, dance around, lose in under 20 seconds.
8:15 — Well, one thing hasn’t changed about the WWE: The jaw-droppingly bad acting. Words can’t describe the scene that Eddie Guerrero and his wife just had — even Bob Guiney’s movie scenes from “Kill Reality” had more life.
8:16 — Time for a grudge match between Matt Hardy and Edge, who stole Hardy’s girlfriend, Lita, away from him a few months ago, causing Hardy to flip out to the point that the WWE briefly released him, then rehired him after the fans demanded his return. The lesson, as always: Never fall for a girl whose right shoulder is covered in tattoos.
8:22 — Take this for what you will, but Hardy and Edge look like they’re actually punching each other — this is like a UFC match. Did wrestling become real and nobody told me? This is unbelievable. Is every match like this?
8:24 — “When you think about it, Matt Hardy’s life has been ruined forever,” Coach tells us for the 19th time in three minutes. Come on. You could go to any strip joint in Vegas and find a skinny chick with an attitude who’s covered in tattoos. Um, not that I would know.
8:26 — Something you rarely see: The referee just stopped the match because Hardy was bleeding like a stuck pig. Holy crap. That match gave me that same sick feeling I get when I watch those “UFC Greatest Knockdowns” shows.
(But was it a real “shoot” match? Sure seemed like it. Should I go on one of those wrestling info sites to find out? See, this is why I didn’t want to get into wrestling again )
8:30 — Now we’re ready for a “Custody of Dominic” match. Who’s Dominic, you ask? He’s an 8-year-old with bleached hair who just found out that he’s the son of former WWE champ Eddie Guerrero, even though Rey Mysterio Jr. (another wrestler) has been raising him. Now Rey and Eddie are settling things the way most Americans do in this situation — by battling in a wrestling ring with a 10-foot ladder, with Dominic watching from ringside. This was actually the original plot for “Over the Top” before Stallone switched to the truck-driving/arm-wrestling idea.
8:37 — Tazz sums up Mysterio’s motivations tonight: “This match is more important than championships and money. This match is about his son. I know biologically, Dominic is not Rey’s son, but that little boy was raised by that man, Rey Mysterio. He wants his kid in his household and I hope he gets it.”
8:38 — Cole chimes in: “I adopted both of my boys I understand what Rey Mysterio’s going through, just because you’re not the biological parent of your son does not mean you cannot be a father, that you cannot be a Dad, that you cannot be there for him.”
(What is this, the Maury Povich Show?)
8:41 — According to Cole, Eddie is 0-6 against Rey in his career. All stats tonight courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau. By the way, the kid playing Dominic is giving the most emotional performance since Ricky Schroder in “The Champ” right now.
8:45 — Some good comedy — Eddie screws up a powerplex from the top of the ladder, followed by the crowd quickly pulling the old-school ECW chant, “You [bleeped] up! You [bleeped] up!” That’s always fun. Why couldn’t fans in every sport do that chant whenever players screw up? Wouldn’t a Yankees-Sox game be more fun if the Fenway fans chanted that after a Jeter error? All right, I’m babbling.
8:51 — Decent Ladder Match so far, tainted only by Cole and Tazz, who sound like Joe Rogan and Tony Danza after about nine Red Bulls apiece.
8:59 — And the guy who gets custody of Dominic is Rey Mysterio! Tazz sums up everyone’s feelings by gushing, “Dominic is going where he belongs!” Yup, going home to a guy who wears a mask and pretends to beat the hell out of other guys. Sounds promising. Can we set him up with Courtney Love’s kid in a few years?
9:03 — In an interview, Chris Jericho calls WWE champ John Cena “the flavor of the month, just like David Cassidy or the New Kids on the Block or Andrew Shue, this is his fate.” He’s immediately contacted by VH1 producers to appear on “Best Week Ever” this week.
9:05 — Our next match: Kurt Angle (the former ’96 gold medalist in Atlanta) against Eugene, (a brain-damaged version of Hacksaw Jim Duggan) who stole Angle’s medal. In the background, you can see the fans fleeing for the concession stands. I’m not even kidding.
9:08 — Let’s just say that you’ll never be hearing the words, “And the neeeeeew WWE champion Euuuuuuuuuuuuu-gene!!!!!!!!!”
9:11 — Angle wins in six minutes and gets his medal back. I’d rather not talk about it.
9:14 — Highlight of the night: A staged shot of girls in bikinis cleaning a limo with a Presidential seal on it, followed by Vince McMahon rolling down the window and saying, “Hey, why not?” and then the camera scrolling to a bumper sticker on the car that reads, “MCMAHON FOR PRESIDENT” as the crowd erupts. Let’s hope he’s kidding.
9:15 — Just my luck, Undertaker is wrestling tonight — it’s his 14th straight SummerSlam, although it feels like it’s his 1,400th. I’d rather watch the Chyna-XPac sex tape on a 200-foot plasma TV than see the Undertaker wrestle again.
9:15 — Hey, wait a second did Undertaker get his eyes lifted? Where are the bags under his eyes? Very suspicious. Wouldn’t you have bags under your eyes if you were the Prince of Darkness? You would think so, right?
9:25 — Tazz uses the phrase “tremendous upside” to describe Randy “The Legend Killer” Orton (Undertaker’s opponent tonight). No word about his wingspan or whether he’s long.
9:30 — All right, is it possible that Tazz is Tony Danza with tons of makeup on? I’m just asking. Meanwhile, my two pooches (Dooze and Rufus) just had their own wrestling match in the TV room, culminating in Rufus triumphantly humping Dooze while holding a stuffed monkey in his mouth. That’s Roofie’s thing — if he’s humping someone, he needs a stuffed animal in his mouth. And you know what? We don’t judge in our house.
9:37 — Orton wins with help from his father, WWE great Cowboy Bob Orton, as a furious Undertaker storms off to get a chemical peel and butt implants.
9:44 — Battling for the WWE title: Chris Jericho and champ John Cena, known for his mediocre rapping, a truly mediocre catch phrase (“Come get some!”) and a finishing move called “The F.U.” He’s like a younger, watered-down version of Stone Cold Steve Austin, with a little Vanilla Ice thrown in. Needless to say, the crowd seems a little lukewarm on him. And I’m downright lukecold.
9:55 — The Sports Gal watches a few minutes, notices that half the crowd is rooting for Jericho and half for Cena, then says, “I think I’ve figured out wrestling crowds — it’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, right? You get dressed up, you get into it, and you pretend it’s real?” Um, yeah. Pretty much.
9:58 — Jericho is carrying Cena — this is like one of those old Utah playoff games where John Stockton would put Karl Malone on his back down the stretch. Really good match. I’m enjoying myself. So is the crowd.
10:01 — Cena wins with the “F.U.” finishing move as the crowd … well, they didn’t really explode. In fact, it seemed like they were mostly rooting for Jericho — never a good sign when you’re supposed to be the good guy. With Cena, it could be time for the Hollywood Hogan Memorial “Emergency Swerve” — when a good guy starts losing the crowd and they quickly make him a bad guy to mix things up. I love when that happens.
(Me, I’m just excited that I can keep writing “F.U.” and it’s a legitimate part of this column.)
10:03 — Just saw a promo for “Wrestlemania 22.” That’s right, no more roman numerals. You think wrestling fans were getting too confused? Yeah, it’s Wrestlemania ex ex eye eye … um … how many is that?
10:05 — Up next: Batista against JBL for the World Championship belt, setting the record for “Least combined letters of two wrestlers’ names in a main event.” More important, didn’t we just see the WWE title match? Now there’s another one? At least JBL is doing some sort of rich Texan gimmick — he’s like a cross between JR Ewing and Ted DiBiase — and I could swear he’s the same guy who used to be Bradshaw a few years ago. Is that possible? I love when wrestlers switch gimmicks midcareer — the best ever happened when Dr. Isaac Yankem (an evil dentist) somehow became Kane (Undertaker’s disfigured brother). Nobody even batted an eyelash. That’s wrestling.
10:09 — Forgot to mention, I don’t know much about Batista, but it seems like he’s doing the Triple H “I’m so jacked, I don’t need any gimmicks, I just need to look like my body might explode at any time” gimmick. Not so coincidentally, these are usually the guys who start growing second jaws and third foreheads.
10:14 — Tazz and Cole are so brutal together, my head is actually starting to hurt. It’s like being stuck inside a car while the alarm is going off, only if you were sitting next to a rattling chainsaw. Remember the scene in “Anchorman” when Brick Tamland just starts screaming, “Loud noises! Loud noises!” That’s Michael Cole announcing any wrestling match. I don’t know what we’re yelling about! Loud noises! Loud noises!
(By the way, Batista just won. Boring name, boring match. Couldn’t they call him “Executioner Batista” or “Big Bad Batista” or even “Roid Rage?”)
10:17 — Just e-mailed my friend Grande (a wrestling nut) to see if that Edge/Hardy brawl was real or not. His response: “I know they wanted to work stiff … make it look real because of the angle.” Let’s hope that’s the last time he sends me an e-mail with the phrase “work stiff” in it.
10:20 — Time for our main event: The Legend (Hulk Hogan) vs. The Icon (Shawn Michaels) in what critics are excitedly calling “the baldest main event ever!” These guys have been feuding ever since Michaels super-kicked the Hulkster after his umpteenth “final” match for the WWE, which amazingly coincided with the premiere of the surprise summer hit “Hogan Knows Best” on VH1. And yes, I’d be about 10 times more excited if I hadn’t seen the episode in which we found out Hulk has an artificial hip and an artificial knee.
10:28 — When it comes crashing down, and it hurts inside Ya’ gotta take a stand, it don’t help to hide If you hurt my friends, can you hurt my pride I’ve gotta be a man, I can’t let it slide I am a real American Fight for the rights of every man
(Good times! The Hulkster is in the building!)
10:33 — Coach gushes, “You can talk about electricity, and you say that word a lot, but tonight, right here, right now, it is absolutely electric inside the MCI Center!” In other words, it’s electric in the MCI Center right now.
10:35 — Since poor Hogan can’t move, and since the skin around his chest is wound tighter than Nicole Kidman’s forehead, we’re headed for a steady diet of shoves, shoulder blocks, arm locks, headlocks, elbows, punches, chest slaps and kicks in other words, it’s just like every Hulk Hogan match. I don’t know why I even brought this up.
10:44 — Poor Hulkster just bladed (cut himself with a razor blade to make himself bleed, although we aren’t “supposed” to know he did it) and has fake-looking streaks of blood rolling down his face. He was always terrible at blading — in WrestleMania 2, you could see him doing it during the King Kong Bundy match, I remember being devastated at the time. But that’s a whole other story. Anyway, he’s wearing the crimson mask.
“Guys, what did I tell you?” Coach says smugly. “Hulkamania dies tonight.”
10:46 — One of my favorite Hulk routines — when he’s “passing out” and the ref lifts his arm twice, then Hogan waves a finger up on the final time. Always fun to do with your baby if you’re ever trying to determine if he is asleep. By the way, Michaels is absolutely carrying this match. No surprise, but it had to be mentioned.
10:49 — Well, the ref just got knocked out. I think I could have predicted everything that happened in this match so far — except for Hogan’s catheter getting yanked out and urine spraying everywhere. Nobody saw that one coming.
10:52 — Classic Jim Ross here: After getting super-kicked, Hogan kicks out on a two-count as JR screams, “For the love of God! How in the hell did that happen???”
Yup, you know how this one’s ending — couple of punches, big boot, leg drop, one-two-three. That’s the great thing about Hulkamania: It’s pretty much timeless. I could have been 13 and the match would have ended that way. I could be in my mid-30’s and the match would end that way. For some reason, nobody really cares.
Here’s my theory: We like seeing the Hulkster win matches with the old Hogan Formula for the same reason we like seeing those dopey reunion shows of “M.A.S.H.” or the “Brady Bunch” on TV, or those reunion concerts from the Stones or Bruce or the Eagles, or even those handheld video games where you can play Pong and Intellivision baseball and Donkey Kong. Maybe it’s the same stuff, and maybe they’re not as good as they were, but they still make you feel like a kid again. It’s nostalgia on demand.
(And on that note, I’m off to pretend this entire night never happened.)
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy’s World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.