By NICK TYLWALK|
Special to SLAM! Sports
WrestleMania, slamdunk or air ball?
Down the Ramp
By NICK TYLWALK --
For SLAM! Wrestling
The seconds are ticking down on the clock. It's all
come down to this. You've worked too hard all year to
fail now, especially since everyone is watching. You
know you can do it. Even though people have their
doubts, deep down you know you have the talent to pull
this off. Not much time left - no time to get
nervous. Take your best shot and give it everything
Sorry about that. I have this column to talk about
wrestling, but even three days away from WrestleMania
thoughts here in the States inevitably turn to the
NCAA basketball tournament. While I was nursing my
bronchitis this afternoon (the most unpleasant yet
most legitimate excuse I've ever had to stay home from
work to watch the first round), it struck me that the
WWF is going into the biggest pay-per-view of them all
looking a lot more like a low seed than the number one
it's made out to be. Think Hampton, not Duke.
To extend the analogy even further, the storylines
leading up to WrestleMania have been suffering from
their own special brand of March Madness. We had The
Rock bounce back from attempted vehicular homicide but
stay down when hit by Hulk Hogan's legdrop. We had a
husband and wife feud that pushed the head writer
while rendering the undisputed champion a mere
afterthought. Coming down the stretch we even had dog
doo and board meetings. Momentum is important at this
time of March and the WWF doesn't have it.
Making matters worse, head coach Vince McMahon seems
to be off his game. After a great run last year,
McMahon has scrapped a few of his reliable plays and
enters the big dance with a host of questions.
Critics whisper that the coach and his staff have the
most depth they've ever had but don't know how to
manage it. How will older players like Scott Hall
handle extended minutes? And while Coach McMahon has
a proud winning tradition - like his title runs in
1987 and 2001 - you only have to go back to 2000 to
find an early exit for Vinnie Mac and company.
Fortunately, the cupboard's not completely bare.
McMahon has a few players looking to prove themselves
on the sport's biggest stage. Think freshmen Rob Van
Dam and Booker T won't be busting it on Sunday?
Wasn't this the moment that Triple H worked so hard
for when he rehabilitated his torn quad? If the WWF
doesn't make a run, it won't be for a lack of effort.
The crowd factor also works in the WWF's favor. A
partisan crowd of more than 60,000 fans will be
pulling for the underdog to pull off the upset.
They've even got hometown boys Chirs Jericho,
Christian and Edge to support. The big dance hasn't
passed through Toronto in a while, so the sixth man
should be very evident on Sunday night. Wrestling's
own Dickie V - good ol' J.R. - will be on hand to call
Bet you never knew hoops and wrestling had so much in
common. I've pretty much run this metaphor into the
ground, but there's a heartfelt sentiment beneath all
the goofing. Despite the many naysayers out there
predicting otherwise (and I've been one of them on
occasion), I still think WrestleMania will be an event
worth watching. I was looking forward to attending it
in person until disease and logistics reared their
ugly heads, but I'll be watching anxiously on TV when
8 p.m. rolls around Sunday night.
Call it hopeless optimism if you want. I'm still
clinging to hope that the writers have some tricks
they haven't shown us yet. Maybe Hogan has one decent
match left in that "Immortal" body, and maybe Jericho
and Helmsley tear the house down with a minimum of
involvement from you-know-who. Just like you never
know how the brackets will turn out ahead of time, you
can't judge a WrestleMania until it unfolds before
Look at that, I managed to milk one more basketball
analogy after all. Let me leave you with one more.
If you're on the fence about whether or not to order
the pay-per-view, gather some friends together to
split the cost or find a bar that's showing it. Yes
it might not live up to the hype, but it could just as
easily be the WWF's one shining moment.
March 1 ... WWF return a test for Hall
Feb. 22 ... WWF return a test for Hall
Feb. 15 ... Nick who?