ready to rumble
Ken Hoffman reports from the slammin' Wrestlemania 38 in Arlington
After 19 years of being sidelined by injury and show business opportunities, Stone Cold Steve Austin finally opened one last can of whoopass at WrestleMania 38 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Austin was supposed to be a guest on heel wrestler Kevin Owens’ in-ring “talk show,” but Austin went all Will Smith on the host when Owens got lippy about Austin’s beloved state of Texas. A referee jumped between the ropes, a bell rang, and the interview turned into Saturday night’s main event.
Austin won by smashing Owens pillar to post while drinking several cans of his signature beer, Broken Skull IPA. Austin promptly announced his retirement, this time for good, after the match.
This was my 19th WrestleMania, including Mania 17 at the Astrodome and Mania 25 at NRG Stadium. This trip had some bonus excitement. I booked two nights at, let’s say an inexpensive motel a few miles from AT&T Stadium. I’m not a hotel guy. As long as the toilet flushes and the place has cable, I’m good. When I woke up Sunday morning and opened the door, the first thing I saw was bumper-to-bumper police cars in the parking lot. I asked someone with the motel what’s up? He said “the usual.”
The AT&T Stadium press box was packed with 125 esteemed journalists from across the U.S. and around the world. There were hard-hitting reporters from BILD newspaper in Germany, Al Jazeera, Mundo Deportivo, The Kelly Clarkson Show,Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Hollywood Life, The Athletic, Sirius XM, Bleacher Report, and Comicbook.com.
The Kelly Clarkson Show? Once I was in Germany and read a headline on the front page of BILD saying that Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury was ill. He died the next day. Not all press is good press.
WWE always packs a goodie bag for the working press — this year a souvenir program, commemorative WrestleMania hoodie, premium weight T-shirt and ball cap. It's not the Academy Awards.
As always, the Mania press box was catered: hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, quail (at least I think/hope it was quail), slaw, cookies, and cake. Unlike the Houston Astros, WWE doesn’t charge reporters to eat. If you’ve ever bumped into the sports media, you understand why the Astros would go broke feeding that bunch for free.
The night before Mania, Madcap Moss won the prestigious Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Madcap also dabbles in standup comedy.
Samples: “I hear that Atlanta is the biggest city in Georgia. It’s funny, though, I didn't know they were basing that on weight.
“What do you call a Battle Royal named after the smartest Texans around? A Cattle Royal.”
Shecky needs to stick to wrestling.
With 77,899 fans crowding AT&T Stadium, here are the results from Night One (Saturday) of The Showcase of the Immortals:
Jimmy and Jey Uso successfully defended their Smackdown tag titles by turning back the challenge of Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs. I missed most of this match because I went back to catering when I heard they had hot dogs with sauerkraut, the unsung hero of the condiment industry.
Charlotte Flair retained her Smackdown women’s title by pinning former MMA superstar Ronda Rousey in a controversial match. Rousey locked in an arm bar on Flair which caused the champ to tap out. However, the referee didn’t hear Flair quit because he was busy being unconscious from an earlier collision.
When he regained his senses, Flair kicked Rousey in the head and earned the victory. I smell a rematch.
Seth Freakin’ Rollins fell to the returning Cody Rhodes, who was Mr. McMahon’s handpicked surprise combatant. Rhodes has spent the past few years with a rival organization before signing with WWE several weeks ago.
Bianca Belair won the Raw women’s title by defeating Big Time Becks Becky Lynch in a brutal match that absolutely stole the show at Mania.
The Miz and Logan Paul upset the father-son team of Rey and Dominick Mysterio. I’d be wearing a barrel with nothing under it today if I had bet on this match. While celebrating their victory, The Miz sucker shot Paul and stomped back to the dressing room. Thanks for nothing. Sorry, not sorry.
This year’s inductees of the WWE Hall of Fame are: the Undertaker, Queen Sharmell, the Steiner Brothers and Vader. Queen Sharmell and her husband Booker T (also HOF) live in Houston.
Night Two (Sunday) on the Grandest Stage of Them All:
Raw tag champs RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) kept their belts in a slobberknocker against the Alpha Academy and the Street Profits.
The Almighty Bobby Lashley speared and pinned the previously undefeated giant Omos.
Jackass star Johnny Knoxville pummeled Sami Zayn in an "Anything Goes” match. Knoxville softened up Zayn by hitting him with a fire extinguisher, a metal stop sign, trash can, and baking sheet. I’m sure some of that is legal. The coup de grace was Knoxville rolling a bowling ball straight into Zayn’s testicles.
Bowling champion Jason Belmonte couldn't have done it better. Then Knoxville threw Zayn onto a buffet table covered with mouse traps. The match mercifully ended after Zayn was caught in a giant mouse trap that could decapitate Godzilla. Jackass 2, coming soon to cable TV.
Naomi and Sasha Banks pinned poor Carmella (the “Most Beautiful Woman in WWE”) to steal, yes I said steal, the Raw women’s tag titles. Contrary to the King Kong movie, this time it was beast that killed that beauty.
Edge performed a mid-air spear that knocked AJ Styles into next Thursday and earned the winner’s share. Damian Priest interfered, which may come back to bite Edge in the butt. There’s no free lunch in WWE (except in the press box).
Wrestling announcer and crack podcaster Pat McAfee ruled the airwaves beating Vince McMahon’s personal protégé Austin Theory. McAfee won despite being escorted to the ring by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. They’re nuthin’ but trouble.
In a shocker, McMahon climbed into the ring and beat the crap out of McAfee, only to have Stone Cold Steve Austin storm down the ramp and stun everybody in sight. Weird, even for wrestling. I loved it.
The main event, champion vs. champion, saw Universal champ Roman Reigns spear WWE champion Brock Lesnar 100 times to become the undisputed champion of WWE. It took a low blow for Reigns to do it, but all’s fair in love and wrestling.
Sunday night’s attendance was 78,453 for a total of 156,352 fans over WrestleMania weekend. Next year's Showcase of the Stars is in Los Angeles.