2023 Newsfeed

WrestleMania 39: why I care about wrestling’s biggest event (and why you should, too)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, that’s right, April is just around the corner, and that means one thing… No, not April Fool’s Day, Earth Day , or even Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. I’m talkin’ about WrestleMania baby!

WrestleMania 39 Hollywood to be precise, emanating from So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles on April 2-3 (AEDT). Hosted annually by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), it’s the biggest wrestling event on the calendar.

I can hear you asking – “Wait… Is he talking about that fake-ass wrestling with all the sweaty, gyrating men (and women)?” Yes, yes I am. You probably also think that only low-IQ, uncivilised rednecks watch said wrestling. Well, you are wrong, and I shall explain why. 

You see, I haven’t always been the handsome, charismatic Renaissance man I am today. I was, at one point in my life, a weird little kid with a plethora of weird little obsessions. One of those obsessions was professional wrestling. I adored the theatre of it all – the theme music, the pyrotechnics, the over-the-top moves, and the even more over-the-top characters.

Characters like The Undertaker, a Western ‘grim reaper’ who legitimately made spectators believe he was dead. Absurd? Sure… But when the guy is throwing people off the top of giant steel cells, or sacrificing fellow wrestlers, or literally burying people alive, you can begin to imagine how a seven-year-old boy might be intrigued by such a spectacle.  

The first thing you need to understand about pro wrestling is that it isn’t wrestling – it’s a TV show about wrestling. WWE’s weekly episodes regularly attract well over 1 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic. The vast majority of those adults, if not all, understand that what they are watching is not a contest, but rather predetermined entertainment. But this does not mean that wrestling is fake.

Wrestlers can sustain serious injuries, or worse, while performing. 

Man wearing baseball cap and sunglasses on his head smiling and giving two thumbs up
Wrestler Owen Hart posing for photos on 15 May, 1999, six days before he fell and died while performing a stunt at a show (US Coast Guard)

What distinguishes wrestling from a regular TV show is the presence of live crowds that form a significant portion of the show’s soundtrack. These crowds are very much unscripted and unpredictable, so wrestlers and support personnel must be reactive to keep the masses pleased. As a result, wrestling matches are less like choreographed ballet and more like freestyle dances – they keep to a skeletal predetermined structure, but the finer details are decided on-the-fly.

One of the most anticipated matches at WrestleMania 39 is the showdown between Charlotte Flair and Australia’s own Rhea Ripley for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, which will likely headline night one. This match has been brewing for no less than three years, ever since Ripley challenged Flair at WrestleMania 36 and lost her NXT Women’s Title. Both women are determined to prove themselves on the grandest stage of them all.

Will Ripley finally get her revenge on Flair? Or will Flair continue her dominance and add another notch to her resume? 

Another match that has generated plenty of hype is the clash between Seth Rollins and Logan Paul. Former WWE Champion Rollins and infamous YouTube sensation Paul have been at odds since Paul eliminated Rollins from the Royal Rumble match in January. Since then, Rollins has been obsessed with getting revenge on Paul, calling him out on social media and on his podcast. Paul accepted Rollins’ challenge for WrestleMania 39, but not before punching him in the face and knocking him out cold.

Will Rollins be able to teach Paul a lesson in respect? Or will Paul shock the world and defeat one of WWE’s top stars? 

But perhaps the most anticipated match of WrestleMania 39 is the main event of night two, where Roman Reigns will put his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship on the line against Cody Rhodes. This match has been a long time coming, ever since Rhodes made his triumphant return to WWE at last year’s WrestleMania, and signalled his intention to continue his father’s legacy by winning the title. Despite a setback from a very real pectoral injury, Rhodes won the 2023 Royal Rumble match and clinched his title shot against Reigns.  

Reigns, on the other hand, has been an unstoppable force since becoming the Universal Champion in 2020, and then unifying the major titles to become Undisputed Champion at last year’s WrestleMania. He has dominated every challenger over an almost three-year period with the help of his family of which he has declared himself “the head of the table” and “the tribal chief”. Most recently, Reigns retained his title after defeating former stablemate Sami Zayn in an emotional bout.

The buildup to this match has been top notch, with some excellent speeches (known as promos) and mind games from both men.

Will Rhodes fulfil his dream and dethrone Reigns at WrestleMania? Or will Reigns continue his reign of terror and crush Rhodes’ hopes? 

So yes, I’m excited for WrestleMania 39. Maybe I’ll even take the entire day off to watch it? Been there, done that.

Point is, pro wrestling is a special and unique kind of entertainment that has been stigmatised for being fake. As with all stigmatises though, it’s way more fun if you open your mind and find out for yourself. 

WrestleMania 39 is on April 2nd-3rd and you can watch it on streaming platform Binge.