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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Wrestle Mania!

Sideline Scholars

At long last, the sports-free malaise of February is behind us. With the Super Bowl now 29 days in the past, it's time to begin looking forward to the next big sporting events. We are just two weeks away from the highlight of spring sports, the largest sports entertainment event in the world, the showcase of the immortals: WrestleMania!

What were you thinking, March Madness? Rest assured, we have plenty of ink to devote to that topic in the coming weeks. Oft ignored by the mainstream press, professional wrestling has produced some of the greatest sports moments of recent memory. Who could ever forget Hulk Hogan slamming and defeating Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit in 1987? Or the Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart one-hour Ironman match in 1996?

Think UCLA's seven straight NCAA basketball championships were impressive? The Undertaker is a perfect 11-0 in WrestleMania matches and is expected to extend his winning streak this year against Kane. The Duke-Maryland rivalry? Child's play compared to The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin's series of WrestleMania main-event matches.

After hitting its popularity zenith in 1999, professional wrestling's image has been in a freefall the last few years. Smaller promotions like ECW and WCW went bankrupt, and the World Wrestling Federation was sued by the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF moniker, forcing it to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment. Additionally, several big stars such as Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock have retired or gone Hollywood in the past few years, forcing the WWE to try and create new stars.

Now, Vince McMahon and his merry group are ready to regain the national sports spotlight. New stars, like former Olympic wrestling champion Kurt Angle and intense Canadian Chris Benoit, appeal not only to the stereotypical redneck 'rasslin fan, but to those who appreciate the athletic and choreographic aspects of pro wrestling.

Now that even the staunchest WWE supporters have to admit that pro wrestling is staged, McMahon and company have changed their style to adapt to a smarter fanbase. Gone are the days of Sergeant Slaughter shockingly turning on his home country to support Iraq. Instead, we now have La Resistance, a tongue-in-cheek group of arrogant, anti-war French stereotypes. Matches and storylines are tailored to appeal to Internet wrestling fans, known as smart marks, who read Web sites devoted to discussing what goes on behind the scenes in the WWE.

WrestleMania is the WWE's annual flagship event, sort of the Super Bowl of pro wrestling. This year, the main event of the show will feature Bill Goldberg, a former NFL player, battling former NCAA wrestling champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, given the nickname of "The Next Big Thing" by the WWE, is young, athletic, personable and has a unique look. Doubtless, McMahon is counting on him to become the biggest star in the sport soon, so look for Lesnar to end the show with a victory in dramatic fashion.

Elsewhere on the show, the aforementioned Benoit and Michaels will wrestle Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H is the bane of the Internet smart marks' existence, as many of them believe he abuses his position in the WWE by never losing any matches. To compound matters Benoit is a favorite of the Internet fans for his amateur-style wrestling ability. Many excited smart marks will be anxiously watching this match to see if Triple H finally drops his championship title. With a series of WWE shows planned in Benoit's home country in April, it's widely expected that he will break through and win the World Championship at WrestleMania.

With Lesnar and Benoit ready to be crowned the new kings of the ring, as well as up-and-coming stars like Angle, John Cena and Eddie Guerrero in action, WrestleMania could be a big step in reviving the popularity of the WWE. McMahon and company are ready to impress the modern sports fan and prove that WrestleMania belongs with March Madness and the Super Bowl as the premier events of the sports entertainment world.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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