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    Wednesday, April 6, 2022

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania 38

    Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 38

    Vince McMahon himself has gone on to publicly admit that he loves marketing hyperbole. It's why he calls WWE wrestlers "Superstars" (and, previously, Divas), why he coined the term "sports entertainment" to replace "pro wrestling," and ultimately, why the promotion for WrestleMania 38 kept hammering home the point that this was going to be the "most stupendous two-night WrestleMania in history." Either you believe it or you don't, but you at least know it was never going to be boring.

    The best bet for many wrestling fans is to not buy too much into the hype. MJ does say in Spider-Man: No Way Home that you should expect disappointment to not get disappointed, and while one shouldn't outright be dismissive of WWE's efforts and their potential to amaze, you also shouldn't take the hyperbole at face value. WrestleMania 38 was never going to be the "most stupendous" WrestleMania, and Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar was never going to be the biggest main event in WrestleMania history, all because it doesn't become true just because they keep repeating it.

    If you don't buy into any of the hype and just treat it as a WWE event that's simply the biggest show of the year on paper, it's easy to see it for what it is: plain, pure pro wrestling fun.

    The biggest complaint levied against WWE in recent memory is that Vince McMahon never really seems committed to giving the crowd what they want all the time. He's interested in satisfying himself and his yes-men, taking the WWE audience through what's really an emotionally abusive journey that constantly lets them down and leads them on with a few scraps of fulfilling booking every now and then. That's why AEW—with its commitment to doing exactly the opposite and allowing the crowd to feel joy—has captured the hearts of many. WrestleMania 38 is a reminder of what could really be possible when Vince decides to give the people what they want.

    Admittedly, this show is part of that cycle of psychological abuse—that's putting it heavily—but at the heart of it is just a lot of fun, and pieces coming together perfectly. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, we learned, is still in tremendous shape, and could actually wrestle a match. Bianca Belair was being prepared for her second big moment after suffering what seemed like a major setback last year. Jackass star Johnny Knoxville came to play in what was a greatly entertaining "match." Even Logan Paul himself came to play, understanding the assignment and not just showing up to collect a nice WWE payday. Pat McAfee is every bit the invested wrestling fan who also knew what it takes to perform at WrestleMania. 

    No matter what anyone both in and out of the WWE says about the company, it's clear that it's still made up of people who want to live their biggest pro wrestler dreams and entertain the masses in their moment of glory. That's what inspired everyone on the roster to put on a show that was by no means perfect and five-star, but just a rollicking good time. Expect fun, not perfection, and you'll walk away from WrestleMania 38 full.

    WrestleMania 38 Saturday Rating: A-

    WrestleMania 38 Sunday Rating: B

    Match of the Night

    The biggest lesson anyone should learn in their wrestling fandom is that it shouldn't take a well-wrestled match to create something that's highly entertaining. All it takes is some competence, decent execution, and commitment to create something that's fun, and Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville stole the show just by sticking to that. It's nice to have super dramatic, spot-heavy five-star in-ring classics, but sometimes you just want something that evokes a visceral reaction, even if that reaction feels shameful because you're conditioned to publicly like a certain type of match. If you must watch anything from WrestleMania, let it be this one.

    Photo from WWE

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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania 38 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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