Tuesday, 21 November 2017
The Non-Fan Review 4 // The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns (WM 33)
Three blokes, have become two, with Sam Button stepping down prior to this edition...so Two blokes who've had little time for professional wrestling...watch professional wrestling...then write about professional wrestling. That's pretty much the premise that we're building this series around. Our two non-fans will be given iconic moments from the history of wrestling and this month they'll be looking at Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker from WrestleMania 33, the most recent incarnation of the sports-entertainment spectacular, what will our intrepid graps newbies make of this one?
Andrew suspects he may be an alien from another planet, frequently finding human rituals baffling. Wrestling is one of the many things that continues to baffle him, but no doubt his findings will be subjected to rigorous study back on his home planet (wherever that is).
This is easily the longest match I have watched so far in this strange yet interesting experiment - and the slowest. Hulk Hogan was all about the theatre. Hart and Austin brawled non-stop, including with the referee. The billionaire shave-off arguably had five fighters, six if you include the Donald, so there was never a dull moment. This is, perhaps, the first "ordinary" match I've watched, for a given value of ordinary.
I mean, take the competitors. Dark and sinister music as a man in black enters. He punches the floor, and fire erupts along the path to the ring. This is the 265 pound Roman Reigns. Swollen muscles, detailed tattoos, hair urgently needs conditioner - and he's not even the scary one.
Then the bell tolls, the choir starts up, the organ music swells. Roman's competitor takes his sweet time, but he doesn't bother with such mediocre entrances as walking in through the door. He merely rises from the ground. This is the Undertaker, the ultimate goth. He hasn't even entered the ring yet, and Roman looks worried. The audience have gone quiet, too. Even the commentators have nothing to say. This dude is scary. But man, I love this guy's style.
Slowly, deliberately, the Undertaker strolls up to the ring. He undoes his long coat but doesn't seem quite ready to take it off yet. However, he does have a neat trick with rolling his eyes into his head. Five minutes in, the Undertaker finally removes his hat and coat. He's a big guy with a receding hairline. I can see why he likes the hat. Roman stands quietly by, waiting for the match to begin.
And then it does - Roman charges in, but is swiftly punched back by the big guy. Trapped in the corner under a barrage of punches, he breaks away. The Undertaker simply walks beside him, takes his head in one hand and shoves him through the ropes and out of the ring.
Roman steps back in and tries again. Swings and misses. Takes a barrage of punches and gets shoved out of the ring again. Roman prowls around the ring, the Undertaker watching him the whole time - it's a cat fight without the miaowing.
Finally Roman makes his move, and as the Undertaker moves in to chuck him back out he shoves the big guy's face into the ropes. The Undertaker staggers back. Roman climbs into the ring while he's distracted. Charge! WHACK! Damn it, these guys always try for the charge and it. Never. Works.
Roman swings again, and this time connects. The Undertaker staggers. Roman lands another blow and sends the big guy into the ropes. Then he yells out, charges forward and sends the Undertaker spinning over the ropes and out of the ring. He lands deftly on his feet (see? cat fight).
Roman strolls away, then turns to see the big guy just standing there, waiting. Roman is puzzled. Wasn't he supposed to go sprawling? Roman steps forward to complete the job. Mr U grabs his foot and pulls him over. Then he yanks him out of the ring, gives him a solid headbutt and throws him noisily into the metal steps leading into the ring. Roman hits the deck. Ouch.
There's no yelling, no running, no expression. The Undertaker is as slow and relentless as the Terminator, or Pepe le Pew. He casually tosses the steps away. Then he just as casually tosses the gulping fish that is Roman Reigns back into the ring.
The two men rise. Still dazed, Roman takes a punch to the head and blinks in surprise. He seems unable to resist as the Undertaker takes his arm and prepares to throw him across the ring - but, somehow, Roman reverses it and it's the big guy that sails across the canvas. He bounces off the ropes, flips over Roman's shoulders and hits the ground. Maybe the little guy has a shot after all.
The Undertaker struggles upright, clearly unused to falling down. That metal endoskeleton is clearly heavy. Roman tries to shake some sort of cramp out of his arm and decides the best approach is to whack it down on the big guy as he's getting up. Then he helps him up before dishing out a savage headbutt. The Undertaker rolls out of the ring and walks away, a little dazed.
Roman comes out to play and gets a surprise punch in the jaw. As he staggers away, the Undertaker gives him a guiding hand and then a headbutt of his own. For a moment, both men are simply milling about like zombies, and then the Undertaker picks up his opponent, legs kicking, ready to throw him back into the ring. But Roman slips down behind him and shoves him into the post!
Both men wander dazed for another moment, which seems to happen a lot in this match. A few blows are exchanged, and then they both need a moment to get their breath back. I can see why the Undertaker may be struggling but surely Roman's not that old?
Roman surges back to life with a flying kick into his opponent's face. He picks the big guy up, throws him back into the ring and climbs back in himself. As the Undertaker sags against the corner post, Roman aims a series of punches and kicks.
Unlike some of our earlier brawls, this match is almost gentlemanly - Roman lets the Undertaker stagger to his feet, then the two men take turns punching each other in the face. Eventually the Undertaker gets a second shot in, then throws Roman into the ropes - but the young man grabs hold rather than rebounding. He kicks out, hitting the Undertaker in the face, who stands there with an expression that says "oh no girl, you didn't just do that."
The two men stare at each other for several long seconds. Then the Undertaker slaps his opponent in the face, throws him into the post, punches him, headbutts him and then slings him into the opposite corner. He charges into Roman, who sags helplessly. Then Roman gets lifted up, thrown chest first into the ropes and taken down with a flying kick. Then the Undertaker decides to sit on his face - hard. Pinned to the mat, surely it's all over for this young whippersnapper?
But no. Roman throws a desperate arm up - it doesn't connect, but it makes the Undertaker get off. The big guy waits, and Roman slowly gets up, rolls out of the ring and walks away. The Undertaker follows. Roman yells as he makes a flying charge - but the Undertaker swats him out of mid air with one mighty right hook. Roman is prone on the edge of the ring. Again.
As Roman slowly recovers, the Undertaker politely asks the commentary team to get up. He quickly clears the table of its miscellaneous electronics. As Roman gets to his feet, the Undertaker gives him a swift punch to the face and then drags him over by the hair. SMACK! Head first into the table. WHACK! Another headbutt. Give up already, Roman.
But he won't. He gives another battlecry, then lets fly another flying kick. Both men go sprawling - the Undertaker on the floor, Roman spreadeagled on the commentary box.
Both men struggle to get up. Roman goes for another flying kick but the Undertaker once again snatches him out of midair. He lifts him up and SMASH! Roman ends up on (or maybe in) another table. He struggles up and rolls onto the floor.
There's still a third commentary table unmolested. The Undertaker starts clearing it in readiness.
The Undertaker climbs onto the middle table, Roman pulling himself painfully up with its support. The Uglytaker (dude, that face should never try to smile) does a little showboating to the crowd.
What happens next is almost too fast to see. Roman charges forward and flips both of them back into the newly cleared table. Now it's in pieces and I can't guarantee the two men aren't as well.
Both wrestlers are panting furiously amongst the wreckage. The referee checks on Roman - he's still moving, but that isn't saying much. The Undertaker is barely moving at all. Roman struggles back to the ring while the big guy sleeps.
The crowd boos. This is not what they wanted to see. But the boos turn to cheers as the Undertaker suddenly sits up. It's not over yet. But as he climbs slowly back into the ring, Roman is waiting with a helping foot. Kick! Stomp! Knee in the face! Knee in the face! You should have stayed down, Underweartaker! Stomp! Kick!
The Undertaker rises up to a sitting position. Roman tries punching him in the face but keeps missing, hitting him with his armpit instead of his fist (arguably worse). Mr U just sits there and takes it, leaving Roman out of breath and his opponent looking up with weary bafflement - "what was that all about?"
Okay, thinks Roman. Time for plan B. He climbs up the ropes, over his unmoving opponent, who simply watches with detached amusement. He doesn't even complain at getting a face full of sweaty man crotch, never mind the punches on the top of his head.
Roman is getting tired, doing all the work. After countless blows to the Undertaker's head and still no reaction, Roman yells something at the guy that I can't make out. Suddenly, the Undertaker's arms shoot up and grab Roman's buttocks. It looks like he really likes that crotch in the face after all. Or maybe not, as he staggers into the ring and drops Roman like a sack of cement. The Undertaker falls on top of him, pinning him down while the referee counts.
Roman shoots an arm up. He's not done yet. The Undertaker rises from the floor, aiming a savage punch at Roman's arm before he wanders out of the ring. He's not going far - just to pick up a steel folding chair from the devastated commentary area. Back to the ring he goes, putting the chair down while he climbs into the ropes - just long enough for Roman to make a grab for it. But the Undertaker is having none of that and stomps down. Roman falls back.
The weary Undertaker picks up the chair. He slowly hobbles towards the crawling Roman, adjusts his grip on the chair and jabs the edge of it down upon the younger man's back. WHAM! There's a moment of calm as Roman pulls himself back onto his hands and knees, and then WHAM! The flat of the chair smacks into his back.
"Get up," says the Undertaker. Roman looks up, wondering whether it's worth the effort, and gets another chair in the back for trying. No, it wasn't worth the effort. The "sadistic and cruel" Undertaker (who so far has been a perfect gentleman, chair aside) waits patiently for Roman to move again.
This time, as Roman returns to all fours, he discards the chair. He raises a single hand as if to say "wait for it..." but what "it" is we will never know. As if knowing something is coming, Roman changes tactics and rolls aside, under the ropes and out of the ring. That's one way to get back onto your feet.
The Undertaker follows him out, but then immediately climbs back in as Roman reverses direction. Suddenly, FLYING PUNCH! Blimey, Roman, where did that come from? The two men stagger drunkenly about for a moment, and then Roman tries another flying punch. This one is less impressive but enough to send the big guy into the ropes. But a third time? Bad idea. There's a nasty crunching sound as the Undertaker grabs Roman's throat in midair. The younger man is lifted up, then thrown down onto his back. Right on top of the steel chair.
The Undertaker pins him down. The referee counts. Surely this is it now for Roman? But no - he motions once again that he's not done yet. The Undertaker makes a face to the camera that seems to ask the same question - how much longer can this go on?
The Undertaker stands. Roman sprawls. The big guy motions to the crowd - is he planning some special finishing move? He kicks the chair gently aside, then helps Roman to his feet (by the hair... well, it's the thought that counts). He picks him up, spins him round on his shoulder and then drops him down into... well, it's a position I've only adopted with some very special friends, and we were normally lying down at the time. Honestly, there's more crotch eating in this match than some porn films.
Suddenly, DROP! Roman's head bounces off the mat. I think they called this one "piledriver" and I can see why. The Undertaker plays to his name, laying out the prone body like an Egyptian pharaoh, but a few more seconds of that crotch in Roman's face are enough to bring him around. He jerks violently to one side, and the Undertaker rolls off, a look of dazed confusion on his face. "But... he dead!"
The two men pause for breath, one sitting and the other a gulping fish flat on his back. Several seconds pass before either has the strength to move.
The Undertaker rises, adjusts his trousers and picks Roman back up - this takes a couple of attempts. Roman doesn't resist as the Undertaker lifts him onto his mighty shoulder, but it's a lift too far - Roman slips down behind him, lifts the big guy instead and gently drops him onto the mat. The Undertaker tries to reverse it, but fails. After several seconds of random grappling, Roman lets him go, and then floors him with a flying punch. He likes those.
Roman attempts a pin by the unconventional method of falling on top of the big guy and hoping he doesn't get up. It doesn't work. Mr U shoves him away, and the two men gasp for breath again. Honestly, they seem to have spent half this insanely long match resting between blows. Roman struggles up into the corner. The Undertaker crawls slowly to his feet. Several more seconds pass.
Suddenly, Roman throws his arms up in a show of strength and LEAPS for the other man. Both go sprawling. Exhausted, Roman crawls over to the big guy for another pin - but the Undertaker grabs his hands, wrapping his mighty legs around the younger guy's neck. The two men cry out in agony, neither willing to give up, the Undertaker trying to dislocate Roman's left arm and Roman trying not to breathe any more crotch fumes.
They roll around. Then Roman puts a foot on the bottom rope, and this is apparently enough to get the referee to break the hold. We've seen this before with Umaga and Lashley - I guess it really is a rule, though I'd love to know what it's about.
In any event, we have several more seconds of both men crawling painfully across the ring. The Undertaker grabs for the chair - but Roman beats him to it, his mighty foot pinning the chair to the floor. The Undertaker looks up. Roman picks up the chair. WHACK! The Undertaker takes a chair to the back. SMACK! The edge of the chair slams into the big guy's side. "My turn now, bitch!" CRASH! Another broadside on the back. THUD! The edge of the chair punches into his stomach. Roman's had enough now. He's got the chair and he's enraged.
The Undertaker struggles to get up. The chair comes down again and again. Roman goes for a rest in the corner. The Undertaker pulls himself back up with the aid of the ropes. Roman sighs. Here we go again. A flying charge, a body hitting the mat, another attempt to pin. And still the battle goes on.
The Undertaker struggles back up. Roman roars, charges, pins... and the Undertaker STILL gets up. Is there any way to stop a dead man?
Roman walks away, thinking. Another charge, half flying punch and half body slam. No pin this time - not much point - but the Undertaker can't even sit up now. Roman walks slowly closer, watching and waiting. The big guy crawls over, on his knees, and the two men exchange unheard words.
Roman bounces off the ropes, aims a punch, lands a second, throws a third. Then he bounces, bounces, bounces off the ropes while the Undertaker stands dazed and helpless. WHAM! He charges into the big guy. He's down. He's pinned. And finally, FINALLY, Roman has won.
Roman climbs out of the ring, a slow victory hobble out of the arena. The Undertaker lies broken on the ring. Fireworks erupt over the arena (this is the first I've noticed that we're outside).
The Undertaker twitches, and slowly sits up. The graveyard music stirs up again as, back in his coat and hat, the big guy bids farewell to the crowd. Roman may have the victory, but the Undertaker remains the fan favourite.
He removes his gloves, placing them on the ring. He removes his coat, carefully folds it, then places it upon the gloves. The seconds tick by. Then the trademark hat too comes off, placed upon the coat. The Undertaker walks away, greeting his fans as he slowly walks away, leaving his image behind. The smoke billows, and the Undertaker sinks back into the earth from whence he came.
Damn, that dude has style.
Summary: That took forever. The Undertaker is basically the Terminator - emotionless, relentless, impossible to kill, and with an iconic look that commands awe and respect. Roman Reigns may have won the match, but the Undertaker will never be defeated for long.
Nick is a 5'11" homo sapiens who never watched wrestling before in his life before embarking on the project.
Born at an early age, he is currently finishing off a PhD in linguistics and has never referred to himself in the third person. He doesn't intend to start now.
Sometimes, things happen that make you realise how far we’ve all come. In the short time I’ve been reviewing wrestling, I’ve seen matches stretching back to the late 80s, to 90s, to 00s, to this very year. While the essence remains the same, the trappings change and evolve to meet the trends of today.
This year’s WrestleMania was presented by three shouty men in blue blazers with haircuts like characters from Yu-Gi-Oh. “The New Day” (odd since there are three of them, shouldn’t it be “half a week”?) are in a suspiciously good mood. We have an announcement to make, exclaims Yugi: this year’s tournament has a record-breaking attendance of 75,245, expounds Dreadlocks. Thank you and you all rock, adds Crewcut.
An unusually subdued video greets us in the buildup to our next bout; it seems that there is a chap called the Undertaker, who is wrestling’s “greatest entertainer”. I wonder why that is, maybe he does puppet shows for children? Nah, probably not - most of this video consists of Undies (as I’ve affectionately decided to call him) digging a grave in sepia tones with enough melodrama for an entire season of Hollyoaks. This is all because a chap with spiky sleeves called Roman Reigns (nice name, wonder if he did Latin at school?) flattened Undies in a rumble. Resplendent in his big hat and proclivity for fog machines, Undies will not take that lying down!
Our old chum Jim Ross - he of the amazing hat - has come over to do some commentary; his well-dressed chum Michael informs us that poor Jim has had a rough couple of weeks.
Roman Reigns enters (to boos) with the words “ROMAN EMPIRE” projected behind him. (It should be IMPERIUM ROMANUM if they want to be authentic.) Punching the floor to trigger off some pyrotechnics and then prowling slowly down the catwalk like a supermodel, Roman is wearing a fetching black gauntlet/black booties combo, as well as black trousers and a black vest with Spider-Man logo and lots of straps across it (to keep his girdle in place?). He also has a sleeve up only one arm, curiously; maybe he burned himself while doing the ironing? Whatever the case, some random lass lets us know that Roman is 265 pounds and from Pensacola, Florida; moreover, this match has no countdown or disqualification, only “submission or pinfall”. Her subsequent claim that “this match favours the dead man” makes me wonder whether necromancy will be involved somewhere along the way.
But then the lights dim! Twelve tolls from a bell (as a real-life campanologist, I’d estimate from the tone that it’s a similar size to the tenor from Blackburn Cathedral), a puff of smoke and LO! The Undies has arrived. The crowd goes wild as Undies twangs his way ever-so-slowly to the ring, wearing an enormous hat and a coat with weird bumps up the back, like a baby Stegosaurus. He’s been at this 25 years, the commentary informs us; he’s certainly taking his sweet time, the bell tolls eight more times in the time it takes for him to mooch his way over. The camera zooms in longingly and we see Undies facing the corner post of the ring, rolling his eyes like a teenage girl sitting on a washing machine. He takes off his coat and hat, showing us his leather trouser/black vest outfit. “What is Roman Reigns thinking right now?” wails the commentator. Going off his facial expression, Roman looks bored off his arse.
DING-DING-DING! After a couple of punches, Undies throws Roman out of the ring: “My yard.” Incensed, Roman leaps back in and throws a punch… misses by a mile, then gets thrown out again. “Still my yard.” Now even more incensed, Roman skulks around the ring like a shark; he pounces up and manages to throw Undies out of the ring, only for the latter to land upright and drag the Latin lad out with him. “Eheu”, he thinks in Latin. (“Oh no.")
After administering a headbutt and throwing Roman into some steps, Undies gently puts his opponent back into the ring and punches him some more, only for Mr Reigns to flip the Undies over! Both chaps look tired already; Roman has a sore wrist, so and kicks his opponent and delivers a Glasgow kiss, declaring “Belligero!” (“I am waging war!”)
Undies rolls out of the ring with his adversary in hot pursuit; Roman follows him and gets a smack in the gob for his trouble. Undies puts Roman in a fireman’s lift (the latter even kicks his little legs like Olive Oyl), but Roman slips down and shoves his foe into the corner post! They both seem winded. The crowd screams “Euge!” (“Hooray!”).
One flying kick - a “toxic kick”, according to the commentator - from Roman later, the plucky Floridan nods like Mr Miyagi, then shoves his foe back into the ring. Taking turns in smacking each other, the pair are acting very strangely: Undies crouches like he needs to take a dump so Roman gives him another kick. PADDINGTON BEAR GAVE HIS HARDEST STARE… No, it’s just Undies in a mood; he does a Super Mario-style ground-pound on Roman’s bonce! Ref counts ONE, TWO… “Minime!” (“No!”) cries Roman, before rolling out of the ring again. A lot of this slinking in and out of the ring, I notice.
Undies follows him out and motions to the commentators to get out of the way, then he upsets their TV monitors… Collectively the crowd asks “Cur?” (“Why?”) Then we all see the reason: Undies whacks Roman’s head against the announcer’s table, then drags him up onto the table with him to pose. One confusing edit and explanatory replay later, it turns out that Roman launched into Undies and sent them both crashing through the Spanish announcers’ table, doing them both a mischief. “Omnes paucis annis prosedae erunt,” sigh the viewers. (“In a few years, they will all be prostitutes.”)
Undies is lying very still. Worryingly still, in fact. Nursing a sore shoulder, Roman limps up into the ring to boos, asking the motionless brawler “Whose yard is it now, Taker?” These magic words make Undies sit up with a start! “Coleus!” (“Bollocks!”), Undies thinks to himself as he tries to roll back in (to be bounced away by a knee from Roman); following a punch on the head from his enemy, Undies is next told “MY yard!” So undies garbs him down and the countdown goes ONE, TWO— Nope, still not out. “Quagis?” (“What's up?”) asks the crowd.
Nipping down for a chair, Undies leaps back into the ring and administers three blows to Roman’s spine with it; Roman responds with a “superman punch” (so I’m told), leading to another countdown: ONE, TWO— Nope, Undies still isn’t put. Undies does a piledriver into Roman, before putting him into a hold the commentator calls a “tombstone”. (I think it looks more like a squirrel hugging a twig than anything else.) Yet another countdown, ONE, TWO— NOPE. Still not done. Another lift, another Superman punch, another countdown, ONE, TWO— NOPE!! Seriously, this has more false endings than Lord of the Rings. more exchanges of blows, by fist and chair, before the commentator claims that Undies is “the phenom” and that he knows the Undertaker better than anyone. To that revelation, I say “Narratio resumetur…” (“To be continued…”)
A Hulk-style roar from Roman is followed by a “spear” (so I’m told) into Undies’s sternum, grabs his leg, ONE, TWO— BLOODY NOPE! Roman suddenly seems to have an existential crisis, staring off into space as “The Sound of Silence” plays on a loop in his head. But not for long - Roman punches the ground again and administers another Superman punch, after which Undies tries to sit up, only to fall on his side, like a four-month-old learning to walk. He’s clearly knackered. Trying to pull himself up seemingly by Roman’s groin (ew), Undies seems to say “you don’t have the balls”. WELL, YOU DIDN’T NEED TO PULL YOURSELF UP BY HIS GENITALS TO FIND THAT OUT! Either way, the crowd goes “OOOOOOOH!” like a bunch of schoolgirls on a sleepover; not one to have his manly bits dismissed, Roman gives his foe a couple of slaps, bounces off some ropes and crashes into him. A quick grab of Undies’s leg, ONE, TWO, THREE—and it’s all over!
Undies is having a long nap, he’s earned it; the commentators call this the “best win” of Roman Reigns’s career. Not that anyone’s cheering; Roman just walks out, not seeming too bothered either way. Well, I at least would like to say to all involved: “Vobis plurimas gratias ago!” (“Thank you very much!”)
FINAL SCORE: 4/10
Elapsam semel occasionem non ipse potest Iuppiter reprehendere.
I hope you've enjoyed this month's trek into the mind of the non-wrestling fan. We'll see you next time for a Christmas special...
Next time - John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight from RAW #1022 (Aired Christmas Eve 2012)
Article by Andrew Williams (@adw_author) & Nicholas Peat (@NPChilla)