Elias Up, Beach Balls Down: The Best and Worst of WrestleMania Week
It was an eventful week both in and out of the ring.
After five major WWE events in five nights, WrestleMania Week 2018 is in the books. The Grandest Stage featured a hefty dose of the good (Nicholas!), the bad (Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens remaining unemployed), and the ugly (whatever that main event was). As exciting as the standout matches were, the French Quarter itself played host to some of the week’s best action. Here’s an on-the-ground look at the most noteworthy high spots and low blows from the Big Easy.
Best Performance: Elias played a surprise concert at Razzoo Bar & Patio on Bourbon Street last Thursday night. And, despite performing rock anthems like “Drift Away” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”, he worked as a heel. “The Drifter” sang about his desire to punch stupid people in their faces. He crowd sourced a decision on whether to eject the heckler who kept requesting an Oasis song. And he assured us that, no matter where we’re from in this world, we’re all “pretty terrible.”
But Elias played one song from the heart. He dedicated this tune to the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, telling the cheering concertgoers that the Dream “deserves all that and more.” Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
He was a cowboy, he was an outlaw
He was the last of a dying breed.
Tell us stories, he’d make us laugh
He was the American Dream.
Now he’s gone, but not forgotten
No, his legend will never die
And, in Elias, there will always be
A part of the Dream inside.
Best Swerve: In a shocking twist, the post-WrestleMania Raw fans turned on their longtime ally: the beach ball. The inflated spheres were scarce inside the Smoothie King Center because the crowd self-policed their eradication. At least two beach balls were destroyed by fans (including one guy four rows below me) that wanted to watch wrestling and didn’t care for the silly distractions.
After Raw went off the air, Seth Rollins asked the crowd to break out the beach balls, a request which was initially met with antipathy. After Rollins assured the fans that it was alright to do so, dozens of balls came bouncing towards the ring. Rollins and Finn Bálor hacky-sacked one of them back-and-forth, while Jeff Hardy attempted to juggle three at once. Even the cameramen kicked the balls back-and-forth with ringside fans. If beach balls are going to stay a post-Mania Raw tradition, let’s keep their use restricted to post-event shenanigans (provided that the performers themselves are cool with participating).
Worst Big Match Performance (Out-of-Arena): Women who showed up to the arena events were welcomed by a sign stating that the Smoothie King Center did not allow standard-sized purses to be carried into the venue. Which would have been fine, had the arena staffers provided on-site storage lockers for female fans to rent. They did not. This forced fans who had travelled from afar and paid big money to attend these shows to either go back to their hotels, leave their purses, and come back (potentially missing a big chunk of the event), or just dump their bags. Many chose the latter. One garbage can outside the arena was littered with black purses 90 minutes before the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony started on Friday night.
Worst Big Match Performance (In-Arena): NXT fans were left unable to feel the glow Saturday night due to poor planning. Before TakeOver started, the ring announcer encouraged fans to hold up their glow sticks when the main show went live on the WWE Network. One problem: roughly 10% of the audience had those glow sticks. No one bothered to hand them out to the vast majority of fans who entered the arena, ruining the planned visual of fluorescent lights illuminating a darkened arena.
Most Incongruous Public Sighting: Former WWE Champion Sycho Sid taking in multiple sets of live brass-band music at the Jazz Playhouse.
Least Incongruous Public Sighting: ECW hardcore legend Tommy Dreamer walking through a Sheraton hotel lobby with a kendo stick jutting out of his rolling luggage.
Best Cosplay (Intentionally Funny): The couple dressed as Hulk Hogan (her) and the Shockmaster (him), the WCW oddity infamous for literally breaking the fourth wall on live television.
Best Cosplay (Unintentionally Funny): A gentleman who unironically portrayed a stereotypical rasslin’ fan while standing in front of me in the Superdome concessions line. Overalls and cowboy hat and all.
Best Fan Feedback: After performing “Sweet Georgia Brown” on Saturday night, the elder statesman jazz singer at Maison Bourbon stopped crooning and air-humping long enough to tell the crowd he was a Dean Ambrose man (“Dirty Deeds!”).
Worst Fan Feedback: When Jinder Mahal won the US Title at WrestleMania, the idiot in front of us loudly called for Hulk Hogan to run in and thrash him by referencing “Desert Storm ’91”. He was referring to the Hulkster’s feud with the Saddam Hussein-loving Triangle of Terror, which included patriot-turned-traitor Sergeant Slaughter. Because a wrestler of Indian descent is basically Iraqi. And ‘Merica’s gotta fight the furreigners. His “joke” was so jaw droppingly stupid that Kid Rock would’ve been proud to use it for his WWE Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Best Look Behind the Curtain: Just after midnight last Wednesday, a Total Divas production crew materialized out of nowhere on St. Peter Street outside Pat O’Brien’s and Finnegan’s Easy. They filmed a one-take scene featuring Paige, Naomi, Lana, and Nia Jax. While the latter two superstars stood idly by, Naomi ripped Paige for deeds that she termed “fucked up” in a moral sense. As soon as the scene ended, both women smiled, did some goofy hand gestures together, and fist-bumped as their production moved down the road.
Worst Officiating: Both these occurrences likely took place off-camera, so I’ll allow their inclusion here. During the NXT TakeOver ladder match, a referee was clearly steadying the biggest ladder while Velveteen Dream climbed it to drop an elbow. And, in the main event, the in-ring official grabbed a crutch that had fallen to ringside and placed it back on the canvas for Johnny Gargano to procure. It’s impossible to suspend disbelief during big matches when the referees act like stage crew members on a third-rate high school musical.
Best Example of Life Imitating Art: On Monday night, the debuting Authors of Pain turned their backs on longtime manager Paul Ellering. By the next morning, they already needed his help again. AoP’s Akam spoke with a Southwest Airlines counter representative for over 10 minutes inside the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, trying to resolve an apparent boarding pass issue through calm, rational dialogue. War is their peace, but you do catch more flies with honey.
When Akam’s fellow Author, Rezar, couldn’t offer much help, the situation looked dire. Enter “Precious” Paul. The WWE Hall of Famer rejoined his former charge to provide some wise counsel at Gate B8. Within minutes, Akam’s airline woes had been satisfactorily “managed” by Ellering.