Make no mistake, this is a metal site heavily informed by pro wrestling. It’s all there. I don’t expect that everyone who reads this site has taken note of wrestling history anecdotes that get worked into reviews, the use of power moves to describe crushing riffs, or any strange note I decide to add for no other reason than to entertain myself. That actually makes sense with today’s special feature.
Sunday is Wrestlemania 32, the annual ritual of wrestling fans gathering and watching a 175-hour show over too many beers and pizza. After kicking off March 31, 1985, Wrestlemania has become the spring gathering point where all the biggest stars in the WWE come together and hold their big blowout event. Stories are supposed to begin and end there, major matches are to take place, and huge feuds come to a massive conclusion. Too bad this year’s event doesn’t hold much of that. Not all WWE’s fault. They’ve suffered a legendary rash of injuries that completely undid a card they had built months ago, and they’ve had to scramble to put together a whole new lineup. It didn’t always go well. Neither has the build to this show. But no matter. We’re wrestling fans through the highs and lows, and come Sunday, most of us will be pretty pumped (as will be the 234,798 WWE announces as in attendance at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium).
There are a whole slew of people from the metal world who also love wrestling. I’ve had myriad conversations with people over the years about wrestling, be that over social media during an event, or just while hanging out over beverages. This year, we assembled a few folks from the metal industry to talk about their relationships with wrestling and to weigh in on the matches this weekend. So I’ll shut up and introduce you to our panel:
Peter Browne: Owner of the awesome Broken Limbs Recordings, who are about to put out a massive one-two punch of records from Wode and Palace of Worms, and who have released great stuff from Immortal Bird, Cara Neir, Ramlord, and more.
Vinny Karpuszka: If you’re into brutal and/or technical death metal, Vinny has you covered. He’s one the driving forces behind Willowtip Records, based near Pittsburgh. Over the years, the label has put out record from bands as varied as Gigan, Circle of Dead Children, Dim Mak, Magrudergrind, and a ton more.
John Kerr: Multi-instrumentalist and appreciator of many beers, Kerr will unleash his debut Marsh Dweller album this coming summer (on Eihwaz/Bindrune Recordings). He also is a member of Vit, Noltem (EP out on Northern Silence), and Seidr, as well as being obsessed with calling people “soft bitches.”
Sam Panico: Sam has heavy involvement in both the wrestling and metal camps. He has wrestled as Shirley Doe for years now both here in Pittsburgh and around the country and world (he’s worked in Japan, you jerks) and now front doom maulers CANT, whose 2015 Demo is out on Ancient Future.
John Pettibone: John’s been pounding out heavy sounds for years now, and he’s currently fronting the massive Heiress, who just released their great third record “Made Wrong” (on The Mylene Sheath) that we just loved. He’s also bruised hearing with Himsa and Undertow.
What first got you interested in pro wrestling? What were your first experiences?
Browne: I’m from a small area back home (Ireland), and to see these larger-than-life characters doing these colossal things was mesmerizing. My brother used to go next door to my uncle’s house because he had the sports channel, and he’d stay up all night watching it. I remember my brother going over, videotaping it, and then re-watching it with me the next day. I can’t specifically remember my first instance of wrestling, but I hold the memories of my uncle’s house and being able to watch it there very fondly.
Karpuszka: I was probably 3 or 4 years old when I saw my first pro wrestling match. More than likely my dad taped it off of TV for me to watch. It was a steel cage match, back when WWF used the blue steel cage instead of the chain-link they use now. I think it was Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy, but I could be wrong. I remember at the time that there were a bunch of people in our living room watching it, and everyone was hootin’ and hollerin’ over the action. That’s what got me into it. As time went on, my dad would tape the various pay-per-views for me to watch, and THAT is how I saw some classic early ’90s matches: Bret Hart vs Roddy Piper for the IC title, Big Boss Man vs The Mountie where the loser spent the night in jail, Hogan vs Warrior, and on and on.
Kerr: Nintendo 64. I used to go to my cousin’s house a lot during the summer, and we’d inevitably play No Mercy for hours on end. Then we’d beg my aunt to let us watch PPVs. I actually wasn’t totally into wrestling itself but was more of a breast-obsessed pubescent preteen that wanted to stare at girls. I used to have a cut-out of a lingerie ad in my pocket because this was the age of text-based internet and scrambled porn. Professional wrestling was the closest thing I got to knowing what a boob felt like.
Panico: My brother and I weren’t allowed to watch wrestling but watched it anyways. The first match I can remember was the Strongbows versus Mr. Fuji/Mr. Saito for the tag team titles, where the Japanese team took the belts back. We watched it for 2-3 years covertly, then finally my whole family started watching it in 1980, a few years before the Rock & Wrestling boom.
John Pettibone: My dad has been in the cable television business since 1970, so my entire childhood we had extended cable in our house and I remember a Saturday morning turning on a channel showing NWA and was instantly hooked. Funk vs Rhodes – lots of color and carnage. Then comes along Flair and flips the game.
What do you think of the modern state of wrestling? Is it as exciting for you now as it’s ever been? Is it not? Please explain.
Browne: It’s in pretty poor shape. At times it’s as exciting as the old days, but it’s few and far between. NXT does live up to the hype, and I hope they don’t blur the lines between the to rosters since they’ve been bringing up new wrestlers quite frequently. There are a lot of great athletic guys and girls who haven’t been able to shine, mostly because of some executive slight or personal issues. Natalya has been torn down, Cody Rhodes lost his momentum, Cesaro and Ziggler are a given. There should be some negotiating with Barrett. He’s a keeper, and he was really starting to have fun in his Bad News Barrett role, just like Big E is having a blast in the New Day.
Karpuszka: I think it’s in a good spot and it has the potential to better. There’s something out there for every level of fan. I mean, you have WWE, which caters to casual and kid fans but can also entertain the hardcore fan from time to time. TNA does that on a smaller level, I guess. Then you have Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling , which are both WAY more about wrestling and the in-ring action. I can’t forget to mention Pro Wrestling Guerilla as well, and there are a whole bunch of other indy promotions out there too.
But it all pales in comparison to what was going on in the mid ’90s through the early 2000s. I was a teenager when the Monday Night War and the Attitude Era was at its peak, and in my opinion, pro wrestling will most likely never reach that level of awesomeness ever again.
Kerr: So after I found out what boobs feel like, I genuinely started to enjoy pro wrestling. HOWEVER, I dropped back from it for a while during the canonical “it’s all fake anyway” phase because humans naturally long to feel like we’re above something. I honestly didn’t *really* get back into it until last year’s Wrestlemania. I was living in a house with Nate and Zack from Vit, and we decided to all get drunk on a Sunday and watch some wrestling. The RKO, Rusev’s tank, Slimey Seth. After all that shit, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, THIS is why wrestling is cool”.
HAVING SAID THAT. Raw is boring as fuck and shouldn’t be three hours long. I don’t give a shit about 99% of matches. NXT is cool because there’s no bullshit filler. Lucha Underground is cool as shit. Kayfabe News is so great that it justifies how shitty the WWE is.
Panico: It’s both the least I’ve ever cared and the most I’ve ever cared. I watched the Aztec Warfare episode of Lucha Underground Saturday and cared enough about the Dragon Lee vs. Kamataichi series to send it to a bunch of people. I’ve been wrestling since 1995 and still wrestle every 2 weeks or so, so I must love it on some level. Eddy Guerrero said to me once, “Your friends, your family, your woman, they can all fuck you over. But wrestling will always love you.” I guess he was right, but it’s getting real close, dude.
John Pettibone: I absolutely love it! With the slow burn and rise of the indies the last 15 years, the product is so exciting! At times I can’t keep up. Being able to witness so much incredible talent grow and now excel at the top of chain has been mind blowing! Also, the comparisons to being in a touring band makes me feel a kinship to the struggles and strides they face daily.
What are you most looking forward to Wrestlemania weekend?
Browne: The buildup on the WWE network, social media buzz, etc. Twitter is fantastic when you keep up with the hashtags; there are some real gems on there. Wrestlemania is also an opportunity for the dark horses to emerge, and that’s something no publication or expert can predict. Surprise guests are always fun.
Karpuszka: The debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers right now, and I couldn’t believe it when he signed with WWE. I love the “strong style” he uses, and he’s a really charismatic guy. He and Zayn should put on one hell of a match at the NXT event.
Kerr: Watching Brian drink too many Palo Santos and yell at a TV screen that can’t understand him.
Panico: Hanging out with the same people I’ve watched it with for 20 some years. It’s like the Super Bowl – more of a get-together than matches I actually give a shit about.
John Pettibone: The King of Strong Style!!! (EDITOR’S NOTE: Fuck and yes. The debut of Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT Takeover Dallas!)
Browne: Undertaker. He’s too protected to lose twice, especially to someone who isn’t Brock Lesnar. However, I’m sure there will be some interference or something shady going on so both guys come out looking strong. With Shane’s very real and successful business ventures, is it feasible for him to actually have time to appear on Raw every Monday? I kind of hope so.
Karpuszka: This is such a strange match-up. I’m looking forward to it, but I keep thinking, WTF? Shane McMahon vs Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell? Really? After some crazy and possibly botched spots, I think Shane wins to keep the storyline moving.
Kerr: I really hope the Undertaker retires after this. He’s like 5,000 years old, and I can’t imagine him beating up anyone. Which is why I think professional wrestling, if not just the WWE, should bring back a tragically underutilized gimmick: SUPER POWERS. Have the Undertaker literally kill Shane and then bring him back to life or something. Fuck it. As long as big-ass stunts are still involved, it doesn’t matter how realistic any of this stuff is. Do you really believe a dude is getting punched just because they stomp on the mat to make a comical Batman-esque pow sound? You might as well go all the way.
Panico: This is why wrestling today sucks. You need an archetype and an insight for a feud to reach people’s hearts. Stone Cold vs. McMahon worked because we all hate our boss, and we all wish we could kick his ass when he fucks us over. This match is an undead MMA biker locker room leader versus the son of a billionaire with no clear cut good guy, bad guy, motivation or person to get behind. And at its worst, it admits that WWE sucks and needs to change. Prediction: Nothing changes.
John Pettibone: (Fantasy booking – CM Punk walkout with Shane) Shane-O coast to coast, Taker goes out on his shield.
WWE World Championship Match – Triple H (CHAMPION) vs Roman Reigns:
Browne: Triple H because Triple H. Reigns has no shot at getting over ever unless he keeps that underdog thing going. The boos keep increasing at every show, but it’ll be disappointing to see this angle dragged out yet again. Something fresh needs to happen with the Authority, and something fresh definitely has to happen with Reigns’ character. He’s been booked more strongly than Ambrose, but the fans want what the fans want.
Karpuszka: Reigns will win and get booed, and Vince McMahon will wonder why. Reigns has been forced down everyone’s throats, and “smarks” recognize this and hate it. WWE is trying really hard to get Reigns over, and maybe they do it with this match. We’ll see.
Kerr: I do not give a shit about Roman Reigns. Every time I see him I think, “Wait, what is Robert Trujillo from Metallica doing on Raw?” Actually that would be pretty cool. Wrestling is metal as fuck (look what site we’re writing this for!) so they should have real metal bands at events or during promos. And none of that bullshit Sirius XM metal either. We should have fat disgusting death metal bands like Disma or Demilich. But anyway, yeah, Roman Reigns isn’t going to be a thing. Sorry Vince. But I think this can be salvaged with one drastic move: THE RETURN OF DONALD TRUMP TO THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. In the greatest twist in both WWE and world history, it is revealed that Trump’s entire presidential campaign has actually been a fundraiser to purchase the WWE. Trump assembles Vince, Roman Reigns, and everyone else I don’t give a shit about at the ring. He grabs the mic, ready to speak, but then pauses. He contemplates before dropping the mic without uttering a word and looks toward the big screen, where two words are revealed as the crowd chants along: YOU’RE FIRED. As Trump exits the arena, an advertisement is simulcast across the entire country promising to Make Wrestling Great Again.
Panico: Who is the good guy here? Is it the guy a multimillion dollar corporation pushed down your throat? Or the son-in-law of the guy you are supposed to hate who buries talent on Monday and raises them back up on Wednesday, like some kind of wrestling King of Kings? Does anyone even have the Money in the Bank suitcase for this, so I can come out seeing a different person win? Man. I don’t know. Prediction: I fall asleep.
John Pettibone: Roman gets booed, Rock shows up, RR turns hot heel on Rock. Rollins shows up and curb stomps HHH off top rope and takes his belt back.
WWE Women’s Title Match – Charlotte (CHAMPION) vs Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks:
Browne: Sasha Banks (technically). She’s the fan favorite right now (going by crowd reaction), and Becky hasn’t been booked strongly enough pre-Wrestlemania. Charlotte has been champion for a while and is starting to get some heat, which may see her take the belt home to further antagonize the rest of the Divas. So, let’s go with Ric Flair cheating Sasha out of a win and Charlotte retaining.
Karpuszka: Charlotte retains with help from The Nature Boy.
Kerr: I actually met Sasha Banks when I did stagehand work for NXT a while back, and she was nice really nice, so I want her to win everything. That’s it.
Panico: If it doesn’t happen in Japan or Mexico, I generally do not and will not care about women’s matches. Unless Japanese talent is involved, so I’ll enjoy seeing Asuka kick Bayley in the face. For all I’ve heard about a Diva’s Revolution, I have not seen it. Again – show me, don’t tell me. Prediction: I get a beer. Again.
John Pettibone: Sasha is my boss and Eddy Guerrero frog splashes for the win.
Three-on-Four Tag Team Match – New Day vs League of Nations:
Browne: I Love The New Day! They haven’t been defined as heels or faces, but we all know the crowd loves them. So it’s important to keep the division exciting and give them a bit of an underdog disadvantage. I have a feeling they will keep the actual match short and deprive us of some solid wrestling, but at least the intro will be exciting. EAT YOUR BOOTY-O’S.
Karpuszka: Going with New Day.
Kerr: The New Day is the best thing to happen to the WWE in probably a decade. I honestly don’t even want them to wrestle. I just want them to come out on the mic and talk shit for the entirety of Wrestlemania. Also LoN should get the hell out of here with their stupid comic book hero coalition name and start feeling the power of positivity.
Panico: I don’t get the New Day at all. It feels like a too-cute gimmick with no legs against a xenophobic ’80s gimmick. The real winner here is Alberto Del Rio, who gets a fat paycheck for not doing anywhere near what he’d have to do in Lucha Underground or AAA. Prediction: I get a beer.
John Pettibone: League of Stiff! I do love E’s suicide dives and splashes on end of apron though. Bring in Enzo and Cass fella…
WWE Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – Kevin Owens (CHAMPION) vs Sami Zayn vs The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sin Cara vs Zack Ryder vs Stardust:
Browne: This match has the potential to be extremely entertaining. A ladder match alone on paper is highly intriguing. Kevin Owens should win this match. He’s a good heel and is doing well carrying the belt. He’s also hilarious when he’s messing with Byron (Saxton). I’m sure it will come down to Owens and Zayn having a staredown in the middle of the ring with the feud continuing to a rematch at the next PPV.
Karpuszka: This is the match that could steal the show. I can see a lot of crazy and brutal spots happening. Owens and Zayn had some crazy ladder matches back when they were in ROH together, and there’s some great chemistry there. So I’m looking at those two to do some intense stuff. Owens leaves as champion.
Kerr: I’m going for either Stardust or Dolph Ziggler. Stardust because I truly want to believe that he’s an interdimensional space demon or whatever, and Dolph Ziggler because he has one of the best ring names I’ve ever heard. Kevin Owens is just fat BUT he can talk mad shit so he’s got that going for him. Ultimately I hope Stardust takes it because, like I said, wrestling needs to get MORE ridiculous.
Panico: Kevin Owens did a promo saying he wanted to steal the show like Steamboat vs. Savage. Then they added five albatrosses (albatrai?) to this match and Sami Zayn, who my wife likes because he comes out to ska. I have no idea why I should care about one single person in this match. Prediction: Kevin Owens.
John Pettibone: Did you ever think a Steen/Generico ladder match would ever happen at Mania? Stoked!!! The rest are just collateral damage! But Ryder getting his moment is cool.
WWE US Title Match – Kalisto (CHAMPION) vs Ryback:
Browne: Not feeling this match at all, but I think Kalisto will win this. He’s been getting the rough end of the storyline, so it’s seeming like Kalisto will prevail. Praying that this is the end of this storyline. It’s not helping Ryback, and it’s not really helping Kalisto as a singles wrestler either. Does he talk? Expect Sin Cara to make some kind of appearance.
Karpuszka: A big clash of styles here, which could make for a good match. I like Kalisto in this one.
Kerr: I do not give a shit.
Panico: I can guarantee that Ryback fucking loves Pantera. It seems like he needs the push better than Kalisto. And a big guy always beats a little guy in the land of the giants. Prediction: Ryback.
John Pettibone: Kalisto is gonna get the stiff kicked into him… Poor guy.
AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho:
Browne: AJ Styles 100%. Typical feud which is done to make the other competitor look good. It will still be decent to watch, but predictable. Jericho has nothing to lose,m and Styles doesn’t have a very long shelf life at his age, although he is a terrific athlete. We’ll see some awesome spots, and hopefully it won’t be a rushed match.
Karpuszka: Chris Jericho is now known for working with the “younger” talent and putting them over, but Styles isn’t exactly a young dude. Still going with AJ.
Kerr: I give even less of a shit.
Panico: Remember when AJ Styles came out at the Rumble and people lost their fucking minds? No one in WWE creative heard that like you did. This will be a good match, but the special aura that it could have had is gone. Maybe Chris Jericho will borrow one of those feathered masks that Bruce Dickinson wears. Why? Because I’d think it was funny. Prediction: AJ Styles.
John Pettibone: Bullet Club invasion turn… Styles Clash off the top
Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar:
Browne: This is probably my favorite match on the bill. I love Brock Lesnar, and Dean Ambrose is a badass. Dean Ambrose for the win, but I think The Wyatts will have a part to play. So will those weapons! It would be cool to have some veterans there giving Dean a hand. Brock will always come out looking like the monster he is, and I pray Paul Heyman gets a good amount of mic time.
Karpuszka: This should be a fun match. After some extreme ultra-violence, I’m going with Brock as the winner.
Kerr: I’ve always liked Dean Ambrose, because I think it’s cool as hell when wrestlers wear jeans. However, there isn’t one person in the WWE roster that I believe could actually beat Brock Lesnar (UNLESS THEY HAVE SUPER POWERS). They built him up for so long to be the Final Boss of Wrestling, and they’ve had to think of every contrived plot point they could just to make it so he isn’t the reigning champion forever.
Panico: So Terry Funk gave Dean Ambrose a chainsaw. The finish? They cut off Brock’s head, and he kills him anyways, reattaches his head and pisses all over the corpse of Ambrose, who can’t throw a punch to save his ass. Basically: imagine a Cannibal Corpse cover. That’s what I want this match to be. It will not live up to my expectations. Prediction: Brock Lesnar.
John Pettibone: Dean channeling his inner Moxley! This will be war! I need blood! Lights go out, Wyatts revenge!
Team Lana vs Team Total Divas:
Browne: Team Total Divas most likely. There’s not a whole lot to this match, but I figure they’ll get the victory so this feud can develop as it’s fairly fresh. And knowing creative, they’ll squeeze as many matches out of it as they can, especially with Lana involved. There will be no snack time with her decked out in wrestling gear, believe me.
Karpuszka: Time to refresh my drink and grab a snack.
Kerr: Lana because I want the term “Divas” to go away forever.
Panico: I can’t think of anything I care about less. It’d be like a Rob Zombie/Korn tour. Oh, they’re doing that, too? That’s how much I care. Everyone hates that girl with bright red hair because she can’t wrestle. Isn’t that being a good heel in 2016?
John Pettibone: Trainwreck.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
Browne: I think the Big Show will win this one. His monologue about how meaningful a second win would be seemed really sincere and heartfelt, and who knows? We can’t count out the fact that his body has been through years of bumps, and this is a way to bow out gracefully. Other than that, this is just a chance for everyone on the roster without a match to get some face time.
Karpuszka: Some NXT guys might get into the mix here, and that’ll be cool. No idea who will win, but they’ll likely get no push, and everyone will forget who won this match in a couple weeks.
Kerr: All participants attempt to drink as much beer as Andre the Giant would drink in one sitting. Whoever doesn’t die wins. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This makes me think of a wrestling version of “Who Poop Last?”)
Panico: I have a better chance of getting over as a result of this match as anyone in it. And I’ll be sitting on a couch drinking. So imagine how that will be. They’ve already proved that you can win this match, and it doesn’t mean shit twice. Here’s to wrestling working in threes. PREDICTION: Whoever is fattest.
John Pettibone: Social Outcasts for the fun of it
Usos vs The Dudleys:
Browne: Not that interested in this match. Both groups aren’t doing anything particularly special these days. I think the Usos will pull out the win, especially to a large crowd. Tables WILL be used. I could see some kind of guest appearance during this one with the Dudleys calling out the Usos legendary (and very large) family. This will be pretty dead if nothing special happens.
Karpuszka: Two pure tag teams squaring off. The Dudleys have nothing more to prove in their careers, so I see them putting the Usos over. Hoping there is a flaming table spot.
Kerr: This is still a thing?
Panico: This is still going on? I mean, for fuck’s sake, have the Dudleys put them through a table and win. If anyone is ordering the PPV for this match, I’ll pay for it, because I believe NO ONE is. PREDICTION: We order food during this.
John Pettibone: Bully turn and goes on solo mission.
For more on Wrestlemania, go here: http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania