WrestleMania is within spitting distance, and the card for WWE’s biggest show is taking shape. We have Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg and AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon and I could not give less of a shit.
Which is bloody weird, because I love ‘Mania. I love having a weekend where wrestling is on constantly, and huge things are happening at every show. I love that it’s the one time of year where friends of mine are suddenly asking my opinion on men in spandex punching each other in the face. It’s the World Cup Final, the Super Bowl and the World Series all rolled into one over the course of a weekend.
So what’s wrong? I haven’t stopped loving wrestling. In fact, my love has only grown recently as I’ve dived into Japan and discovered that I should have been there years ago.
Ah, of course, there’s the issue.
You see, WWE isn’t for me anymore. I’ve had a bite of the grass on the other side, and to my surprise, it is indeed greener. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an elitist thing. WWE have some of my favourite wrestlers working there, and I will watch Styles, Joe, Zayn, Nakamura, Hero and Itami do their thing every day of the week. But the world they inhabit isn’t the world I want from wrestling anymore.
Tuning into New Japan was a bit like the first time I listened to hardcore punk. I realised that while I love heavy metal, classic rock and all those lovely things, I really love punk. It was like I’d found my home within my home and while my obsession with what I’d liked before didn’t waver, they were suddenly sitting in second place.
Everything about Japanese wrestling appeals to me. Every kick feels real, and the presentation of it as a legit sport is what I’ve been screaming at WWE to do for years. I adore the culture that surrounds it, and I want to live and breathe every second of it. I’m never content with just reading a report of what happened and moving on.
On the flip side, I haven’t watched a full WWE show since the Rumble. I was away on holiday the Monday after Fastlane, so I haven’t even browsed through that, and unlike the New Japan Cup (which I have frantically been avoiding spoilers for) I was happy to read the results. The fact those results confirmed my fears has meant that I’m in no hurry to watch that show. If I have a spare couple of hours at the weekend, I might skip through it, but I doubt it.
Which brings me back to my original point. In a couple of weeks, WrestleMania will kick off, and I genuinely don’t know if I’ll care. I’ll watch it. I always do. But will the results bother me? When AJ Styles – the best wrestler in the world – has to sell for Shane McMahon, will I get angry?
I don’t think I will because WWE isn’t for me anymore. The same way that (to continue the musical comparison) bands like Five Finger Death Punch aren’t for me. They’re the meat and potatoes while I’ve moved on to the sushi. There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure I’ll crave meat and potatoes now and then, but I’ll always know there’s something better out there.