Okay, so I’ll admit it. I can’t make up my mind about whether I love or hate the idea of Floyd Mayweather signing with the WWE.
What makes this complicated is that, as a boy, I loved professional wrestling.
I was the kid who’d cry hysterically if somebody claimed wrestling was staged, seeking reassurance from my father, who was unsure of if he should perpetuate the lie or break it to me like he did with Santa. (ED. NOTE: Should I have put a SPOILER ALERT before that sentence??)
Eventually, I had to go through a twelve-step program to accept that professional wrestling was, in fact, scripted, and that men don’t really solve their problems by throwing down in their spandex skivvies.
Yet, I found myself fighting a smile while I watched one of the many YouTube clips of Money May jumping into the ring and smacking WWE superstar “The Big Show” in his grill during a carefully planned confrontation. A feeling of nostalgia enveloped me. The ham-handed story lines. The larger than life personas. The battle of good against evil (though, from the crowd reaction, it was difficult to tell which they considered Floyd to be). It all brought back a comfortably familiar feeling.
I remain conflicted. The other part of me detests the idea that the flag-bearing, pound-for-pound king of boxing is, some would argue, prostituting himself for fame and fortune (reports range anywhere from $10-$20 million) by joining Vince McMahon’s ranks of “sports-entertainers.” Shouldn’t he be…well…actually fighting against…you know…other boxers? Shouldn’t the game’s poster boy be leading the charge for a sport that is in the middle of a comeback? Is he cheapening the sport that brought him to his current star status?
As I try coming to terms with these questions, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate. In bizarre a way, Floyd is bringing the spotlight back to boxing. Maybe wrestling fans that weren’t following boxing are now a little more in tune with the sweet science. The saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” seems to be meant for situations exactly like this one.
It should come as no surprise that this is definitely not the first time boxing and professional wrestling have made for strange bedfellows. Two notable instances come to mind…
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki – June 26, 1976
In a showdown between Japan’s most celebrated wrestler and the heavyweight boxing champion, fans were bored to tears as Inoki laid on his back, kicking at Ali’s legs like a toddler in Wal-Mart whose parents wouldn’t buy him a Twix bar. Ali was then reduced to taking the occasional swipe at Inoki, which ultimately ended up totaling roughly a dozen attempted punches over the span of fifteen rounds in a fight that was ruled a draw. An interesting side note: the undercard offered a matchup between wrestler Andre the Giant and former heavyweight boxing contender Chuck Wepner, which ended rather abruptly when said Giant tossed Mr. Wepner out of the ring.
Mike Tyson Crashes Wrestlemania XIV – March 31, 1998
Still sweating out his suspension for the ear-nibbling incident against Evander Holyfield, Iron Mike decided to score a few bucks by making several cameos in the WWF (prior to their corporate name change to WWE) culminating in an appearance at Wrestlemania XIV. In a teaming of bad boys, Tyson appeared to have formed an alliance with Sean Michaels’ “De-Generation X” in their feud with fan favorite “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. However (cue plot twist), Tyson secretly aligned himself with “Stone Cold,” personally counting the 1-2-3 that sealed Austin’s victory.
Mayweather clearly has his work cut out for him if he wants to make his foray into professional wrestling a memorable one. If anyone is a natural born WWE superstar, it is the brash Pretty Boy. Any episode of 24/7 made that perfectly clear. He also has the perfect angle to work with: a David vs. Goliath matchup against the ridiculously proportioned Big Show (A.K.A. Paul Wight), whose pituitary gland apparently has no “off” switch. And he has the perfect stage: Wrestlemania, where millions of fans will be eagerly tuned in to see what becomes of the spectacle.
It will be safe to bet that Mayweather will be loving every second of it.
Meanwhile, I’ll just try to make peace with my conscience.
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