It’s WrestleMania week, with the ‘Show of Shows’ set to take place on Sunday night. Every day between now and the big event, Tom Beasley takes a look at a different element of the build-up. Today, let’s talk about Shane McMahon jumping off stuff…
By now, we’re all used to Shane McMahon jumping off tall things and crashing through tables. The son of WWE’s chairman has shown that he’s more willing than just about anyone on the roster to risk his neck in order to create a spectacle. This death wish – or fervour for risk-taking, if we’re being generous – has shown no signs of letting up since McMahon returned to the company in 2016, despite the fact he’s now pushing 50 and is a married father of three. Since his return, McMahon has leapt from the roof of the Hell in a Cell structure twice, delivered a handful of surprisingly elegant shooting star presses and made a tonne of leaps from the turnbuckle to the announce table.
His latest stunt will almost certainly take place on Sunday at WrestleMania as part of his Falls Count Anywhere match with The Miz. Their rivalry has built very well in recent months, with McMahon turning on his tag team partner after their defeat at Fastlane and beating him senseless, before also laying hands on Miz’s father who was watching at ringside. McMahon’s hereditary heel flair has managed to help Miz – a natural bad guy – become a babyface the fans genuinely want to get behind.
But when the bell rings at WrestleMania, there’s only one thing the audience will be waiting for – and that’s for Shane to climb something enormous, mime a crucifix on his chest and jump off it. The question is whether people are all that impressed at this point.
In the same way that Brock Lesnar has become defined and somewhat trapped by the Suplex City gimmick, McMahon has been ensnared by his reputation for taking chances inside, and outside, the ring. McMahon is a solid wrestler, capable of grappling with high-level competitors, but he also rarely lets a match go by without attempting something absurd and dangerous. This has happened so often, in fact, that the moments are losing their impact.
Simply put, we already know that McMahon is going to do something like this. In McMahon’s previous guise during the noughties, his death-defying leaps were a part of some of his big matches, but they weren’t an essential or consistent factor. His feud with Kane gripped me as a young wrestling fan way before he took one of his falls from the TitanTron. Shane’s risk-taking is a large part of his appeal, but he no longer needs to prove himself by pushing the boundaries further and further.
Where I once felt excitement ahead of a Leap of Faith, I now feel discomfort and fear. The five minutes or so in which Shane O’Mac brawled with Kevin Owens atop the eponymous structure at Hell in a Cell back in 2017 were some of the most terrifying I have ever spent watching wrestling – and not in a way upon which I look back fondly. I was scared for the safety of the greying, middle-aged man still taking his life in his hands the way he did 20 years ago.
His match with Miz at WrestleMania doesn’t need a huge moment. It’s likely to be an entertaining portion of the first half of the show, rather than a contest gasping for air and attention in the midst of the main event scene. The feud has a palpable personal animosity to it thanks to great character work from both men, and the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation gives them plenty of latitude for violent chaos without Shane needing to put his neck on the line with a gargantuan tumble.
If the ‘Prodigal Son’ does take to the skies, it’ll no doubt be spectacular. But when we’ve all seen this stuff before, why risk it?
Tomorrow: Kurt Angle is set to retire against Baron Corbin on Sunday but, on a show so driven by fan power, can this really be the match we’re getting?
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.