As a wrestling fan, it seems silly that there could be anything you could be told happened at a wrestling show where the reaction would be, “Oh that’s too stupid.”
Just in the past year or so, the two major companies have had matches that took place inside John Cena’s mind, featured one dude dunking another dude into a giant vat of mimosas, or had one dude run another dude over with a football field line-painter, Chris Jericho cut a promo on a drone (a lot of these seem to involve Jericho, huh?), or have competitors literally throw each other off the top of a building, or somehow botch one wrestler removing another’s eye with pliers. And this is a realm where things like exploding barbed wire death matches and War Games/Blood & Guts matches are considered normal events. Let’s just say any idea should have a real wide berth.
So last night WWE broke out some zombies as the lumberjacks in a match between Damian Priest and The Miz. Let’s call it what it really was, which was just some very awkward product placement. The entire Backlash show was sponsored by Army Of The Dead, Zack Snyder’s zombie film that comes out next week. The opening video package was narrated by Dave Bautista, who happens to star in said film and is also a legendary WWE wrestler. Whether the zombies appearing on the actual PPV was part of the sponsorship or just some idea someone had that they either sneaked past Vince McMahon or got him to go along with (and give us video of that meeting right now), I have no idea. But clearly, there was more than enough “synergy,” which I’m sure was a word used by some exec, who probably also could use a dunking in a tank of orange juice and champagne his or her own damn self.
So there were Priest and The Miz, surrounded by Performance Center talent (wrestlers training with WWE but not on TV yet) dressed as zombies, keeping them in the ring. It was certainly odd, but if there’s any argument to be made it’s with the execution and not the experiment. WWE is still in its “Thunderdome” phase, with no live fans, and if there’s ever a time you’re going to just try shit, now is it. There’s no throng of wrestling fans to boo you out of the building or chant about how much they think it sucks, or throw beach balls around. It’s an empty canvas, essentially.
It was off-center in that WWE certainly has dipped into the paranormal before — with Undertaker or The Fiend or Kane or now Alexa Bliss — but Miz and Priest are certainly not that type of character. The above-mentioned performers would have much more comfortably accommodated this kind of gimmickry than two guys who were just in a match with Bad Bunny a month ago.
It was also missing the mark because whoever produced this probably haven’t seen a zombie movie before? Again, give me footage of someone explaining how zombies work to Vince McMahon, who I’m sure has never seen a zombie movie (I’m not even sure he’s seen a movie that wasn’t produced by WWE Studios, and even then I’d only give you 50-50). Zombies are not deterred by the slight elevation change from the floor to the ring, so why they would just obey the rules of the match and stay out of the ring doesn’t make any sense.
Second, they ate Miz and John Morrisson! You can be sure both Miz and Morrison will show up on Raw tonight without a scratch instead of being zombies themselves, which is how the whole thing works. That’s why you have to run from them! If all zombies did was gently paw at you, the whole genre wouldn’t exactly work, or certainly would have a whole new context of zombies merely being a mild nuisance on the same level as your friend who gets pretty huggy when drunk (I’m that friend).
But here I am arguing the details and nuances of how zombies worked during a wrestling match, as I push the world’s biggest pair of glasses up my nose. So really, who’s in the wrong?
I don’t know if the zombie lumberjacks will eventually be filed away with The Gobbledy Gooker or The Goon or Cody Rhodes (sorry, just had to) as the dumbest things in wrestling history, or if it’s something we’ll look back on and laugh and admit it was worth the try because of the time and place. But you always have to go well out of your way to declare something too stupid for wrestling.