Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, The WWE, and the Familiarity

D. Gulley for TheShopReport –

There was a familiarity in what I experienced on Saturday night’s boxing pay-per-view and the WWE event that followed on Sunday.  The familiarity isn’t in the price-tag (the WWE event was cheaper by around twenty dollars – when, if ever could one say that about a WWE event?), but in the culmination of events that led through the conclusion of the bouts – Mayweather vs. ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Randy “The Viper” Orton vs. Daniel Bryan.  It was after about round 4 that I realized, “I’ve seen this before”; and based on the current state of affairs in boxing, I’m very likely to see this at least another 4 times (the remaining obligation of Mayweather’s fight deal with Showtime).

Mayweather being Mayweather  – a worked-shoot

In pro-wrestling lingo, a work is an arranged event presented as if it were in fact real.  In contrast, a shoot is an event that is truly authentic.  For casual and semi-informed wrestling fans, think of a typical back stage argument as a work and the “Infamous Incident in Montreal” that occurred at the 1997 Survivor Series as a shoot (arguably the most famous shoot ever).  A worked-shoot is a hybrid of those events, whereas elements both real and arranged are combined.  Mayweather does a masterful job of presenting all three facets through the span duration of the All-Access episodes leading up to the fight.  ‘Money’ Mayweather performs the work – trash talking his opponent during his training.  Floyd Mayweather performs the shoot – speaking candidly about how De La Hoya’s blueprint has never delivered a victory to anyone he offered it to, and defending his lavish lifestyle as a celebration of hard work and dedication to boxing and not the pursuit of nefarious ventures (no argument here).  Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather performs the worked shoot – showcasing the shopping spree for the ladies of ‘The Money Team’ (TMT), and the shopping spree for his daughter in nearly equal time.  It would appear as if Floyd resigns himself to knowing that he’s the heel (wrestling term for bad guy) of boxing even if he’s the featured attraction.  This reminds me of a guy named Paul Levesque (more on him later).

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – is this his moment?

Young, strong, fast, powerful, determined, hungry are just six words to describe the upstart challenger.  At just 23 he was a prime formidable challenge for a still great – and aging – 36 year old Mayweather.  In my analysis, Alvarez posed a greater threat to win than Miguel Cotto before him.  Alvarez has a similar fighting style to Cotto – which clearly gave Mayweather more trouble than anyone in recent memory – and unlike Cotto, he was only partially battle-tested but yet not war-weary.  A photogenic face with a personality that appears in stark contrast to the champion makes it him a better face (aka babyface, wrestling term for good guy) than WWE’s Daniel Bryan compared to Randy Orton.  A look at the trail of destruction that Canelo left (e.g. the punishment he delivered to Austin Trout in April) is a solid case that Mayweather’s undefeated streak was near its long and illustrious end.

The Direct Link – The World Awaits & WrestleMania XXIV –

The World Awaits – Mayweather’s 2007 (not-so-surprising but lackluster) victory over Oscar De La Hoya – wasn’t Money’s (then nick-named as Pretty Boy) first main event, but it was arguably his first significant headliner.  To clarify by comparison of pro wrestling, there’s a distinction between the main event of WWE Raw (weekly), compared to Night of Champions (monthly pay-per-view) moreover compared to headlining WrestleMania (the preeminent pay-per-view).  The Mayweather fights against Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales were compared to Raw, his Night of Champions Moments were vs. Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti, and The World Awaits was Mayweather’s first WrestleMania.  There was significant build up to this fight, the constant disclosure about the purse of the fighters, the first incarnation of a 4 part mini-series leading up to a fight, and the beginnings of ‘Money’ Mayweather – the worked shoot.  However, during the promo to The World Awaits, something went awry.  The main idea of the promotion is that the case for both fighters winning is supposed to be made, the ambiguity of the finish should be ever-present; not the logical winner.  The little doubt that I had of a Mayweather victory prior to the promotion was completely gone before fight night.  It could’ve been due to De La Hoya who has historically has trouble with faster (or better opponents) like Hopkins, Mosley and Felix Sturm [but I digress].  It could have been due to actions of Floyd Mayweather Sr. – Oscar De La Hoya’s former trainer – that led to De La Hoya choosing Freddie Roach for this bout.  This situation gave a the heel (wrestling term for bad guy) a sympathetic element – which was good for family but horrible for promotions.  On a minor note, Mayweather’s claims (later somewhat substantiated) on De La Hoya’s character also aided in sabotaging the contrast of character which was a foundational element of interest in the fight.  Mayweather would learn quite a bit from these missteps by working his match against WWE superstar ‘The Big Show’ in WrestleMania XXIV in 2008.  A rarity in crossover matches that feature athletes from other sports, Mayweather actually played the heel against the massively larger seven foot, four hundred pound pro wrestler.  “Money” Mayweather was by now fully defined – the arrogance, swagger, dedication and preparation that made him boxing’s biggest attraction crossed over rather convincingly to the world of sports entertainment.  Working with the talent of WWE, primarily Triple-H on how to sell a match, particularly the building of a match paid off well.  Let me note, the match itself was not that great, but the building of the match was remarkable.  Mayweather and WrestleMania XXIV is an often overlooked event that foreshadows the discontent that even some Mayweather fans have with the era’s greatest fighter.

Throw Some Game Into the Money

“Triple-H” or “The Game” (the Paul Levesque guy mentioned earlier) is name likely to be exclaimed from the mouths of anyone in awe of seeing WWE’s current COO accompany Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather to the ring in 2009 vs. Juan Manuel Marquez and 2012 vs. Miguel Cotto.  The Game has built quite a legacy for himself from his in and out of ring moves (his wife is the daughter of WWE owner Vince McMahon).  Paul Levesque has quite a bit of creative control behind his Triple-H character and other talent in the WWE.  Most significantly, Paul has a keen awareness of the perception of both Triple-H (the character) and Paul Levesque (the person) as a heel and has made a career of using this to his advantage.  Interestingly enough, Mayweather’s post fight scuffle with Shane Mosley occurred after the Marquez fight where Triple-H first accompanied Mayweather to the ring.  Since this incident, I argue that Mayweather’s pre-fight promotions have been measurably better, each eclipsing the former, and the only missteps have been the chosen opponents (more on that later).  Mayweather stays consistent in making sure that he’s the heel of the match, and the opponents are viewed as the face.  Like his boxing prowess, he’s turned a flaw in the “Money” character into a strength of that very character.  The sympathy for repairing an estranged relationship with Floyd Sr. has evolved into a repaired relationship where Floyd Sr.’s trash-talking has only helped to further push “Money” Mayweather has a heel.  This is akin to the disclosure of the budding romance and eventual marriage of Stephanie McMahon to Paul Levesque (Triple-H) during a time when Triple-H was involved in a feud with a tyrannical owner – and father-in-law – Vince K. McMahon.  The Levesque-McMahon family has been able to work the relationship into its current state where COO Triple-H and his wife are the heavy-handed, manipulative, heels of the company.

All Will be Revealed – Why am I Surprised?

Of all that I knew and have known, I didn’t connect the dots until the fourth round of the Mayweather-Alvarez fight.  Once it became apparent that Alvarez was not going to get around the straight left jab of Mayweather, and Alvarez’ boyish haircut would tell the tale by waving every time he was hit, I felt a sense of Déjà vu.  This sense of Déjà vu that made me think back to this year’s WrestleMania XXIX where The Undertaker defeated CM Punk to extend his undefeated streak at WrestleMania to 21-0.  My logic and decades of following the sport (such as it is) of wrestling dictated to me that I knew the result before the match began; The Undertaker would win.  Nonetheless, the match was a capstone of masterful promotion that captivated an audience by making the best case that each competitor could win the match; CM Punk, the era’s longest reigning WWE Champion vs. The Undertaker  a former WWE Champion that has always found a way to win at WrestleMania, if nowhere else.  The idea of CM Punk winning defied and compelled me against my logic, and I bought in (and paid $59.95 for it).  And in the fourth round of Mayweather-Alvarez, I found the familiar element; I realized that I was being duped into believing that Alvarez posed a serious threat to dethrone a fighter of Mayweather’s skill much like believing that CM Punk would be able to end the Undertaker’s legacy when he has not matured into his own.  Like The Undertakers streak, the product of a decades-long push (wrestling term for a scheduled program/story), Mayweather’s undefeated record is one worthy of history books.  The difference is that Undertaker – the sports entertainment athlete – appears to have faced greater tests than Mayweather – the combat sport prize-fighter.  And this is unfortunate for Mayweather.  He has the utmost respect for his profession and his work ethic defines as such.  I shall clarify, as I am encroaching on making an argument that Mayweather’s fights have been somehow fixed, that I do not suggest that Canelo and/or any of Mayweather’s preceding opponents took a dive.  I firmly believe that Mayweather, Alvarez or any of the aforementioned boxers in this piece have too much self-respect to force a conclusion to a match.  I submit that the field of competition in professional boxing is incredibly fragile, even far weaker than the field of WWE champion candidates.  This is the reason why Alvarez and before him Robert Guerrero, and before him Victor Ortiz – but not Miguel Cotto – have all disappointed; they were never a match for Mayweather.  Most smart marks (pro wrestling term for fans who allegedly have sense of the inner-workings of the enterprise) of boxing realize this, and this is why they rather look at what could’ve been compared to what actually was.  The smart marks of boxing state that Mayweather should’ve fought Cotto prior to Cotto’s controversial wars with Antonio Margarito, or perhaps should’ve given Paul Williams a shot. More persistently, the echoes of the Filipino sensation-turned-politician-who-must-not-be-named still remain, however faint, considering that his most recent year proves that he has lost any advantage to pose a threat to Mayweather.

The Ultimate Choice

Ultimately, Mayweather dictates his destiny, and deservedly so.  Like it or not, he’s undefeated, unblemished, and has never been knocked down as a professional.  He has the power and notoriety in the sport unmatched by any other active fighter.  With this power, he can stay the current course, selecting the fighters that showcase Mayweather’s best talents rather than their own.  He can also force and influence the type of change by an athlete most recently expressed in 2010’s infamous “Decision” that changed the landscape of franchise building and contract negotiations in the NBA.  Mayweather has accomplished a great deal in his career and his willingness to do things by Mayweather’s own terms is understood and respected.  Though, his accelerated work rate in this stage of his career is a sign that he does acknowledge the murmurs of his fans and detractors.  It is within Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather’s ability to create the type of fights with challengers that truly possess the skill to give Mayweather the challenge he deserves.  Otherwise, I will continue to have more belief that an arranged decision in a WWE match between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton is less certain than the outcome of the next fight between Mayweather and his next opponent.