Updated: May 6
Madness is in the air as two terrific traditions - the NCAA Tournament and the Road to WrestleMania - cross paths on the calendar once again
Every year in late March, two wonderful athletic traditions coincide with one another: The Road to WrestleMania and the madness that is the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. And from what we've seen so far in 2023, both of them are going to come down to the wire.
In many ways, the two events are very similar. Not only do they occur at the same time on the calendar, but they also have a few weeks leading up to the final, blowoff conclusion. Both have plenty of drama, emotion, and a few twists and turns along the way. There will be a few stunning upsets and some massive beatings.
Fans will don the colors of whoever they are rooting for, and scream their lungs out. Chances are they won't have any fingernails left when it's all said and done, either.
And in the end, the respective champions will stand above all others, holding aloft their trophies as music blares and a storm of cheers rains down on them.
Oddly enough, both coronations will take place within one day of each other. 'Mania will conclude late on Sunday night, after the monumental main event featuring Cody Rhodes taking on Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship.
The Final Four is wrapped into The Show of Shows, so to speak. Its semi-final games take place on Saturday, and the title tilt taking place on Monday night. So, they will run into one another a couple of times on what promises to be an action-packed weekend. Especially for those who follow both.
While wrestling and basketball may be two different worlds, they pass by each other's orbit at the same time every year
And in many ways, they play off the same kind of emotion: a huge build-up that comes to an epic conclusion. Both with a strange sort of finality, as well. For WWE, it's the climax of their calendar year and the start of a new set of storylines with some fresh faces. For the NCAA, it's the end of the line for many hoopsters and a shot at the NBA for others. Both of them seem to put a bow on the winter months and give us a little push toward warmer weather and the brighter skies that lie ahead.
No doubt, we will have our hearts broken by both. Anyone who watched Sami Zayn go down in defeat at Elimination Chamber might have felt the same as a Purdue fan during the first round of play. Their heavily-favored Boilermakers lost to the last-seeded team in the entire field, ending their fantastic season and making their story (much like Sami's) feel incomplete.
Ironically, the stories are often bigger than the showdowns in both affairs. They both play out like a movie, with highs and lows that take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. There are times, with so much happening at once, that you're not even sure to root for anymore.
And much like the home of WrestleMania, Hollywood, it would be very easy to have cast Zayn as an improbable, longshot to win, like in the historical film Glory Road. But WWE reserved their championship spotlight for their Blue Chips, instead. It's only fitting that Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes - two pro wrestling MVPs - would battle it out for supremacy.
In the end, we are left with the images of both these majestic events, lasting in collective conscience forever
Perhaps WrestleMania, the Final Four, and other grand moments like this in sports and entertainment, are more than just markers on our almanac. They're part of pop culture and mile markers for where we are not only at this point in the year but in our lives. Each one lives behind a snapshot that sticks in the memory book of our minds.
For a turnbuckle head, it could be watching Daniel Byan achieve his dream in the midst of the 'Yes Movement'. For a hoops fan, it's forever the sight of the late, great Jim Valvano, running around like a madman and looking for someone to hug.
They are joy... They are sadness... and they represent life at its fullest.
Those highs and lows have the same effect on our psyche. It doesn't matter that one is a legitimate sport and the other is more based on fiction. What it really comes down to is the fact those people - the heroes and the humbled - all come together in that place to thrill us and make them both equally special.
With WWE in a fast break toward its biggest event of the year, they have the opportunity to take a page from March Madness. Give us the glory and the agony, mixed with intriguing backstories along the way. Give us a reason to hope, only to see it flicker out. Or, have a warrior carry the day, and seemingly beat the odds on the way to victory.
That's what this time of year is all about. It's a scintillating swirl of suplexes and swishes. Hardwood and hard knocks, both come together at the same time, to lend us the hope of Spring. And the opportunity to see greatness once again. Even if it is... for one shining moment.