Football’s dream Wrestlemania card - from Keane vs Vieira to Vardy vs Rooney

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Wrestlemania 39 takes place in Los Angeles this weekend.

Wrestlemania, if you didn’t know, is this weekend. It is, by some distance, the biggest date in the sports entertainment calendar, the culmination of months of planning and narrative-weaving, the night those in the business have affectionately christened the Showcase of the Immortals.

But as meticulously fake/scripted/predetermined as wrestling may be, it will never, ever hold a candle to the abundant organic drama of professional football. From the petty squabbles to the irreconcilable blood feuds, the beautiful game isn’t always so beautiful, and with that in mind - and not just because we have a vested interest in the SEO implications - we’ve decided to take a shot booking our very own dream card for a football/Wrestlemania crossover.

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And that’s the bottom line, because 3 Added Minutes said so...

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Richard Keys and Andy Gray vs Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville

Some good ol’ fashioned tag team wrasslin’ to kick off on the pre-show. It’s the old school of punditry coming up against the wily woke-rati of the new breed. Keys and Gray had a good thing going back when bravado and braggadocio were king, but they’ve been seizing up with ring rust and working to ever-diminishing crowds at house shows in recent years.

By contrast, Carra and Nev are a well-oiled juggernaut. Once bitter rivals, now brothers in arms, their technically-astute double act and constantly shifting babyface/heel dynamic has put them over like rover with the masses. They win this one with ease, but not before Carragher has delivered a cheeky water spit to the eye of Keys while Neville distracts the ref with a diatribe on Financial Fair Play.

Roy Hodgson vs Harry the Hornet

The show itself gets underway with a real barnstormer. It’s a feud that has been simmering for years, that has passed through animosity into tense detente and right the way back to acrimony. Roy makes his way to the ring on a motorised scooter, accompanied by the blasting beats of Limp Bizkit’s Full Nelson, but before he can dismount, Harry comes lunging out of the crowd and blind sides him with a cheap shot using the corner flag that Watford put in their manager sacking thumbnails on Twitter.

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Roy, to his credit, battles his way back into contention, and at one point even attempts to hit his finisher, The Werther’s Original, but Harry no-sells it completely, probably on account of the fact that he is entirely made of foam and has no nerve endings. A quick stinger to the larynx, and Hodgson eats the pin like a teaspoon of honey. Not that hornets produce honey. Harry stands over his twitching body and taunts him by shredding a photo of Wilf Zaha.

Andros Townsend vs Rob Holding (Hair vs Hair Match)

The two best transplants in the business go head-to-head, or rather scalp-to-scalp, with the loser being bundled onto a direct flight to Istanbul to have their procedure reversed. It is, understandably, a cagey affair. Matters of follicular fortitude will do that to a man.

The breakthrough comes when Townsend deploys an afro comb like a set of brass knuckles before forcing Holding to tap out by strangling him with his own alice band. The Arsenal defender is dragged kicking and screaming out of the ring by a posse of airport security officials in hi-vis Turkish Airlines vests.

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John Arne Riise vs Craig Bellamy (No Disqualification Match)

No disqualifications. No rules. No mercy. We’re talking chairs, we’re talking tables, we’re talking ladders and kendo sticks and maybe even the odd golf club or two. This, like so many of mankind’s greatest feuds, started as a simple disagreement over a friendly round out on the links, and has since descended in all-out total warfare.

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They say that it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog. Maybe that’s true, or maybe Bellamy will end up with so many irons sticking out of him at the end of this one that he’ll have to be escorted to the back by a caddy.

Lee Cattermole vs Jack Colback

A straight-up squash match, pure and simple. One two-footed drop kick to the knee and Clattermole (his ring name) stands tall, pinning his former Sunderland teammate with a single black boot on the chest, Great Khali style. After the match, he snatches a live mic from the Spanish announce table and threatens to do the same to Jack Rodwell... AT SUMMERSLAM!!!

Neil Warnock vs Mick McCarthy (Retirement Match)

Also being billed as ‘Hell in a Shell Suit’ by some, this will be a scrap to the death (perhaps literal) between two of the game’s great locker room leaders. Blood will be shed! Tears will be shed! Both men would probably rather be at home in their shed!

But nonetheless, fight they must, and fight they will, for it is all they know how to do. The greedy roar of the crowd, the glare of the spotlight on a sweat-soaked canvas, the thrill of the impossible kick-out; this is their sanctuary, this is their home, and maybe, just maybe, this is the closest they will ever come to truly embracing the soft, sweet tenderness of inner peace.

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When grit entwines with grit, no quarter is given. Instead, you are simply a greater pile of grit than before. So it proves here, with both men refusing to budge even so much as an inch. In the end, they pass out at exactly the same time to simultaneous headlocks. For an unearthly moment, it looks as if both might have to retire...

And then, like a malfunctioning animatronic Halloween decoration, Warnock sits up. Like a tardigrade or Phillip Schofield’s broadcasting career, he cannot be killed.

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Neil Warnock, Manager of Huddersfield Town, reacts during the Sky Bet Championship between Huddersfield Town and Bristol City at John Smith's Stadium on March 07, 2023 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Neil Warnock, Manager of Huddersfield Town, reacts during the Sky Bet Championship between Huddersfield Town and Bristol City at John Smith's Stadium on March 07, 2023 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Neil Warnock, Manager of Huddersfield Town, reacts during the Sky Bet Championship between Huddersfield Town and Bristol City at John Smith's Stadium on March 07, 2023 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Oliver Kahn vs Jens Lehmann (Oktober-Slug-Fest, in association with Budweiser)

The only thing WWE loves more than a questionable gimmick match is a shoe-horned commercial tie-in. With that in mind, may we present to you the Oktober-Slug-Fest, an opportunity for two German goalkeepers with a very heated and very public disdain for each other to knock themselves senseless, all while wearing Lederhosen.

For their part, Budweiser - partially owned by a Belgian company and brewed in St. Louis, Missouri for the past 147 years - is about as German as a bald eagle driving a monster truck, but we don’t reckon that will matter too much to a stateside audience, many of whom have the geographic knowledge of a lost toddler, and who, if asked, would probably assume that Currywurst is the newest Kardashian offspring or something.

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As for the match itself, Kahn wins after smashing his rivals head in with a sugar glass stein full of cool, crisp, and refreshing Bud Light. Available at all good supermarkets.

Thomas Tuchel vs Antonio Conte (Arm Wrestle)

What is initially booked as a brief backstage segment designed to distract the crowd while a gruesome slew of Doner kebab and human teeth is hosed down from the ring soon ends up dragging on to such an extent that the production truck eventually makes the call to cut away to the next fight in order to prevent the entire show from running long. Some say Tommy and Tony are still grappling to this day...

Eden Hazard vs The Swansea Ball Boy

With the fallout of Lee Bowyer and Kieran Dyer’s bitter tag team split cut for time because of the Tuchel/Conte debacle, we swiftly move on to a cruiserweight clash that has the potential to be the dark horse on a stacked bill. Eden Hazard, with his name like a forgotten mid-card worker from the Attitude Era, is first out, and waits in between the ropes as the murmuring hubbub of an expectant crowd swells and bubbles from the cheap seats all the way down to ringside.

All of a sudden, the lights go out and Hazard’s eyes scramble to adjust to the pitch blackness. At first he hears an unfamiliar hum, and then feels the slightest tussle of a disconcerting breeze on his hair. Both get stronger by the second. He looks to the skies and there, hovering above the squared circle is an Apache attack helicopter (note to self, we’re going to need an open air venue). Standing at the door of the craft, dressed in a pinstripe suit and one of those big cowboy hats that rich Texans wear, is Charlie Morgan - one-time Swansea City ball boy turned multi-millionaire vodka magnate. True story, look it up.

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He runs a single thumb across the width of his windpipe, howls a wholly unhinged laugh, and delivers a picture perfect frog splash to the Belgian below. The crowd are stunned to a hush, then gather themselves and unleash the pop of the evening. Shoulders to the mat, the referee could count to a thousand and Hazard still wouldn’t be kicking out of this one. Somebody check his pulse. Ding, ding, ding.

Perhaps the greatest Welshman since Owain Glyndŵr. Certainly the best since Tom Jones.

 Eden Hazard pictured during a soccer game between French club Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish club Real Madrid  (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images) Eden Hazard pictured during a soccer game between French club Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish club Real Madrid  (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Eden Hazard pictured during a soccer game between French club Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish club Real Madrid (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images) | BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Steven Gerrard vs Frank Lampard vs Paul Scholes (Triple Threat)

Billed as the bout that will settle this debate once and for all. Instead, it settles absolutely nothing. This is a classic example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object meeting another irresistible force.

Stevie G, Franky Lamps, and Paulie Scoliosis (?) do little but cancel each other out for the best part of 20 minutes, chaining together feats of technically sound mat-work into seamless, ceaseless combinations of ultimately pointless grapples. This is a clinic, but one with no interesting magazines in the waiting room.

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Eventually, the tedium is broken by a hit of generic nu-metal as Michael Carrick and his ragtag crew of Middlesbrough jobber minions storm the ring; he’s been trying to insert himself into this feud for far, far too long without much success.

Thrown off by the outside interference, Scholes gets hit by a Chuba Akpom’s Chuba Akbomb, after which a groggy Gerrard falls on top of him for the three-count. Expect this one to be run back at the next pay-per-view, even if everybody is sick to death of seeing it by now.

Zinedine Zidane vs Marco Materazzi (Straitjacket Match)

Just two men, neither allowed to use their arms, both bouncing around the place like massive insane salmon, trying to stick the nut on each other. Hogan vs Andre, it ain’t, but damn it, if this is box office viewing. Zizou wins, because of course he does.

The Vardys vs The Rooneys

The most highly-anticipated blood feud of the evening. They may have settled their differences in court, but they still need to settle them in the only arena that truly matters... whatever the hell this is!

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In truth, what was supposed to be a mixed tag match, soon descends into one of the stiffest shoot catfights the WWE has ever seen. By the five-minute mark, Wayne and Jamie have seemingly given up all hope of entering the fray, and are instead sat crossed leg on the ring apron, swapping nicotine patch recommendations.

Their wives seem intent on ripping chunks out of each, and as the flesh and insults fly, all they - and the referee - can do is watch on helplessly, waiting for the dust to settle. When it does, there is a clear, decisive loser. It’s... Rebekah Vardy.

Patrick Vieira vs Roy Keane

This is it, folks, your main event. Accompanied to the ring by Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson respectively, two of the most renowned hard men in Premier League history go eyeball-to-eyeball for a place on the right side of history. This is Stone Cold vs The Rock, Ali vs Foreman, Godzilla vs King Kong. This is seismic.

It’s as even a contest as you might expect, two heavyweight titans battering seven bells out of each other in the name of pure hatred. But just as the pendulum begins to swing in Keane’s favour and it looks as if he might have the match sewn up, Alfe Inge Haaland’s music hits. Then Jason McAteer’s music hits. Then Jonathan Walters’. Then Peter Schmeichel’s. Then Harry Arter’s. Then a barely-conscious Mick McCarthy’s. Then Alan Shearer’s. Pretty soon, Keano is single-handedly battling half of the footballing locker room. Hell, at one point, Fergie even gets a few licks in on him for old time’s sake.

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Roy may be a lone wolf, and he may have a granite chin, but eventually the numbers game catches up to everyone. Soon he is buried under a seething pile of humanity, and Paddy V scores the easy, if tainted, victory. Cue the pyro.

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