Let's face it: Wayne Rooney is not a footballer any more, is he? Watching late-stage Wayne Rooney trying to kick a football is like watching Stephen Hawking speak through a computer: agonising, heartbreaking, enough to make you ball your fists at the universe and shout at the sheer, cold unfairness of it. Stephen Hawking wants to be climbing ladders to write complex algorithms on high chalkboards and talk breathlessly late at night with friends over wine about the deep truth of reality, but instead he has to type words out with the micro-movements of his cheek.
Wayne Rooney really wants to do a header but is about five yards away from being able to do a header. They are one and the same. And that makes 30-year-old Wayne Rooney a complex duality: the body of a builder on holiday, the muscle memory of the greatest footballer of his generation. The electric 17-year-old Wayne Rooney died some years ago, and the passable 25-year-old has been on the wane for years. Deterioration will get to us all in the end. Ashes to ashes and dust into dust. In many ways, Wayne Rooney in a Manchester United shirt is a £100 million spectre of death.
This is good, though. This is hope. This is Wayne Rooney semi-convincingly slapping a large wrestling man called Wade Barrett to the ground:
Here it is again, from a more exciting angle, although sadly remixed with Gwen Stefani for reasons unknown. Shame about the internet sometimes, isn't it?
Got about a hundred thoughts going on, here. A million thoughts. I got a billion thoughts going on. If you tried to have a thought this morning and you couldn't: that is because I was having them all, over Wayne Rooney slapping a 6'7" man in front of his own six-year-old son while attending WWE Raw in Manchester with Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher. I mean, where to dig into this party-sized tiramisu of a moment? Where to put the spoon for the first delicious bite?
— This is the best thing Wayne Rooney has done probably since the Ronaldo years, and yes I am discounting that overhead kick he did against City because it came off his shin. If it came off his boot then we'd talk, but it didn't. He shinned it. Immediately stop thinking that goal is good;
— I am obsessed with Wayne Rooney's outfit, here. Wayne Rooney's outfit says, 'I'm attending the wake of an acquaintance but also playing snooker with the lads later and I don't want to get changed in between'. Wayne Rooney's outfit says, 'Coleen got me a £250 Burton voucher for Christmas and I remembered while I was walking around the Trafford Centre that I had to use it before it ran out.' I will bet you a crisp £10 note that, somewhere backstage, there is a big Burtons bag with the warm limp remains of the clothes Wayne Rooney was wearing when he left the house today. I will bet a further £10 that those clothes are 1 x Gio Goi tracksuit bottoms (size M), 1 x plain white T-shirt from out the Littlewoods catalogue (size M), 1 x pair of Lambretta daps, the backs crushed down from where Wayne Rooney cannot quite be bothered to un-Velcro them before putting them on (size 9).
— Spiral backwards through the logistics: you have to assume that Wayne Rooney and Wade Barrett met backstage an hour or so before the show to practice the slap. This is why, for example, Wade Barrett did not perform common assault on Wayne Rooney when he slapped him. And that amuses me. "What we're going to do, Wayne," Wade Barrett is saying, in that intense half-Atlantic British wrestlers develop when they go abroad for even one second, "is I'm going to goad you in front of 21,000 people in the Manchester Arena, and then you're going to do a sort of 'come on then, cunt' car park fight starting gesture at me – repeatedly, you will do this gesture, completely out of time with everything I am saying – and then I'll come down and you can slap me and I'll pretend it actually hurt." And Wayne Rooney nods and, in that child-who-can't-quite-be-trusted-with-scissors voice of his, goes: "O–kay."
— Can you imagine any other elite athlete on Earth going to a WWE Raw show in Manchester and weakly slapping a large sweating man? I'm not even talking about in the world of football, although the prestige of your Ronaldos, your Messis, your Pogbas and your Neuers sort of elevates them above the level of slapping a former bareknuckle boxer in the middle of Manchester. No, I mean: would Tiger Woods slap a large wrestler in front of his son? Would Usain Bolt? Would Serena do this? Would Andy Murray humourlessly slap a man? Would Ronda Rousey do this? Well, yes. Ronda Rousey played herself in the Entourage movie. She would definitely do this thing. But that's the only exception that proves the rule.
— I would like for you to stare at this photograph of Wayne Rooney enjoying wrestling for some 300, 400 seconds. Literally: put an ill-fitting baseball cap on him and he is a child whose dying wish was to look at and then slap Wade Barrett at an arena in Manchester:
— The slap itself was pretty good.
And so we come to an obvious conclusion: Wayne Rooney must fulfil his destiny and become a professional wrestler. Wayne Rooney was born an athlete but didn't know it was wrestling he was meant to pursue, and so accidentally became an exceptionally high paid footballer instead. But Wayne Rooney wasn't meant to score goals for Manchester United and England. Wayne Rooney was meant to be one of those wrestlers – not the main ones, but the ones who hold the main ones' belts while they walk really slowly into the ring – one of those wrestlers who wears a lucha libre mask to hide their hair loss and a split vest that says "BOOM SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE THE ROOM" on it, a wrestler whose finishing move is something unglamorous like "doing a big punch", a wrestler whose main job is to pass steel chairs to other more supple wrestlers to hit each other with; a wrestler they never make a doll out of.
Wayne Rooney has been handed a microphone as part of some three-man backstage big screen trash talk crew and complexly unzips his mask to say, "Sheamus, watch out, I will end you," and then zips it back up again before wordlessly handing the mic to a baffled American host. Wayne Rooney is the first person to be thrown bodily of a Royal Rumble and accidentally walks up the wrong ramp to leave the arena and has to go around again. Wayne Rooney lives in this man's body already. He already has a gigantic tattoo of a Celtic cross and the thick shoulders of a technically very fit human who also is bang into tabs. Six weeks of ring training and a quick How to Bleed Safely 101 lesson and he could be ready to be the gristly, shapeless member of a good wrestler's entourage before the season is out.
Do it, Wayne Rooney. Take up the mantle the universe has handed to you. Become a mediocre wrestler. Let Wade Bennett suplex you into a state of semi-consciousness.
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