The music couldn’t have been more wrong for the moment. It was the rush-hour bustle of SNL’s Weekend Update theme, blasting through New Jersey’s MetLife stadium for Wrestlemania 35 yesterday. Most entrance music sounds like an Avenged Sevenfold/Flo Rida mashup—not this crap. If the song seemed out of place, the stars of Weekend Update appeared even more so as they slowly made their way to the ring center stage.
Ultimately, though, what Michael Che and Colin Jost did here wasn’t so far removed from what they do every Saturday night on TV.
For the past month, they’d been teasing this moment: At the most woke Wrestlemania ever—it was the first time the Main Event was exclusively between women—SNL’s least woke duo would test their mettle against actual wrestlers in The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale. The promotion began, subtly enough, with a March visit to WWE Raw, where burly strongman Braun Strowman ended up choking Jost out. It was clear as day whose side the audience was supposed to be on.
Che and Jost were both slipping into the role of celebrity heel, a rich tradition at Wrestlemania. The regular heels in wrestling are the bad boys (and girls) who fight dirty against the most heroically packaged superstars of the WWE, the faces. Heels are stylish conflict creators, and wrestling fans love them as much, if not more than, the faces. Celebrity heels, on the other hand, are outsiders whose sole purpose is to be a lightning rod for the audience’s ire. At the height of her Jersey Shore powers, Snooki was probably the last person WWE fans wanted to see take on their beloved Trish Stratus. And who could forget Donald Trump’s Wrestlemania turn, a rite of passage as important for any future president as the Iowa caucus.
Heels are necessary foils, but celebrity heels are purely trolls.
Che and Jost certainly fit the bill. They represent everything the wrestling establishment is against—smirking, suit-wearing jokesters who think they’re better than you—and they know it. With their names in huge lights on the Jumbotron, the pair strode toward the ring wearing outfits designed to trigger the crowd. Che wore high school-style chunky headgear and ridiculous leggings with his and Jost’s face patterned on them, but Jost took the trolling to another level. At MetLife stadium, home of the New York Giants, Jost wore the Cleveland Browns jersey of Odell Beckham Jr, whom the Giants recently lost in a shocking trade. Wearing this jersey here was basically sacrilege, and only threw more gasoline on the crowd’s desire to see these two get destroyed.
One announcer certainly seemed to share that same wish.
“Let me just tell it like it is. I hope these two guys get the hell beat out of them and shipped back to where they came from,” he said, likely speaking for much of the crowd. “These guys don’t need to be here.”
The Wrestlemania Kickoff show has two hours to kill, so things tend to get drawn out as long as possible, with a lot of announcer chatter in the lead up to the real brawl. Once onstage, Jost and Che spent a lot of time just standing around among well over a dozen beefy men, some of whom were wearing underwear and neon-green dreadlocks. It reminded me a little of the standing around that takes place during the awkward goodbyes at the end of SNL.
It wasn’t the only thing that felt familiar, either. Hearing the crowd boo Jost’s jersey, which he chose with the express purpose of provoking such a response, conjured up memories of him trolling the liberal SNL audience over the years by, say, telling them that Tinder’s new range of gender options is the reason Trump is president. (Surely, the fact that people like him and Che still praised Trump as “smart” and “hard-working” as recently as October 2016 has nothing to do with it.)
Finally, the star of the match surfaced. Braun Strowman is perhaps the most Game of Thronesian character involved in this battle—a hulking, bearded landmass like The Mountain, with delts the size of gold bricks. He had a history with Jost, having picked him up by the neck on national TV last month. Perhaps today they would tangle again.
Or perhaps not. The very second the bell sounded, Che and Jost leapt through the ropes and crawled under the ring to hide.
“That’s actually kind of smart,” one announcer suggested.
“Yeah, smart but cowardly and not satisfying,” another concluded.
Hmmm. “Smart but cowardly and not satisfying” is exactly how you could describe a lot of Weekend Update jokes, like the ones about why it was rude of New Yorkers to root against an Amazon HQ2 invasion.
Colin Jost is the son of a doctor and engineer, went to a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, went to Harvard, was hired at SNL immediately after graduating and has never had another adult job pic.twitter.com/iXMFEB4Oos
— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) November 18, 2018
But wait, there’s more. After nearly all the wrestlers were eliminated, Che and Jost crawled out from their hiding spot under the ring. At this point, the only ones left were the Hardys, who look like denuded Juggalos, and Strowman, whom the Hardys had on the ropes. In true celebrity heel fashion, Che and Jost attempted to sabotage Strowman at his most vulnerable moment, but were thwarted most foul.
Hijinks ensued, culminating in the only way this could have, with Che getting smacked down and Jost being tossed over the ropes into a trio of ringside wrestlers. It was over.
The Weekend Update hosts did just enough at Wrestlemania to argue that they contributed a bare minimum something. But some of the enjoyment was contingent on viewers hissing at them—a routine we know too well by now. Even though siding with a corporation like Amazon over everyday New Yorkers is a different category of trolling than wearing a jersey that’s offensive to sports-bereaved New Yorkers, to these guys, it’s all the same.