“This is as close as you get to really experiencing things from a wrestling fan’s point of view,” Gargano writes.
When I was asked to review Marvel’s latest mega blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, I honestly had no idea where to begin. There’s just so much ground to cover. It’s literally 11 years and 21 prior movies worth of emotional investment all rolled into an action-packed three hours.
First things first, I’m going to break the ONE rule of the movie—#DontSpoilTheEndGame—and I’m going to #SpoilTheEndGame. I’m not going to go into full details breaking down every scene and its reasoning. This will be more about my experience with the film, and a therapy session for those that have already seen it. We need to move on!
IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, THAT WAS YOUR WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, ABORT. ABORT. OR JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES WHILE YOU READ THIS ARTICLE.
With that out of the way...
Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. I’m an NXT Superstar and the current NXT Champion. Outside the ring, I am a huge Marvel fan and don’t hide my overwhelming nerd-dom by any means. I’ve been lucky to combine my two loves quite frequently, that of Marvel Superheroes and Sports Entertainment. It’s become something of a “thing” where my ring gear at NXT: TakeOver is inspired by various heroes depending on my story. Thor, Captain America, and most recently, Iron Man when I was in my own personal Endgame for the NXT Championship. (That story luckily ended a little bit differently, though!)
Here's a closer look at my #NXTTakeOver: New York gear.— Johnny Gargano (@JohnnyGargano) April 10, 2019
When @AdamRichesArt and I spoke about TakeOver design inspirations.. this was always the end game.
Outside of the obvious Candice cupcake Easter Egg (that she didn't know about!).. can you find the other? ❤ @MainEventGear pic.twitter.com/OCqNGRZ8bz
I’ve seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and I even started showing them to my mom and dad. They always have no idea what my gear is inspired by and explaining to parents specific details about Marvel characters is like introducing them to smart phones. So, we just decided to show them the movies! (It’s helped to a degree, but my Mom thought Black Widow was Wonder Woman in Endgame. Come on, Mom, that’s a different universe!)
I saw Infinity War in theaters four times.
I’ve currently seen Endgame twice, but that will probably change by the time this article comes out. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you see it in IMAX. (Thank me later.)
I waited the appropriate amount of time and tweeted that I thought the movie was perfect.
“Perfect,” you ask? Hear me out!
Yes, there are certain things you must let slide. Again, I’m biased. I’m the eternal optimist and I’ll always give Disney and the MCU the benefit of the doubt because I think (and they’ve shown) there’s always a longer game at play. But of course, some questions need to be asked.
Why was Captain Marvel so busy on other planets? Wouldn’t she have come in handy for the time travel portion of this mission? Probably, but she was just too busy apparently.
Speaking of time travel. What’s up with that? I had a good 25-minute conversation with my wife about the dynamics of the past Gamora, the soul stone and how Cap was able to go back and place each stone in its time line to avoid a branched reality. I’ve sat back and tried to wrap my head around the whole thing, and honestly, every time I’ve tried to make sense of it, I can’t comprehend it! That said, I’ve accepted that and I’m fine with it.
I didn’t go into this movie with super critical eyes. I went for an experience, and that’s exactly what I got. I wore my fresh Avengers: Endgame T-shirt and Iron Man socks (foreshadowing), bought the Iron Man popcorn bucket and went to enjoy it and enjoy it I did.
This was not just a movie, this was a happening. I wanted to see it opening weekend because for someone in my line of work, this is as close as you get to really experiencing things from a wrestling fan’s point of view. Much like in the world of WWE and NXT, you genuinely care for these characters and you want to cheer them on. You want to see them succeed, and on the flip side, you want to see Thanos pay. That’s wrestling 101.
As a WWE and NXT Superstar, you gauge the crowd from how they react to the opening match. From that moment on, you know whether it’s a fun crowd, a quiet crowd, a rowdy crowd, etc. I gauge my theater based on how the crowd reacts right out of the gate. I’m not someone who gets upset when people audibly cheer or react appropriately (within reason) during a movie. For a movie like this, I feel it enhances the experience. As soon as the lights went down, HUGE POP! (or cheer for the non-wrestling fan readers). I knew we were in for a good time.
BIGGEST REACTIONS FROM MY THEATER
4. Professor Hulk: My personal favorite interaction was Hulk at the diner with the kids asking for a picture and Ant-Man intervening.
3. Fat Thor: All of him. My theater loved Fat Thor.
2. Cap catching and wielding Mjölnir!: A moment a lot of diehards have been waiting for and it was well worth the wait.
1. The Final Battle: The reactions each individual character got when they came through the portal gave me legit goosebumps.
That’s really what this movie is built on, and where it shines. Moments and callbacks. I felt like Infinity War’s big shine was having all these new characters interacting with each other for the very first time. All I could think about was how much fun it must have been to write that movie. Endgame pays everything off and then some. I feel like it gives the loyal viewer, those who have watched all 21 movies (even the unheralded Thor: The Dark World) everything they could ask for, and for the casual moviegoer, it’s still an awesome story.
From Cap’s “Hail Hydra” line to get out of the famous elevator fight scene, to Peter Parker finally getting a hug from Tony Stark as a callback to the “I’m just reaching for the handle” car scene in Homecoming. All those moments and the stakes at hand created a perfect storm of emotion. Happiness, laughter, concern and above all else, dread. Yes, I KNEW something big had to happen in the last act. They set it up in Infinity War. All that foreshadowing I mentioned earlier? Well I think we ALL knew SOMETHING had to happen to A): Iron Man B): Captain America C): Both of them.
Sidenote: The Black Widow death was the real shocker to me. They really drew the short end of the stick having to retrieve the soul stone. But I even enjoyed how that was handled. It was vastly different to the way Thanos and Gamora’s visit to Vormir played out, and it absolutely fit both Hawkeye (or even though they don’t say it…Ronin) and Black Widow’s arc and characters. They were the perfect fit for that situation.
Alright, now back to that other thing that happened. If you guessed C) something would happen to both Iron Man AND Captain America, DING DING DING! You win a big bowl of emotions that you don’t know how to cope with on the awkward silent car ride home from the theater!
I’m writing this on the 11-year anniversary of the very first movie MCU theater release, Iron Man. It's no secret Tony Stark is the godfather of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no MCU and obviously no Endgame if Iron Man fails. One step further, there is no Iron Man if not for the sensational Robert Downey Jr. He brought life to the character and made you care. From the moment he uttered “I am Iron Man” 11 years ago at a press conference to his last words of “I am Iron Man” before pulling the ultimate “Hero Play” and sacrificing himself to finally kill that monster in his closet and save the world. He WAS the MCU. That’s why this moment is so big. It truly is the end of an era. It should have been obvious right? Doctor Strange gave up the time stone in Infinity War to save Tony and saw he was the key to this whole thing. And he was. Plus, how satisfying was it to see Thanos dusted? I give the writers credit for essentially killing Thanos twice. Thor got his “go for the head” moment and we got Thanos ultimate comeuppance of realizing he lost as he watches his soldiers vanish before he ultimately vanished himself. Bravo, Marvel.
So Iron Man is dead. We all got sad but accepted it had to happen for the greater good. We witnessed the funeral, his daughter brought cheeseburgers. We should be on to happier times, right?!
Well, kind of.
Captain America needed to go back in time to put the stones back and he’ll be back in five seconds? Sweet! But wait, he’s not back in five seconds. Instead he’s an old man now, with a wedding ring and gave Sam Wilson his shield! WHAAAAAAT?!!!
Like I said earlier, I’m not going to wrap my head around the logistics of time travel. Plus, the Russo Brothers mentioned in a recent interview this was purposely left open-ended, showing a longer game at play. I threw the word perfect around earlier, and to me, this is how you write off Captain America in a satisfying way. He had to end up with his “best girl.” Iron Man got the heroic sacrifice moment he so rightfully deserved, and Captain America gets his happy ending with Peggy Carter. Was it still sad? Yes. Of course, they could time travel and pull Iron Man and Captain America from 2014 into this timeline, but I think they know what this truly symbolizes and that would be a copout of sorts. I’m only OK seeing them again in the Secret Wars, or if Mysterio gets super morbid and makes Spider-Man relive Tony’s death. Let’s get dark, Jake Gyllenhaal!
I’ll be honest, I got WAY more emotional watching the film the second time. The moment Tony got to have with this father in the ’70s where he (kind of) shares he has a granddaughter was even more heart wrenching knowing what was about to happen. On the flip side, Cap looking into Peggy’s window filled my heart with joy knowing where he was about to end up. There’s a lot of little things you may not pick up on with your first viewing, so I recommend checking it out again, and again, and again.
Now the big question: Where do we go now that they’re gone?
There are so many unanswered questions moving forward, especially with the upcoming collection of the Disney Plus spinoff series, Falcon (now with Shield?) and Winter Soldier. Vision is still gone, but will he be with Wanda? The upcoming Black Widow movie must be a prequel, right? The next thing on the docket is Spider-Man: Far from Home, which I’m super excited for, but is every movie in the MCU set five years in the future now? Did ALL of Peter’s friends get dusted? But that’s the fun of it. The MCU hasn’t let me down yet and with the success of Endgame, I feel the bar has been raised even higher. With the Fox deal now complete, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a certain group of mutants soon, and maybe we’re in store for another mega crossover event in 11 years! I personally can’t wait to see what they have in store, and I’m crossing my fingers that Thor will be in Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
I can’t think of an appropriate way to wrap this thing up. There's just so many great moments I'm sure I left out, such as Pepper Potts finally donning the rescue suit. I will simply say thank you to The Russo Brothers (Cleveland represent) for helping create what could potentially be the defining movie of this generation. And if this is the last time we see you, thanks to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans for bringing two iconic characters to life.
Lastly, thanks to you for reading my nonsensical ramblings! We live in a “Have seen Endgame” and “Haven’t seen Endgame” world now. We all must live with these feelings eventually. Writing this has been very therapeutic for me and now I see why Steve Rogers hosted those sessions!
I love you, 3,000.
– NXT Champion Johnny Gargano