David Haye and Dereck ChisoraTrudging through rain and empty cans on the post-midnight walk towards Upton Park tube station, The Pugilist couldn't help but wonder just how many World Wrestling Entertainment DVDs Frank Warren had run through in the last six months.
From the moment Dereck Chisora and David Haye provoked gasps in Munich with a host of outside interference, foreign objects and profanity-laced rants, there was a distinct 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin aura to proceedings — and that was before the steel cages were dragged out for press conferences.
For some reason, however, the scheduling of an in-ring confrontation between the two British boxers — the traditional end destination of all good rasslin' storylines — was met by a massive backlash.
Yes, the two were nothing short of a joke in Germany between Chisora's desperate attempts to start fires at every opportunity and Haye's shameless attempt to turn a turn as guest analyst into a 'shocking' challenge of a Klitschko (against whom he may actually be able to land a punch or two), but punishments were doled out and their reputations suitably tarnished.
That Warren, a regular flame-haired Vince McMahon, capitalised on obvious interest in the pairing was smart business. Don't want to watch the two clowns tussle? Don't order it. Nobody on the promotional team was guilty of picking pockets here.
Even the Luxembourg loop-hole was just that — a loop-hole — and if anything further cemented the card as a sporting sideshow, not an actual ranking event of any prestige.
Much like when now-actors Steve Austin and long-time 'nemesis' Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson faced off at a packed Houston Astrodome in front of 67,925 paying fans for a WWE Wrestlemania event in 2001, I doubt a single soul in attendance actually believed the two actually hated each other, or that the winner would actually be regarded as a better athlete for it.
Within seconds of arrival at West Ham's Boleyn Ground for the card on Saturday evening, the ambience was much more akin to that of a professional performance card than a world-class sporting contest: from the set-up to the atmosphere of the crowd, all the way to convincing Michael Buffer (who has supplemented his boxing income announcing wrestling events for years) to favour the card over Khan-Garcia at Mandalay Bay and the over-abundance of 'Hayemaker' merchandise stands, which proved as obnoxious as a sea of John Cena apparel.
Only one element served as a major concern, not just across the ringside press quarters but also throughout a crowd who had paid top money for the evening on admission, booze and merch and were braving the miserable 'summer' elements: would the performers in this case actually perform?
Once the boxers made their arrival and Buffer did his thing, with Haye as expected playing the 'hero' in the eyes of the audience compared to Chisora's 'heel', the two unlicensed fighters could easily have gone all out with the Summerslam tribute and grappled aimlessly for ten rounds. Their money was in the bank, and their World title aspirations were already bleak.
Thankfully, both men appeared to have something to prove and came out swinging in the rain, as the media area began doubling up on ponchos — one for themselves, one for their poor equipment.
(Warren, by the way, appeared to be having far too much fun throwing the complimentary rain covers out to the affected fans for a middle-aged businessman…)
Though Haye was the better boxer by some distance, his Chris Jericho-like facial animations from wide-eyed grinning for connecting a flush combo to pouty-lipped smugness in evading Del Boy's lunging hammers gained a new dimension in round three as Chisora connected with the type of shots he spent the entire contest hoping to land, and David's uncomfortable grimaces made you wonder how many of those he would be able to take.
Fortunately for Haye there wouldn't be an opportunity to find out: a fifth-round left-hook, thrown almost in desperation as he slumped on the ropes, did what his educated flurries in the centre of the ring could not and dropped the lumbering bad guy. It was a moment trainer Adam Booth has been working on with Haye for years, with just one previous success; and it was a moment reminiscent of Hulk Hogan bodyslamming the latest behemoth to ride into town after momentarily looking troubled.
The ovation at the decision after five thumping rounds proved beyond doubt that the event was by no means a rip-off — especially combined with Liam Walsh's emotional victory on the undercard — and that there is a place in boxing for the pantomime. Nowhere near the World title picture, hopefully, but a place nonetheless.
The fact remains that wrestling is currently a profession in decline after a big mainstream kick at the turn of the millennium. That's not because the world only just discovered that the 'sport' was pre-determined and embellished for maximum interest 10 years ago — it's because the quality of finales at marquee events is often poor these days. The same cannot be said of Haye-Chisora.
Of course, Haye's sole victory after a year of excuses, interruptions and a miserable performance at the highest stage immediately had his tail back up and talk soon followed of challenging Vitali — the very concept which began all of this, back in February.
"I'll be surprised if Vitali Klitschko wants to fight me after that," Haye snorted afterwards, perhaps thinking that Haye's performance against Wladimir had escaped the older brother's mind.
"He will no doubt try to fight some chump nobody has ever heard of and then retire to be a politician," added the Londoner, in a wonderful piece of self-fulfilling prophecy with Vitali's next defence against unknown Manuel Charr a month before Ukrainian elections announced long ago.
And if there was one big downside to the Upton Park fight, it is that Haye's laughably high opinion of his own stature has well and truly returned. If he is able to regain a proper boxing license, an attempt to pick at the weakest link of the World title chain in the form of Vitali or Manuel Charr — just as he had done when dethroning Nikolai Valuev — will no doubt follow.
And just like that, a renewed taste of the big time with an eye on gold turned the hero into the 'heel'.
The Pugilist suggests that, should Haye's efforts to make a mockery of his 'retirement' vows — another classic trick of the professional wrestler — hit a stumbling block, that his showmanship and cocky monologues would go down a treat in the other squared circle.
Indeed, Haye could quite easily follow in the footsteps of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Floyd Mayweather, Thomas Hearns and even Danny Williams in turning a quick profit as a sports-entertainment personality.
If anything, six months of 'feuding' with Chisora — which of course, ended in the Sonnen-Silva sudden resolution and subsequent buddying up — should serve as the perfect audition for a guest spot at a WWE Raw event the next time they pop over to Blighty for another European tour.
As for Chisora, the slugger did the right thing in showing humility in defeat, thus drawing a line under his ill-advised attempts to drum up interest in both the Vitali and Haye fights. It's safe to say, though, that his hopes of fighting at a world level again are over.
It is time for the likes of David Price and Tyson Fury — the latter having bettered the Zimbabwe-born fighter last summer — to begin their final ascents to a crack at representing the nation against the division's best. Chisora's time has passed.
Unless, of course, he wants to follow Haye into the wrestling ring. The two newfound 'pals' would form a hell of a tag team, I'm sure.