WrestleMania has come and gone and … well … yeah… I guess I need to address it. I was going to just press on and write about something else, but for the sake of my mental well-being, I think I have to unwrap this ball of hostility within me. So this will be the last Fantasy Book I will dedicate to WrestleMania this year. I hope this clears it out of my mental spaces.
Hopefully you will come along with me here. I have heard that it helps to admit it sometimes. Saying it out loud might even ease some of the pain. So, everyone, say it with me – The WWE doesn’t care about me. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about the internet. They don’t care about the characters we like. They just don’t care.
If the rather curious-at-best booking decisions during WrestleMania didn’t confirm this, maybe the use of retired wrestlers to overshadow current talent did. Or maybe it was taking the Intercontinental title off arguably the hottest heel they have and putting it on someone we haven’t even seen on the main programs in forever did it. Or possibly it was taking the World Heavyweight title and putting it on someone every crowd attempts to boo out of the building did it. Or maybe it was the slap-in-the-face of seeing the owner’s son hanging with the man they’ve presented as the biggest badass in the company’s history did it.
Let’s take these one at a time.
1) The booking decisions throughout the night were, at best, odd. At worst, they were contradictory and insulting. Let me just run through the ones that were very strange to me.
– The Usos over the Dudley Boyz. If the WWE wanted to put the Usos over, that’s fine. But then having them put the Dudley Boyz through the tables was definitely not what the crowd wanted to see. The crowds at WWE events have been pretty vocal about this too. To make matters worse, the Dudleys get their heat back in a rematch the very next night. So … yeah. Why should I care about the Usos again?
– The Ladder Match. I’ll talk about the winner in a minute, but the very fact that they had seven people in this match when we only wanted to see two of them wrestler – Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. I’m cool with workers getting a payday, but they have a battle royal already on the card for that.
– Chris Jericho beat AJ Styles. Ummm… what? This has been all about Jericho doesn’t think Styles is good enough to be on his level. Logical storytelling says that Styles wins big here and makes a grand statement. Instead, we get Jericho proving himself right. And just like that, why should we care about Styles? Did I mention that they made Styles the number one contender to the World title the next night? Why should I think he can be a potential champion if he can’t beat Jericho?
– The League of Nations beat The New Day. I don’t really care that they had the League win. They had to do something to try to get heat back on them. But sacrificing your most over unit to do it, I am not sure about that. Plus, they won thanks to interference from Wade Barrett, who the League of Nations kicked out of the group the next night. Confused enough yet? Just try figuring out why this match was a 3-on-3 match and not the 3-4 they promoted or even a tag title match or adding someone to New Day for a 4-on-4 match… Ow, my head hurts.
– Brock Lesnar beat Dean Ambrose. Okay, we sort of expected this. But the fact that it was No Holds Barred allowed people to think Ambrose would at least put up a good fight. In reality, we got an extended squash where Ambrose played rag doll. Why build up a No Holds Barred match when the most you are going to do is a few chair shots and a kendo stick? And why have the stipulation at all if you are just going to have Lesnar do what we all expect him to do anyway and kick the snot out of Ambrose?
– Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant battle royal. I am okay with Corbin winning this. I am not a huge fan of Corbin, but I think it is one of the best ways to use this battle royal – i.e. giving someone from NXT a big push starting out. My issue is the fact that other participants included Diamond Dallas Page, Shaq, and Tatanka. Remember those guys in the Ladder match, couldn’t they have been thrown in here? I mean, Tatanka? Really?
– The Rock beat Erick Rowan in six seconds. I get that The Rock is a huge draw and everyone else pales by comparison. But The Rock is going back to movies/television/commercials/etc. and Erick Rowan is still going to be here tomorrow. The audience is still supposed to be in fear of the Wyatt family. How can you fear Erick Rowan now when he doesn’t do ANYTHING against The Rock and gets pinned in record time? How hard would it have been to allow Rowan to at least beat on Rock before the bell rung? You could still get The Rock victory and record time yet still have Rowan look at least somewhat competent. Just thank goodness Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper are injured and didn’t have to suffer this fate.
Okay, I think that’s enough for how odd the booking was for this show, in my mind. What’s next?
2) The use of retired wrestlers going over current talent. I just talked about The Rock destroying the Wyatt family, so I won’t harp on that. But at least Rock has wrestled in the past couple years. Here, I am talking specifically about the moment Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin came out and beat down the League of Nations, danced with The New Day, and then stunnered poor Xavier Woods.
Pat Metalhead talked about this some in his dissection of WrestleMania and I agree with him. I know a lot of people just want to mark out and see guys you like come out for a special event. They could have done it many other ways. Heck, you had Rock, Dallas Page, Tatanka, and Shaq backstage, couldn’t you have set something up where they got beat down instead? You get your feel good moment and you don’t take away from the supposed top heel faction and the tag team champions. Heck, have them come out and beat down the Social Outcasts, or Fandango and Tyler Breeze or even Dolph Ziggler. But why do you have guys who have been long retired come out and make guys who are being given big pushes look like fools?
Let me try to clarify my point. If the WWE wants to trot out the old ponies for everyone to cheer, that’s fine. But if they keep doing that at the expense of building their current talent up, that’s not. In 10-15 years, who on the current roster are they going to bring out for a WrestleMania pop? If you are being honest, aside from John Cena, there is no one else who would move the needle like that.
Now, what would happen if the League of Nations actually took out these three retired superstars? That doesn’t make Austin, Michaels, and Foley look bad. They aren’t immortal. We know they are retired and it doesn’t change anything about their careers. But it puts hellish heat on The League of Nations going forward. Even if there is no “payoff” to the League beating down non-wrestlers, it still gives them the “Legend Killer” gimmick in a very dangerous way which can be leveraged into future battles. You could even have someone, or someones, decide to “defend the old school” and take revenge. It adds a new level to your top heel group and could even push another face grouping. Instead, we got the same old beer drinking party while the current guys look like idiots.
3) The Intercontinental Championship was held by Kevin Owens. Like him or not, he has been the hottest heel in the company lately. He’s still relatively new to the WWE crowd and brings a fresh energy to his matches. Yes, the IWC wanted to see Owens versus Sami Zayn one-on-one (it even seems that many of the live crowds wanted that too), but hey, you want a spot-fest to start the show, a seven-man cluster of a ladder match is not a bad way to go.
Would it have hurt to keep the belt on Owens? Definitely not. In fact, it could have helped raise the prestige of the title. Having Owens retain the belt here only serves to make Owens look strong and make the belt seem even that more important when he loses it down the line. But if you want to switch the belt, okay, I get it. Maybe pop the crowd immediately with a title change. But who do you give it to? Stardust? No, he hasn’t been in a major storyline in a long, long time. Maybe two years ago it would have worked, but the character is too far down the ladder (see what I did there? ha) now. Sin Cara? The dude has been a tag team specialist for a long while and his singles matches are only for him to be enhancement talent. Sami Zayn? The crowd would have loved this, but it still seems like they want to finish the Owens-Zayn blood feud. The Miz? While Miz has been wrestling very well lately, he has not seemed to be a credible threat to any title. He disappears for long periods of time (to make those WWE movie blockbusters) and then returns to spend most of his time talking and being humiliated by everyone. Dolph Ziggler? This isn’t the same Dolph Ziggler that won Money in the Bank and cashed in to a crazy pop. This is the Dolph Ziggler who hasn’t won a match or a feud in months. The Dolph Ziggler who no one believes can even get a pinfall on someone these days, much less win a title.
So who do you give it to? Am I forgetting someone? Oh yeah, Zack Ryder. You remember Zack Ryder. You probably saw him on Raw 6 months ago. No, doesn’t ring a bell? Well, they brought him out of mothballs last week just to say he is a total jobber who could never be thought of as a threat. His role in the ladder match really appeared to be as cannon-fodder only. But a few years ago a bunch of guys online liked him, so let’s give him the second biggest title in the company. And hey, let’s also whip the belt back off of him the next night and give it to The Miz, who was in that same match the night before anyway. Ugh.
4) Let’s take the main championship we have and put it on a part-time retired wrestler (Triple H) to start. Then, let’s have the slowest match possible to allow the crowd to “enjoy” every single second. And let’s make sure the crowd uses those seconds to think about the inevitability of someone they absolutely hate getting the belt.
Roman Reigns is in a tough position. Fine. So what? The crowd doesn’t want him to be the champion. They don’t want him pushed down their throats. They don’t want him near the main event. Despite everything the WWE has tried to do to change that, that is still the fact of the matter. Could they make the most of the situation and turn Reigns heel? Probably, but they didn’t. They just closed their eyes, shoved their fingers in their ears, and yelled “La La La” all the way to the end. And in the end, the inevitable happened. And the WWE gave the fans the champion that no one wanted.
5) All of that was bad. But the worst, in my opinion, was the Hell in a Cell match between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. With stipulations about Undertaker retiring if he lost and Shane gaining control of Raw if he won, at least their was some intrigue in which direction they would go.
Everyone expected this match to simply be a way to set up Shane doing something stupid risky and unnecessary, and that it was. But they got to that leap off the cage not by Shane escaping The Undertaker and throwing caution to the wind, but by showing Shane as a legitimate challenger to The Undertaker. I know they showed the video package of Shane working out and martial arts training, but this is the WWE. For almost 25 years we have been told The Undertaker is the baddest dog in the yard, the meanest and toughest son of a bitch there. We’ve also been told that Shane is the son of the owner and while he has fought sometimes in the past, it wasn’t often and he has been gone for years.
With that laid out, it would make sense for The Undertaker to just kill Shane until Taker made a mistake and Shane could do his crazy stunt and scar his kids for life. That would have been okay. It wouldn’t have been very original, but it would have made sense. Instead, we get Undertaker struggling to beat a corporate suit with little to no wrestling experience.
Then, after everything, The Undertaker wins anyway. So none of the stipulations get put into place. And the audience is told, “Yeah, we told you everything sucks on Raw. So we gave you a savior in Shane to come in and change everything so it doesn’t suck. But fuck you. Nothing changes and everything still sucks.”
Except the very next night, after insulting the audience blatantly at the beginning and throughout the show, they give Shane control of Raw anyway. (And seriously, I am surprised they didn’t run a crawl at the bottom of the screen all night saying, “Don’t listen to this crowd. They’re dumb. And so are you.”) What was the purpose of the damn Hell in a Cell match then anyway????
So here we are. Almost a week out from Wrestlemania. We are on our second new Intercontinental champion. We have a number one contender for the world title who lost to a semi-retired wrestler on Sunday. We have tag team champions who lost to a heel faction thanks to a guy that faction kicked out the next day. And, of yeah, that faction was humiliated by three retired wrestlers after their win. Oh, did I forget to mention that this heel faction was also beaten down by another heel faction on Monday? You know the one with the guy who lost to the retired wrestler in six seconds at WrestleMania. Your top face was decimated by a guy working limited dates. We have a champion that no one likes or wants. And we have determined that the son of the owner can stand toe-to-toe with the baddest of the bad. He also has no brain cells and almost kills himself on a regular basis. But he wants to run the company but can’t because he still lost. But he gets to run the company anyway.
Because none of it matters. WrestleMania 32 might go down as, if not one of the worst WrestleManias ever, quite possibly the most inconsequential one of all time. At least, it will be inconsequential until 5 years from now when the WWE doesn’t have any new stars built up well enough. And we now know, with absolute certainty, that the WWE doesn’t care.
But, don’t worry. Randy Orton will be back from injury to bore us into a coma soon.
One last point, NXT Takeover: Dallas was awesome. Seriously, it kicked all sorts of ass. The difference between that show and WrestleMania 32 was unbelievable. If you didn’t know both groups were owned by the same company, you would have ZERO idea.
Okay, I purged my wrestling entertainment psyche enough for now. I’ll be back next week, hopefully a little more upbeat. This week, aside from NXT, just wore my patience beyond thin. Thanks for listening. Sound off in the comment section and tell me why I’m wrong or pile on with me. It’s fun.
Until next time…
Tags: Kevin Owens, Mick Foley, NXT, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The League of Nations, The New Day, The Rock, zack ryder