When I hit the “Publish” button and make this column available for the public to read, we will be 38 days away from WrestleMania. Obviously, this is supposed to be the biggest and best time of year for WWE. This is when they pull out all the stops, trying to deliver the biggest and craziest show(s) of the year. It’s when you usually see the part-timers coming in for their one-off matches, celebrities showing up, and a lot of major matches.
So far, we’re seeing a lot of that for this year’s edition of WrestleMania. As of this moment, there are four matches that have been officially announced for the show…
- Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar – Winner Takes All Match for the Universal & WWE Titles
- Charlotte Flair vs Ronda Rousey – Smackdown Women’s Title Match
- Becky Lynch vs Bianca Belair – Raw Women’s Title Match
- Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio vs The Miz & Logan Paul
The first three matches are huge, WrestleMania main event matches, without a doubt. Whether any of us like it or not, the fourth match is going to bring in mainstream media attention because of Logan Paul’s participation, and we all know how much Vince McMahon loves that type of thing.
Now, let’s look at the matches that are being rumored to one extent or another…
- Edge vs AJ Styles
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Kevin Owens
- Sami Zayn vs Johnny Knoxville – Intercontinental Title Match
- Drew McIntyre vs Happy Corbin
- The Usos vs The Viking Raiders – Smackdown Tag Team Title Match
- Naomi vs Sonya Deville
Quite the mix there. The first match is a potential Match Of The Year candidate featuring two men who have never faced each other before. Then you have an all-time great that would be wrestling his first match in nearly two decades. Next, you have more celebrity participation that is going to get even more mainstream media attention. Then… things pretty much fall apart when you’re looking for praise. That’s not really the point I’m making here, though.
When you look at the WrestleMania card, both of the officially announced and rumored varieties, and judge them based on absolutely nothing but what the potential match quality is going to be… there’s a lot to look forward to. It’s only when you look at things a little deeper, as most wrestling fans tend to do, that you run into problems.
I’ve made it very clear that I am a huge Brock Lesnar fan. The chaotic nature of what is about to happen next when you hear the opening moment of his entrance music is nearly unrivaled over the last 20 years. He’s a lot better performer, both in the ring and on the mic, than he is generally given credit for. I’m still happy to see him, especially in this new face role, where he seems to be having the time of his life out there. With that said, I can’t stand how WWE has handled his booking. I understand that there needs to be a fine line when it comes to how you handle Brock. He’s one of the most physically intimidating and dominant athletes to ever live on this planet, so having him wrestle in nothing but 30-minute marathon matches doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. However, putting him in these UFC-style matches where things are going to end in two minutes is really starting to wear thin. Having him steamroll through everybody, no matter the odds, doesn’t exactly make people want to keep watching. We’ve seen that he can do really well in longer matches. SummerSlam 2019 against Seth Rollins? The match went over 13 minutes and was incredibly fun. Survivor Series 2018 against Daniel Bryan? Nearly 19 minutes long, and it ended up being one of the best WWE matches of the year. Survivor Series 2017 against AJ Styles? 15 minutes. SummerSlam 2017 against Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman? 21 minutes. Fastlane 2016 against Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose? 17 minutes. Hell In A Cell 2015 against The Undertaker? 18 minutes. SummerSlam 2015 against The Undertaker? 17 minutes.
I could go on, but you get the point. All “long” matches, and all really entertaining to watch.
I wish that was my only issue involving Brock Lesnar on the path to WrestleMania this year.
Folks, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this or not, but… WWE sure loves to try and shoehorn Brock into title pictures, no matter the cost, and no matter who else is involved.
It has been said before, but the company was really backed into a corner at Day 1, but instead of finding a creative way out of that corner… they merely turned to face the wall and began bashing their head against it repeatedly. When Roman Reigns tested positive for COVID and needed to be pulled from the show at the last minute, it left Brock Lesnar without a match. As one of the biggest stars in the company, and one of the biggest draws, the company had to put him somewhere on the show. Adding him to the Four-Way for the WWE Title made perfect sense. He added star power and more unpredictability to the match, and it was a match he could lose without being pinned, so he could remain strong for when he would eventually get his match against Reigns.
It was such a simple thing to pull off. Brock could’ve been Brock in the match, taking everyone to Suplex City and leaving trails of destruction at every turn. That’s all fine and dandy. Big E had a good thing going as the WWE Champion, and that could’ve continued with a win here. A win that, as was said, could’ve come against someone else in the match to “protect” Brock. Instead, we got the polar fucking opposite decision. Not only did Brock win the match to become the new champion, he pinned Big E to do it.
It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now.
WWE was given an “out” to make up for it, placing Lesnar in a title match against Bobby Lashley at the Royal Rumble event. Due to interference from Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman, Lashley would defeat Lesnar to become the new WWE Champion. Finally! Everything could get back to normal now… Lesnar sets his sights on Reigns for a WrestleMania showdown, and the Raw main event workers could focus on the Raw main event title. Perfect.
So… what happened?
Lesnar is put into the WWE Title Elimination Chamber… and he wins it, becoming the champion again.
Sure, it was a match where Brock would’ve needed to be pinned to be eliminated from, but that was an easy enough solution. You have Reigns and The Usos ready to make Lesnar’s life miserable. ESPECIALLY WITH THE FUCKING CHAMBER NEEDING TO BE OPENED UP WHEN BOBBY LASHLEY WAS INJURED. Once the door was opened, it would’ve been ridiculously easy to have Reigns and The Usos enter the Chamber to destroy Brock and cause him to be eliminated.
Now we’re on the verge of getting Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. It’s a match that is big enough for Mania all by itself, with nothing on the line. If you absolutely, positively need a title on the line, Roman’s Universal Title makes sense, as he has been champion for such a long time now that everything has added prestige.
You know what the match didn’t need?
Both the Universal and WWE Titles on the line, with the winner taking both of them.
That’s exactly what we’re getting, though.
As I said, Reigns vs Lesnar doesn’t need a title of any kind attached to it, but I completely understand why the Universal Title would be involved. If we were getting Reigns vs Lesnar for the Universal Title, that would open the door for a “main event” WWE Title match to be added to the card for that weekend, making WrestleMania even bigger.
Now, is this going to hurt the match quality that Reigns and Lesnar will deliver? No, and that’s the problem I’m talking about here. WWE has a world-class talent roster, full of an insane level of talent. They’re able to put matches on television and pay-per-view (I’m going to call it that forever) and have those matches turn out well. Unfortunately, the journey to get to those matches, and the stretches of time between the matches, are rough because WWE has lost the ability to tell a coherent story.
I’ve been a WWE fan for a long, long time. I was a fan when they were going through every type of struggle you can think of, and I was a fan when they were on top of the world. I’ve seen some really bad creative stretches, but right now, we’re in the middle of one of the worst stretches that I’ve ever seen.
Think back to any “bad” year that WWE had. I don’t care what metric you’re using to determine that it was a bad year. Struggling to sell pay-per-views. Lame characters and gimmicks all over your television. Whatever. What a lot… maybe most… maybe all… of those years have in common is that the company got its shit together during “WrestleMania Season.” The biggest matches were put together, complete with the best stories behind them. In those years, things perked up quite a bit in January, leading up to the Royal Rumble, and then all the way into late-March or early-April, when WrestleMania took place. Then, you’d get a phenomenal episode of Raw on the night after Mania… and then shit would go back to being bad out of nowhere. It was frustrating, to say the least.
I’m not seeing that this year.
It isn’t just the Brock Lesnar situation. Remember back to when I said that Roman vs Brock didn’t need to be for two titles, which would’ve allowed for another big-time match for the WWE Title to take place at Mania? You could say a very similar thing about what is happening with the Intercontinental Title. As stated earlier, the rumor is that new champion Sami Zayn will be defending the title against Johnny Knoxville. I have no problems at all with the match taking place. It makes sense, and I trust Zayn and Knoxville enough to make it fun, but why in the bloody hell does it need to have the Intercontinental Title attached to it?!?!? Put the match on the show. That’s great. Without the title involved there, though, you could have another match on the show be for the belt, and that… say it with me… makes WrestleMania even bigger.
If you look up and down the WWE roster right now, you’re going to have a difficult time finding people that are being written and handled well right now. Charlotte Flair is one of the biggest stars in the company, but she’s the female version of Brock Lesnar when it comes to WWE always, always, always needing to have her involved in a title picture, to the detriment of everyone else around. Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss are some of the worst characters in recent memory, to the point where people (myself included) would rather mute their televisions when they’re on the screen. Bobby Lashley was a heel that was a face who was a heel that was a face who was a heel. The 24/7 Title exists. Veer is coming more, and for longer, than Peter North and Ron Jeremy in their primes. Big E might as well be lower case e at this point. Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander are in The Hurt Business, except that there is no Hurt Business, but there is a Hurt Business that they’re representing, even though there is no Hurt Business. People become royalty and can’t help but talk like Peppa Fucking Pig all of a sudden. Liv Morgan cries more than a 13-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber or whatever the 2022 version of Justin Bieber is. If you’re a champion other than Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar, you’re probably going to lose just about every non-title match you have. Wrestler A beat Wrestler B on television this week, so Wrestler B beats Wrestler A on television next week.
The list goes on and on.
I know what a lot of you are thinking right now. WWE doesn’t care, because there’s no reason for them to. They’re making more money now than they ever have before, even in the peak years of Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, or any other draw in the history of the company. As much as people love AEW, they are not a threat to WWE whatsoever right now. You can point to whatever ratings demographic you want to. All that matters to Vince McMahon is this… in 2021, WWE brought in nearly $1.1 billion in revenue, and over $180 million in net income. Both of those numbers are record highs for the company. AEW, in comparison, looks to have brought in close to $85 million in revenue for 2021. That’s a really good number, but it took two or three weeks in a normal month for WWE to make that.
Yes, it’s true that WWE doesn’t care if their writing is great, good, decent, subpar, poor, or anything else on whatever scale you can think of. Unless you’re someone who thinks WWE is putting on a tremendous product, that’s a major problem. Nothing’s going to change unless Vince McMahon dies or if WWE is sold.
It’s really strange to be mere weeks away from WWE’s biggest show of the year, but to not have the usual level of excitement as a fan. To know that nothing matters… that storytelling is completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things… is a sad feeling. You almost have to treat the WWE product like some of the original independent promotions, where there was little-to-no focus on stories and it almost seemed like randomized matches up and down the card. The shows were fun as far as match quality goes, but that’s as far as it went. If I watch an episode of Raw, I can see fun matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Damian Priest, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Chad Gable, Rey Mysterio, and on and on and on. The same can be said about Cesaro, Roman Reigns, Ricochet, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, etc. on Smackdown. I just can’t help but think about how amazing the shows would be if Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard, Kevin Dunn and the like were all Thanos’d from the planet.
These might be famous last words, but I have plenty of faith in WrestleMania being a good show this year. On paper, there are a few matches that have potential to be discussed on year-end lists. I’m just worried about the direction that the company is headed right now. It scares me that we’re at where we’re at right now, and we haven’t even hit the annual post-Mania lull.
I want to hear from you, ReaderLand, but I have a specific question to ask you. For those of you that watch WWE, I want to hear some positive things from you. What current storylines are you enjoying right now? Again, I’m talking storylines, not the actual matches themselves. Are you enjoying Roman Reigns and The Bloodline? Do you dig watching Bianca Belair chase Becky Lynch? Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Trent Barretta vs Jay White: Not that he was bad before or anything, but it’s crazy how good Trent has been since returning from injury. He’s in tremendous shape, and is wrestling with a huge chip on his shoulder. He looks like someone who can be a major player in AEW.
- Lee Moriarty vs Bryan Danielson: For a lot of people, this was the first real time they’ve had the opportunity to see what Lee Moriarty can do in a wrestling ring, and he did not disappoint them at all. Facing the man who many feel is one of the best performers in the history of the business, Moriarty looked like he belonged in there. After a great match, we also got the continuation of the story between Danielson and Jon Moxley, with Mox basically saying that he needs to face Danielson again before he can even think about teaming up with him. If we’re getting Moxley vs Danielson at Revolution, that could be something special.
- Tommaso Ciampa vs Dolph Ziggler: Dolph seems to have new passion since showing up in NXT, and that can only be a good thing, both for him and the brand moving forward. It doesn’t matter if his stay is a temporary one. He’s going to help elevate the people he’s working with.
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn: As much as I love Nakamura, I’m glad to see him drop the Intercontinental Title. He was the champion for just under 17 years, and he defended the title exactly zero times in that span. Maybe a new champion can breathe new life into a title that really needs it. Probably not, but hey, crazier things have happened.
- RKBro vs SethKO: So much fun. It’s wild to see the chemistry that these two teams have, considering that they’re all solo acts who were just thrown together.
- CM Punk’s Promo: Lots of passion, and a nostalgic ride through his career. I think the best part about the promo was MJF coming out and, for the first time, having nothing to say in response, almost scared at what was being laid out before him. That made Punk’s words even more powerful and even more meaningful.
- Bianca Belair vs Doudrop: Am I wrong to think that Doudrop is everything WWE wanted Nia Jax to be, only much better? I’m not sure how much of a ceiling she has with that name, but she has been so impressive since being turned loose.
- Sammy Guevara vs Darby Allin: Pillar-on-Pillar violence!
- Ricochet vs Sheamus: This fits in with what I wrote about up top. You see that these two are facing each other, and you know you’re getting a good match. It doesn’t matter that neither man has had a good storyline written for them since 1994. They just go out and have good matches every week against any and everybody.
- Nikita Lyons: *looks at the camera like Tyler James Williams on Abbott Elementary*
This Week’s Playlist: “Love’s Train” by Silk Sonic… “MAGIC” by Vince Staples… “Bad Habits” by Ed Sheeran & Bring Me The Horizon… “For The Squadron” by SAINt JHN… “505” by Arctic Monkeys… “Neurotic” by Three Days Grace & Lukas Rossi… “Make Believe” by Memphis May Fire… “In The Air Tonight” by State Of Mine… “Lost In The Grandeur” by KoRn… “The Steeple” by Halestorm… “Take Time” by Samm Henshaw & Tobe Nwigwe… “Your Love” by The Outfield… “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne… “Back In Black” by AC/DC… “Maybe She’ll Dream Of Me” by The Foreign Exchange… “What Everybody Knows” by Marc Dorsey… “Let’s Chill” by Guy… “Fantastic 4” by Cam’ron, Big Pun, N.O.R.E. & Canibus… “What The Beat” by Eminem, Royce Da 5’9″ & Method Man… “A Milli” by Lil Wayne & Cory Gunz… “In Bloom” by Nirvana… “Lithium” by Nirvana… “Forever And Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis… “Watermelon Crawl” by Tracy Byrd… “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham