I typically try to write from a specific point of view, an opinion or a definitive conclusion I’ve come to. I write every thought and feeling I have about it in order to make my case and then the readers either agree with me or disagree. Sometimes I’ve had readers add points to the case I made in the column as well as make points refuting what I’ve said. Either way, I always appreciate anyone taking the time to read what I’ve worked on and taking even more time to to engage in a conversation about it. I’ve always wanted to generate interest, conversation and an exchange of opinions or ideas. That’s what makes this fun. Well, this time I don’t actually have a conclusion. I’m torn on what I feel WrestleMania is and what it should be. I will express the feelings I am currently weighing myself and explicitly ask for the reader’s opinions or conclusions on this matter. Maybe you can help me make up my mind.
I am a guy who loves pro wrestling as a form of performance art that combines athleticism, acting, public speaking, humor, psychology, storytelling and, to steal a word from Batman Begins, theatricality. I love it for what it is and, when executed properly, everything it can be. I’m not one to tell any other fan the proper way to enjoy the product, but personally, I view the matches, characters and stories as equally important. Some fans love a match solely for it’s technical merit and that’s fine. I can appreciate the work that’s being done, but I need to feel an emotional investment in why these two performers are clashing and for what is at stake for both parties. What has happened prior to the match and the consequences that follow are all part of what happens during the match. With WrestleMania being the year’s biggest event I feel it should be the culmination of that current year’s stories.
Basically, the performers that have played the biggest part and the stories that have generated the most interest should reach their conclusion at WrestleMania. I believe every title should be defended on that card. While having the best technical matches on the biggest stage would be great, I truly think it should be about telling the most important stories and that the outcome of each match should be an important piece of the story. I don’t think that is asking too much, but a lot of times WWE seems to disagree. WWE claims that character and story is more important than anything else, but too often that idea is not actually executed. I feel that if WWE put it’s best foot forward on storytelling and character development, it would generate more interest in the show as well as the overall product. Hardcore fans and casual fans didn’t love Stone Cold, The Rock and Mick Foley because they were forced upon us and we succumbed, we loved them because they were genuinely entertaining and we cared about what they did and what happened to them.
WWE doesn’t seem to exactly view WrestleMania as what I perceive it to be. They view it as a spectacle and WrestleMania has become almost synonymous with WWE. They bring in as many former wrestlers, musicians, actors, athletes and other celebrities as they can. Anything it takes to get an extra set of eyes on the show. These decisions often alienate the most ardent WWE supporters and don’t always seem to move the needle for the casual fan either. In a way, it’s just another case of excess, like we see with the Super Bowl. It’s al about how many people watch and how much can be made from advertising. It’s really not about the actual football game anymore, similar to how WrestleMania, and WWE as a whole, isn’t exactly about wrestling. The main problem with excess is, more really isn’t always better. UFC reporter Ariel Helwani recently stated on The Ross Report that if he was giving advice to Dana White, he would advise him to have fewer PPV’s. Knowing you will have one every month, it ceases being a “must see” event. You realize you can skip one and wait for the next.
Sticking to UFC for a few more sentences, many fans will tell you the company was much more entertaining 10 years ago, when fighters like Chuck Lidell and BJ Penn would go out and just fight until someone was knocked out or submitted. Georges St-Pierre came along, became a big star that garnered endorsements based on his being a champion. The influx of more money into the sport led to incredible financial success for the company, but the product suffered. Too many fighters turned into businessmen finding ways to eek out a win on the judges scorecards while taking as little risk or damage as possible. It’s a smart strategy and probably the right thing to do, it just isn’t always that fun to watch. Coming off the war Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz had on Saturday is probably the wrong time to make this point, but I’m sure many understand where I am coming from. Back to WWE.
One of the most frequent criticisms leveled at WWE is that they don’t listen to the fans and they don’t give us what we want. There are examples of WWE being tone deaf, the most current one being the continued forcing of Roman Reigns on the WWE Universe. The previous year it was the return of Batista that no one asked for. Luckily for WWE they were able to save WrestleMania XXX and 31 by doing something they probably didn’t really want to do. Two years ago it was Daniel Bryan finally climbing the mountain and last year Seth Rollins literally swooping in at the last minute to save the day. By all indications there is no stopping Roman Reigns from holding the title above his head on April 3 in Dallas. They are also criticized for the handling of talent, whether it be guys or girls being buried, overexposed, misused or miscast. This is another interesting area when it comes to WrestleMania.
WWE seems to do everything in its power to get as many possible performers on the WrestleMania stage. I’m not sure the exact reason for this, but I assume it is a combination of two things. The first is that it is a reward to the performers for putting their bodies on the line night in and night out. They get the benefit of increased exposure and I assume some type of financial compensation for appearing. The second is that WWE knows their many fans have many different favorite wrestlers and they want as many fans as possible to see their favorite on that show. I think both reasons for this phenomenon are fair and a nice gesture, but in my eyes it hurts the integrity of the show. I feel WrestleMania should be showcasing only the very best, not 90% of the roster. An 8-man tag match is just too much going on at once. A 6-man match for the Intercontinental Championship is too much as well. While those matches can be fun, I think it’s a better product when two performers get to tell their story as opposed to a giant spot-fest.
Sports fans complain about how half of the league gets into the NHL or NBA playoffs. They complain about how March Madness (FYI, my podcast Mat Madness has created a March Madness style bracket for wrestling if you’re interested in that sort of thing) has been diluted by the field being expanded to 68 teams. I feel the same way about all these overcrowded WrestleMania matches. On one hand I feel like my tastes for the biggest show of the year are being cast aside, but I also see from a business standpoint where WWE is coming from. They want the spectacle, the attention and the most eyes possible on them on that particular Sunday night and they want to throw as much as possible at those eyes in the hopes that something sticks.
I’m not sure exactly how I feel and I’m not sure what exactly is the correct approach to WrestleMania as an event. So with that, please let me know how you feel. All opinions are welcome and hopefully you guys can help me reach my final conclusion. Arguments aside, WrestleMania always has been and always will be the biggest event on the wrestling calendar.