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For any professional wrestling fan, WrestleMania week has become the busiest time of the year. While everyone is concerned about the big show, so much happens before, during and after WrestleMania that things often fall through the cracks. Here is a recap of some odds and ends from a wild week:
* What was interesting to me was how much feedback I got from my article on Sunday about WWE lying about the WrestleMania 33 attendance, claiming that 75,245 people attended the show on Sunday. Let me be very clear about this: This is not an opinion, it is a fact! WWE greatly inflated the number and I have no idea why people are so adamant that the WWE does not lie about these things; it was still a really big crowd so who cares? Vince McMahon himself admitted last year that the WrestleMania 32 attendance number of 101,763 was fake, joking that they got that number counting every employee, ticket-taker and usher in the building.
Let's put this to rest right now: In 2008 WWE ran WrestleMania 24 in the exact same building, and they claimed an attendance of 74,635 (also a worked number, but let's take it at face value for the sake of the argument). Since 2008, the Citrus Bowl (Camping World Stadium now) went through renovations that took out 5,000 seats in the arena, dropping the capacity down to 65,000 people. So the stadium lost 5,000 seats from the previous WrestleMania, yet somehow WWE drew more people? Now, people will claim that that number doesn't account into the number of seats that are on the field for an event like wrestling or a big concert, but people greatly overestimate the amount of extra seats that can fit on the actual field are, probably only about 5,000-7,000 seats at the maximum. While there may be seats on the field, regular sporting events do not have an enormous stage the reportedly blocked of 10,000+ seats from the arena.
According to Dave Meltzer, insiders in the ticket industry claimed that the set-up for the arena was for 60,000 people, although more seats could have been added during the last few days. I would think that with a capacity of 65,000 for normal sports, with over 10,000 seats unavailable because of the stage and about 6,000 seats on the field, the real attendance was probably around 61,000 people. The number WWE threw out at the actual show is laughably inaccurate, and anyone that does any research can figure that out.
* The most confusing booking during WrestleMania weekend was the booking of Braun Strowman. In the months leading up to WrestleMania, Strowman was a key figure on RAW and was booked as a very dominant monster, even after suffering a clean loss to Roman Reigns at Fastlane. At WrestleMania he was barely on the show, lasting only two minutes in the battle royale. The next night on RAW he was right back to receiving his monster push, presumably challenging Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.
Reports indicate that the Lesnar vs Strowman match will not be taking place at Payback, the next PPV. Instead the top men's match is set to be a rematch of Reigns and Strowman. People wonder why WWE loses momentum after WrestleMania; well this is pretty good explanation. They spend a ton of effort promoting big matches for WrestleMania and then follow it up with a PPV headlined by Reigns in a re-match with a guy that couldn't even get on the main WrestleMania card, even though it was a 5000 hour long show.
Last time Brock Lesnar was the WWE Champion, WWE was able to get away with it but times are different now. With the roster roughly divided in half for the brand-specific PPVs, they need all the star power that they can get and they really need the world title to help out draw interest in those brand specific PPVs.
*Although many of the part-time wrestlers are leaving following WrestleMania, the rosters are getting a boost by NXT call-ups plus the return of Finn Balor. It is hard to know what the contributions are going to be from these guys until after the "Superstar Shakeup" (hold that thought) but a lot of talent has come up to WWE. On RAW, The Revival coming up seemed like kind of a wasted opportunity, since the SmackDown Tag Team division is so weak and the RAW tag team division is fairly deep with The Hardys back to go along with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Enzo and Cass and Sheamus and Cesaro. Balor coming back is a huge boost for WWE, especially since a ton of the show over the last two months or so has involved Lesnar, Goldberg, Triple H and The Undertaker and those guys will not be on the show anymore. They need a main event guy and he can come right in as a babyface and be a top star.
On the SmackDown side, Shinsuke Nakamura had a great debut and fills a huge void as a top babyface with John Cena taking time off. On SmackDown his star will likely have more room to grow because there is no Roman Reigns kind of guy on that side of the roster that WWE is super-interested in promoting above everyone else. Tye Dillinger is interesting because he is a real overachiever and his gimmick has really caught fire. I'm worried that he will fall into the mix of generic baby faces that are not doing much on the main roster (Sami Zayn, Apollo Crews) but if more room gets opened up through the shakeup, he might have more room to shine.
*The horribly named "Superstar Shakeup" will theoretically alter things on the main rosters, with the notable names on the move being AJ Styles going to RAW and The New Day headed over to SmackDown. With RAW ratings predicted to slip in the post-WrestleMania lull, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of one-sided moves happen next week. The New Day are a great switch to SmackDown since they need tag teams and The New Day are still over but are kind of out of teams to feud with on RAW. Styles is the top star on SmackDown so for things to be even, either Reigns, Rollins or Owens has to be headed over to SmackDown but I don't see that happening. There were rumors earlier this week that Reigns could be headed over to SmackDown, but I find that really hard to believe since he just beat The Undertaker and clearly the person WWE wants to carry the company and they wouldn't move him off the "flagship" show to do that.
An interesting trade rumored to possibly be taking place is a swap of Alexa Bliss and Charlotte. That would be a big upgrade for Bliss as she would be working with more popular stars than she has in the past and gives the division a good heel. If Sasha Banks turns heel, she can easily be the top heel on the RAW women's division and that opens the door for Charlotte to switch brands. SmackDown is a lower-profile show, but Charlotte has exhausted her feuds with Bayley and Banks so it would be good to see her work with other talent; like Becky Lynch and Naomi who are the two top babyfaces on SmackDown's women's division. Actually, the SmackDown women's division is so deep that reasonably if Charlotte were to move over there RAW could get Bliss and another woman, like Mickie James or Natalya which would really help RAW's depth issues.
*One last note that isn't WrestleMania related but happened over the weekend: New Japan Pro Wrestling quickly sold out both of their shows in Long Beach, CA that will take place in early July. These shows are independent of Ring of Honor and presumably will feature a majority of the NJPW roster and are being advertised as PPV-level shows. The events will be held in a 2,200 seat arena and sold out on the first day and have already led to a competitive secondary market. What is particularly impressive is that they sold out without any matches (or even really talent) being announced for the show and did almost no advertising in the Los Angeles market; which speaks to the strength of the NJPW brand. Although domestically NJPW is not nearly as popular as it was 20 years ago, thanks to exposure through the internet, their TV show on AXS and the accessibility of New Japan World, the company has never been more popular in the United States.