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Some fans have brought up that Wrestlemania 31 is on pace to become the worst Wrestlemania of all-time. To those fans, I ask to go take a look back at Wrestlemania I, which is BY FAR the worst Wrestlemania of all-time. Wrestlemania I was less of a wrestling show and more of an entertainment spectacular. It was like a show at Radio City Music Hall, with celebrities ranging from Mr. T to Liberace appearing, that was occasionally interrupted by men wearing tights and fake-punching each other. Wrestling has changed a lot since then, mostly for the better, and as lackluster as the buildup for this show has been, as unappealing as the card may seem, it will almost definitely NOT be the worst Wrestlemania in history.
With that being said, there are many reasons why fans are down on this year’s show. The biggest reason can be found in the main event, where Roman Reigns is set to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I wrote last week all about this match, so there is not much to add here. The final Raw before Wrestlemania didn’t help matters, as neither Brock nor Reigns spoke, nor did they even shove each other. Instead, fans were treated to a brief game of tug-of-war, with Raw going off the air with a screenshot of Reigns and Lesnar each clutching the title. It was a pathetic way to end the build-up for Wrestlemania, and WWE managed to make two huge, imposing athletes look like a pair of 5 year old girls fighting over a doll.
After an overdramatic game of cat-and-mouse, Lesnar announced on Tuesday that he re-signed with WWE. This has opened up the door for the idea that Lesnar could walk out of Wrestlemania still holding the title. Up until this point, it has been mostly academic, and most fans had accepted that Reigns was going to defeat Lesnar. However, with Lesnar announcing his commitment to WWE and Reigns flopping during the build-up for Wrestlemania, it has opened the door for discussion about Lesnar legitimately retaining the world title.
There is a chance that Lesnar does retain, but I would bet against it. For starters, WWE has stubbornly booked Reigns as a top babyface, regardless of fan reaction. The fans were not exactly drooling over him before the Royal Rumble, but that didn’t stop them from booking a Reigns victory. The fans clearly wanted Daniel Bryan instead of Reigns, but at Fast Lane WWE elected to still put Reigns over. The negativity for Reigns is not a good sign, but WWE has so far refused to acknowledge it, so why would they stop now? The plan for a very long time has been to make Reigns the new top babyface, and now that the date of his coronation is almost here, it is unlikely WWE is suddenly going to shift gears.
In addition, Wrestlemania historically has been a babyfaces event. A heel champion retaining his title at Wrestlemania has been a very rare occurrence over the years. Yokozuna was the first man to do it in 1994, defeating Lex Luger, but that was really only done because Yoko could lose the title to Bret Hart later that night. Triple H became the first real man to do it when he emerged victorious from the Fatal Four Way at Wrestlemania 2000. Triple H would do it again in 2003, beating Booker T, and Randy Orton did it in 2008, beating John Cena and The Big Show. Jericho did it 2009 and The Miz did it in 2010. If we limit it to actual main event matches and not just world title matches, then it has been done only twice (Triple H in 2000 and The Miz in 2010). It just isn’t a very common occurrence.
Easily the second biggest match on the card is Sting vs Triple H. I was skeptical of Sting coming into WWE and being able to deliver, but so far WWE and Sting have done a really strong job in building him up. A big fear of WWE’s was that fans wouldn’t realize recognize Sting, but those fears have been put to rest as Sting has managed to get some of the biggest pops of the year. In the ring Sting is still a big question mark, and the match will probably not be very long, but WWE has done a good job in building Sting as a special attraction that is gunning for Triple H, and Triple H has done a good job in selling the danger in having a man like Sting come after you.
My only complaint about this feud is that it has been set-up by Sting, angry at the injustice in WWE with Triple H abusing his power, in going to hunt Triple H and end his reign of tyranny. All of that is perfectly fine, but WWE never decided to put a stipulation in their match at Wrestlemania, which seemed like a very logical step. Something like “if Triple H loses, he gets fired” or something like that would seem to go along with what the storyline has been about. Instead, they are just going to have a basic wrestling match, which doesn’t connect the match to the storyline at all. If Sting beats Triple H (and I think it is extremely likely that he will) then what exactly is going to happen? Is Triple H just going to take his loss, and then go back to running the show? Why would Sting won’t to wrestle Triple H if there were no consequences for Triple H if he lost? It seems like a crucial step in setting up the match for Wrestlemania, but WWE has pretty much ignored it. I have two theories on why they didn’t:
A) Sting beats Triple H at Wrestlemania, and Triple H demands a rematch. Sting says that he made his point and refuses to give him a rematch. Triple H then puts his job on the line, and Sting accepts his challenge and they have a match at Extreme Rules.
B) WWE creative is so tied into The Authority being a player on the screen that they can’t bear to not have them involved with the product. The Authority isn’t just a crutch for creative, it is a full-blown wheelchair, and live without The Authority would be a challenge that they might not be up to, so they decide to just play the Sting vs Triple H match out, ignoring the fact that the whole reason that Sting wants to fight Triple H in the first place is because Triple H abuses his position.
While A sounds like a fine idea, the reality is that B is also just as likely of a reason. The Authority has been the driving force behind WWE creative over the last couple years, to the point that they came up with a storyline where they would all be fired, only to come back a few weeks later, fully in charge, making the entire storyline of the last two months completely worthless. The storyline has been pretty much the only way they have gotten from PPV to PPV, and it is likely WWE keeps it that way.
After some questionable booking during the weeks prior, WWE finally had some sense knocked into them and they let Rusev beat the crap out of John Cena on Raw. Before that, Rusev had been booked rather weakly, cheating to beat Cena and then either getting beaten up by Cena or cowardly running away from him in the following weeks. This week on Raw however, they let Rusev crush Cena, finally making him look like a capable destructive force and someone that can stand up to Cena.
Rusev has the most to lose this Sunday, and sadly it is almost a guarantee that he will lose. Rusev has always been destined to lose at Wrestlemania to John Cena, and while he has had a good run as an unstoppable monster heel, on Sunday, it is time for him to head to the gallows. After Rusev loses on Sunday, his future is very uncertain. The reason he is currently prominent in WWE is because he has never been pinned or submitted, but once Cena cuts him down to size, what will his next move be? Will he be able to carry a legit feud with another top talent without being undefeated and unconquered? Or will he sort of drift through the ranks of WWE, similar to the way Ryback did after he was defeated? Only time will tell.
The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt program that would have hand fans salivating two years ago has fallen flat so far. Without The Undertaker actually appearing, the feud has almost entirely been Bray cutting promos that don’t make any sense and experimenting in the occult. Despite the fact that it is The Undertaker set to wrestle his one and only match of the year, fans are not really jazzed to see it and I don’t blame them. Wyatt has been booked so inconsistently since his call-up to the main roster that fans find it difficult to get behind him, and there has been very little action, just a lot of talking. Contrast that with Sting vs Triple H, which is a match that also involves two guys who have not been wrestling regularly. Their feud has had a lot of talking too, but it also has had its fair share of action and compelling moments. Wyatt vs The Undertaker has none of that, just Wyatt sitting around with a lantern.
The Undertaker’s physical status is also a big question mark. His performance last year has taken some of the shine off of him as a worker, but I think a lot of fans forget that he worked the bulk of that match with a concussion. Maybe he comes back this year and he is as good as he has been for the majority of the last decade? Even so, a banged up Undertaker is still skilled enough and holds enough psychological prowess to put on a good match, even if he isn’t nearly the athlete he used to be. I think he will put Wyatt over, and then he will be done after next year’s Wrestlemania, but really who knows?
The match with the best build-up in my opinion has been Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton. It started a long time ago, where Orton felt threatened by Rollins as Seth climbed into the good graces of The Authority. Orton then played second fiddle for a bit, until finally snapping and unloading on Rollins. Now the fans get to see them finally go at it, two of the best workers in the company at Wrestlemania. This is the best bet to be the match of the night, and I think Rollins will win. Rollins has done pretty much everything right since he signed with the company, and he is one of the few young stars that they have that is actually booked correctly. A win over Orton at Wrestlemania, when Orton REALLY wanted to beat Rollins, could be the last real step in his ascension to being a top star in the company.
The ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship is looking like a joke that is being played on the fans. They take a group of guys who WWE should probably be doing a hell of a lot more with (and R-Truth) and put them in a match for a championship that they clearly do not take as a high priority. The match will be good because it is filled with good workers and ladder matches have a great history at Wrestlemania, but overall it will all mean nothing. The fans don’t care and why should they? Outside of Daniel Bryan and occasionally Ziggler, WWE has done nothing with any of the talents and they are wrestling for a title that hasn’t had a relevant moment in nearly a decade. On Raw, a LA crowd that was hot for most of the show sat quietly during the segment involving the Intercontinental Championship, completely indifferent to the outcome of the fight. WWE has once again managed to take a bunch of talented wrestlers and make them irrelevant.
The card is rounded out by two matches that nobody cares about. It took the Andre the Giant Battle Royal one year to become irrelevant, as it is now just filled with guys that not only WWE has no real plans for, but will likely never have plans for ever. Xavier Woods will win it because f*** you, that’s why.
The Divas match has suffered from abysmal booking. The storyline going into the match is that Paige and AJ can’t get on the same page, while the Bellas are, because well, their twins. This of course, is totally ignoring the fact that all WWE fans were treated to a very long feud between the two sisters where they each said/did a number of nasty things to each other just a few months ago. It’s awful, it doesn’t make any sense, and ultimately, none of it will matter. This match, or something like this match, has taken place roughly 10,000 times over the last year alone, and it being at Wrestlemania doesn’t make a lick of a difference. WWE feels like they have to have the Divas on the show in some capacity, but honestly, if they don’t make the effort to come up with anything halfway decent for them to do, what is the point of having they at all?
So will the show actually be any good? The Rollins/Orton match and the ladder match will be good, regardless of the outcome, and Cena/Rusev, Wyatt/Taker and Sting/HHH will likely at least be exciting, even if they might not be technical masterpieces. The main event will be what most people base their opinion of the show-on, and unless WWE does some really ballsy booking (Brock wins, Reigns turns heel or a Rollins cash-in) they are probably going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the most boring outcome (Reigns wins cleanly, celebrates in the ring to close the show) is also the most likely.
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings