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I think when I first heard that WWE was planning on having a womens match close WrestleMania, I rolled my eyes. That reaction was not because I hate womens wrestling, but rather because I could see WWE going over-the-top in its promotion of the women's match being a "historic" moment in wrestling history and beating fans over the head with the public relations windfall that is having a women's match in the main event of WWE's biggest show of the year.
Now, a few weeks away from that becoming a reality, I can say that I'm sufficiently impressed by WWE's success in pushing a triple threat match between Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte as a legitimate, main event match for WrestleMania. Those three women are not closing the show because of a PR stunt, they are closing the show because their program is the hottest angle in the company and their match is the most highly anticipated on the card. This isn't a charity case for feminist rights; it is something that was earned by everybody involved.
While the angle has gained momentum leading up the match, each development in the feud has led to a fascinating expose, of the performers, of WWE management and of the fans. While Becky Lynch fans may be upset that their favorite conquering hero has been made to look weak at times, as a relatively neutral observer, I find everything about this feud interesting.
According to reports that began last fall, the original plan for Rousey at WrestleMania was for her to face Charlotte in a one-on-one match. Over time, things have changed, most notably Lynch emerging as a major babyface thanks to some favorable booking, strong promos and a great social media presence. While WWE had plans for Charlotte and Rousey, they noticed that Lynch was organically getting over with the audience and changed their plans.
This is a very good thing, because in the past WWE may have been resistant to the fans' interests and forged ahead with their predetermined plan. The same can be said for how they have handled the Kofi Kingston push, where he unexpectedly got over big, and now he is tabbed for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania.
Not everything is going to be perfect, but overall it is a good sign that WWE is willing to adjust their plans to reflect the interests of its fanbase. That sounds like basic booking 101, but we all know that has been a struggle for WWE in recent years.
One of the primary complaints I've seen about the match is that this is triple threat match, and Charlotte was shoehorned into the feud without a great explanation. Basically Vince McMahon randomly decided that Charlotte was going to get Lynch's title shot and put her into the match; turning Charlotte into a big heel in the process.
The argument against Charlotte being included into the match was the major feud was between Lynch and Rousey, and Charlotte didn't need to be there. The fact that Charlotte is seen as WWE's chosen face of the women's division doesn't help matters, as fans fear that Charlotte will be getting the title that Lynch has earned.
While I believe that a Rousey vs Lynch singles match is on paper more interesting, I'm going to do something I rarely do and that is defend WWE. With the WWE Network; I don't think it is that important that WWE creates a match that people HAVE to see for one event. Since most of the people watching are subscribers throughout the year, what is more important than creating one buzzy match is creating a successful and intriguing story arc that takes place throughout the year, maintaining interest once the bright lights of WrestleMania season fade away.
Yes, Rousey vs Becky is a superior match for WrestleMania, but the main event of WrestleMania shouldn't just be about one night of the year. Rousey is reportedly going to exit from WWE as a full-time talent following WrestleMania, meaning that 50 percent of the main event of WrestleMania is going to be gone for most of the coming year. By including Charlotte into the main event, WWE can easily work an angle in the match that will hopefully have a fallout that extends into the summer and helps carry the company the rest of the year.
Over the last several years, I have complained about WWE's reliance on part-time stars to carry WrestleMania, and that the rest of the year when those part-time wrestlers are absent from WWE programming, the product feels like it is lacking star power. Well, here is a moment where WWE is consciously making sure that a full-time talent gets a prime position at WrestleMania. To me, that is a sign of great progress for the company moving forward.
I think another expose that has taken place in recent months is that some fans, particularly on social media, are just too sensitive sometimes, and it leads to outrage over little things. If Becky Lynch pins or submits Rousey at WrestleMania, do you think in the long run even the biggest Becky supporters are going to remember that Charlotte was in the match and look back at it in disgust?
A part of the problem is that as the major angle leading to WrestleMania, WWE has had to come up with a lot of different stuff for the three women to do during the months building up to WrestleMania, and not everything is going to hit. Sometimes a segment is going to fall flat, or a promo is going to be illogical, that is to be expected in a WWE feud of this magnitude.
That isn't to say that the angle is without fault. A lot of poor decisions have been made from a creative direction; most recently with Lynch regaining the match at WrestleMania not by winning a match by pinfall or submission, but because Rousey intentionally disqualified her in a match against Charlotte. Rousey's explanation was that she wants to beat both of them at WrestleMania because she hates them and wants to destroy them; which was pretty lame. Why couldn't Lynch just roll-up Charlotte for a surprise victory? That would have made Lynch look more capable and kept her hot for the match. This was a basic angle that WWE completely botched.
Another failure was the handling of Lynch's knee injury. The storyline was that Lynch injured her knee in the Royal Rumble, and couldn't compete at WrestleMania unless she let a doctor look at it; which she did and they said she was cleared. Then there was a whole angle leading up to Fastlane where Lynch had to sign a hold-harmless agreement with WWE, so she could wrestle with her injured knee. Where was this magical hold-harmless agreement when Lynch needed to be cleared for WrestleMania? Where was it for any of the other 10,000 angles WWE has run where someone isn't cleared to wrestle?
The fact that WWE strung these two pieces of storyline (the doctor NEEDING to clear Lynch and the hold-harmless agreement) back-to-back is an example of the random, on-the-fly decision making that takes place in the company. This is the biggest angle of the year for WWE and they are seemingly making it up as they go along.
At the end of the day though, I don't think those miscues are going to matter. As long as Lynch has her hand raised at the end of WrestleMania and the match is exciting, fans will be willing to forgive any mistakes the company had made along the way. It wasn't like everything was perfectly booked for Daniel Bryan leading up to WrestleMania 30 and yet everything came together that night and everyone remembers it as an amazing event. The fans in general like Lynch enough that they will be able to get over any gripes they had in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania.
Kevin Owens vs Mustafa Ali vs Daniel Bryan: ****
Charlotte vs Becky Lynch: **1/4
The Shield vs Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley: ***1/4
The Miz and Shane McMahon vs The Usos: **1/2
Asuka vs Mandy Rose: *
The Bar vs Kofi Kingston: *
Nia Jax and Tamina vs Bayley and Sasha Banks: *1/2
Must Watch Matches
Will Ospreay vs Jay White: ****3/4 - NJPW 47th Anniversary Show
Tomohiro Ishii vs Yuji Nagata: **** - NJPW New Japan Cup Night 1
Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada: ****1/4 - NJPW New Japan Cup Night 2
Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito - ****1/4 - NJPW New Japan Cup Night 3