This Sunday night, the center of the fighting world will be on the banks of the Mississippi River, since WrestleMania 34 descends into New Orleans. The iconic annual WWE show always marked the unofficial start of the year of the fight, and has only grown in stature since its inaugural event in 1985.
WrestleMania is the biggest night in the industry called "sports entertainment" ", and fight guru Dave Meltzer states that this year's edition has the opportunity to be the most watched show in WWE history. This raises a simple question: WrestleMania may be the biggest show of the year, but why is it never the best?
To date, some of the most iconic moments in the history of the fight have happened there: Hulk Hogan hits Andre the Giant, Stone Cold Steve Austin refuses to touch Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels retires Ric Flair, then he retires by the Undertaker two years later … the list goes on and on.
But in the past few years, the WWE has shirked its everyday talent in favor of the flashes of the power of the stars. WrestleMania has become the Pro Bowl of wrestling, rather than its Super Bowl, and has become an inflated show in the process. Sure, it's fun to see stars you can remember from childhood, but the fact that they left tomorrow does not help WWE build new fans, nor the dedicated people who tune in every week.
The problem started on Valentine's Day 2011, when The Rock, one of the most famous fighters of the very popular Attitude Era, returned from a parenthesis of almost seven years to announce that it would be the host WrestleMania 27 . At that time, it was one of the most important moments of the fight: just listen to the roar of the crowd:
Veterans of past times have always been part of wrestling. These are the fighters that appear in WrestleMania to give power to the show's fame, attracting people who kept fighting on their best days but who are not diehard fans. You may not know how exciting the ongoing race between New Day and Usos is, for example, but you've probably heard about The Rock.
But while the part-time ones used to appear mainly in cameo or comedy-fast segments, they have now surpassed the show, even moving into the main events. WWE can claim to have multiple "major" events every year – title matches always get that billing, along with any marquee pairing – but fans generally recognize the show's closing bout as the true headliner.
In WrestleMania 27 The Rock interfered in the main event, attacking both The Miz and John Cena and stood erect to finish the show. The main event at WrestleMania 28 then, was a full match between Cena and The Rock, playing with the buzz of the previous year.
This precipitated a sharp drop in the quality of WrestleMania : as more part-time workers were injected, the talented day-to-day fighters were pushed into less important spaces, with less time for their matches. Each WrestleMania main event since 2012 has featured a part-time fighter; Meanwhile, regulars like CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn and AJ Styles have worked lower on the card in games that casual fans do not remember.
Now, there is a world in which part-time and regular can coexist, but it's not the one WWE created. Instead of putting those who work part-time in the main event and in the title matches, also known as the matches that fans are already tuning in to, the company should use part-time to bring things to life that would otherwise They would be boring. For example, the game for the title of the USA. UU This year is the least fanfare, with three fighters who inspire little fervor (Randy Orton, Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode), plus one of the fans (Rusev).
That game would be infinitely more visible if Mahal were replaced with, say, Triple H. You would immediately call the attention of casual fans, not to mention the fact that whoever defeats Triple H can use that cache to overtake to his character in the future. But, for some reason, WWE has shied away from these smart and productive deployments of part-time workers.
Instead, the company has walked the wrong way: WrestleMania 29 presented a rematch between The Rock and Cena, while 3 0 had Batista, a whom casual fans might know as Drax the Destroyer from the films Guardians of the Galaxy . The next three shows focused on Roman Reigns, considered by many to be the next dinner, while fighting against Brock Lesnar, Triple H and Undertaker, in that order, all in main events.
In this year WrestleMania 34 the presumed main event is Lesnar facing once again against Reigns. The other options are not much better: the company can also go with the Undertaker facing Cena, while a dark possibility is that Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon, mingle with Raw's general manager Kurt Angle and former star of UFC Ronda Rousey.
While part-time workers can boost ticket buying or inspire casual fans who, recognizing some names, decide to tune in WrestleMania out of nostalgic curiosity, it's a fleeting stop for WWE. Those who work part-time eventually leave the ring, and thus, the company has wasted its only marketing night on a cast of characters who will not return again, forgetting their everyday stars in the process.
Last year WrestleMania 33 was perhaps the most grueling viewing experience in the history of the show. With a pre-show that began at 5 p.m., the event had 13 games and lasted for more than seven hours. Worse yet, the best-received matches occurred in the first half of the night, when fans had just heated up, while contests among part-time players bogged down the second half.
Look: long shows can work if they are accelerated correctly. But, more importantly, there have to be major events that are worthwhile. That has not been the case in recent years in WrestleMania .
So, how can the WWE rescue their star night? One option is for the company to follow the model of its minor development league, the NXT. The main shows of that brand are limited to approximately six matches in a maximum of three hours. Where WWE packs its show with matches that no one is interested in, the NXT offers an elegant and snug look, and one that is fun from top to bottom.
If WWE wants to maintain the long and epic feel of WrestleMania however, there is another show that must emulate: New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom . Held every January as the NJPW version of WrestleMania the program usually lasts more than four hours and, however, never lasts. That's because of the extremely clever stimulation of NJPW: the show usually starts with a high-flying, fast-paced game, which makes people go early. Once everyone is comfortable and loose, the program will show some of its slowest games, which can take advantage of the already engaged crowd.
Then, ingeniously, NJPW accumulates its main consecutive events at the end of the season. show. While WWE believes that consecutive forced visits will burn fans, NJPW adopts the quality of its exhibition matches and trusts fans will appreciate them. While the level of sport may not be as high as in the WWE, the showrunning is better, as putting the best games at the end gives fans a reason to sit throughout the show.
Serving as a budding building will serve WrestleMania much better than its current rate of excessive dispersion. But until the WWE stops prioritizing celebrity-filled matches for smart and engaging fun, we'll get up every Monday after WrestleMania wondering what might have been.