Greetings everyone and I hope you all had an awesome Wrestlemania weekend. It’s like a public holiday for the wrestling fans around the world. It’s our celebration, our highlight of the year and, like the office Christmas party, there’s always plenty to talk about the morning after. It’s crazy how we fans have a full five days of festivities on mania weekend. Kicking off with the always-excellent NXT Takeover on Friday, we enjoy the Hall of Fame on Saturday, quickly followed by the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania on Sunday, then a double helping of TV with Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live.
This year saw the end of some careers and the green shoots of some blossoming ones come into view. Not wanting to indulge the fan base too much, WWE have put off the Superstar Shakeup until next week to give us time to catch our breath. Raw and Smackdown this week were fun and they’re always light-hearted and entertaining, always appreciating the global audience that flocks to the arenas for these shows. We had brief interactions between champions, the obligatory rematches for titles, and the introduction of a couple of new faces for the future. So, with the whole year now reset and mania a fading memory in our minds, I have a few suggestions for WWE to perhaps explore in the coming twelve months:
Less reliance on older veterans
This week we saw the final matches of Kurt Angle and Batista. Granted, both men weren’t involved in action every week on TV, but it brought down the curtain on two guys who were huge stars in their own right. Monday also saw a brief return from the Undertaker who looked in great shape. I’m not the type of guy who thinks veterans should be put out to pasture, but WWE has sometimes over-relied on these guys to draw fans to PPVs. There’s no doubt Batista, Taker, Angle, Triple H etc. are household names in professional wrestling, but now that WWE has a stacked roster and a surge of talent busting through from NXT, hopefully they can focus on building up the stars they have rather than relying on veterans who could never put on matches now like they did twenty years ago. We will forever appreciate their years of hard work and sacrifice, but they can’t main event big PPVs forever.
Do something different with the big men of the company
I have a lot of sympathy with Braun Strowman and the writers in WWE, especially these past few months. Braun has been booked like a monster since his debut and has even dabbled with comedy once or twice, but I get a niggling feeling that WWE have run out of ideas with him. I don’t blame the writers, it’s just that I think it’s very difficult to long-term book a big man in professional wrestling. Sure, you can have him be dominant and destructive, and you can even have him capture a top title, but then what? If he’s a monster that dominates all around him, do we have to wait for the next big guy to come along to dethrone him? If so, what happens next?
WWE had a plethora of ‘big guys’ back in the Attitude Era; Big Show, Undertaker, Kane, Mark Henry and more. Albert (Matt Bloom) was 6’7, as was Hogan and The Godfather and Test were 6’6. Even The Rock was billed at 6’5. So for the larger wrestler, there was always an opponent of equal or near size comparison to them. Plenty of scope for feuds and storylines for years. Now, however, it seems the big man is a rare breed, and that makes them endangered species. Strowman may be popular, but without credible opponents who can’t be squashed like flies by his touch, I fear for his long term involvement at the top of the card. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m already seeing similarities between Strowman’s early matches and Lars Sullivan’s recent interactions with WWE talent on screen.
Plan long-term for some of the forgotten superstars
Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Apollo Crews, Ember Moon, the list goes on. WWE’s blessing of having such a talented roster is also its biggest curse. I understand you can’t keep everyone happy there, but surely they have enough talent to allow for some long-term planning for feuds and/or titles? Even if it’s just for a run to help another star down the line, there’s a growing feeling that some people are wasted on the roster, and will look to jump ship. I’m sure there’s a sense of personal pride in each of the talent, but WWE looks after them and though they may not have starring roles on TV each week, they’re still on house shows in front of live audiences. Not everything in wrestling is about reaching the pinnacle. Sometimes people want to entertain, and WWE’s hectic schedule would give everyone the opportunity to display their craft in front of a paying audience.
Reassess Wrestlemania – Less can be more
One of the perks of being a WWE Network subscriber (only $9.99 a month, folks) is that you get to watch every PPV throughout the year as well as an extensive back catalog. This past week, Wrestlemania was over five hours long and that’s not including the preshow. I get it that it’s the biggest show of the year, but there’s a definite feeling in the fan base that you can certainly have too much of a good thing. Just watch NXT Takeover from Friday, or any previous Takeover and you’ll see just how well a PPV can be done. Matches advertised in advance. Hardly any filler in-between bouts. Promo-match-repeat. Simple but very effective. The run-time is concise and fans in attendance are just as invested in the first match on the card as they are in the last. The stars don’t let up and the run-time ensures the fans aren’t tired for the main events.
I think Wrestlemania suffered with this as the crowd didn’t appear that invested in the Women’s main event. That’s not a slight on the women or the raucous New York fans, but five hours is a damn long time to sit in an arena and for WWE to expect the same level of excitement and noise right at the end is asking a lot. You can see and hear how invested the crowd were in the Daniel Bryan vs Kofi Kingston match and that had less build than the Women’s title match. I imagine if both matches had switched places on the card, we’d be talking about a much more vocal fan base for the women and talking about a tired crowd who tried their best to be loud for Kofi, but the match didn’t have the same edge as others on the night.
There are my four suggestions for WWE going into this new ‘season’ and beyond. What do you think? Would you like to see more long-term stories invested in the stars? What about Braun Strowman and Lars Sullivan? Are they destined to beat up smaller guys until they collide at next year’s Wrestlemania? Speaking of mania, how would you change it? Is it too long? Can they learn from NXT? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.