You all know the saying.
“Things just got interesting!”
I think we can say that about WWE more often than we think we can. Take the past month. We’ve had Shane return, the anticipation of what Taker was going to do on Raw (or as it turned out, NOT do), minor title changes, Dudleys and Ryback going heel, Brock destroying Ambrose, Triple H destroying Reigns and Ambrose and Y2AJ teaming up in what we all know will end in tears.
So all in all things are pretty positive heading into Wrestlemania, right? Well…sort of. Look at that last sentence.
What we all know will end in tears. What we all know.
It’s far, far too easy for us to know what’s going to happen with WWE programming. If you look at the list of things above, there’s a good few months of solid storytelling where they really could take any of those situations in any direction they wanted, string them out, use them to further other strings and generally tune up the band to play a fantastic song.
Only they have all these great scenarios…then blandly stick to making it pointedly obvious where they’re going and why because getting the public to write things after a hashtag on the internet seems more important than honest to goodness good programming.
Look at last year’s Wrestlemania. People have gone on record saying it was the best ever. Now I wasn’t anywhere near that camp and I thought going into it that it would be pretty weak, but it was a good show. A really enjoyable show. But one of the reasons it was really enjoyable was because everyone thought they knew what was going to happen and then WWE sprung a couple of surprises with Seth cashing in the briefcase and Rock and Rousey rocking the house.
Now sure, some saw Rollins’ cash-in coming. Some aw it coming and still doubted they’d do that finish at Wrestlemania. Nevertheless, I think that could go down as a legitimate ‘surprise’.
But look at the card:
Kidd & Cesaro def New Day, Los Matadores and Usos
Big Show won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Daniel Bryan def Barrett, R-Truth, Ambrose, Harper, Ziggler and Stardust
Orton def Rollins
Triple H def Sting with everyone in the world involved
AJ Lee & Paige def Bella Twins
Cena def Rusev
Taker def Bray Wyatt
Seth def Lesnar & Reigns
Does that look like an exciting card? I’m going for ‘no’ and that’s what I thought going into it primarily because I could see exactly who was going to win every match (bar the main event). Maybe some of you will disagree and think it looks like a great card. I won’t disagree it looks like a card with everyone on it that I wanted to see, but not in situations I wanted to see most of them in.
People are moaning a lot about the Mania card for this year, but on paper, I actually think they’re slightly ahead of the previous year. In others they are stuck in the same mould. This year’s card so far:
Reigns vs. Triple H
Lesnar vs. Ambrose
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (probably)
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker (with a great stipulation)
Jericho vs. Styles (probably)
KO vs. Big Show
Kalisto vs. ?
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
I think that’s a pretty good card. There’s just one problem for me and it’s the same problem as last year. It’s not difficult to see what’s going to happen.
The winner of the Battle Royal won’t matter (and will probably be Bray Wyatt), the other titles are so far on the back seat they’re in the trunk and I actually don’t care at this point. I really don’t want to see KO vs. Show and I hope it’s a tease for Roadblock but if it is, they haven’t got much time to do something better for Mania. There’s rumours about Zayn and I hope they’re true, but I can see them wanting to give Show the Mania slot. Styles will and should go over Jericho in what I think will be the match of the night. I doubt Ambrose wins because he’ll outshine Reigns if he wins, and Reigns is winning. Period.
The women’s match, though, along with Shane/Taker I’m not sure about. I think it’ll be Banks and Taker taking the ‘W’s but there’s an element of doubt.
But here’s the bit where maybe I’m over-emphasising this and trying t make it all too real.
I only want doubt. I don’t want it to be obvious who’s going to win every single time and certainly not at the biggest show of them all. It’s like watching sports highlights when you know the results – it’s still interesting to watch to see how it all unfolded, but it doesn’t have the same impact. It’s why I don’t read spoilers, I want to be surprised by what happens – but to be honest, I don’t really need to read spoilers that often for WWE because I can predict it all myself. That’s partly why I was so happy to see Shane back – because I wasn’t expecting it (because I don’t read spoilers).
Now another thing people constantly decry WWE for is not having enough forward planning. Then when they do forward plan like they have been doing, people like me decry them for being too predictable. But why does forward planning have to equal predictability?
Can WWE please just make it a little more difficult for me to predict who’s going to win? Is that really such a hard, or a bad thing to have in wrestling? 50/50 booking doesn’t cut it because it becomes just as predictable as non-50-50 booking. I want the shocks out of nowhere, the two equal pairings fighting it out, the invincible face against the invincible heel that’s actually invincible and hasn’t lost a million matches in the last month but won one against the Social Outcasts and he’s suddenly a threat.
I wonder sometimes if I’m perhaps in the minority. Perhaps wins and losses really don’t matter, at all, as people seem to suggest. Although I think I’ve seen enough articles on here in the last few months that agree with me. I don’t think I’m the only one who cares about watching a match where it matters who wins. Winning a match should give you momentum toward the top, losing it should lose you momentum. But in an age where you can get a title match simply by winning one match against the title holder, what’s the point of having momentum anyway? You can lose for months, win one non-title match and suddenly you’re back into the title picture.
That’s a recipe for predictable booking. Two cups of randomly building a heel up, one cup of you know they’re being fed to the real big guy.
Is it that they’re trying to create the impression that any wrestler can win any match at any time? Well it doesn’t. It makes them all look like losers. To me, anyway. It’s like handing out medals to every child on sports day – it doesn’t achieve anything other than teaching kids everyone wins at everything every time, which is a failsafe way not to prepare your child for how the world actually is.
The roster is just that – a roster – it’s not a top three with a supporting act.
Wait…didn’t I start this article off all positive? Well, that’s because I am. Because the glints on the horizon are glittering. Surprises are one thing WWE does really, really well. I just wish they did them more often and I prefer it when they’re completely unadvertised and instead of trying to grub more people to watch and are actually rewards for those of us who watch every week and that’s what I’m hoping for a lot of in 2016.
I loved it when the Dudleys returned. I loved it when Shane returned and when Styles debuted. I’m sure I’ll love it when Rollins, Orton, Cena and Cesaro return, but I bet they advertise a few of those and ruin it, telegraphing again exactly what they’re doing when they get there.
Because when someone returns as a surprise, not advertised or announced and in the middle of something where we think we know what is happening – that gets the adrenaline pumping. That gets the mind whirring and thinking what happens next. Does Shane stick around? Does he win? Does he lose and then refuse to comply with the bargain (that’s what I’d do because Vince could then chase the ‘box’ that holds the secrets or even have someone like Ambrose have stolen it when Shane tries to hand it over).
With those three heavyweights and an upper middleweight returning later this year, we should get four segments that are get out of your chair moments. I’ll enjoy them while I can and because I’m an optimist, I’m going to hope like hell WWE knows it can leave us with a few more cliff-hangers, a few more surprises after the returns and keep us guessing just a little bit longer.