I was inspired to pen this column when I read (our fearless leader) John Canton’s excellent piece on Bayley winning her first WWE Women’s Title on a Monday Night Raw. I agree wholeheartedly that it should have taken place at Wrestlemania and not thrown away on a regular episode of Raw. It got me thinking; should all feuds end at Wrestlemania and the slate wiped clean for the following night’s Raw? I believe the answer is both yes and no. Let me tell you why I think that.
WWE is essentially a soap opera in tights. For those who mock us fans for watching and enjoying the product by helpfully telling us ‘it’s not real, you know’, reply with a smile on your face by informing them that the films they see in the cinema or their favourite Netflix drama aren’t real. They’ll say that’s obvious and they already know that. We reply with a smirk, smile and knowing nod.
Sorry, I digress, my point being that WWE is a storyteller. The wrestlers are the cast, the ring the stage and the writers are… the writers? Erm, regardless, a fiction writer knows that to build to a suitable climax in their story, they’ll create their protagonist (Babyface A), their villain (Heel B), something at stake (a title belt) and a scene set for their final showdown (Wrestlemania). So far, so simple, but what if their rivalry, their chemistry is so much more than a simple tale, culminating in a face-off? What if their rivalry can and should continue? Would it be wrong to end it all on one night?
To me it depends on the type of feud, what’s at stake and the possible draw to fans. Take Bayley’s recent win for example; as already stated, that win was special because it was Bayley’s first title win. Something that cannot be replicated. Something we all know how hard she’s worked for. Was it deserving of a grander stage? Hell yeah, but then again, had that match taken place at Mania, would that have been the last time Charlotte and Bayley would’ve crossed paths – albeit after the inevitable rematch on Raw? I don’t think so. The setting of the final showdown was wrong, but the story will continue.
Then you have your top drawer guys who sell out arenas – Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. Their feud has continued on in recent months. Their first one on one clash was at a big PPV at Survivor Series, their second (very brief) clash was at the Rumble – again, another big PPV. Would having them go toe to toe on a Monday Night make any sort of sense when it came to business, the fans or telling a story? Are they likely to face off again after Mania? Possibly, but will it be on a Raw? I doubt it.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho need to face one another at Mania if just for the ending their story deserves. Many turning points took place on PPVs and indeed their split occurred on a regular Raw, but that doesn’t matter because they’re not at the end just yet. They’re not at their climax. See, this is where the story writes itself, and hopefully that what the higher ups see in their future, but would it surprise anyone to see them have their showdown on a lesser PPV or a Raw, true to what could be described as ‘typical WWE thinking’.
I think WWE’s thinking of feuds comes down to the longevity of the story. Can it continue on? Will it get boring? Do fans want to see more, or will it become stale and tired if nothing more can be gained from it? I doubt the WWE writing staff stop all their plans after Wrestlemania, but I do believe there’s an element of a fresh start, similar to the end of a season of that Netflix TV show. Yes, the characters are likely to continue on in the next season. Yes, they’re likely to cross paths again, but a season, much like any story, needs a climax, a big finish, something to build up to and go forward from. The fallout may not be the end for all involved, but it could give us a brief respite while we catch our breath, ready to watch all over again and see what develops next.
Sometimes perhaps Wrestlemania is a deserving final stop for a story or a character. It’s their last go, their last dance and once all is said and done, the spotlight will move to someone else and the curtain will call. Those moments are deserving of a special occasion, if it is true and worthy of the character. Did Shawn Michaels deserve his final hurrah at Mania? Did Flair? I believe so and that is when good storytelling gets it right. The timing, the pace of the feud, the stakes all culminate into a grand finale.
In closing, I suppose I’m no closer to thinking if all the major feuds should end at Wrestlemania. There are some that certainly deserve to, but there are many others that need to continue on for many more months. Perhaps that’s due to their financial pull, their popularity with the audience or perhaps is just too damn good a story to be a standalone one and deserves a sequel or three? In any case, I think every feud needs to be judged on its merits and what it brings to the table. Does it make good business sense to have final showdowns on the grandest stage of them all, or am I romanticising too much and seeing storylines with my heart rather than my head?
What do you think? Should all the big feuds end at Wrestlemania, or do some need to continue? Does Mania give WWE the opportunity to wipe the slate clean? Should Wrestlemania be a special occasion full of one-off finales, or would any WWE show do? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.