By Haydn Gleed
As much as I try to remain positive in life and in my pro wrestling viewing, WWE is not firing on cylinders. In a blog last week, I ran through the problems with producing a WWE Network special so close to WrestleMania, but I was willing to see how WWE would react at the first opportunity post said event. I can’t say that Monday’s Raw was anything other than anther long three hour show that had its bright spots, but ultimately didn’t really make me want to watch WrestleMania any more than I did going into the show. With 17 days remaining until WrestleMania 32, let’s take a look at each potential or announced matches and see how things are shaping up.
The Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Well…..uh…..they’ve announced it and….uh….I guess it gives something for the Social Outcasts of the world to do on the card. The problem is that WWE hasn’t given the viewers any particular reason to root for anyone in this match because, despite this being somewhat of an annual tradition, you get the sense that it doesn’t matter. After all, the two previous winners in Cesaro and Big Show haven’t really benefited from winning this mach.
How difficult would it be to have something on the line? Yes, there’s a cool trophy, but what if the winner got a secondary title belt shot? Yes, the belts don’t mean as much as they should, but just having these competitors wanting to win the title shot will make the belts feel more important. With five hours of television and presumably tens of wrestlers in the match, WWE should really be building this up as a spectacle with a reason for it happening not just an afterthought.
Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles: If you had told me this time last week that this would be high on my list of things that I’m looking forward to at WrestleMania I would have called you crazy. After all, as far as I was concerned leading into Raw last week, this feud had been squeezed as far as it could go. However, Jericho’s heel promo on Sunday was just great. Yes, its simple heel logic that he used – you fans didn’t support me over someone I know I am better than and now I’m going to make your hero pay. However, sometimes in wrestling, simpler is better. I want to see Jericho have his ass handed to him, and I think this will give AJ Styles the opportunity to have a big match at WrestleMania with a storyline behind it and show what he can do.
Although it hasn’t been a disastrous run, he really hasn’t set the world on fire. I asked a casual friend of mine for his opinion on AJ, who he had never seen or heard of before the Rumble. He said he’s alright, he’s got some cool moves but he really know much about him yet, and that kind of sums up AJ Styles in WWE at the moment. With an inspired heel Jericho to work against, I truly hope this is the springboard for Styles to get a big win and then push on post-Mania.
Ryback vs. Kalisto for the U.S. Title: I get the sense that they are trying to play out this feud on several levels. On the one hand, they are trying to point out to the casual viewer that Kalisto has a huge challenge on his hands. On the other hand, they are trying to rile up the “Internet fans” by bringing up the whole big man vs. smaller wrestler debate. Either way it’s not really doing anything for me, as I haven’t been given a reason to care about either guy winning at this point, and when the challenger can’t even be bothered to wait for an answer to the challenge, you feel the wrestlers are just going through the motions. Certainly, this does not have the feel of a WrestleMania title match at this point.
New Day vs. The League Of Nations for the WWE Tag Team Championship: The biggest problem with this feud is a problem we have had for a long time. Are New Day babyfaces or heels? Up until a couple of weeks ago, New Day would rip into the fans and now suddenly they are trying to sell cereal to the paying public. If they want them to be babyfaces heading into Mania, which considering their opponents I assume they want them to be, they need to have that one moment where you go these guys are dorks but they are alright actually.
The less said about League Of Nations the better as they have somehow taken their combined potential and are dragging each other down. Aside from being bad guns for hire who never accomplish their task(s), we don’t know why they are together, we don’t seem them as a credible threat, and generally all four men are being wasted at this point.
The Uso’s vs. The Dudley Boyz: Boy, has this feud lost steam. After the Dudleys turned and attacked the Usos, I was actually really intrigued. Finally, The Dudleys would be given time to do what they do best and that’s be heels and The Usos would get some character development. Nope, same old same old. The Usos haven’t given the impression that they are particularly annoyed by the actions of their opponents and have just been their usual smiley happy selfs. While we are on the subject, when is WWE going to give these guys times to develop their personas? They are a good tag team with a great in ring ability but they are gradually slipping lower and lower down the card because nobody cares about them because they haven’t been given a reason to care. Wasted opportunity so far. They still have two weeks to heat this up, but I can’t see them doing it if recent history is anything to go by.
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a street fight: So who am I supposed to be rooting for? Brock Lesnar, who is a sort of babyface and the quote “mayor of suplex city” or Dean Ambrose the “The Lunatic Fringe”? Partly because of my memory but mostly because the side track of Dean against Triple H, I can’t really remember what these two were feuding over. I remember some silliness involving ambulances but that’s about it.
This will be a fun match, and the build up has been relatively strong, but I’m not sure what is on the line here. As I’ve already alluded to, I don’t know who I should be rooting for and who I should be looking to lose. The build this week on Raw was pretty good, and I’m interested to see how this match plays out, but I just get the impression that this match is just being thrown out there to fill the hardcore quota. Again, with the talent there between Heyman and Ambrose on the mic, I would have hoped for a better build than we’ve seen thus far.
Intercontinental Championship match: Just under twenty days until the big show, and the legendary secondary title match is not set. When Sami Zayn came out last week, I was hoping this would lead to a Zayn against Owens match at Mania. The more I thought about it, the more I’m glad that it appears they are not going in that direction. As NXT showed in their brief feud last year, these two have a history together and when that story is told there is magic in their rivalry. You just simply can’t accomplish telling that story properly in three weeks. So on one level, I am glad that they appear to be steering away from that. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to see another generic ladder match for the title like last year.
On the balance of it though, I hope it is a multi man match of some kind and hope that coming out of Mania the feud that could excite everyone from “Internet fans” to casual’s alike will begin leading to an Owens against Zayn SummerSlam match. But the question you have to ask yourself is, should I be more excited about a potential SummerSlam match that I’m fantasy booking in my head for the title than I am about any kind of match they choose to put on at the biggest event of the year for their Intercontinental Championship? The answer you are looking for is no.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the Divas Championship: Who else is looking forward to the face vs. face vs. face confrontation on Friday when Charlotte will do all the talking and the two opponents look like goofs for taking it? Me neither. Sasha can talk, and I mean she can really talk. She hasn’t been given the opportunity to display that on the main roster. Again, there are still two weeks to go so maybe this confrontation on Smackdown can change things and they will sell me on this triple threat, but I’m skeptical.
It’s such a shame because each of these women, especially Charlotte and Sasha Banks could put together a feud and an end product match that would create a real buzz not only with the NXT fans who have seen how good the women’s division can be, but also with the casual fans. The number of friends who are casuals who texted me and told me how much they enjoyed Natalya against Charlotte on Saturday was unbelievable, but they are just not being given that chance at the moment. Although I’m expecting this match to be good, the build has been disappointing considering how good it could/should have been.
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker In A Hell In A Cell match: We all know this doesn’t make any sense, and to be honest I was only okay with it because I thought they would shore up the logic gaps the best they could and it would possibly be someone else filling in for Shane McMahon…..that was after night one. I am looking forward to the spectacle of it, although I am worried about the expectations meaning that Shane and/or The Undertaker will be taking risks that they shouldn’t be, but I just wish that they would allow Shane to show some fear. Without that aspect it takes me out of the mindset of “well, this should be fun as a one off non wrestler against veteran wrestler” and pushes me towards “this is stupid.” Since night one of Shane returning, it hasn’t been a great build, but come WrestleMania I’m sure this will still be the match that a lot of people will be interested in seeing……..just, please, no more dancing, Shane O Mac.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship: My lord, where do I even start with this one. Credit where credit is due, WWE has done everything in their power and everything they can possibly do to get Roman over as a babyface. Feud with the most hated wrestler in the company – check. Give him an underdog storyline – check. Do an injury angle to gain sympathy – check. Make a big babyface return after said injury – check. All of this and the fans just don’t care. At this moment in time, I’m really excited for this match…….but in a way that I don’t think WWE would want me to be excited.
I’m looking forward to how bad the reaction is going to be for Roman from the WrestleMania audience. If Raw this week wasn’t a wakeup call to the powers that be in WWE that Roman needs to turn heel then I don’t know what will. Despite my insistence that babyface/heel turns and the actions of characters have to be as logical as possible, I will take an illogical heel turn at this point just to get him to the dark side and let WWE see all the money there is in a Reigns character not hamstrung by trying to make the fans like him.
One thing that been somewhat overlooked the past couple of days because of the reaction Roman received is the fact that Triple H, despite his age and the limited amount of time he’s been in the ring over the last twelve months, did a hell of a good job in his two matches first at Roadblock and then again at Raw. Granted, in those two matches he had two of the most athletic and best sellers in the company to work with, but because of those performances I’m less worried about the quality of the match heading into WrestleMania. I’m just worried about the reaction Reigns is going to get, especially if he wins the title and doesn’t heel on the fans either afterwards or on the next night on Raw.
So there we have it, the card as it stands right now. There is also the possibility of a multi woman tag match on the show, and I’m sure there might be one or two more buffer matches thrown in there, but this is it, folks, with just over two weeks to go. Not the most inspiring card is it? Let’s be honest, the build has been very poor as I’ve highlighted, but one point I do want to make is that we were making exactly the same complaints heading into WrestleMania last year and that show was considered by some as the the greatest WrestleMania of all time. Can WWE get lucky twice? We’ll soon find out.
As always, feel free to get in touch about this blog or anything wrestling related via twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org