By Will Pruett
Prowrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4E at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet. Jason Powell and I will be taking your calls coming out of WWE Fastlane and leading into tonight’s Raw.
A common counter-cultural cry in modern wrestling fandom is “WrestleMania is not for the hardcore fans.” I have probably said something to this effect at some point. This statement would seem to be true coming out of Fastlane with Bill Goldberg becoming the WWE Universal Champion and likely WrestleMania closer, but it’s completely false. WWE Fastlane was an example of outright laziness from WWE.
The idea that “hardcore” fans, or, as they should be called, committed fans can’t enjoy WrestleMania is based on the idea of WrestleMania as a cultural spectacular meant to draw in more than just the ordinary wrestling fans. We would be told it’s meant to appeal to a broader community than just those “internet” fans (which I suppose would be wrestling fans with internet access, which is everyone). This is why we annually have weird concerts, odd sponsorship moments, a massive amount of commercials, and more on the overly-bloated WrestleMania show. WWE is trying to appeal to people who want to pay $10 to see Kid Rock perform two songs in front of a stadium that doesn’t care about him.
WrestleMania is meant to be for every fan. It’s not supposed to be the showcase of the part-time stars, it’s meant to be the biggest possible show with concrete results going forward. WrestleMania should matter for the rest of the year in WWE. It’s considered WWE’s biggest night and it should have this same level of importance going forward. Think about last year’s WrestleMania. Now, pretend it never happened. Are you missing any defining event in WWE? Are you missing anything? Likely not.
This brings us to Bill Goldberg. I’m not going to argue that Kevin Owens should still be Universal Champion. He was a poorly written champion more prone to comedy than legitimacy and this character choice made Raw largely unwatchable for the latter half of 2016. While Kevin Owens is an amazing talent and the best shot WWE has at another massively popular Daniel Bryan-esque character, he should not be in the main event of WrestleMania. I’d also say Bill Goldberg shouldn’t either.
Goldberg returned to WWE sponsored by a video game and received an amazing reaction. He’s a star from 20 years ago fans remember fondly from their childhoods. He’s the last true star WCW managed to make. Bill Goldberg might be a fun attraction as an in-ring competitor once again, but he should never be a main event guy.
WWE has shown us absolute dominance from Goldberg. He’s beaten two top wrestlers in a matter of seconds. He’s proven himself better than everyone on the Raw roster in a very small amount of time. What does this do for WWE? What does this do for them in two months when Goldberg is at home and they’re trying to sell tickets in every city in America? How does this make the non-committed sometimes wrestling fan want to watch?
WWE doesn’t want to build new stars to take the place of the rapidly aging generation of 1990’s wrestlers they’ve relied upon to anchor WrestleMania for the last decade. WWE isn’t trying to make mega-stars to be the legends of tomorrow. WWE doesn’t want major stars who aren’t already major stars.
Building new stars is hard. The wrestling business is tricky and difficult. Modern fans are even trickier. WWE has decided to rely on short-term moments featuring past stars because they’re lazy. They’ve decided new fans and old want to cheer wrestlers from 20 years ago. They’ve decided to become a nostalgia show instead of a modern show. WWE is not just angling for the “casual” fans. They’re angling to get out of the hard work of making stars.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar main eventing WrestleMania 33 is the product of laziness. It is the product of a lack of forethought. It is the product of WWE’s unwillingness to create and foster an environment where a new wrestler can rapidly rise.
WWE is too lazy to tell a good story, so we all suffer. WWE is too lazy to give us consistent characters with consistent actions, so we all sit around hoping for a magic moment. WWE is too lazy to book WrestleMania with anything but stars from the past and give it long-term payoffs.
WrestleMania may not be for the hardcore fans, but it should be. WrestleMania may not be for the casual fans, but it should be. WrestleMania should tell us good stories and allow us to invest in the outcomes (and the fallout from them). WrestleMania is for fans fantasy booking a 1998 supercard on WWE 2K17.
WrestleMania is, increasingly, an exercise in the absurd moves WWE can make to avoid making stars.
And now for some random thoughts:
– Who would have guessed two streaks would end on the night Goldberg became Universal Champion? Charlotte lost a puzzling match to Bayley, thus ending her pay-per-view win streak without much coming from it. Braun Strowman was pinned in the middle of the ring by Roman Reigns and Strowman’s dominant win streak is now over. Neither of these decisions make long-term sense.
I believe Roman Reigns will be WWE Universal Champion by summer. Why not save a conclusive finish to Strowman vs. Reigns until it means something down the line? This was simply a match, why not save the major outcome until it could be a main event championship clash?
The same goes for Charlotte Flair’s pay-per-view winning streak. It was built up to mean something, but in ending, it meant nothing. It wasn’t a landmark moment for Bayley, who defeated Charlotte. It wasn’t a major title change. It didn’t really matter after it happened. WWE gave up a solid long-term investment in Charlotte for nothing. It was weird.
– Bayley’s character looks really inconsistent in accepting the constant help from Sasha Banks to win matches. I always say characters are defined by their actions and Bayley is acting like a heel in this feud with Charlotte. It proves that WWE lacks a moral compass in their storytelling and they don’t realize what “doing the right thing” actually means to fans.
– Kevin Owens losing the WWE Universal Championship was, as I said above, fine with me. The Chris Jericho involvement puzzled me. I still don’t understand why Owens made a major character shift going into this match and not coming out of it. Owens and Jericho as allies against Goldberg, then breaking up, would have been more logical.
– Neville and Jack Gallagher put on the best match of the night and one of my favorite matches from WWE’s Cruiserweight Division since its revival. Gallagher was able to look very strong in this one, with Neville having to break out every move in his arsenal to win. It was a delightful ray of sunshine on this puzzling show.
– Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn was exactly what I expected it to be and quite good. I have to wonder what Samoa Joe is going to be involved in at WrestleMania. He doesn’t seem to be slotted for a major match, but definitely shouldn’t be absent from the show.
– The Raw tag team division is in shambles. I didn’t care about the Gallows and Anderson vs. Enzo and Cass title match. I cared even less about the Rusev and “Cycled On” Jinder Mahal singles match jamboree. This was the low point of the show and I zoned out of it both times I attempted to watch.
– Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax was an odd match with an odd finish.
– Why was Big E a 1998 Scott Hall tribute act?
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.