By Will Pruett
With just a few days before WrestleMania, I find myself starting to get excited. Despite a slight lack of enthusiasm about the overall card, I’m counting down the days and annoying the non-wrestling fans around me by mentioning WrestleMania too often. While I’m not going to be in Orlando this year, I still cannot wait to gorge myself on way too much wrestling over the coming weekend. What confounds me, as I look at WrestleMania weekend, is the two least compelling matches: The Universal Championship and WWE Championship matches.
There are a ton of commonalities with these two matches. Both were prominently featured in the closing moments of Raw and Smackdown this week and both of those segments made me want to see them less.
On Smackdown, Randy Orton returned to the place where Bray Wyatt rubbed himself down with his santanic sister’s ashes when Wyatt returned to the place that Orton burned to the ground after exhuming a body where Wyatt used a shed for rocking chair storage. Yeah, this whole “shed burning” doesn’t light my fire either. Orton returned to this place with some sort of magic sword symbol to dig into the ground. What the hell is all of this? Who likes this? Who wants this? Orton and Wyatt would be a fine match without all the burning and grave digging and ash rub downs. Is this feud featuring arson and desecration of graves aimed at kids? That seems weird.
On Raw, Paul Heyman did the talking, Brock Lesnar did the bouncing, and Goldberg did the walking. This was the whole segment. Heyman may be the best thing about this feud, but I haven’t found myself enamoured with his promos. I don’t particularly care about the “How Brock Got His Groove Back” elements of this story. Brock Lesnar’s groove has never been my concern.
Bruce Mitchell at PWTorch.com has frequently called Goldberg a comet. He burns bright and then falls quickly to earth. On Raw, I saw proof that he has fallen already. WrestleMania could be a rough night for him.
How are the two title matches so uninspiring? Often fans deride the idea of championships being props, but that’s exactly what they are. They should be props endowed with meaning. In this case, they are props endowed with the idea that you are the best when you win them. This isn’t what Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, and Randy Orton are fighting to prove. This isn’t the culmination of a journey. This isn’t a major moment. This is just another day to bounce, walk slowly backstage, burn down a shed, or rub one’s face with burnt up body chips.
While the other matches at WrestleMania 33 seem to have a hook, be it a long-term fed for Jericho and Owens, a new elimination stipulation for the Raw women, the battle of yard-ownership for Reigns and Undertaker, or the fun drama of John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. Miz and Maryse. These matches have hooks. These matches have stories. These matches make sense. For the two top title matches, we are not living a history-making story. We are simply hoping to get through it to the other side.
And now for some random thoughts:
– While I don’t love the title matches, I’m getting excited for this WrestleMania card. Triple H vs. Seth Rollins was built up really well over the last month. Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles should be a fun spectacle.
– I guess I was premature in celebrating WWE breaking the record for matches involving women at WrestleMania a couple weeks ago. It’s frustrating to see the Smackdown women relegated to the pre-show once again. They have a talented and compelling roster that deserves to be on the actual WrestleMania show. The pre-show is not WrestleMania. For more on the startling sexism of WrestleMania history, check out my Pause from a couple weeks ago.
– Undertaker and Roman Reigns has had a classic Undertaker WrestleMania build, complete with digging. This match has been speculated about as the WrestleMania closer and I really like that idea. It’s not just that the title matches are bad. Fans care about Undertaker. Fans care about Roman Reigns. This match will have the most emotional investment of any match on the show.
– I was happy to see the first 30 minutes of Raw dedicated to the Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax elimination match. I’m not happy to not have a one-on-one feud for either Women’s Championship, but such is life. This should be a great match and I’m hoping WWE gives it the time it deserves.
– The Total Bellas segments from Miz and Maryse have been really fun. I’m all about this mixed tag at WrestleMania. It honestly might be the best built match on the entire card. Add in the possibility of John Cena proposing at the end and I’ll definitely be hanging on every moment of this WrestleMania match.
– Could anything yell “The Hardys are coming” more than adding a ladder stipulation to the Raw Tag Title match? I’m about this. WrestleMania has suffered in the recent years it hasn’t had a major ladder spectacle. It’s an annual tradition. I am also all about Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy showing up, no matter what form they’re in.
– Naomi’s return on Smackdown was gosh dang delightful.
– Was anyone else surprised to hear Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles was a regular match? This startled me. What can Shane fall from in a regular match? How will this play out? I’m still confident in the ability of Styles to make Shane look awesome (Shane is awesome). I’m still looking forward to this match, but I would be more about a “falling off of tall things” match.
– The ‘Dre looks packed this year and the brand split has given us more potential winners. I like this.
– I’m bummed about Austin Aries and Neville being on the WrestleMania pre-show, but I’m convinced they’ll kill it no matter what. This will be a fun match.
– There was a Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens match in the main event of Raw and it seemed like no one cared. I know the show is a marathon, but this was sad. Add in Sami’s Raw career being on the line and I can’t help but be disappointed.
– A lot happened on these shows and I doubt I’m covering all of it. It’s WrestleMania week. We all know I’ll write a ton more. Have a fun week, everyone!
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.