I have been writing for this sheet off-and-on (well, mostly off) since 2001. During that time, I was acquainted with Chris Bernes, who penned last week’s guest column. Chris had a lot of good things to say about the two main events on last Sunday’s WrestleMania. If I’m being honest, it was one of the best ‘Manias I’ve seen in quite some time. My ol’ pal Bernes pointed out lots of things WWE did well, both from a ringwork perspective and a company perspective. There were some things to be praised about both of those matches.
Then again, there were things about those matches that absolutely sucked.
WWE hyped Styles/Nakamura to be a dream match. Over and over again. Smart fans were looking for a match something akin to their classic encounters in Japan. Younger viewers didn’t know what to expect, but they likely were intelligent enough to spot two first-rate workers who were ready, willing, and able to tear the house down. Finally, we were going to see a Japanese-quality wrestling main event on American television!
Don’t get me wrong. The match was good, but it was only slightly higher quality than a standard Smackdown match. And, most certainly, it was nowhere close to the caliber “smart” fans were expecting based off of their previous match in Japan. Frankly, WWE missed a huge opportunity here. Perhaps they were pressed for time (after all, the show was longer than any in recent memory – it may go down as the longest). We certainly can’t say that they half-assed the match – Styles and Nakamura are two of the hardest-working, most consistent workers wrestling today.
Whatever the case, the match was a huge letdown. But Shinsuke/Styles’ disappointing outing pales in comparison to the mind-numbing stupidity we witnessed in the RAW main event.
Let’s start with the fact that we have BEYOND a part-time wrestler. Lesnar has defended the universal title a grand total of ten times since winning it. Before you say “Hey, that’s not so bad!”, that’s not accounting for the fact that four of those defenses were on live tours that weren’t televised. So, that means he’s defended it on 50% of the scheduled Pay Per Views. Beyond that, he has appeared (not necessarily wrestled on) 22 of the 52 RAW episodes since WrestleMania.
But that’s just the tip of the colossal dung heap of an iceberg that is Brock Lesnar.
The only thing worse than having a part-timer in your top spot is having your title on said title in the top spot. Today, fans want to see the champion on TV. As a brand, WWE isn’t doing itself any favors by not having its top guy on TV every week. Fans want to see the champion.
Back in 2004, Vince was trapped into a corner because his champion was about to leave to do something else. One of the reasons why he decided to trust John Cena so much is because he didn’t want to be put in a position where the top champion wasn’t on TV every week and was getting ready to go and try his hand at football.
Sound familiar? Yep. Vince has put himself in the exact same situation. Whatever. He has no one to blame for this mess than himself.
And then, there’s Roman Reigns.
For years, Vince McMahaon has tried to push Roman Reigns for years now. And, before Daniel Bryan caught fire, it seemed like it would have been possible. Ever since he was pushed instead of Bryan, the crowd has booed and hissed at Reigns without relent. Prior to WrestleMania, in an effort to build Roman as the sympathetic babyface with the fans, Vince subjected Roman to several beatdowns at the hands of Brock Lesnar. I’ll admit, the angles were so well done that I thought the tactic would work.
Rather than course-correct the situation, Vince steamrolled ahead with the Roman-as-a-sympathetic-babyface masterplan. What followed was the most awkward WrestleMania main event since 2004 which, ironically enough, also featured Lesnar.
The environment of the match was awkward. It was terrible. Atrocious. Despite great performances by all parties involved, the match was over before it began because, at this point, fans had run out of give-a-damn. The match was a foregone conclusion – fans already knew that Lesnar was dropping the title before he began a bid to return to UFC.
But he won! It was the swerve to end all swerves. Except it wasn’t. Vince McMahon, to mitigate a negative fan reaction on the most important show of the year, caved to the wishes of a minority of fans and held the title off of Reigns. Months of angles, solid build, and a good effort to build Roman as the sympathetic babyface…for what?
Now, we’re in a situation where Brock has reportedly signed a short-term extension to his current deal so that he can drop the title to Reigns in Saudi Arabia (available to Network subscribers for just $9.99). But what then? Will Reigns return home to the United States as the conquering hero? Of course not. Fans will boo him out of the building like they have done countless times, and the work that Vince McMahon did to rebuild Roman’s character in the eyes of fans will be all for naught.
What a mess.
WrestleMania was a great show, with some great matches and great work ethics. But it was as great show with show-runners that made some really, really dumbass choices when it came to their main events. There were certainly others, like unnecessary swerve endings of the Women’s Battle Royal, or the masterful killing of suspense by putting the tag titles on a 12-year-old kid, only to drop them the next night.
I’m not sure what the writers were thinking when they booked these things. In the end, though, it’s all Vince’s fault. But that’s a story for another day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A longtime wrestling fan, Jon was a regular columnist for Wrestling-Online from 2001-2007. In addition to his love for professional wrestling and video games, he is a teacher who enjoys spending time with family and friends.