As you may or may not know, in just under four months time, WWE will be holding it’s thirty-second WrestleMania event. Ever since WWE made the event a regular stadium show back in 2007, there has been increasing pressure on the company to not only fill the larger venues, but to put on a worthwhile show.
WrestleMania in 2016 will be the first pro-wrestling or MMA event to be held at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, with a crowd of around 100,000 expected to (legitimately) break WWE’s attendance record. Twelve months ago, WWE would probably have had something resembling a plan for the event; however, as I write this hours before WWE’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs event, we are looking at a company that is ending the calendar year of 2015 trying to find a clear direction in the face of declining ratings and declining interest in the product.
As a fan who’s made it to two WrestleManias, I can attest that there be a good number of fans who will make it to AT&T Stadium who are not hardcore fans. Indeed, some of them may be lapsed fans who muster up an interest once a year. Now, the recent spate of injuries to WWE has seen them robbed of their world champion Seth Rollins, in addition to Randy Orton, Sting, Cesaro, and the long-term injured duo of Daniel Bryan and Tyson Kidd. Of course, WWE has had to shuffle their deck in order to keep the show going without those six, however, their current solution has been less than inspiring, with current-champion Sheamus being the latest name going up against declining ratings.
Now, my point to all of this is quite simple. We’re less than a fortnight away from Christmas, and usually by this time of the year, WWE at least has some direction towards where they’re going with WrestleMania, even if it’s something that is neither clearly called out or changed as a result of fan pressure. WrestleMania 30 was clearly aiming towards a Batista vs. Randy Orton match before the fans’ pressure saw Daniel Bryan added to the mix. John Cena and the Rock headed up WrestleMania 28 and 29, whilst WrestleManias 25 and 26 had Undertaker and Shawn Michaels on the card. With that in mind, think about today. What are WWE aiming towards right now for Texas?
After WrestleMania 31, WWE were clearly toying with the idea of including the Rock and Ronda Rousey on the event in some form, perhaps in a mixed tag-team match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon; however, the former team’s movie-making commitments (and Rousey’s will she-won’t she bid to regain her Bantamweight championship) has put that match on ice. Then we had Triple H’s back-up plan of a feud with Seth Rollins – something else that went on the shelf when Seth’s knee went “pop” in Dublin last month. Oh, and that match that fans had been waiting for for years – the last dream match of Undertaker vs. Sting? Well, as Sting’s in need of neck surgery, we can forget about that one too.
So what are we left with? Without knowing the result of tonight’s match between Roman Reigns and Sheamus, I for one hope that WWE doesn’t go down the route of “Reigns loses, is banned from any further title shots, wins the Royal Rumble and then finally gets the big one at WrestleMania”; because whilst that may be a nice isolated story in itself, Reigns has lost “the big one” so many times, he’s a hair’s breadth away from being this generation’s version of Lex Luger. But even then, that’s only one match – what about the rest of the card? Do WWE even have 30 healthy bodies to throw into their latest Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? Who does the Undertaker go after this year, seeing how WWE blew off the Lesnar feud in October (and in hindsight, doesn’t that make breaking the streak look redundant now?) Does the creative team have any will to put any effort into anything beyond the main event?
I won’t be making the trip to Texas for WrestleMania, but tens of thousands will. Hopefully, we’ll all be rewarded with a show worthy of the name “WrestleMania”, and not be left scrambling for indie alternatives on that weekend.