Once upon a time, WrestleMania was the so-called Showcase of Immortals. Starting with the inaugural version of the event in 1985, WrestleMania represents the biggest and best sports entertainment has to offer, or at least that’s the idea. Unfortunately for wrestling fans, a recent trend has shown that WrestleMania is actually just as likely to be the worst show of the year as the best. The most recent WrestleMania, number 32, was a seven-plus hour slog that seemingly none of the 100,000 fans in attendance wanted to see, and with the 33rd venture rapidly approaching, we’re sorry to say it looks like WWE is headed towards that same result on April 2, 2017.
The problems with the upcoming WrestleMania are hardly new. Against all logic, WWE has exponentially been doubling down on their faults and ignoring what made them successful, making each passing Mania an amalgam of the worst moments from the previous ones. Celebrities used to greatly add to the show, but now they appear for no reason and do nothing of note when they get there. Fans have always disagreed with who was pushed to the top, but now the wrestlers they want to see most aren’t even on the card. And worst of all, WWE is trying to fix these increasing problems by relying more and more on part-time employees, turning WrestleMania into more of a standalone even than the culmination of a year’s worth of television.
Chances are if you’re already considering watching or even attending WrestleMania 33, we’re not about to change your mind. That said, criticisms about the show are already piling up, so you might want to think twice before booking that plane ticket to Orlando. To save yourself the disappointment, keep reading to learn 15 ways WWE is already screwing up WrestleMania 33.
15. The Shaq Of It All
As of this writing, the only match in any way made official for WrestleMania 33 is a celebrity encounter between The Big Show and long retired former Los Angeles Laker Shaquille O’Neal. Now, in all reality, some 20 years ago when Shaq and show were closer to their peaks, this would have been a legitimately huge deal that generated incredible mainstream attention. Even 5 years ago, when Shaq had just retired, this would have been a marquee match. WWE recognized the potential back then, having started the incredibly drawn out Shaq-Show feud as early as 2009. On the downside, by keeping Shaq and Show apart for so long, most fans don’t remember that interaction and thus have no reason to still care. Moreover, at this point, Shaq’s faded from the spotlight enough that he’s barely considered an athlete anymore, at this point basically serving as a celebrity spokesperson. Big Show likewise has been a shell of his former self for so long that fans have been begging him to retire longer than they were ever interested in seeing him square off against a really tall basketball player. And the fact Shaq is in the match at all is only the first half of the problem…
14. Booking The First Match On ESPN
Big Show vs. Shaq has pretty much been penciled in as a sure thing since the two both appeared in the WrestleMania 32 André The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. For some reason, however, WWE has barely made mention of their seven-plus year feud on television, and is doing nothing to actually promote the match as actually happening yet. Except, that is, using their connections at ESPN to release a video on YouTube where Shaq and Show agreed to the match prior to the 2016 ESPY Awards. Should the match actually happen (and we’re assuming it will), this means it was the first match announced for WrestleMania 33. Not a title match, not the culmination of a blood feud, or even simply a contest between two regular wrestlers; a retired celebrity athlete against an over-the-hill wrestler who barely appears on actual WWE television these days. It’s great that WWE is expanding their Universe to include outside mainstream ventures like ESPN, but they shouldn’t be announcing or booking matches anywhere except their own programming, or else most of the fans won’t even know about it.
13. Too Many Titles = Less Time On The Show
In fairness to the upcoming WrestleMania, this is more of a general problem with WWE, although it will most certainly affect the Grandest Stage of Them All more than any other. Between Raw, SmackDown, and the numerous programs on the WWE Network, there are currently at least 13 championships in the WWE Universe. We can reasonably assume the three NXT belts will be defended the night before at NXT TakeOver: Orlando, but that still leaves 10 (or maybe only 9, depending on what the UK Championship becomes) slots on WrestleMania that will probably be taken up with title defenses. Plus the André Battle Royal, plus the Shaq match, and we’re already at the same number of matches there were in last year’s intensely bloated show. WWE will thus be forced to decided between devaluing a championship and leaving it off the show, or simply doing away with blood feuds or non-title affairs, which are often equally if not more so compelling to fans than whatever random SmackDown Women’s Championship match misplaced talent and poorly spent time will be wasted on.
12. Hinting Last Minute Steals
Especially since his incredible performance against Kazuchika Okada at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 11, Kenny Omega has been one of the most talked about pro wrestlers outside of the WWE Universe. That isn’t to say he hasn’t caught their attention, though, with John Cena recently posting his picture to Instagram and Triple H admitting during an interview with ESPN that the company is interested in hiring him. There’s no blaming WWE for wanting to bring Omega into their bubble, and should they pull it off, it could actually give fans something to look forward to at WrestleMania, if not earlier. So, why do we still consider it an overall bad sign? We actually have two reasons. First, given WWE’s track record with importing Japanese stars (even one from Canada like Omega), he could just as well wind up in NXT and offer nothing to the main roster (or, alternatively, turn them down). More importantly, that WWE is trying to pull in big outside stars at the last minute reeks of desperation, and is a sign they have no real plans in store, with the event already less than three months away.
11. No More Streak Means No More Point To The Undertaker
With all due respect to the incredible talents and legacy of The Undertaker, his career should have started winding down immediately upon his loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX. Once the Streak was over, there was nothing left for him to prove, and both attempts at reliving it thus far have been sad imitations of what he was previously capable of. His match against Bray Wyatt could have been meaningful if Bray won, but he didn’t, and the less said about the bombastic mess that was his trip to Hell In A Cell with Shane McMahon, the better. The instant he announced his participation in the Royal Rumble, it was a given the Dead Man would also make his way to WrestleMania in one form or another, and with his mystique and aura torn away from him through the ravages of defeat and age, it’s hard to see the point. Thankfully, plans of a meaningless match against John Cena are rumored to be off the table, and we’ll even admit WWE could prove us wrong about Taker by giving him the right opponent. Just as easily, though, they could confirm all fears his day is over, and it’s time for his career to rest in peace.
10. The Rumors They Are A-Changin’
Speaking of how the rumor for Cena-Undertaker has now been double rumored to be taken off the table, the fact WWE apparently still can’t decide what to do with any of their biggest stars less than three months away from the show is extremely unsettling in and of itself. There was a point in history when WrestleMania main events were planned out months if not full years in advance, and though fate often intervened and messed things up, the times it worked out perfectly were amongst the highest watched and most popular Mania’s in history. The Mega Powers Exploding, the Ultimate Challenge, the Iron Man match—even if the company waited until January or February to start building towards anything on television, the plans were set in stone way beforehand, and groundwork had been laid to make fans heavily excited. WWE proved this method still works as recently as the Once In A Lifetime battle between The Rock and John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII in 2012, booked a full year in advance and grossing record sales. In January 2017, the company hasn’t announced anything at all about the show because they apparently don’t know what’s going to happen yet, either.
9. Pushing Braun Strowman As A Top Contender
Despite how often the rumors are changing, one thing that remains consistent is the presence of erstwhile Wyatt Family enforcer Braun Strowman as a major contender. Aside from acknowledging Strowman is etched of the same look that Vince McMahon has always found personally endearing, many fans have absolutely no idea what he’s done to earn such a high profile role at the biggest show of the year. Strowman was a decently successful bodybuilder prior to signing with WWE in 2013, receiving only a small amount of training before catapulting past NXT onto the main roster. Strowman has since dominated the Raw roster, only increasing his destruction after separating from Wyatt in 2016. He generally wrestled in squashes until starting a feud with Sami Zayn, where Zayn has done somewhere around 95% of the heavy lifting both in the ring and in terms of providing a story for the crowd to care about. And yet, Strowman, who receives almost no response from the crowd and shows no particular charisma, is the one who has been rumored to win the Royal Rumble, challenge for a World Championship, or maybe even face The Undertaker. Frankly, the poor rookie isn’t ready for any of those roles, and WrestleMania crowds have a history of loudly rejecting people who don’t belong on the stage.
8. Scaling Down From Last Year
Regardless of how poorly received it was on a critical level, WrestleMania 32 nonetheless made history by setting the indoor attendance record for pro wrestling with an audience of 101,763 fans (also reported to be the lesser but still impressive 93,730). Last time WWE held a WrestleMania at the Camping World Stadium, they drew 74,635 fans, a number it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume they could match or even slightly beat this year. It seems crazy to say it considering how huge that number is, but it somehow makes the event feel less spectacular than last year, with at best 75% as many people watching the show in person. Granted, there are only so many venues that could ever match the size of AT&T Stadium, so the problem here might have been going too big for them to ever live up to. That in mind, it still would have been an easier transition if they went with a slightly bigger venue, so they drop in attendance figures wouldn’t look so jarring.
7. WrestleMania Needs To Hit The Road
With all due respect to the great state of Florida, it’s a little unfair to wrestling fans living in the other 49 states that 33 will be the the third WrestleMania in 10 years to be held in the Sunshine State. In 2008, WrestleMania XXIV was held in the same venue as the upcoming event, Orlando’s Camping World Stadium (then known as the Florida Citrus Bowl). WrestleMania XXVIII in 2012 was also held in Miami at the Sun Life Stadium. Both of the previous events did great business for WWE, and we’re not saying they don’t deserve to host plenty of big shows throughout the year, but there are wrestling fans everywhere in the country. Switching up the location also switches up the type of crowd we can expect, and it would be fun for WWE to hold the show in front of a crowd that never gets to see their spectacle. Granted, there probably aren’t any stadiums in North Dakota big enough to host the event, and the company is never going to take the trip to Alaska. Still, they need to start traveling and share WrestleMania with the rest of the world, instead of relying on a familiar Florida crowd that’ll react the way they expect them to.
6. Exclusively Relying On Part-Timers
Outside of the aforementioned conundrum that is Braun Strowman, the most commonly repeated names mentioned in discussing rumored WrestleMania matches are John Cena, Triple H, and The Undertaker. Occasionally Roman Reigns gets thrown into the mix, but only as an afterthought to those three. Add the looming reality of Shaq and the Big Show, and the one thing we can be certain about WrestleMania 33 is that it will be loaded with part-timers. This is nothing new, as part-timers have dominated WrestleMania for almost a full decade now. Familiarity is hardly an excuse, though, and fans would much rather hear about plans for up and coming stars than news about which semi-retired former legend is going to make their single appearance of the year before disappearing again. Certain critics want WWE to get rid of the part-timers altogether, but we won’t be nearly that harsh. They all serve their purpose, could make for great moments, and with the right opponents, might create stars. However, that won’t happen if it’s all about them. WWE needs to create plans for regular superstars that involve part-timers, not the other way around. What’s worse is that some of their plans seem to eschew the regulars entirely. Hopefully they won’t go that far, because it’s a bad enough sign that the more a person wrestles from day to day, the less likely they are to do so at WrestleMania.
5. Ignoring The Revolutionary Women
For everything that was wrong with WrestleMania 32, one plus side of the night was the funeral dirge for the term “diva” and the concurrent revival of the WWE Women’s Championship. To many fans, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch absolutely stole the show with their triple threat match to crown the inaugural champion, allowing the women’s revolution to shine brighter than it ever had before. Over the next year, all three women have continued to increase their gender’s profile in wrestling with hard fought matches and hotly contested feuds, and yet when it comes to the WrestleMania rumors, things don’t look particularly promising for the ladies. Instead of leading to a spectacular match that pays off a long angle, WWE is toying with the idea of having the Raw women do the classic hodgepodge multi-person match with whoever happens to be nearby. Over on the SmackDown side, there are no rumors to speak of. Revolutions start to fail when the people in charge stop making plans and the soldiers lose their fire, and unless WWE makes some decisions about the women’s division really soon, they risk heading down that path.
4. Want To See Nakamura? Maybe NXT Year…
The main event of WrestleMania 32 was flawed for a number of reasons, so skipping to the point, fans did not enjoy watching Roman Reigns wrestle Triple H for the WWE Championship. Amidst long stretches of silence and intermittent boos, one of the many random chants the Dallas crowd offered the wrestlers was “Nakamura.” The day prior, the man in question made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, and has remained in the so-called training ground for WWE superstars ever since. Shinsuke is almost definitely the most popular athlete in the WWE Universe, and has more than enough star power to find himself in a high profile WrestleMania affair, and yet it looks like his best bet at fame will be stealing the weekend with another classic at NXT TakeOver: Orlando. Upon his debut, there was a semi-legitimate concern to whether or not Nakamura would connect with an English speaking audience the way that he did his home town, but the past year should have absolutely put those fears to rest. The King of Strong Style deserves to shine on the Grandest Stage of Them All, but it looks like once again he won’t even have a chance.
3. Forgetting Match Quality Matters
Shortly after the Kazuchika Okada-Kenny Omega match from New Japan Pro Wrestling became the talk of the wrestling town, Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer mentioned on his radio show that WWE executives were considering the idea of pushing for WrestleMania to have an equally impressive main event. Before we get carried away, we’ll acknowledge the company most certainly always wanted to have a great main event in terms of pleasing the fans, and Alvarez was implying an impressing main event in terms of match quality and in-ring performance. With that clear…what the f***? Not every WrestleMania has been headlined by a traditionally perfect mat classic, but we like to believe the superstars involved always walked into the arena intending to put on the best show possible. As the most successful wrestling promoter in history, one would hope Vince has an idea of what wrestling fans want to see, and thus understands he needs to put at least a decent match on at the end of his program. Unfortunately, it appears he needed a reminder from New Japan. On the plus side, maybe he’ll take it.
2. Nothing Feels Important Enough To Headline
Throughout this list we covered just about every potential rumor there is going into the upcoming WrestleMania. Upwards of 10 championship matches, appearances from Triple H, John Cena, and The Undertaker, celebrities galore, and hopefully the women doing something—and absolutely none of that feels important enough to headline. Sure, whatever happens with the WWE Championship will earn the main event status by default, but this is WrestleMania we’re talking about here. 70-80,000 fans are going to pack themselves into a Florida arena, and they want a marquee match of some sort to convince them it was money well spent getting there. WWE has a handful of moderately interesting feuds going on right now, but none that feel important enough to even appear during the middle of the Showcase of Immortals. Outside of best friends Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens finally pulling the trigger on their breakup, title matches and part-timers might turn out to literally be the only option WWE has, which is far more concerning than the fact they exist in the first place.
1. Assuming Crowds Will Buy Anything
Vince McMahon has long been criticized of living in a bubble, unaware of anything happening in the real world, away from his own WWE Universe. Because of this, he generally seems completely oblivious when fans don’t react the way he wants them to, and fights back by forcing his ideas down viewers’ throats until they finally accept it. Along the way, he and his staff make the dangerous assumption that crowds will keep watching regardless of how little they enjoy what he churns out. After all, he’s Vince McMahon, damn it, and he’s usually right about these things. Eventually, however, he’s going to stop being right, and no one is going to watch anymore. We’re not predicting that’s going to happen this year, but with the most recent WrestleMania a bomb, it could happen sooner than expected should WWE continue making no effort to right their wrongs and actually produce a show people want to see. Unfortunately, the lack of planning and general chaos presented throughout our list makes it unlikely that’s going to happen anytime soon.
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