The professional wrestling world was shocked when Shane McMahon, the son of World Wrestling Entertainment Vince McMahon, appeared on the February 22, 2016 edition of Raw after Shane had been away from the company for over six years. According to journalists Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez of The Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online, even some of the performers watching the opening segment of what became a historic Raw from behind the curtain were not even aware that Shane McMahon was in the building let alone about to return to the WWE. All watching eventually learned that Shane McMahon and the Undertaker will be facing off at a match at WrestleMania 32; or at least that is the plan as of the posting of this piece.
There are, as Meltzer and Alvarez have explained in the days following McMahon’s surprising return, little that is known for sure about what lasting impacts Shane will have on the WWE up through and then past WrestleMania 32. Plenty has been speculated, and fans posting on social media websites and in online forums have thrown out their theories and wishes for what they hope will be a monumental year for the WWE and for the wrestling business. Will Shane-O-Mac be nothing more than a television character, or are real changes coming behind the scenes to the WWE? Whatever the answers to that and other questions, business in the WWE seems to have picked up.
10. Edgier Product
Bryan Alvarez and Mike Sempervive were discussing the return of Shane McMahon during the February 24 edition of Wrestling Observer Live when Alvarez explained that McMahon’s return could lead to the WWE having an “edgier” product. Vince McMahon dropped an “f-bomb” on Shane during the promo on the February 22 Raw. That show ended with Roman Reigns “bleeding” (it has been speculated that the company used fake blood) after Reigns was attacked by Triple H. Fans should not hold their breaths hoping for a return of the “Attitude Era,” but the WWE could be inching away from a PG product throughout 2016.
9. Undertaker Retires?
As of the posting of this piece, there are no indications that Shane McMahon will have a replacement for his scheduled WrestleMania 32 match against the Undertaker. Assuming that McMahon is going to be around for more than just the spring, it would only make sense that he would defeat Undertaker and receive storyline control of Raw or of a separate television program. If Undertaker loses to Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, there will not be much left for the character moving forward. Undertaker’s final match in the WWE and his final match ever could be against Shane McMahon. Who was predicting that at the start of 2016?
8. End of Vince McMahon Character
Vince McMahon, the person, turned 70 years old in August of 2015. While the Mr. McMahon character may seem to be invincible, the reality is that the character and the person will not be around forever. There is going to come a time, either because he is no longer physically or mentally up for the task or because he isn’t around anymore, when Vince is no longer on television. The re-introduction of Shane McMahon could lead to the eventually end of the Mr. McMahon character. Perhaps Shane will turn into Mr. McMahon 2.0. Maybe he will be a babyface version of that character. We just do not know for sure at this time.
7. End of “The Authority”
It has been roughly two decades since the Mr. McMahon character began feuding with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Eric Bischoff became the heel authority figure in World Championship Wrestling in the summer of 1996. The WWE has continued this pro wrestling tradition with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon serving as “The Authority” that has been featured on shows such as Raw. One thing that NXT has shown is that the WWE can produce entertaining programming without the need of a heel authority figure. Shane McMahon could, as a character, be a breath of fresh air that leads to “The Authority” going away for good.
6. Backstage Politics?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Shane McMahon is, as of the final full week of February, scheduled to only be a character on WWE programming and not have any other role in the company. As has been the case multiple times throughout the history of pro wrestling, life has imitated art in that storylines that eventually played out in real life and behind the scenes. Shane McMahon is still Vince’s actual son, and he may, in time, want to have a say in feuds, storylines and in other matters. Maybe Shane and company were even pulling back the curtain during his return segment when he hit out at the fact that ratings for Raw are down and that so many WWE wrestlers are currently sidelined because of injuries.
5. New Media
It is public knowledge that Shane McMahon was working in Global Media in the WWE for a time before he eventually ventured away from the company. Shane would probably have some useful ideas for how the company could get even more out of the WWE Network. The WWE Network has monthly “special events,” weekly NXT shows and other original programming, but that has not been enough to convince all who watch Raw to subscribe to the streaming service. McMahon could be utilized to further build that portion of the WWE brand up through and beyond the end of the decade.
4. No More Triple H?
Triple H can still serve as a meaningful on-air character. That has been shown to be true in the build-up for WrestleMania 32. Is there, however, any reason to believe that Triple H being an active in-ring performer in 2016 is, to steal the phrase, “best for business?” Shane McMahon returning to the WWE and to WWE programming could, at the very least, mean the end of Triple H holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the end of Triple H competing at shows such as the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. We all know that Triple H is working for the company behind the scenes. He doesn’t need to be wrestling anymore.
3. End of Roman Reigns Push?
Two things are clear as of the beginning of March 2016: The WWE really wants Roman Reigns to be the new top face of the WWE, and Reigns clearly isn’t the guy to be in that role. Reigns is not only failing to get over among diehard fans. He is, when making appearances at larger arenas for shows such as Raw and pay-per-view events, being rejected by customers. Reigns may still get his coronation at WrestleMania 32, but the return of Shane McMahon could lead to the WWE changing directions and picking somebody else to be the next generation’s version of John Cena.
2. NXT Call-Ups
It is speculated by fans and by wrestling journalists every spring that the conclusion of WrestleMania will lead to the WWE adding NXT wrestlers to the main roster, perhaps as soon as the Raw following ‘Mania. The return of Shane McMahon could lead to the WWE handling such call-ups differently than in the past. Perhaps McMahon could form a stable – a “Bullet Club,” if you will — that is made up of NXT wrestlers and of other performers who have not yet been featured on WWE programming. It would make sense since the WWE has, in storyline, explained that Shane has returned from being overseas.
1. Brand Split
A topic that continues to be brought up by fans, on radio shows such as Wrestling Observer Live and in publications such as the Wrestling Observer is that the return of Shane McMahon could lead to the WWE exploring a return to the “brand split” that occurred last decade. It could be possible that Shane would, in storyline, be in charge of a show such as Raw, and Triple H and Stephanie McMahon could, in turn, run SmackDown. Concerns about the WWE lacking depth for such a brand split could be remedied with multiple NXT call-ups and with the company signing further talent for the NXT brand. It will be something to keep an eye on throughout 2016.