This is supposed to be WWE's biggest event, and for the first time in years, it actually feels like it.
WWE's Wrestlemania PPV is so big that there is a whole week of events and shows planned around it, from the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony to an annual fan convention. It's grandiose and over-the-top, but it's a celebration of all things WWE as Wrestlemania is the Super Bowl of sports entertainment. However, for years, I have found the buildup to the show to be lackluster at best. The granddaddy of them all has all the bells and whistles, but it felt like an empty shell to me. However, that's changed for 2019's event, and the card is not even set. This is the first time I’ve been excited about a Wrestlemania in a long time.
I was very skeptical when WWE announced that--in so many words--a new era was coming, as WWE programming had become stagnant and the storytelling was mediocre at best. How many times was a storyline dumped or the focus of each episode of Raw or Smackdown centered entirely on one person's journey to the main event? However, since the December announcement by the McMahon family on Raw that WWE is back in the hands of "the people," WWE programming has been on the right track. Sure, there are still improvements to be made, but the product is vastly superior to where it was 6 months or a year ago.
Looking at last year's Wrestlemania, we got to see Ronda Rousey in the ring for the first time. At that point, though, I was one of those pesky haters and felt she was nothing more than a big name who hadn’t earned her spot on the show. I was wrong, and I really love what she’s brought to the table. But as far as 2018’s event goes, that and the return of Daniel Bryan was all the show had going for it. I remember feeling that the show was nothing but filler, and while I thought Braun Strowman teaming with a pre-teen to win the Raw Tag Team Championships was fun, that was the moment that demolished the once-strong tag team division on the Monday show. While Wrestlemania 34 was a fun--and insanely long--event, it was just another PPV to me, with no real build or hype around it.
Cut to today, and we're still not even at Fastlane--traditionally the Comic Sans MS of PPVs--and already the hype for Mania feels real. There are only two confirmed matches, and it already feels like WWE has turned a corner with its new era. Who knew that crafting long-term stories going into a huge PPV, would create hype? Here is how Wrestlemania is coming together.
The first match on the card is Charlotte vs Ronda Rousey, and we all know that’s going to turn into a triple threat by adding Becky Lynch to the match. Personally, I’d rather have Charlotte out of the mix but she will help add a great deal to it. Regardless, both Charlotte and Lynch put on some amazing work together, as their battle at Evolution was my favorite WWE match of 2018. The story behind this match is one of the strongest leading into any PPV in years. It's mixing backstage politics with Lynch being "suspended" until after Mania, with Rousey's frustration that she can't fight "The Man," after being jumped by her time and time again. Then, there's Charlotte gloating in glory as she gets the Mania spot. Everything about this storyline is pure, hot fire.
The next confirmed match is Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar. There is nothing really pushing this match. In fact, where the hell is Lesnar? There is no hype. However, there is hope. Hope that the Universal Championship can be freed from the clutches of a part time player (I'm talking about Lesnar, obviously). In fact, I’d be exceptionally cool with Roman Reigns joining the mix for this match, even though it would be the same thing that's going on with the Raw women's title by tossing a third party into the match. I'm only excited for this match because this should be the last time we see Lesnar holding this title hostage, and someone worthy of a main title is getting an opportunity to win it.
You know what’s kinda nice? The fact there is nothing going on with the Undertaker. Maybe it’s because he’s going to be a part of Starcast II for AEW's Double or Nothing event, and Vince McMahon is pissed and wants him off the card. Regardless, the last few matches with The Deadman at Mania have been extremely rough. The Taker at Mania era is over. Let's live in the present and look forward to the future, not focus on the past.
There are a couple matches building that haven't been confirmed, yet, and I'm really into the build for both of them. The lesser of these two matches features a returning superstar vs. a figurehead. It looks like Triple H will take on Hollywood bad boy (that's what's I'm calling him now) Batista after Drax took out Ric Flair on his birthday, which I discussed earlier this week. In the past, I've been a dude who has complained quite a bit about returning stars and part timers getting the spotlight at Mania. But this has subtly been built up really well, and it will be a nice midcard match for the show.
If you've been watching Smackdown, then you're well-aware of the story of Kofi Kingston being rocketed to the main event. If you haven't been watching, shame on you. On the February 26 episode of Smackdown, a wrench was thrown into Kingston's story. As you know, he was supposed to main event the Fastlane PPV against Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship; however, Vince McMahon replaced Kingston with a returning Kevin Owens--who put some real stank on the Stunner in his match later the evening--in the Fastlane main event. Obviously--because Kingston is so hot right now--the New Day member is getting a Wrestlemania match against Bryan for the title. There is no way WWE wouldn't give fans that match.
Sure, we could go with Lio Rush or Bobby Lashley vs. Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship as well, but I don't particularly care about that story. One of the recent NXT call ups feels more fitting for an IC title match. However, I'm not expecting to be personally invested in every match at the show, and that's fine. There are still openings on the Mania card for the three tag championships as well and the United States Championship too. There is still over a month to go with more planning, stories, and build-up, and there is potential for this to be one of the best Wrestlemanias in decades.
We'll be covering Wrestlemania live on GameSpot on Sunday, April 7, but before that, there's Fastlane--the rural, roadside diner of PPVs--coming on Sunday, March 10.
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