Regular readers will know that I have a complicated relationship with Wrestlemania. Despite being a WWE loyalist for my entire 30 year plus fandom, I’ve never been one of those fans that thinks Wrestlemania is the be all and end all. In fact, in the last decade, I have argued that the very concept of Wrestlemania has done far more harm than good. We’ve had ever increasing show times, ever more non-wrestling nonsense that adds yet more minutes onto the already lengthy run time, and worst of all, a never ending parade of part timers who can’t go any more hogging the spotlight while younger, better talents wait in the wings.
Yes, it’s fair to say I’ve been a Wrestlemania cynic in recent years, a trend perhaps exacerbated by my status as a wrestling columnist on a dirt sheet; it’s all too easy to skew negative at this time of year, as yet another fumbling, stumbling build limps across the finish line with that famous sign finally in sight. If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I’d have told you that I was going to watch Wrestlemania live on the Network, as I almost always do, and try my best to enjoy it, but that I would likely be watching a fair bit of it through gritted teeth, or perhaps worse, with a snarky tweet at my fingertips. The length of the show, the overproduction, the part timers – it all tends to weigh you down. Despite some optimism from other quarters, I couldn’t honestly say I was looking forward to anything all that much except Reigns vs McIntyre
However, things started to fall into place for me as a fan during a guest appearance on my good friend ‘Plan’s podcast Sports Entertainment Is Dead, which you can check out only on LOP Radio. He invited me in to do an in-universe preview of the three main events, plus Drew and Roman. And in discussing the characterisation of these top contenders for the gold in WWE, I suddenly began to get more excited about it all, and what dawned on me was this: the creative team can have their seven hour show, their gaudy production, the dumb backstage segments, and I won’t mind at all – as long as they get the card structure right, and the lengths of each match right, because what’s really stood out over the last few years is some tone deaf ordering of matches, and the wrong matches being of epic length. Actually, when you look at the last three Wrestlemanias, they all have good stuff on, but most of it took place within the first two hours of the main show. So, what if they got that right this time?
It kind of strikes me that the best way to structure this year’s Wrestlemania is as three mini pay-per-views, almost a Wrestlemania II but from one location. You have three main events, and three prominent special attractions. Well, those all divide nicely, don’t they? So we know that the pre-show will feature the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Tony Nese vs Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Title, and the women’s battle royal. That leaves thirteen matches for the main card. For argument’s sake, what if the first two hours featured AJ Styles vs Randy Orton, the women’s tag team titles, Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin and was “main evented” by Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins? You would have your “workers bout” with Styles and Orton (as discussed two weeks ago, if they are motivated and nail it, we are in for something really good), a spot for the women early in the card perhaps preparing for a Horsewomen curtain call at the end of the night, a special attraction match which needs to be kept short, and a Universal Title match where Seth will slay the beast in what will hopefully be an energetic ten minute action fest that proves the Architect right regarding Lesnar needing to take a walk. Following that two hour show, you could then move forward with Samoa Joe vs Mysterio for the US Title, the triple threat match for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, Shane McMahon vs The Miz, and “main event” that section with Kofi Kingston’s emotive effort to finally “win the big one” despite the obstacles placed in his way by the McMahons. By ordering these matches this way, you’d once again have a midcard barn burner in Joe vs Rey, a hectic multi team tag match, a violent gimmick special attraction, and then a big emotional peak to get us to the end of hour four or five. That would then leave us with Bobby Lashley vs Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Title, Batista vs Triple H in their no holds barred match, Drew McIntyre vs Roman Reigns, and finally the women’s triple threat to close out the evening. So again, we have a nice balance, with a midcard title match which will likely be quite short, a big part timer stip match, a sleeper hit, and the match that’s got the most hype.
Truthfully, you could interchange a lot of these matches into different positions, my point really is that balancing the three thirds of the card like this could have huge benefits; each section of the show builds to a major emotional high, with the undercard doing what it’s meant to – supporting the main events by complementing them, not outdoing them. Equally important will be to follow the pattern of Summerslam and keep the things people are not interested in relatively short: so things like the women’s tag belts, Angle’s retirement match, Lashley vs Balor, and so on, need to not outstay their welcome. Furthermore, the two big stipulation matches, Triple H vs Batista, and Shane vs Miz, do not need “epic” run times. Somewhere around thirteen or fourteen minutes should be plenty, especially given the advanced age of three of the four wrestlers involved. The last thing we want is Batista blowing wind as he struggles to make it through a half hour match when he’s not been in the ring since 2014. However, the matches that people are invested in? We should absolutely have some time to enjoy those ones, although anyone who reads me regularly knows I prefer a shorter match time anyway!
So look, if WWE learn from some past mistakes in card construction, the amount of matches on the Wrestlemania card should not present a problem. The fact that they most likely have three babyface winners in the three top matches should not be an issue, so long as they space them out so they each get a distinct moment in the sun. And so my sudden optimism about Wrestlemania is attached to the fact that in the bouts they’ve booked, there’s an inherent system to avoid the meandering, dare I say boring cards we’ve sat through in the second half of the show the last few years. And you know what? There could be some really good wrestling going down on Sunday night. I expect some excellent things out of, at the very least, Bryan and Kofi, Drew and Roman, Seth and Brock, AJ and Orton and the triple threat. And the rest, well, I’m open minded! If Trips and Bats unexpectedly have a classic, I will embrace it.
Please send help, I’ve talked myself into Wrestlemania XXXV…
This is Maverick, requesting flyby!
You can let me know your thoughts about the construction of the Wrestlemania card in the comments below, or you can follow me on Twitter: @Neil_Pollock79