Playing it Safe
In an industry where its fans are taught to expect the unexpected, the only way WWE can be unpredictable these days is to be predictable.
Another Wrestlemania is in the books, and for another year, WWE has played it safe with the outcomes of the main matches. John Cena, Triple H, and the Undertaker were all unanimously favored to win, and all three men did just that. Cena won, as expected, but fans were guessing that he would turn heel, but that didn't happen (for all those still clinging to that hope, give it a rest...tell those dying children that they're not going to want to meet their hero via Make-a-Wish because you think he's boring). Undertaker is 21-0, as expected, but he and CM Punk stole the show and woke up a very cold and mostly dead MetLife crowd. Triple H won, as expected, which was the only logical way this story could end, but fans didn't like the ending as it was too reminiscent of Lesnar's previous loss to John Cena (I can see the memes now..."Need to beat Brock? Use stairs!"). The match they wrestled was also not right for a big stadium, and would have been better received in a more intimate arena setting.
Other course-altering scenarios that didn't take place were the much-rumored heel turn of Randy Orton. The storyline made sense for Orton to be the one to desert his team and end his stale babyface act. But in the end, it was Big Show who reverted back to the status quo as he knocked out both of his partners after his team lost the match. It was as if his past few weeks of heroics were a dream. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
But the consensus seems to be that the biggest disappointment of the night was Dolph Ziggler not attempting to cash in his Money in the Bank contract at Wrestlemania, which was not only disappointing, but really out of character for a guy who calls himself the "Show Off" and tries to "Steal the Show." What better way to steal the show than to steal a championship?
So fans are outraged today that Wrestlemania didn't go as they expected it to go. Looking at recent Wrestlemania history, how else exactly did you expect it to go?
WWE plays it safe with Wrestlemania because it can afford to. The Wrestlemania name has its own drawing power, and the majority of tickets to the event are sold before a single match is even announced (last year's show notwithstanding). I'm not going to go into the entire "What's good for business?" argument because it's purely subjective, but facts are facts: WWE made a boatload of money from this event solely because it's Wrestlemania, and it had nothing to do with the outcomes of any matches. Nobody bought a ticket to Wrestlemania to see Cena beat Rock or Rock beat Cena. People bought a ticket to Wrestlemania because Rock, Brock, and Taker would be there, and because it's Wrestlemania.
As WWE is a year-round business that has no off-season, in their mind there's not much of an advantage in "blowing their load" at Wrestlemania. That's why Punk dropped his pipe-bomb in June, why Bret Hart returned to WWE in January, why Daniel Bryan cashed in Money in the Bank in December, etc.
In fact, if you're looking for precedence, history has shown that it's actually tonight that has the big surprises. The night after Raw has produced some shocking moments, such as the return of Brock Lesnar, Goldberg's WWE debut, and Rock/Cena being announced one year in advance. You don't think Lesnar and Goldberg could have appeared at Wrestlemania, or that Rock/Cena could have been made immediately following the Cena/Miz match? Of course they could! But WWE has Backlash/Extreme Rules to build to. So for the people expecting Ziggler to cash in, tonight's as good of a night as any for him to do so!
We need to stop expecting the unexpected and start understanding Wrestlemania for what it really is: a celebration of wrestling. This was my first experience with a large-scale gathering of fans to my area, and it's amazing the type of people who came out of the woodwork. It's amazing the types of personalities I saw roaming the parking lot before the show. Fans were stopping to take pictures with other fans who were dressed like their heroes of yesteryear. The day (hell, the week) was an affirmation that despite how crazy we may seem, we're not alone. And the finishing touch was a spectacle the likes of which we only get to see once a year, and nothing more.
The fireworks were spectacular, both literal and otherwise.