Wrestlemania. The Showcase of the Immortals. The Grandest Stage of them all. The annual WWE Event is the biggest night in professional wrestling. It is revered and respected, it gets bigger every year, and as the celebration of pro-wrestling, an industry with fans around the globe who travel in droves to be in attendance and lay down ever increasing fees to watch on Pay-Per-View, it is the best night of the year for WWE and any wrestling fan worth their salt. Or is it?
Most of what I just said is absolutely true, but this week continued an interesting phenomenon. John Cena said it best on Raw, and paraphrasing the new WWE Champion, he said that everyone knows that anything can and does happen the night after Wrestlemania, and John’s not wrong. The Rock vs. Cena was announced on Raw after Wrestlemania, Brock Lesnar returned on Raw after The Showcase of the Immortals, and this past Monday Dolph Ziggler became World Champion the night after Wrestling’s Grandest Stage (and don't forget Goldberg's WWE debut). The crowd is always hot, the booking is often surprising, and in many respects, the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania is becoming more interesting to watch than Wrestlemania itself.
My question is why has the WWE decided to actively book Raw the night after Wrestlemania to be a more interesting show? Why are they each passing year making Wrestlemania less and less surprising? Moments like Ziggler’s cash in would have been a memorable Wrestlemania moment, and a genuinely interesting development happening at the biggest wrestling show of the calendar year. Instead it happened of free TV.
Now I’ve heard it all week when anybody brings up his or her displeasure with Wrestlemania 29. You expected too much, it’s the Raw after where surprises happen, give the WWE a break, no one told you anything interesting was going to happen at the Grandest Stage of them all. I’m not somebody who was particularly upset about this year’s Wrestlemania, but that line of thinking is asinine to me. You’re telling me that I’m somehow in the wrong for wanting to be entertained and not feeling though I was? I’m out of line for expecting an event nicknamed The Showcase of the Immortals to be better than an episode on Monday Night Raw? As fickle as some wrestling fans can be, a lot of wrestling fans are far too complacent. Any show, movie, or book would be hard pressed to get away with telling its viewers/readers that they “expected too much” and “that they didn’t promise you anything interesting was going to happen”, so I don’t see why that gets to be an excuse for the WWE.
I didn’t expect much (or specific) from this year’s Wrestlemania. Hell, before the show even took place I generously gave the card a C+ grade as far as my interest in it was concerned. That being said, I expected SOMETHING interesting to happen. In years when Money in the Bank was on the card, I could usually expect to see a cool spot that would fill the quota for at least one interesting and memorable Wrestlemania moment if all else failed. TLC was far from the main event of Wrestlemania, but the three tag teams involved (Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and The Dudleyz) gave me something I didn’t expect. The best part of Wrestlemania 29 was Punk vs. Undertaker, whom delivered a great match. Unfortunately, those two are like Daniel Day-Lewis, you expect a great performance and progressively are less wowed by them. I recognize and respect their brilliance, but on the whole there was nothing that happened in their brilliant match that I found even mildly unexpected.
I thought Wrestlemania 29 perpetrated the cardinal sin of entertainment and presented a completely middle of the road show. It wasn’t bad enough to laugh at or remember for its missteps, and it didn’t give the viewers anything unexpected. Wrestlemania 29 was an inoffensive, middle of the road romantic comedy. I watched it, I didn’t hate it, I walked away, and in time I won’t be able to describe to you in any detail what happened throughout the event. The best I’ll be able to do is tell you the show was okay, which is the worst review you can give anything. I’d rather have someone say something is great or bad than okay, because bad or great means I invoked an emotional response, negative or positive; okay just means they didn’t care.
In my opinion, Wrestlemania is WWE programming’s season finale, and the Monday Night Raw the following evening is the Season Premiere. Both shows are very important in the landscape of the WWE, and both have to present something memorable. The WWE is doing a great job in this sense of having fun, exciting, and memorable premieres that set up the entire new season in interesting ways. I can see that there is an effort made to put on a compelling show. Wrestlemania should bring most of the season’s storyline’s to a satisfying close, but also plant seeds for the next season and give us a few surprises and unexpected turns along the way. This year’s Wrestlemania didn’t bring much in those terms, aside from a Mark Henry victory that left me more confused than excited or surprised.
Seeing that the trend is to play it safe at Wrestlemania and pull out all the stops the night after, I’m wondering why I would in good conscience pay $70 to watch Wrestlemania? I understand it’s likely a different situation if you’re in attendance, but watching from home, there’s a big difference between paying $70 for a show I’ve been conditioned to think is a must see, and watching what turns out to be a far more riveting event for free the night after. The difference between the shows is that they play things very safe at Wrestlemania, and try different and unexpected things the night after. Playing it safe just doesn't cut it at the biggest show of the year and the culmination of the wrestling "season". Safe is devoid of imagination and is all too often entertainment at its worst. There is a reason why people vividly remember the best and the worst novels, movies, TV, music, etc, that they've encountered. In both cases there was an effort made to try something either difficult, out of the norm, or shocking. I’d rather watch 1,000 events that tried something avant-garde that failed gloriously than 1 event that plays it safe and leaves me with nothing to remember.
There you have it, but what do you think? Am I being too harsh? Why do you think Raw the night after seems to garner more of an effort that the “Biggest Show of the Year”? Is expecting SOMETHING a bad thing?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying Eat Your Vegetables! Oh and have a great week everybody!