Wrestlemania: The Build to.... What?
So the Royal Rumble happened and the results of the main event lead to questions, confusion and more questions.
If you’re a wrestling fan like me, you probably had a pretty good weekend. The NXT Takeover show in San Antonio produced high-quality energy and excitement, culminating in the GLORIOUS crowning of a new NXT Champion in Bobby Roode.
After watching Roode languish in TNA for a number of years, it’s been great to see his talents appreciated by a larger audience and I’m hopeful that Roode's title reign is long and meaningful.
The weekend, of course, was primarily about the Royal Rumble PPV and for the most part, it was a pretty good card. Anderson & Gallows defeated Cesaro and Sheamus to finally win the RAW tag team titles and (hopefully) re-establish the Artists formerly known as “The Club” as a dominant tag team.
Both of the main Championship matches delivered last night as well; Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns brawled their way to an outstanding match, which saw Owens retain the Universal championship. And in arguably the best match of the night, John Cena defeated AJ Styles in an early contender for Match of the Year (depending on your feelings about Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada).
And that’s when everything seemed to go off the rails. The Royal Rumble match, normally one of my favourite matches of the year, was, in a word, boring. Yes, you had a lot of guys getting in their spots but for the most part, the lack of excitement was prevalent. Braun Strowman threw out a bunch of people.
Tye Dillinger came out at #10 (of course he did). James Ellsworth had a mildly amusing (and slightly more annoying) comedy spot. Chris Jericho hid for the majority of the match. Then, when it was supposed to get interesting.... it didn’t. Lesnar ran through a few people when he came in at #25 but when Goldberg came in, he immediately dominated Lesnar again (huh?).
Undertaker threw out Goldberg rather unceremoniously. But surely, #30 would save us. #30 would be the huge surprise that WWE fans are used to... except that #30 bore the rather large and disappointing presence of... Roman Reigns (again?) who would have the privilege (really?) of throwing out ‘Taker.
When Randy Orton finally threw Reigns over the top rope to win the 2017 Royal Rumble, I didn’t feel a sense of excitement, rather, I felt a sense of gratefulness only in the sense that Roman Reigns didn’t “defy all the odds” once again to come out on top.
Then I made the mistake of reading some news about current plans for Wrestlemania 33 and I had a new feeling: disappointment. (WARNING: potential spoilers ahead). If the rumours are true (courtesy Wrestling Observer Radio), the twists and turns on the Road to Wrestlemania have only begun.
Lesnar and Goldberg are slated to fight for the WWE Universal championship, thanks to a potential Owens-Goldberg match at WWE Fastlane. Randy Orton may not necessarily be fighting Cena for the WWE championship (Bray Wyatt, anyone?). The events of last night seem to indicate that we’re heading toward a Taker-Reigns “showdown” in Orlando.
When you include these developments on top of the matches that have been “set in stone” for a while (Seth Rollins vs. Triple H, Shaq vs. Big Show, Owens vs. Chris Jericho), as well as those matches that are deeper in the rumor mill (I don’t want to acknowledge who Styles’ likely ‘Mania opponent is), the card itself for WWE’s biggest show of the year doesn’t make that much sense to me.
Why are you pushing two part-timers for the main event with the Championship on the line? Why are you pitting your “chosen one” who you’ve been trying to get cheered against the biggest active legend in your company who gets nothing but cheers?
Can you create the appropriate amount of buzz around a title contender who hasn’t been relevant in the main event scene for a couple of years (you might if they work this Wyatt Family storyline the way that I want them to.)
And why have you essentially turned your back on two outstanding wrestlers, who carried your company during most of 2016 and reward them by pushing them FAR down the card on The Grandest Stage of Them All?
I know that there are still 61 days until we can watch the spectacle that is Wrestlemania (only on the WWE Network for $9.99) so there’s a lot that can happen. Yes, there are still wrestlers on the horizon that will come up to the company eventually, maybe even in time for the big show.
But when you build your show around part-timers and Superstars that aren’t that over with the fans, one has to wonder not just about the upcoming card for this event, but also about the booking direction of WWE for 2017 as a whole.
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