***Wet blanket alert! You’ve been warned! Wet blanket alert!***
WrestleMania is Sunday. We’ll have our regularly-scheduled SO OF COURSE preview up sometime around Friday or Saturday, but in the meantime, let’s all of us just take a breath and (as per the title) temper our expectations a bit, eh? There is a lot to love about the card this year; I mean, it looks like one of the best possible cards you could have with the talent on hand. I might take issue with a few omissions (notably a Bayley vs Sasha Banks match) but overall it’s good, even great…on paper. However, turning “on paper greatness” into “on screen greatness” (not to mention “live and in person greatness) is another matter entirely.
I’m not trying to hate for the sake of hating, I’m just saying: There are a lot of reasons this show could go very south, starting with the presumed main-event, show-closer, grand-finale three years in the making: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns.
YES BUT MATTHEW:
BROCK vs ROMAN WAS HOT HOT HOT AT MANIA 31
Too right you are, but this is not 2015. A lot has changed in past three years. For one thing, Brock Lesnar is not a mega-heel coming off the biggest WrestleMania victory since Hogan slammed Andre. For another thing, Roman Reigns is not some novice being thrust too early to the main-event, to the fans intense dissatisfaction.
It’s not 2015 anymore. Brock Lesnar is on his way out the door and fans are (mostly) okay with that. Roman Reigns has been around the main-event from 2015 until present day, with a trio of WWE Championship runs to his name and little if any thawing of the cold shoulder given to him by the hardcore fanbase (you know, the guys and gals who will populate the crowd on Sunday). If anything, fans have a resigned apathy toward the whole match. It feels even more inevitable than the WM31 contest did, what with Brock certainly not walking away champ and with no Seth Rollins and his magic briefcase here to bail us all out. As fun as the Mania 31 match was, a lot of its greatness is due to two factors: the crowd’s insane heat and Seth Rollins saving the day. Neither of those things are in the cards for Sunday. Temper your expectations
YES BUT MATTHEW:
RONDA ROUSEY WILL DRAW EYEBALLS! WHO NEEDS BROCK?
You’re not wrong to say Rousey has already made an impact. WWE YouTube clips featuring the former UFC Champ have been among the most-viewed videos the company has in circulation. On the other hand, Ronda Rousey is greener than asparagus-flavored urine…and fans know this. While I am firmly on Team Ronda, and really want her to succeed (especially since it’s clear—unlike Brock—how much she seems to genuinely want to make pro wrestling work), I recognize a lot of my fellow fans are not as on board, and even among those that are…
Let’s be real: Wrestling fans are not the most patient folks around. Rousey needs quick success or the murmurs against her will turn to loud jeers. I just don’t know if the biggest stage she’ll ever have (short of a main-event WrestleMania match) is going to be the best place for a first impression. Temper your expectations.
YES BUT MATTHEW:
KURT ANGLE IS BACK! HE’LL COVER FOR RONDA!
I love Kurt Angle.
Kurt Angle is my number one favorite of all time, full stop and bar none. His matches with Benoit and Guerrero in the early and mid 2000s are the gold standard for me, and his frenemy feud with Brock Lesnar basically defined the early SmackDown era of the first brand split. When he moved to TNA, though the product around him was mostly trash, he still helped make for some great matches that were worth seeing in isolation (particularly against Samoa Joe).
It’s not 2008 anymore. Angle is not the same guy he was the last time he was in a WWE ring, or even a TNA ring. So if the last time you saw Kurt wrestle (not counting his brief nothingburger at Survivor Series last year) was One Night Stand 2006…yeah: Temper your expectations.
YES BUT MATTHEW:
KURT’S NOT THE ONLY COMEBACK STORY!
WHAT ABOUT DANIEL BRYAN?!
True true. The whole show isn’t relying on Kurt Angle’s comeback. Daniel Bryan’s comeback is easily the biggest story going into the show, and reports are his being cleared to compete put the show over the top and took it from “packed house” to “legit sellout.” This is the dream come true for fans who have shared in Bryan’s frustration over the past three years. While he excelled on Talking Smack (RIP) and made the best of an increasingly crappy situation in the SmackDown GM/Commish feud/storyline/waste of time, the fact is Bryan has always buttered his bread in the ring, running the ropes, wrestling with the passion of a man twice his size.
That said, Bryan is going to have to ease back in. Not matter how much you train and how fit you are, there is no substitute for working matches multiple times a month, every month, non-stop. It conditions your body in a way no gym routine can do. Not to mention the fact that Bryan’s entire wrestling style will have to be tweaked to work around his head and neck issues. I’m not complaining about that, by the way. He should not be defined by flatback dropkicks and suicide dives and toprope headbutts. Those should all be nixed and rightly so, but in its place is going to be a more mat-based style that may be off-putting to some who aren’t used to it. Temper your expectations.
YES BUT MATTHEW:
BRYAN’S ONLY ONE PART OF A PACKED SHOW!
Yes exactly. Seven hours of nonstop sports entertainment. How does that sound?
I can’t do seven hours of anything. I don’t even sleep for seven hours. I work that long, sure, but I take a break for lunch in the middle of that time. This is seven non-stop hours of matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches, recaps, promos, backstage skits, hype videos, matches and Michael Cole shouting about the next night’s three hour Raw.
And a Rock cameo or two somewhere in between.
With 13 matches (probably three of which will be on the preshow), you know first of all someone is getting the shaft. Someone is getting the dreaded “Sheamus kicks Bryan to death in 18 seconds” match. You also know that the crowd will be d-e-a-d for the main-event, especially if it’s Brock vs Roman. As someone who mostly enjoyed WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, I can tell you, if I was in the crowd (which I won’t be), I’d beat the traffic and leave as soon as Brock vs Roman kicked off. It’s going to be a loooong show and even watching at home will wear you out. So if you’re expecting wall to wall euphoria, keep in mind the days of three-to-four hour WrestleManias are long-passed.
Temper your expectations.