Well, pro wrestling fans, it’s that time of year again.
It’s the weekend of WrestleMania, World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual extravaganza that is to us what the Super Bowl is to National Football League fans. He goes by a variety of nicknames, the “Show of Shows”, the “Showcase of the Immortals”. Pick one, you’ll be right.
And in what has apparently become a tradition now, it’s time for my annual column to complain that she’s gotten too big for her own panties.
In previous years and previous columns, I wondered if I was the one with the problem. I will be 37 in September. Maybe I’m on the fast track to achieving that “Get Off My Lawn” mentality made popular in the movie “Gran Torino.”
But this year, more than any other year, I’m sure. It’s time to scale down WrestleMania. Walk with me for a second.
Take a look back at your favorite WrestleMania moments. It may have been WrestleMania III, when Hulk Hogan punched out André the Giant and blew up the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. Maybe it was WrestleMania X, when Bret “The Hitman” Hart faced his brother, Owen, in the opening match, held a clinic for the ages, only for Bret to go on and win the title of the WWE later that evening on Yokozuna. Maybe your favorite is, like mine, WrestleMania XVII at the Astrodome in Houston, when the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz had the biggest tables, ladders and chairs match ever. the temperature. It also saw the one and only heel turn from one of the most beloved characters in wrestling history, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Let’s not forget, of course, WrestleMania XXV, when Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker put together what is arguably the biggest match in the event’s history.
Think for a moment about all these events. Have you noticed that NONE of them have happened in the last five years? Or even 10?
And by the way, it’s not me saying that WrestleMania 38 will be horrible. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns is definitely a worthy main event for WrestleMania. I just hope the fans are still awake when the game takes place.
What I’m trying to tell you is that WWE and Vince McMahon, President and CEO of the company, once had a perfect formula for making WrestleMania work. Organize a one-day event, in a stadium or a closed arena. Put on a 3-4 hour show and blow the roof off the place. And almost without fail, it worked almost every year.
But starting with WrestleMania 36 — the pandemic event held at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando — McMahon saw an opportunity, where his eyes widened, in hopes of fattening his portfolio.
Since 2020, WrestleMania has become a two-night event. That fact alone makes it difficult for a family — who likely have plans for a normal weekend — to squeeze in around eight hours (or more) of pro wrestling in front of their televisions over two days. If you’re making the pilgrimage to where WrestleMania takes place — I had the pleasure of doing it for WrestleMania 27 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 2011 — you now need to purchase tickets for not one, but two nights of wrestling. You then have to be in the middle of the chaos that is a wrestling event for eight (or more) hours. Believe me, a WrestleMania night is tiring for a fan. Two nights in a row would be exhausting.
McMahon has really come out on top this year. WrestleMania 38 takes place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The building can hold more than 105,000 fans, which means McMahon is hoping for at least 210,000 fans over the weekend. I’ll let you do the math on how much money this will make for WWE.
It’s just too much for even the most ardent WWE fan. There is a simple formula, which will work, that WrestleMania weekend fans will love and get excited about.
Friday: The annual WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. It’s one of my personal favorites every year. Friday night’s induction, headlined by Mark Calaway – known to several generations of WWE fans for his character The Undertaker – was a stalwart.
Saturday: NXT – WWE’s young star feeder program – can host its annual WrestleMania weekend show that night.
Sunday: Wrestlemania. A 4 hour show, featuring the best matches the company can possibly put together. Preferably in a closed stadium, but I’m willing to be flexible.
I could complain about other areas of need, such as unifying titles, building young stars instead of constantly relying on yesterday’s stars. I could go on for hours. I just don’t have enough space in this column.
But it’s a start. It’s not the cash grab McMahon is hoping for, but it’s a solid formula that will keep fans happy, coming back and wanting more year after year.
The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” WrestleMania was not broken. It was perfect. McMahon and his WWE management team broke it when their eyes for the event got too big.
Starting this coming year, it’s time for McMahon and WWE to fix it.
On the sidelines: A little spring cleaning