Well pro wrestling fans, it’s that time of the year again.
It’s WrestleMania weekend, World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual extravaganza that is to us what the Super Bowl is to fans of the National Football League. It carries a variety of nicknames, the “Show of Shows,” the “Showcase of the Immortals.” Pick one, you’ll be right.
And in what has seemingly become tradition now, it’s time for my annual column to gripe that it has become too big for its own britches.
In previous years and previous columns, I questioned if I was the one who had the problem. I turn 37 in Sept. Perhaps I’m on a fast track to reach that “Get off my lawn” mentality made popular in the film “Gran Torino.”
But this year, more than any other year, I am certain of it. It’s time to scale down WrestleMania. Walk with me for a second.
Look back, for a moment, on your favorite WrestleMania moments. Maybe it was WrestleMania III, when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre the Giant and made the Pontiac Silverdome explode in Detroit. Maybe it was WrestleMania X, when Bret “The Hitman” Hart took on his brother, Owen, in the opening match, put on a clinic for the ages, only for Bret to go on and win the WWE title later in the evening over 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 greatest tables, ladders and chairs match of all time. It also saw the one, and only, very turn of one of the most beloved characters in wrestling history, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Let us not forget, of course, WrestleMania XXV, when Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker put together what is arguably the greatest match of the event’s history.
Think about all those events for a moment. Did you notice that NONE of them have happened in the last five years? Or even 10?
And by the way, this is not me saying WrestleMania 38 will be horrible. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns is without question a worthy WrestleMania main event. I just hope fans are still awake when the match happens.
What I’m trying to tell you is WWE and Vince McMahon, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, once had a perfect formula to make WrestleMania work. Have a one day event, in an enclosed stadium or arena. Put together a 3-4 hour show, and blow the roof off the place. And almost without fail, it worked nearly every year.
But starting with WrestleMania 36 — the pandemic-cut event held at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando — McMahon saw an opportunity, where his eyes got bigger, in the hopes of making his wallet fatter.
Since 2020, WrestleMania has become a two-night event. Just that fact alone makes it difficult for a family — which likely has plans on a normal weekend — to sit through roughly eight hours (or more) of pro wrestling in front of their televisions over two days. If you actually make the pilgrimage to wherever WrestleMania is held — I had the pleasure of doing so for WrestleMania 27 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in 2011 — you now must buy tickets for not one, but two nights of wrestling. You then must be in the midst of the chaos that is a wrestling event for eight (or more) hours. Trust me, one night of WrestleMania is tiring for a fan. Two nights in a row would be exhausting.
McMahon has truly gone off the deep end this year. WrestleMania 38 is at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The building can hold more than 105,000 fans, meaning McMahon is hoping for at least 210,000 fans over the course of the weekend. I’ll let you do the math on how much money that will rack in for the WWE.
It’s simply too much, even for the most ardent WWE fan. There’s a simple formula, that will work, that fans will appreciate for WrestleMania weekend and get excited for.
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 by multiple generations of WWE fans for his character The Undertaker — was an all-timer.
Saturday: NXT — WWE’s feeder program of young stars — can run their annual WrestleMania weekend show on this night.
Sunday: WrestleMania. A 4-hour show, with the best matches the company can possibly put together. Preferably in an enclosed stage, but I’m willing to be flexible.
I could rant about other areas of need, such as title unifications, building young stars instead of constantly leaning on stars of yesterday. I could go on for hours. I simply don’t have enough space in this column.
But this is a start. It’s not the money grab McMahon hopes for, but it’s a strong 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 wasn’t broken. It was perfect. McMahon and his executive team at WWE broke it when their eyes for the event got too big.
Starting this upcoming year, it’s time for McMahon and the WWE to fix it.
Sidelines: A little spring cleaning