WWE is hopeful that WrestleMania 34 will be as successful as the WrestleManias that have preceded it.
Over the past several years, WWE’s flagship pay-per-view has consistently been viewed by more fans than the previous one thanks to the WWE Network. WrestleMania 32 in 2016 was the most watched WWE event in history, and a year later, that record was broken once again by WrestleMania 33. In all likelihood, that record will be shattered once again in part because the show has one of the most loaded cards in WWE history.
Still, the incredible brand value of WrestleMania has, in a sense, given WWE the easy way out. Because the flagship PPV is such a major attraction and because fan engagement in the WWE product always peaks come ‘Mania time, that has paved the way for lazier booking and less effort put into the company’s storylines, which can, in turn, be detrimental to its TV ratings, the WWE Network subscriber count (when it’s not WrestleMania season) and the product as a whole.
WrestleMania 34, much like all the WWE Network era WrestleManias before it, is following a similar path in that, despite all the good things about it, there are a number of weaknesses that have prevented WWE from reaching its full potential with one of the biggest events in history.
Here are five major mistakes WWE is making with WrestleMania 34.
Too Many Part-Timers
The new name of WrestleMania 34 should be Part-Timer Mania.
The number of part-timers competing at WWE’s flagship pay-per-view seems to be growing each and every year, a list that in 2018 includes Kurt Angle, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Based on their projected spots on the card, you could argue that all but one superstar (Roman Reigns) in the show’s three biggest matches (Reigns/Lesnar, Undertaker/Cena and the mixed tag team match) are part-timers.
Why is that such a problem? Well, the cyclical nature of the WWE Network subscriber count indicates that those stars really aren’t driving up viewership the way WWE expects them to do. In fact, the count peaks at WrestleMania, and then consistently dips afterward, each year regardless of any specific WrestleMania match or the appearance from a so-called blockbuster attraction. Now, with a name like Ronda Rousey, who’s expected to work a part-time schedule despite being called a full-timer, entering the mix, WWE’s part-timer problem has gotten even bigger.
The addition of Rousey, Angle and Stephanie to the WrestleMania card is only exacerbating WWE’s age problem, which will be further worsened by the inclusion of a match for Shane. WWE’s reliance on so many part-timers will never be more obvious than it will at WrestleMania 34 when a number of the show’s marquee matches will feature part-timers, an unfortunate truth that negatively affects most full-time stars on the roster.
Popular names like Elias are currently without clear WrestleMania plans, but rest assured, WWE has found a spot for all its part-timers. And even though the WrestleMania 34 card looks very good on paper, the negative long-term effect it will have on the perception of full-timers cannot be overstated because the perception is that they are not as big of stars as the part-timers who are featured so prominently during WrestleMania season.
It Will Be Way Too Long
WWE may not realize this, but too much of anything is never a good thing.
According to Cageside Seats, WrestleMania 33 lasted an astounding five hours, 10 minutes and 41 seconds last year, and that did not even include the WrestleMania Kickoff Pre-show, which added another two hours to the show’s total run time. Judging by the size of the WrestleMania 34 card already, the inclusion of not one but two battle royals and the fact that there will still be more matches announced, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if this show lasted nearly eight hours. In fact, WrestleMania 34 is scheduled to last a minimum of seven hours.
A tad ridiculous, no?
At WrestleMania 33, matches like Triple H vs. Seth Rollins (nearly 40 minutes, including intros and post-match happenings), AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon (29 minutes) and Undertaker vs. Reigns (almost 51 minutes) took up a significant portion of the show, and this year, the number of marquee matches suggests WrestleMania 34 could go even longer. Bouts like Cena vs. Taker, Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Lesnar vs. Reigns and the big mixed tag team match likely will all take up a bare minimum of 30 minutes, which, when combined with the other 10-plus matches on the show, could make this the longest WrestleMania in history.
In this scenario, less is essentially more, and a nearly eight-hour wrestling show is virtually guaranteed to drag at some points, which will hurt the quality of those matches due to a lesser fan reaction. With WWE so intent on getting everyone on the card, it can often feel like a chore to watch WrestleMania, and that appears destined to remain true this year.
Too Many Multi-Person Feuds
The two most purchased pay-per-views in WWE history are WrestleManias 23 and 28, and what do they have in common? All of the show’s biggest matches were singles bouts.
WrestleMania 28 was highlighted by Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker vs. Triple H and The Rock vs. John Cena on a card that featured exactly zero triple threat or fatal 4-way matches. Likewise, the biggest matches at WrestleMania 23 were Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga in the Battle of the Billionaires, The Undertaker vs. Batista and Shawn Michaels vs. Cena, and there were no singles division feuds featuring more than two superstars.
In recent years, WWE has done a 180 in that regard, often forcing as many superstars as possible into one feud, likely as part of its effort to make sure everyone has a spot on the card. WrestleMania 34, in particular, has far too many triple threat (or Fatal 4-Way) matches (three, in fact), which is a telltale sign of lazy booking, especially when you realize that the show will also feature two meaningless battle royals that are all about jam-packing the entire roster onto the PPV.
At one point, the best thing about WrestleMania besides the matches themselves was the build to them as the great stories leading to bouts like The Rock vs. Cena or Michaels vs. Ric Flair resulted in those feuds and/or matches ranking among the most memorable in WWE history. Because WWE not is more worried about the WrestleMania experience as a whole than the matches themselves, the creative team hasn’t put as much effort into building up legitimate “blood feuds” as part of lengthy singles matches.
Some matches barely get a few weeks worth of build. Others don’t feature any real animosity. Even more have too many stars involved to create true heat between the opposing sides. However, odds are that will not change anytime soon because WWE does not seem to be interested in building up heated singles rivalries, instead relying on the drawing power of the WrestleMania name to do most of the work.
The Undertaker Vs. John Cena
Simply put, WWE waited far to long to do The Undertaker vs. John Cena for a variety of reasons.
It all starts with “The Phenom,” whose best days are clearly behind him and whose last handful of WrestleMania matches, well, just haven’t been very good. Throw in the fact that most fans thought he retired after WrestleMania 33 last year, and it doesn’t feel right seeing his legacy take a hit simple so he can have a match with Cena that should have happened years ago. Speaking of Cena, WWE sure seems to have done a great job of making him look like a loser as of late.
Much like Undertaker, Cena isn’t the Cena of old. He has lost far more big matches than he’s won as of late, which, when combined with The Undertaker’s two WrestleMania losses, has limited the drawing power of this match. Perhaps in the pre-WWE Network Era when Cena was “Super Cena” and Undertaker was still undefeated at WrestleMania, this match would have been a much bigger deal and the true definition of a dream match.
But Undertaker has showed over the last few years that he has very little gas left in the tank (and understandably so) while Cena and WWE’s other top names for that matter haven’t really had a measurable effect on the WWE Network subscriber count. In other words, WWE missed the boat on Undertaker vs. Cena by about five years, and now, this whole feud seems like an unnecessary attempt to give Undertaker a match that doesn’t need to happen.
This bout will hurt Undertaker’s legacy a bit both because it is not expected to be very good and because it is happening after he received what appeared to be the perfect sendoff at WrestleMania 33. It also won’t do much for Cena, who will just give Undertaker a surprising third WrestleMania loss if he does beat “The Deadman.”
Who truly benefits there? No one, really, because WrestleMania would still do record numbers without this match, which is a classic case of too little, too late.
Poor Use Of Braun Strowman
Imagine building an entire show around one superstar and then not having a clue what to do with him at the most important pay-per-view of the year.
Strowman was reportedly the “backup plan” to step up as a possible Universal Championship contender in the event that the Reigns/Lesnar match fell apart, but with WWE deciding to “move forward” with that match, Strowman was left out in the cold. He will be challenging The Bar for the Raw Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania 34, but that feels like a massive step down for “The Monster Among Men,” who has carried Raw for more than a year now.
Strowman, of course, has all the makings of a top babyface, who does strong YouTube numbers and generates better crowd reactions than anyone in the company. He also appeared to develop into a strong merchandise mover late last year and main evented the most live events that had at least 10,000 fans in attendance last year, according to F4WOnline.com.
To put that into layman’s terms, Strowman has become a massive draw, and it’s a shame to see him become an afterthought at WWE’s biggest pay-per-view of the year. After all, many of the best moments on Raw over the past year-plus have come courtesy of Strowman, who has excelled both as a heel and a babyface, and judging by crowd reactions, is the star that fans really want to see become Universal Champion at WrestleMania 34.
Alas, WWE’s decision to stick with Reigns vs. Lesnar has forced Strowman into a midcard match that has gotten almost no build and that, for the second straight year, gives Strowman the shaft at WWE’s biggest PPV of the year.