So, here we are, half way through Wrestlemania week. Wait, what? When I was a young boy first discovering the squared circle, there were only 4 WWE Pay Per Views each year. Then, slowly but surely, they added more. Now they are monthly, sometimes two a month. Wrestlemania was always the number one priority in the wrestling year, where the big battles took place and long told stories were concluded. And, you know, Ozzy Osbourne or Liberace would pop up because…EVERYONE wanted to be at the big show and Wrestlemania was always the big show.
2021, I have a week off and most of it is being spent watching wrestling. If you ignore NJPW, Impact and AEW, there is a complete calendar of WWE events to get you through this week. RAW, The Hall Of Fame 2020, The Hall Of Fame 2021, NXT Stand And Deliver, Smackdown and Wrestlemania. A true embarrassment of riches.
NXT has become the go-to for essential PPVs, with their excellent wrestling based storytelling – that might sound strange to non-fans, but most of the stories on the main shows are not told in clashes, but in 20 minute promos to start and sometimes end the shows. NXT PPVs are usually 4 or 5 essential matches, breathless match after breathless match. NXT Stand And Deliver, in a year where the showcase of the immortals itself, Wrestlemania, is taking the same route, was a two night event. A what now?
You see, once you give these shows TOO much space to breathe, they lose the intensity and the must-see excitement. Also, Vince thinks that this format gives you two headliners instead of one. It does not. Everything on Night 1, and don’t get me wrong there were some excellent bouts here, felt like the opening of the PPV, not a complete PPV in itself. Sure Io Shirai might have headlined Night One, but Io Shirai did not headline Stand And Deliver, that was Cole/O’Reilly. I know that sometimes the ‘headliner’ is not always the last match, you hear this story time and time again on wrestling pods, with the tale that Saturday Night’s Main Event, a special network TV show would have the headliners on first as they knew the audience would get restless/turn off before the end. In the world of The WWE Network, people’s viewing habits have changed, so you are no longer sat in front of the TV with your eyes drooping, watching something that can only be seen then, you can just turn off and provided you can avoid Twitter spoilers, you can pick up the next day where you left off. Instead of Vince using this to sharpen up the stories and make things shorter and unmissable, he has decided to stretch things and as anyone who had Stretch Armstrong knows, the less stretched is the best version.
Don’t get me wrong, both nights featured some great matches, match of the year contenders no doubt, but in the old days an NXT PPV would be a collection of great matches, there would be no ‘popcorn match’, there would be no let-up. Which brings us to Wrestlemania itself. Now, there are some great matches this year – Drew/Lashley, Reigns/Edge/Bryan, Belair/Banks, Fiend/Orton, but are you really telling me that the list for both nights could not be condensed into one heartstopping night showing the best that the business has to offer? Wrestlemania, as someone who was there for Wrestlemania 24, is an absolutely magical celebration of everything we love. Make it a 4 hour show and have everyone talking about it around the water cooler on Monday. Instead of what this inevitably brings : “There were a few good matches on night one and this and this on night two.”
I realise that it might sound silly for someone who watches at least 8 hours of wrestling a week on a non PPV week to be complaining about the abundance of wrestling, but this is just how I feel. Wrestlemania should be one night. Takeover should be one night. RAW should be two hours. Oh heck, that’s another can of worms…