Following WrestleMania is no easy task, but WWE has steadily relied more on exact rematches or similar matches at Extreme Rules in recent years. Until Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena this year, WWE hasn't had a main event in an after-WrestleMania show starting a new story since 2003.
After the jump, we'll look back at the post-WrestleMania shows from 2003 through 2011 and how the major stories played out (Part one looked at 1995 through 2002). We'll also look at how many matches at those shows were rematches, and if that percentage has changed.
The big story
The Rock vs. Goldberg: This might be the most comparable show to 2012: We have a one-on-one dream match between a newly debuted mega-star who'd had his success outside of WWE battling the man who most represented that era in WWE.
This match essentially served as the end of Rock's brilliant 2003 mini-run as a villain and was supposed to serve as a launching pad for Goldberg, though WWE crowds never quite took to him.
Side note: This show also happened to have the last one-on-one pay-per-view match between John Cena and Brock Lesnar. It was not very good.
Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Booker T (from Triple H vs. Booker T and Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels): This was a clever combination of two feuds, as everyone would move on soon afterward: Triple H to Nash, Flair to Michaels, Jericho to Goldberg, and Booker T to Christian for the newly returned Intercontinental title.
Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas vs. The Guerreros (from Benjamin & Haas vs. Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit & Rhyno): Once the brand split was cemented, Smackdown in 2002 and 2003 had a great series of tag matches with these two teams, as well as Rey Mysterio & Edge, Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle, and others. This continued that, though that era was soon to close.
Chavo Guerrero would be injured soon, and Eddie Guerrero chose Tajiri as his partner. They won the tag titles and engaged in antics such as this.
Eddie actually turned against Tajiri not long afterward. However, the fans refused to boo him, showing how deep his support was and leading him to the path of winning the WWE title in 2004.
Jazz vs. Trish Stratus (from Jazz vs. Stratus vs. Victoria): This formula for the Mania-Backlash women's title matches was a repeat from 2002, with Lita in place of Victoria. In this case, though, Trish won the women's title from Jazz at WrestleMania, but lost it here. She wouldn't gain it back until June 2004, though she had bigger things going on in between.
Backlash (2004): Raw-only
The big story
Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels: Sentimental favorite Benoit fulfilled a longtime dream by winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20. Now he had to do it again in his home turf in Edmonton.
And he did, by forcing Michaels (still disliked at the time in Canada for the whole Montreal screwjob thing) to submit via the sharpshooter. And, as best as I can recall, everything was happy and sunny in Benoit's life afterward.
Also, Michaels and Triple H moved on to fight each other a bunch more times, in a feud that increasingly grew to bore me, especially in their roughly 5-hour Hell in a Cell match in the summer of 2004. Now they are friends.
Cactus Jack vs. Randy Orton (from Mick Foley & The Rock vs. Orton, Batista & Ric Flair): Mick Foley went back to his vicious Cactus Jack persona. As he had previously with Triple H and would later with Edge, Foley helped create another major villain for WWE with a long, rich story and an epic brawl. (Orton would be derailed a bit by inexperience, a too-soon face turn, and other issues, but he'd eventually get there.)
Foley deserves far more credit for this than he has received.
Chris Jericho vs. Christian & Trish Stratus (from Jericho vs. Christian): As Jim Ross said, this was "a tragic story of true love gone bad, betrayal and, perhaps, retribution."
This match continued a long saga in which Jericho was mean to Trish, then really liked her, then made his buddy angry to the point in which they wanted to fight, only for Trish to take Christian's side in the feud. Ah, Canadian love.
Fun fact: Trish's slap of Jericho is the last heel turn to occur at a WrestleMania.
Backlash (2005): Raw-only
The big story
Batista vs. Triple H: Batista had conquered former Evolution-mate Triple H at WrestleMania. That was such a smashing success that WWE decided to do it again. Batista ended up winning the feud and became WWE's biggest new star in a long while because of it. But he'd soon be overshadowed by John Cena, once the two swapped places and Batista was stuck on Smackdown.
Let's look at the big moment, with Teddy Long relatively new, though acting exactly the same as today, at the authority figure role.
Edge vs. Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho (all four competed in the first Money in the Bank, along with Kane and Christian): These were here to help establish Edge's credentials against the former World champion and solidify Benjamin's standing as Intercontinental champions, and were only loosely linked to prior and future stories.
Hulk Hogan & Shawn Michaels vs. Daivari & Muhammad Hassan: This didn't stem from a rematch, but from a non-match at WrestleMania in which new Hall of Famer Hogan fended off Daivari and Hassan when they were harassing Eugene. Michaels joined the Hulkster soon afterward, and this was the payoff. None of this was particularly noteworthy, but it was good background for when Hogan returned in July -- and this happened:
This is the kind of storytelling I like: When something seemingly insignificant happens, only to later become significant after further events. Plus, I'm in love with everything about the Hogan-Michaels feud, even though I'm not a particularly huge fan of either.
Backlash (2006): Raw-only
The big story
John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Edge (from Cena vs. Triple H): After Cena somewhat surprisingly vanquished Triple H at WrestleMania 22, Edge, who had briefly interrupted Cena's first long reign as champion, was added to the mix.
Cena and Edge would become embroiled in a feud through much of 2006, while Triple H would reunite with longtime loved/hated pal/rival Shawn Michaels to reform D-Generation X and battle the McMahons (see below), which I believe was mainly an excuse for Hunter to point at his dick.
Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James: James was Trish's pseudo-lesbian stalker (much like Victoria before her) and had won the women's title at WrestleMania 23 in a pretty lengthy buildup. Someone has distilled it into about 7:00, in fact:
Vince McMahon & Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels & God (from Vince vs. Michaels): God no-showed, unfortunately. That's probably why WWE hasn't booked him again.
The big stories
This was the end of Raw or Smackdown-only pay-per-views, so we have multiple major continued stories here.
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton (from Cena vs. Michaels): Cena and Michaels added the former RKO tag partners for their battle for the WWE Championship. Cena would conquer all here, but would soon be embroiled in a rivalry with Orton that seemed to dominate much of both men's careers for the next three years.
Bobby Lashley vs. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon & Umaga (from Lashley vs. Umaga): Vince was seeking revenge against Lashley for his shorn scalp at WrestleMania. This McMahon vs. Lashley saga, for the ECW Championship no less, would actually continue into the summer.
Undertaker vs. Batista: These two followed their WrestleMania classic with another battle and -- after an Undertaker absence because of injury for the spring and summer -- would continue it throughout 2007. Edge would get involved quite a bit as well.
A lot of continuation in 2007, it seems.
Chris Benoit vs. MVP: These two had a very nice rivalry for the U.S. title that began with Benoit dominating the arrogant MVP. But MVP continued to step up his game and became more and more competitive, finally triumphing two falls to zero the next month at Judgment Day.
The big stories
Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (from Triple H vs. Orton vs. Cena): Orton surprisingly retained his WWE title and gave Cena his first WrestleMania loss, but he fell to Triple H in this elimination match. They followed by pairing off: Cena and JBL and Orton and Triple H did battle for the next two pay-per-views. The draft then moved Triple H and the WWE title over to Smackdown.
Undertaker vs. Edge: This was match No. 2 out of five pay-per-view matches (including four in a row) these two would have in 2008. Edge would end Undertaker's career, only for Smackdown head honcho Vickie Guerrero to reinstate the Undertaker when she and Edge had a falling out.
Kane vs. Chavo Guerrero: This is the most like our Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus feud. Guerrero lost in 8 seconds at WrestleMania, but he lasted about 8:00 here. Still the same result, though. The lesson is here is to not try.
The big stories
Triple H, Batista & Shane McMahon vs. Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase & Cody Rhodes (from Triple H vs. Orton): Orton won the WWE title from old rival Triple H here, getting revenge from the previous Backlash, continuing a tradition of Triple H losing the title in six-man tag matches, and starting a tradition of Triple H being put out of action in the April pay-per-view.
Orton then battled with old rival Batista for a bit before rekindling his feud with old rival John Cena, because that's what WWE does.
Edge vs. John Cena (from Edge vs. Cena vs. Big Show): Speaking of recycling old feuds, 2009 gave us another installment of Edge vs. Cena. Although this was the end of it, as Cena went to battle old rival Big Show and Edge went on to battle old rival Jeff Hardy. Do you sense a theme about 2009?
Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy: Jeff got a bit of revenge on his brother for repeatedly attacking him, burning his house down and killing his dog, and beating him at WrestleMania. Though winning an I quit match doesn't really seem like much satisfaction, does it?
Anyway, they were friends a few months later.
Chris Jericho vs. Ricky Steamboat (from Jericho vs. Steamboat, Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka): In his first pay-per-view match in 15 years, Steamboat showed he was still pretty awesome at age 56. The crowd went insane for him, and what started with a little confrontation on Raw blossomed into a nice feud.
Extreme Rules (2010)
The big story
John Cena vs. Batista: Out with Backlash and in with Extreme Rules. Batista had owned Cena in their head-to-head matches up until WrestleMania, when Cena won back the WWE title. Their rematch here was a last man standing affair, and wacky hijinks with duct tape were involved.
After another pay-per-view match between the two ended with a Cena victory, Batista has not been seen since. At least not by me.
Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger was the other world title feud at the time, but that in no way can be considered a big story. At least not by me.
CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio: Their abbreviated WrestleMania match was followed up by
a couple of excellent ones, including this hair match won by Punk (though he'd lose his hair by the end of the feud).
Sheamus vs. Triple H: Like the year before, Triple H won the battle at WrestleMania, but his foe got the better of him a month later. This was essentially the end of Triple H as a full-time wrestler (not that you'd know it for the amount of TV time he gets).
Edge vs. Chris Jericho: Although they had fairly good matches, the Edge vs. Jericho dynamic never worked, and Edge became a villain again soon afterward.
The Hart Dynasty won a gauntlet match that included WrestleMania opponents Big Show & The Miz and John Morrison & R-Truth, plus MVP & Mark Henry. It was an effort to make people care about the Hart Dynasty that sadly failed.
Extreme Rules (2011)
The big stories
John Cena vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison (from Cena vs. Miz): Miz managed to squeak by Cena at WrestleMania to retain the WWE title, but Cena got it back here in a triple threat cage match. Morrison was added to give the match some added athleticism and to make John Morrison super fan Geno Mrosko extremely happy.
Christian vs. Alberto del Rio: This was somewhat of a continuation of Edge's win over del Rio at WrestleMania. Edge was forced to retire because of injury, so good pal Christian took his place and won the ladder match and the World title. The inspirational win was followed by a loss to Randy Orton on the next Smackdown (though an outstanding match) that got my Twitter feed as angry as I'd ever seen it, followed by a heel turn and long feud with Orton.
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk: Orton capped off his issues here with Nexus (now led by Punk) by winning this Last Man Standing match. Punk was soon to move on to bigger and better things over the summer, of course.
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes: This ended a fun story with Cody Rhodes completely making over his personality thanks a clear facemask he had to wear after Mysterio injured his face. Thus proving that Rhodes actually had a real personality.
Michael Cole & Jack Swagger vs. Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler (from Cole vs. Lawler): I was a bigger fan of this rivalry than almost anyone, given my affection for Lawler, but WrestleMania really should have been the end of this feud. Cole quickly went from being a heel you'd like to see beat up to one who forces you to turn the channel.
It would end pretty well the next month and had some good segments even after Mania, but it was certainly past its expiration date.
Our final big-story scoreboard (continued from Part 1)
New direction: 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003
Continue the same direction: 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
As you can see, WWE hasn't taken a new direction after WrestleMania in quite a while. Tonight (April 29, 2012) at Extreme Rules will be an exception with Lesnar vs. Cena, though there will be still plenty of revisiting of stories going on.
Number of matches that continued an issue from WrestleMania
2005: 3 (not counting Hogan & Michaels vs. Daivari & Hassan)
We're on track for 5 in 2012 as well.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Should WWE start more new stories and feuds at the next show after WrestleMania, or are you generally happy with how these pan out?