Wrestling fans all have their different opinions on matters. However, almost every fan would agree that Wrestlemania 31 looks much different from Wrestlemania 30 did around this time. It has been rather shocking how much the product has declined. After all, it appeared WWE would try adapting to the times instead of being antiquated and stubborn. However, perhaps out of spite, the company became more self-centered and egocentric than ever. Now, let us recapitulate how WWE quickly went from an open-minded company to a pertinacious one.
On March 10, 2014, WWE rectified one of the worst decisions they have ever made. Even though they did not insert Daniel Bryan directly into Wrestlemania's 30 main event, he declared that he would main event the show if he defeated HHH on the same night. Analogous to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bryan and his anointed fans hijacked Raw in order to receive what they desired. Symbolically, the segment signified that the voice of the WWE universe is more influential than WWE itself (which was a positive indication for the future).
The PPV ended up being a rehabilitation for the fans’ suffrage amidst the insufferable times and showed that WWE can still elicit genuine emotions out of every single wrestling fan. It also foreshadowed exciting things to happen down the road: Daniel Bryan – one of the greatest in-ring performers ever – was going to able to show his in-ring proficiencies off as WWE champion and in long matches; Brock Lesnar was going to ascend into one of the most dominant antagonists ever; and Cesaro was going to become a workhorse, white-meat protagonist.
After Wrestlemania 30, though, WWE did not become all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. It was instead a mélange of positives and negatives. Daniel Bryan was never able to display his in-ring aptitudes as WWE champion. Instead, he feuded with the insipidly droning Kane, who went back-and-forth on whether he was a Libertarian or the Demon’s favorite child. The feud resulted in one mediocre Extreme Rules match and a series of terrible segments that looked like they came straight from a B-horror movie like, say, See No Evil. Bryan – the man who triumphed over the tyrannically powerful authority – was running away from the pudgy 46-year-old man with a win/lost record that made the Houston Astros look like World Champions in comparison. But before they could have a Buried Alive match at the next PPV, Bryan suffered a neck injury that placed him on the injured reserve (which was virtually a blessing in disguise, due to how badly the feud with Kane was killing his heat).
Additionally, Cesaro joined up with Paul Heyman. It seemed dubious to align a fan-favorite with arguably the most reviled villain in WWE. However, it did make the Brock Lesnar vs. Cesaro at Wrestlemania 31 seem more plausible, and Heyman was one of the few managers/advocates that could turn a fan favorite into a despised heel. However, even though it was far from Heyman’s fault, Cesaro went from fan-favorite to a lukewarm heel. Heyman spent more time talking about Lesnar, and it made Cesaro seem unimportant. The booking did not help him, either, as he spent most of his time chasing the inferior IC and US titles but could not capture either one. WWE also decided to tone down his matches and take away almost all his impressive power moves. And whether the fans like it or not, the once fan-favorite and proclaimed Swiss Superman was now a second-rate, generic heel because WWE said so.
However, the Shield was ascending as one of the greatest stables in WWE history, as they tried to eradicate the Authority. In retaliation, HHH brought back a dominant stable from the past: Evolution. Evolution, however, imposed little threat the young, quicker and stronger Shield, which defeated Evolution at Extreme Rules and then defeated them at Payback in a 3-on-3 elimination match with ease. Out of desperation, though, HHH influenced Seth Rollins to stab his brothers in the back and join the Authority to end the Shield’s reign of destruction. It was a controversial decision, although it inaugurated an exceptional conflict between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Rollins was emerging as a great pusillanimous heel while Dean Ambrose was emerging into one of the better antiheroes since Stone Cold Steve Austin perfected the character.
Meanwhile, Roman Reigns was making his way into the main event picture. While he was easily the least talented of the three Shield members, it was clear that WWE wanted to push him to the moon. He undeniably showed potential, but fans were concerned whether he would be ready to main event Wrestlemania 31 if the rumors came true. Mysteriously, WWE did not stick with the methods that made Reigns become popular: a no-nonsense, overpowering machine who allowed his actions to speak for his words. Besides, the story wrote itself: Reigns fueled with anger and rage, due to his brother turning on him, and therefore unwilling to trust anyone. All he wanted to do is unleash pain and destruction on everyone, especially those in his way.
WWE instead had him do over-long promos, which exposed his shortcomings on the microphone, and gave him some of the lamest dialog ever, to make matters worse. WWE also turned him into an uphill battling babyface that made miraculous comebacks after the heel walloped on him forever. Not only did this style of matches expose his shortcomings in the ring, inabilities to sell and obtain sympathy amidst a beat down, but it also was insanely contrasting to character that made him popular.
In spite of Rollins and Ambrose being the ones who carried Reigns in the Shield, Reigns ended up being the one who incarcerated his hernia. With Reigns on the injured reserve, Ambrose had the chance to seize the opportunity and impress WWE and its followers. Ambrose became the most entertaining part of the show, due to him portraying an impeccable antiheroic, psychopathic persona. His actions became unpredictable, making fans intrigued to see what he would do or say next.
At Summerslam, WWE grew some grapefruits by having Brock Lesnar emasculating John Cena. WWE can book Cena’s character very conservatively, so it was jaw dropping to see how ineffectual Cena was against The Beast Incarnate. The match itself was more about substance than style. It was not great because of its aesthetics but rather its efficiencies. It had an objective: make Lesnar look insurmountable, and it accomplished that objective and then some. The epoch of Brock Lesnar was upon us.
Or, so we thought…
Instead of narrating a long story where Cena tries to regroup and become stronger to have a chance of conquering the unconquerable beast, WWE hotshotted and had the rematch at the next PPV, hoping that people would resubscribe to the Network. They could have spent months building up the rematch, but they went from first gear to fourth gear by virtue of skipping over second and third gear. Deprived of a logical reason, Cena ended up going toe-to-toe with Lesnar and might be defeated him if Seth Rollins did not break up his STF, rendering the entire moot of the Summerslam match.
Afterwards, Cena looked for revenge on Seth Rollins but butted heads with Ambrose in the process while Lesnar, the WWE champion, disappeared from TV without an explanation. Because Ambrose and Cena kept butting heads trying to make Rollins pay for his sins, WWE booked a stipulation for Hell in the Cell: the winner of Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena would face Seth Rollins in a Hell in the Cell match and the loser would face Randy Orton in a Hell in the Cell match. Even though Night of Champions inflated a lot of WWE’s excitement, the company could still spark some interest by having the over the most popular babyface go over both Cena and Rollins in the same night (parallel of how Jericho was made into a top-tier main eventer after he beat Rock and Austin on the same night).
WWE, though, had Cena vs. Ambrose on Raw. To make matters worse: instead of having a memorable match, they had a very forgettable Contract on a Pole match. Interference from the Authority marred the match and overshadowed Ambrose’s big win as well. While not everything went as anticipated, Ambrose finally being able to make Rollins pay for his sins would be a great culmination to their feud and launch him to a higher plateau.
But that did not happen either…
Thanks to Bray Wyatt unexpectedly attacking Ambrose, Rollins defeated him. This decision enraged many fans who thought Ambrose should have won and rightfully so. He feuded with Rollins for 5-months but never won a match. Because of that and feud with Bray Wyatt being vague and poorly booked, Ambrose’s popularity shrank.
WWE did a multi-man match at Survivor Series, as team Cena was trying to put an end to Authority. Thanks to a courageous effort by Ziggler and help from Sting, Team Cena exterminated the Authority. Many thought this was the beginning of a Ziggler, a fan favorite for many years, push. However, WWE had no plans of capitalizing of Ziggler’s amazing performance at the PPV, but they had plans to bring the enormously insipid Authority back a few weeks later.
After NXT’s extraordinary PPV, the rumor floating around that WWE would make the TLC PPV standout to top the NXT PPV. Because of lackluster matchups and inexcusably absentminded booking, TLC ended up being WWE’s worst PPV of the year. In addition, it transformed Ambrose from a shrewd psychopath into an idiot by causing him lose a match to Bray Wyatt because of a TV accidentally exploding in his face.
Because of lazy and incompetent booking as well as ignoring what the fans want, WWE’s product became both mind-numbingly infuriating and excruciating. Their shows were dreary and ice-cold, as the product found new ways to make their crowds seemed as if they were at a funeral. That, however, was until Daniel Bryan came back and announced he was entering the Royal Rumble. His announcement added a shockwave of life into the product, finally giving something the fans to be happy about. But, as time went on, it became more evident that Roman Reigns was their new prime candidate. He won the Superstar of the Year award, thanks to WWE rigging it more than George Bush rigged the Florida elections, and then won the Royal Rumble.
Unlike Dave Batista last year, WWE knew this year the fans would rebel against Roman Reigns winning the Rumble but went through with it anyways. They did not care what the fans wanted and virtually told them their opinions do not matter anymore. WWE wants Reigns to be the next white-meat babyface and that is that. If you do not like it, that is too bad in their world. And, to rub it in, they had Daniel Bryan lose to Roman Reigns at Fastlane in a match that would have inserted him into the main event scene if he won.
Frankly, WWE made one of their worst decisions ever. It is not an opinion, either. It is a fact, because Roman Reigns is different from any other wrestler who the internet despised. Unlike John Cena, his merchandise is not selling off the shelves, and unlike Batista (2005-07), the cheers are not overshadowing the jeers. He is receiving lukewarm cheers from some and vitriolic jeers from most. A very small minority want him main eventing.
Did WWE at least make up the repulsive main event by stacking WrestleMania’s undercard? And/or did they at least put Daniel Bryan in another important match?
The answer to both questions is no. The undercard consists mostly of thoughtlessly put-together matches or unappealing ones. There is not one match that stands out as a potential amazing match nor is there an incredible storyline. Both the build and the card feel like a mediocre Summerslam at best. WWE shoehorned Daniel Bryan – the most over wrestler on the roster – into a multi-man ladder match for the meaningless Intercontinental championship. The story is that everyone steals the title away from the rightful holder, Wade Barrett, for no apparent reason. WWE also shoehorned John Cena into being an insufferable American-lover who is standing up for his country by taking down the anti-American Rusev. Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker has been more interesting than anyone anticipated, although it looks dubious at best on paper. Sting vs. Triple H has been also interesting, although the match thus far lacks needed stipulations for it have a purpose (e.g. If HHH wins, Sting must leave WWE. If Sting wins, HHH and Stephanie McMahon no longer have power). Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins looks good on paper, although WWE managed to make a simple story into an overly flawed and convoluted one. And there is going to be a meaningless Andre the Giant Battle Royale.
WWE should have paid Limp Bizkit to create a remixed called, "It is Our Way or the Highway" to be WM’s theme song. WWE is doing things their way and practically telling their fans not to watch if they hate it. This Road to WM has consisted of imprudent, lackluster and lazy booking with tons of wrestlers in the wrong spot on the card. From Night of Champions to now, WWE has had one of its worst runs ever. Unless WWE wakes up, Wrestlemania 31 is not going to make things better. It is going to make them worse.