WrestleMania 31 is a 4-hour extravaganza, so theoretically there should be plenty of time for every superstar to go out there and steal the show.
But the reality of the situation is that time constraints do exist, and this is a major puzzle that WWE is going to have to figure out with WrestleMania 31 only days away.
The first thing you need to know is that over the last decade, WrestleMania rarely ever includes more than 2 hours of total match time. WrestleMania 30 is the only show in that span to surpass 2 hours of total match time, and it only eclipsed that mark by 9 seconds. This is because WWE allocates a lot of time for elaborate superstar entrances, musical performances, video packages, commercials, and various other non-wrestling segments.
The table below provides information on the match time for every match on the last 10 WrestleMania events. This table measures time in seconds and is sorted by highest match time to lowest match time.
So the column labeled "1st" includes the number of seconds that the longest match of the night lasted for at each of these 10 WrestleMania events. The column labeled "7th" includes the number of seconds that the 7th longest match of the night lasted for at each of these 10 WrestleMania events.
This unit of measurement (seconds) isn't necessarily the friendliest way of looking at time, so keep these benchmarks in mind: 300 seconds equals 5 minutes, 600 seconds equals 10 minutes, 900 seconds equals 15 minutes, and 1200 seconds equals 20 minutes.
The "Total" column includes the sum of the individual match times for each show, in seconds.
This table does not include any pre-show matches. The time constraints of the 4-hour show don't really apply to those matches, which take place before the 4-hour clock begins to tick down.
7200 seconds is equal to 2 hours, so you can see right away that WrestleMania 30 was the only show that included more than 2 hours of total match time, while several other shows came fairly close to that mark. WrestleMania 23 and 27 were the only shows that fell under 1 hour and 45 minutes of total match time.
These ten shows included an average of 6668 seconds of match time, which is roughly 1 hour, 51 minutes, and 8 seconds (1h 51m 08s).
Based on these numbers, it is reasonable to expect that WrestleMania 31 will include somewhere between 1h 45m 00s and 2h 00m 00s of total match time, with the most probable outcome falling on the upper end of that range. In other words, you're probably going to get close to 2 hours of match time at WrestleMania 31.
Now browse through the individual match times in the table above for numbers greater than 900 seconds, which is 15 minutes. Notice that WrestleMania 30 is the only card that included 4 matches that lasted at least that long. WrestleMania 28 and 29 each featured 3 major matches and then a bunch of lesser matches. WrestleMania 24 through 27 only included 2 matches each of at least 900 seconds.
WrestleMania 28 started a trend of lengthy triple main events at WrestleMania. Prior to WrestleMania 28, the "3rd" column generally hovered around 900 seconds (15 minutes). But starting at WrestleMania 28 the "3rd" column jumped up to 1340 seconds, and it has remained in that range since.
WrestleMania 30 turned it up a notch by including a fourth lengthy main event match.
It seems that WrestleMania 31 is trying to up the ante even further, by advertising (at least) 5 major matches on the card that could all go for a long time.
And here is where the WrestleMania 31 time crunch is apparent. I count 6 matches out of the 8 advertised fights on this card that many fans might expect to cross that 900 second threshold if they weren't all loaded onto the same card: Lesnar vs Reigns, Cena vs Rusev, Rollins vs Orton, Triple H vs Sting, Undertaker vs Wyatt, and the ladder match.
The table above indicates a strong chance that at least 2 of those 6 matches won't reach 15 minutes in length at WrestleMania 31.
Look at the "5th" column. The maximum match time in that column is 805 seconds, and that was last year's Andre Battle Royal. That comes out to a time of 13m 25s. Are you cool with Orton and Rollins lasting 13 minutes this year? 13 minutes is probably the best case scenario for whatever match gets that 5th longest spot at WrestleMania 31.
The maximum time in the "6th" column is 686 seconds, which is 11 minutes and 26 seconds. Are you cool with the ladder match only getting 11 minutes this year? 11 minutes is probably the best case scenario for whatever match gets that 6th longest spot at WrestleMania 31.
Maybe those won't be the two specific matches from those top 6 matches that go under 15 minutes. But if not them, then which ones? Triple H versus Sting? I just can't see a Triple H match going less than 15 minutes, especially when it is one of the most hyped matches on the show. What about Undertaker versus Wyatt? With the streak being over, perhaps there is no urgency for Undertaker to extend himself in lengthy matches any more.
The final match of the night never goes under 15 minutes. These main event matches are italicized in the table above. Every main event match from these ten shows went more than 20 minutes (1200 seconds), with the exception of Cena versus Miz from WrestleMania 27. So don't expect Reigns versus Lesnar to go under 15 minutes, unless you think it will be a giant disaster.
Last year's triple threat main event is the only main event match that did not end up in the "1st" or "2nd" column. In other words, there is a very high chance that the main event of WrestleMania 31 will either be the longest or second longest match of the night.
What about that darn ladder match full of great workers? Are they automatically pigeon-holed into that 5th or 6th column, or can they break their way into the top 4 slots?
Well the past MITB ladder matches from WrestleMania 21 through WrestleMania 26 tell a mixed story. The match times for those 6 ladder matches are bolded in the table above, and they range from 12m 22s to 19m 10s. On the one hand, 4 of the 6 matches fell under 15 minutes. But on the other hand, they all ranked among the 4 longest matches of the night. That seems to be a good sign for Ambrose and the others, though it isn't quite clear.
Look through the table again for numbers below 300 seconds, which is 5 minutes. WrestleMania 29 is the only event that did not include a match that lasted under 5 minutes. There is some survival bias in that observation though, as the mixed tag team match between the Rhodes Scholars and Bella Twins versus Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls was completely cut from the card due to time constraints.
With the 6 top matches all competing for every precious second of the show, it seems likely that one of the remaining two matches (Divas tag team match, Andre Battle Royal) will be shorter than 5 minutes.
At the same time, we all remember the shock of 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28. So don't assume that all of the important matches on this card will be given at least 10 minutes to work with. Maybe Orton RKO's Rollins in 15 seconds for a quick win. Maybe we will finally see a ladder match where one guy just climbs the ladder right away and wins the belt. I highly doubt it, but you never know. Last year The Shield drew that unlucky straw for match time even though they were perhaps the hottest act in the company outside of Daniel Bryan. Nothing is guaranteed at WrestleMania.
The divas match will probably be the popular pick for the match that goes under 5 minutes. But there is some awareness right now about giving the divas a chance. And considering how Mark Henry and Kane eliminated all the jobbers in under one minute from a battle royal on Raw a couple of weeks ago, perhaps the Andre Battle Royal should be the favorite for shortest match time of the night.
Match Time Ratios
Here is one more table, this time without any specific unit of measurement (like seconds or minutes). It essentially includes the same information as the table above, but with a ratio interpretation.
This table compares how any given match time compares to the average match time for that individual WrestleMania show. The average match time for any show is represented by the number 100.
Look at the first row, which is WrestleMania 30. The "1st" column includes the number 151. This means that the longest match of the night (Triple H vs Bryan) was 51 percent longer than the average match time at WrestleMania 30. The 2nd longest match of the night was 47 percent longer than the average match time at WrestleMania 30. Any number higher than 100 can be interpreted in this fashion.
Numbers below 100 represent matches that were shorter than the average match time for that event. For WrestleMania 28, the "7th" column contains the number 36. This match time (Cody Rhodes vs Big Show) was 36 percent of the average match time for WrestleMania 28. The "8th" column contains a 2. This is the infamous squash between Sheamus and Bryan, and this means the time for that match was about 2 percent of the average match time for WrestleMania 28.
I am including this table so that the disparity between major matches and unimportant matches can be seen a little more clearly. These last 3 WrestleMania events have largely been all-or-nothing affairs, with zero matches falling close to the average match time index of 100. They are all either above 120 or below 80.
WrestleMania 21 through 28 all include at least one match that scored over 200, which means it was more than double the average match time for that card.
I also included this table to highlight how much cumulative match time is taken up by the top handful of matches. At WrestleMania 30, the top 4 matches add up to 565 out of 700. This means that nearly 81% of the match time on that card went to the top 4 matches. The bottom 3 matches add up to 135, which means collectively they were only a little bit longer than that 4th longest match of the night.
Look at the "5th" and "6th" columns for all 10 events. Only one match in these columns ever scored higher than a 100, and not surprisingly it was on a show that had 10 total matches. The 5th and 6th longest matches of the night almost always rank below the average match time for the night. That might sound like basic math, but it clearly illustrates how difficult it will be to navigate this WrestleMania 31 time crunch without any casualties. Will WWE shave time off the top matches of the card so that the 5th and 6th longest matches still get a respectable amount of time, or are one of those matches just going to have to bite the bullet?
This is leading back into the area of trying to figure out how the match times for WrestleMania 31 will break down, but without needing to address absolute minutes or seconds. I am very curious to hear how you think these 8 matches at WrestleMania 31 will compare to each other when they are eventually added on to this ratio table. Will Roman Reigns versus Lesnar end up being 65 percent longer than the average match time? Will the ladder match end up only 80 percent as long as the average match time for WrestleMania 31?
So for those of you who are interested in taking your own guess, leave a comment below. The only rules are that your 8 numbers have to add up to 800, negative numbers aren't allowed, and the pre-show tag team match is to be ignored. That's basically it. And if you don't like that ratio table at all, then take 120 minutes and break it down between the 8 matches. When I write the Match Times post for WrestleMania 31, I'll give a special shout-out to the Cagesiders who make the most accurate guesses.
So how do you see the match times of WrestleMania 31 turning out? Which of the top 6 matches will end up under 15 minutes? Is this the year that WWE deviates from the pattern and finally crams in 2 hours and 20 minutes of total match time on the card, just to make sure that every superstar gets a chance to shine?