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Here’s why a 7-hour WrestleMania card still isn’t enough time to include the SmackDown tag team championships

There have been some recent rumors that the WrestleMania 33 card is going to be 7 hours long yet somehow not include a title defense from the SmackDown tag team champions.

I’ve been tracking the match times for every WWE pay-per-view (PPV) event since the start of 2013, and here are some relevant facts that can provide insight as to how much wrestling time a realistic 7-hour WrestleMania card might contain.

First of all, I am going to assume that the 7-hour estimate includes a 2-hour pre-show, which means the main card will be 5 hours long. This is the same structure that was employed last year at WrestleMania 32.

So, how much match time does WWE typically include on any given PPV? Based on my data set spanning the last 55 WWE PPVs, 54.2% of all PPV time is allocated to the bell-to-bell matches. Across a 5-hour card, that translates to about 162 or 163 minutes of match time.

However, WrestleMania cards usually include less wrestling time than the typical WWE PPV. 4 of the 55 events in my data set are WrestleMania events. Their collective match time percentage is 47.3%, versus 55.0% for the remaining 51 events.

Looking further back, here are approximate match time percentages for every Wrestlemania since 2005. Note that I am highly confident in the percentages from WrestleMania 29 through WrestleMania 32, because I timed those events myself. For the prior events I am relying on a combination of other sources such as ProFightDB and CageMatch, as well as some of my own timing, so there is added uncertainty there.

These results suggest that it probably isn’t realistic to expect WrestleMania 33 to reach the 54% or 55% match time threshold that a typical WWE PPV meets. Only 2 of the last 12 WrestleMania events even reached the 50% mark.

This happens because WrestleMania cards generally include spectacularly long entrances, an occasional musical performance, nostalgic backstage segments (New Day’s hosting segments could be this year’s version), a Hall of Fame segment, additional video packages, talking segments in the ring, and celebrity involvement. All of these things eat into the match time percentage.

So if we instead looked at WrestleMania 33 with an expectation that the match time percentage will fall between 47% to 50%, that gives us roughly 140 to 150 minutes of total match time. Of course anything is possible and maybe 2017 is the year where the WrestleMania match time percentage breaks the pattern and jumps up to that 55% territory. But when projecting a realistic card it probably isn’t wise to go with that assumption.

So let’s see how we can divide these approximate 140 to 150 minutes across the entire match card. First, here are all the likely or rumored matches:

  1. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
  2. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
  3. Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
  4. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
  5. John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. Miz & Maryse
  6. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
  7. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
  8. Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin
  9. SmackDown women’s championship match
  10. Neville vs. Austin Aries
  11. Raw tag team championship match
  12. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
  13. Triple H vs. Seth Rollins
  14. Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal

The bottom 2 entries might not happen and they will be addressed shortly.

Last year’s pre-show included 3 different matches, and I think it’s reasonable to expect this year’s iteration to mirror that number. Adding a 4th match to the pre-show probably isn’t feasible; last year’s opening kickoff match of Ryback versus Kalisto barely had anybody seated in the venue for it.

I think any of the 3 matches between entries 9 through 12 on the above list could end up on the pre-show. When trying to project a 5-hour WrestleMania 33 main card to include 140 to 150 minutes of total match time, we can ignore any of these pre-show matches. So for now I am going to assume that the Raw tag team championship match, the battle royal, and Neville’s match all end up on the pre-show and can therefore be ignored for the remainder of this exercise.

Goldberg’s match will likely be short, and I think a rough estimate of 5 minutes is realistic. It probably won’t be a squash this time, and they can probably stall enough to fall within a range of 5 to 10 minutes.

Entries 2 through 7 on the above list will soak up the most time on the card. I am going to take the lazy way out and give each of them 17 minutes of match time.

If we then give 12 minutes to Ambrose and 12 minutes to the SmackDown women, that gives us this card:

  • Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (5 minutes)
  • Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (17)
  • Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns (17)
  • Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (17)
  • John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. Miz & Maryse (17)
  • Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax (17)
  • AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon (17)
  • Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin (12)
  • SmackDown women’s championship match (12)

Those 9 matches add up to 131 minutes of match time. I’ve already discarded 3 matches onto the pre-show, so that leaves Triple H versus Rollins and Big Show versus Shaquille O’Neal left to deal with.

Recent rumors suggest that Big Show versus Shaq isn’t likely to happen. In that case I don’t have to worry about squeezing them onto the card. However this current card has a glaring lack of Braun Strowman. Right now I’m assuming that he will be dumped into the battle royal along with other important superstars such as Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler. But considering how well-received Strowman’s match with Big Show was a few weeks ago on Raw, maybe WWE will decide to go with a Big Show / Strowman rematch if Shaq isn’t available to wrestle. It’s hard to predict how this will shake out.

The injury Seth Rollins is dealing with also makes things harder to project, because now it seems that he is more likely to have a confrontation with Triple H rather than an actual match. If they have a match, it would certainly take up all of the remaining 10 to 20 minutes that I have left to allocate, because Triple H matches at WrestleMania are usually among the longest on the card. If they instead have a confrontation, I still expect that it will cut into most of the remaining time that I have left for wrestling anyway, and that the match time percentage time for the show will go down to account for that additional talking segment.

One way to alleviate this issue is to not have the Rock on the card. The Rock has been a key component of the non-wrestling time on the last three WrestleMania cards, as his segments generally last 20 to 30 minutes each year. If the Rock isn’t around this year, then his non-wrestling time could instead be given to Triple H and Rollins, and that takes care of that problem. But if the Rock is going to do his usual routine, then there will probably be no time left on the card once you throw Triple H and Rollins into the mix.

And this isn’t even accounting for a possible match for Samoa Joe or Finn Balor.

It’s also possible that Braun Strowman gets a big showcase in the battle royal and so that match is actually placed on the main card while the SmackDown women are moved to the pre-show. In that case, the battle royal could easily take up more time than the 12 minutes that I am currently allocating for the SmackDown women.

And maybe Goldberg’s match actually does go closer to 10 minutes than the 5 minute estimate that I currently have listed. It is a WrestleMania main event after all, and so it wouldn’t be that shocking for WWE to find a way to stretch it longer than Goldberg’s talents warrant.

These numbers suggest that there’s just no time left for another match to be added to the mix. I’m already at 131 minutes, and the rest of the 140 to 150 minutes will probably go to some combination of Big Show, Braun Strowman, Triple H, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, or Goldberg.

It is certainly possible that WWE doesn’t need to give 17 minutes to as many matches as I have listed above, but it is also possible that WWE goes overboard with one match and pushes it towards 25 minutes, which will take time away from the remaining matches. Overall I think my estimate of 102 minutes for those 6 core matches combined (17 minutes each) is a realistic estimate, even if some of them run closer to 15 minutes and others run closer to 20 minutes.

If my estimates end up being way off and WWE does decide to drastically reduce the time on some of the core matches in order to squeeze one more match onto the main card, the SmackDown tag team championships still aren’t going to make the main card. They would just end up on the pre-show while something like Neville or the battle royal gets pushed onto the main card. All of this tinkering just to get a match for the SmackDown tag team championships onto the pre-show doesn’t seem like it should be a high priority at all for WWE.

Let’s face it, the most obvious way to clear the time for one more match is by removing the Rock from the card, but it wouldn’t be wise to shun a star of his magnitude. I bet Vince will try as hard as he can to get Dwayne and his flamethrower to show up again this year at WrestleMania.

What are your thoughts on this, Cagesiders? Can you come up with a way to squeeze one more match onto the main card given just 140 to 150 minutes of total match time?

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