A few days ago, our own Geno Mrosko wrote a piece detailing how pretty much every story heading into WrestleMania 37 sucks.
To be honest, I don’t really disagree. I’m more favorable on some of the stories than Geno is, but there are some definite clunkers. However, within comments of his piece, someone asked if this was going to be a two part series where someone highlights the good in these matches. And while that was never the intent, I decided to take the challenge of spinning all the WrestleMania stories in a positive way. Let’s look at it as an exercise in optimism.
Some of the following arguments I legitimately believe. Others, I do not. But I won’t say which is which, and I’ll refrain from using “at least the match will be good” as a crutch.
So let’s take a look at the card, shall we?
Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre (WWE championship): Lashley has been absolutely dominant this year. In singles matches, outside some technical losses against Riddle where he still kicked ass, he’s been flawless. In fact, the last man who really had his number was former champion Drew McIntyre in their feud back in June. The champ retained his WWE championship successfully against the All Mighty at Backlash. Because of that, instead of Lashley challenging the champ for a rematch head on, MVP worked out some scheme where they’d soften him up Drew and allow Miz to cash in his Money in the Bank and win the title. Then Lashley could defeat the Miz, taking McIntyre out of the equation.
While Lashley is dominant, it’s clear he’s worried about defending it against McIntyre, the man he couldn’t beat. It’s made him erratic. He expelled Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin from Hurt Business when they couldn’t take the Scotsman out. The champ and MVP put out a King’s Bounty on his head. The main beats of this story have all made sense taking into account Lashley’s one major failure this last 12 months. Lashley has the tools to beat McIntyre but he’s clearly not 100% confident. Will that make Bobby erratic or just that much more dangerous? Either way, it sets the stage for a war.
Roman Reigns vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan (Universal championship): This is probably the strongest story on the show. Roman Reigns has been killing it as the mob boss Universal champion. Edge went the distance to win the Royal Rumble. And while Reigns vs. Edge where the latter is the babyface was OK, it wasn’t fully clicking. Enter Daniel Bryan, who rightfully earned a shot against Reigns. That angered the Rumble winner, who felt that Bryan was going about things the “wrong way.” This led to Edge embracing his true form - the Ultimate Opportunist, costing Bryan the title when Daniel had Roman tapping. This addition allows all three guys to play the best version of themselves. Roman as the heel, Daniel as the underdog babyface, and Edge as the heel who is pissed someone played the “ultimate opportunity” game better than he did.
Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair (SmackDown women’s championship): The biggest knock against this story is that they spent too much time teaming up and there was too much Reginald. And that’s definitely a legit critique. But it also showed us that they are two alpha ladies that just can’t co-exist because this world isn’t big enough for both of them. That they belong in a singular spotlight that can’t shine on both at the same time. They realize that now and have gone to the basics of a feud. Sasha is the vet who wants to prove to the rookie that it’s too soon for her time. The Rookie wants to snatch the torch from the Boss’ hand. Let’s do it.
Asuka vs. Rhea Ripley (Raw women’s championship): Charlotte Flair’s pregnancy that wasn’t and then covid diagnosis made them rush to this point. That’s true. But they haven’t done anything bad here. Rhea Ripley, who almost won the Royal Rumble, waltzed onto Raw and straight up challenged one of the baddest women on the roster. The following week, the Nightmare dropped a table on the champ and then, with Asuka still under the table, accepted a challenge to team with her against the tag champs this week. Badass. What we have here are two warriors who know no fear about to throw down.
Big E vs. Apollo Crews (Intercontinental championship): My favorite part about this story is how they took Apollo on a journey. He started as a friend to Big E who respected him. But because of the bad influence from Paul Heyman and the effects of continual losses, he started to lose his way. To the point that he felt he had to completely reinvent himself, turning to his Nigerian roots for his confidence. Now that he has no scruples, willing to straight up hurt Big E, does he have enough to finally get the job done? Or did he wake up the angry side of the Intercontinental champ that folks have been clamoring for? Yes, their Fastlane match was a misstep, but that doesn’t take away from the overall journey here.
Riddle vs. Sheamus (United States championship): It’s tough to defend a story that just came together last week. But it’s basic and it’s fine. Sheamus is the tough guy who doesn’t like Riddle’s stoner demeanor. Riddle is just trying to have a good time. Now they fight for the title. One benefit to this program is we’re at the point your can root for either man. Plenty of people don’t like Riddle. This is set up in a way you can boo him if you’d prefer. Hell, his post-match strike last week after losing to Sheamus almost encourages it. Really, this is two good wrestlers fighting for a title. Root for whomever you want.
The New Day vs. AJ Styles & Omos (Raw tag team championship): The Game Night segment last Monday was bad, but the idea of the story that set up works very well. AJ has never won a tag title in WWE, which is keeping him from a Grand Slam. So he turned to a very big man in Omos to try to win one. The New Day, one of the best tag teams of all time, contends that a real tag team, two men that are brothers, can beat two men who aren’t really a team. But can they? When one of those men is an absolute Goliath of a man, can teamwork really make the dream work? Maybe if it’s one of the best tag teams there is.
Randy Orton vs. The Fiend: There is certainly an issue with this story being run in the same universe as a show where everything else is grounded much deeper in reality. To enjoy this one, you have to pretend it’s in its own world, which takes extra work given how they have presented this. But if you take it as the horror movie that it is, it works perfectly. The Fiend is the prototypical horror movie villain (or anti-hero depending on when in the franchise you are and who’s watching). He stalks his pray because of perceived slights. He can’t be stopped. It takes a Herculean effort just to keep him down.
Randy Orton tried. He literally burned the man to death. But like a good slasher horror movie, we were just waiting for the Fiend to come back. Because they never stay dead. He returned, still burnt to a crisp, an image right out of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. This forces Orton to figure out any other way to stop the unstoppable. Add in Alexa Bliss, who’s great in her role of the woman who has control over the monster, the Legend Killer may be out of tricks. Hopefully, this gets moved to a Firefly Fun House match so they can full embrace the vibe of the story they’re telling.
Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon: It’s not hard at all to believe Shane McMahon is an arrogant prick because he has a lot of money and has taken some business classes. We’ve all met that guy who thinks he’s better because they have money and a fancier education. That’s the villain Shane is playing, and he plays it well. Hell, he even hangs out with that asshole who always wants to talk about his music. Shane sees a big guy like Strowman and thinks he can outsmart him because the big man hasn’t been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunities Shane has. Now we’re finally going to get to see that type of dude get his deserved ass kicking.
Bad Bunny vs. The Miz: Miz and Bad Bunny have been at odds since back at Royal Rumble. But the crux of the story is the Miz thinks he’s a big star. He’s done a couple Marine movies, has a reality show with his wife, and does some gag music videos with his buddy John Morrison. Then Bad Bunny, an actual star, has entered his world, immediately challenging that notion. Even more so, the Grammy winner is trying to prove he’s better at Miz’s own game. It helps that the Miz is the perfect performer to make this work.
Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro: Rollins returned from paternity leave still playing the delusional heel who believes he’s the locker room leader. This may be the best Seth there is. Meanwhile, while Rollins has been gone, Cesaro started rising up the card, finally proving what so many have known for so long. When the Swiss Superman wouldn’t fall in line behind Seth, that enraged the Messiah. Now they fight, with Cesaro getting a chance to prove he belongs at that level that Rollins is. It’s simple and it works.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens: One of my favorite things in wrestling is a feud so storied that there are chapters from all angles. We’ve seen Kevin as the bad guy and Sami as the hero. We’ve seen them both break bad together. Now, Sami is the delusional heel that thinks everyone is against him, and KO is the reasonable former friend who is trying to tell him to truth. One Helluva Kick set it up and here we are, another chapter of a great rivalry happening on the biggest stage.
See? It’s not all bad. There are some good programs and some decent programs leading us into WrestleMania. But yes, there are others where you have to squint real hard to see the positives.
Let us know in the comments how you see things a week out from WrestleMania.