WrestleMania season is what most wrestling fans wait the entire year for - whether you are waiting for the culmination of a high-stakes feud between two wrestlers, or to be surprised by a special-unannounced guest, or if you just love the spectacle of the show itself, WrestleMania has something for every fan.
In order for the event to be successful, WWE needs to have their ideas planned and mapped out well in advance so fans can become invested in the outcome of the featured matches. Imagine for a moment that Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant did not interact at all before the build-up to their WrestleMania III encounter. It would not have had the same cultural impact that it did, and certainly would not have drawn 90,000+ fans into the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987.
Does WWE have their plans in order for the upcoming WrestleMania 34 extravaganza? Time will tell, but there are certainly some decisions that need to be made as soon as possible if fans are to truly anticipate the event. They have a little over five months to get things in order, so hopefully they can make the necessary calls to ensure it's a classic.
15 Reigns and Lesnar - Is This What We Want?
It is no secret that Roman Reigns is the clear choice for the face of the company. Recently, one of the only wrestlers to rival Reigns' television portrayal as an unstoppable force has been Brock Lesnar, who has been booked as a “Special Attraction” that cannot be missed.
Based on these facts, WWE should have a sure money-making match for WrestleMania 34. However, there are other factors to consider before WWE cashes in on the cheque they expect to receive, mainly that this match has already played out on the WrestleMania 31 stage to less-than-favorable reviews, and is only remembered for Seth Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in. Before committing fully to the execution of this main event, WWE needs to truly decide once and for all if this is what fans want to see.
Based on fan reaction, it feels like adding in a clear fan-favorite that can take the spotlight off of the (potentially failing) Roman Reigns Superhero Project is a way to fix this issue.
14 Cruiserweight Division - Put Up, or Shut Up.
WWE’s treatment of the Light-Heavyweight/Cruiserweight Division has a storied history – beginning with a 448-day title reign of Duane “Gillberg” Gill. However, when the WWE announced the “Cruiserweight Classic” in 2016, a collective scream of joy was released from wrestling fans who currently enjoy independent wrestling styles of the world. The tournament itself exceeded all expectations, with spectacular performances from non-WWE stars such as Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi.
The tournament’s style of wrestling was fast-paced, exciting and had an aura of unknown to it because most did not know the performers. Unfortunately, that atmosphere has not transferred over to the WWE’s current Cruiserweight product of 205 Live. While there are numerous reasons that have been listed before, I personally have a lot of faith in the performers, as I have seen many of them perform on the independent circuit over the years, and have seen some spectacular things. The decision that needs to made here is how WWE truly feels about the division – do they see as much value in the product that other fans do?
13 Who is Shinsuke Nakamura?
As mentioned in the Cruiserweight Division entry, there was a certain atmosphere to the Cruiserweight Classic tournament that created mystery around the performers because we had not seen most of them on WWE programming before, and it made things very exciting for fans. Enter Shinsuke Nakamura, who has the same aura of mystery around him due to his experience outside of the WWE machine.
This was most prevalent during his time on NXT, where Nakamura arrived as an enigmatic, unspoken performer, who let his athleticism do the talking. While Nakamura’s success and athleticism cannot be denied, the original mystique that surrounded him – his entrance, his attire and his wrestling style – have dissolved because we are able to see him in action each week on SmackDown, instead of it being a treat for the fans.
The question that WWE needs to ask themselves is – who do they think Shinsuke Nakamura is? If they want him to be viewed as a mystical, special attraction, then he needs to be treated differently before WrestleMania so he can be put in a must-see type of match. In the past few months, it's as if he's just become another guy, while having to job several times to Jinder Mahal.
12 Full-time or Part-time?
To think that John Cena’s WWE career began back in 2002 as a generic wrestler in simple trunks is nothing short of amazing – his charisma and talent drove him to become the top fixture of WWE programming for over 12 years. Despite the negativity that has surrounded his career from vocal wrestling fans, there is no denying without Cena’s talent and ability, it would have been difficult for WWE to make it through the past decade.
During Cena’s latest match with Roman Reigns at No Mercy in 2017, Cena left the match in very questionable fashion, with many viewing this as a “passing of the torch” moment to Roman Reigns. Usually, these displays of affection from fans are only offered during a wrestler’s retiring moments.
After the spectacle of his No Mercy exit, Cena has not been present on WWE programming, which is leaving speculation on his wrestling career. If John Cena’s final hurrah is truly approaching us, than a decision needs to be made and voiced as soon as possible so WrestleMania plans can be made for Cena to end his WWE career properly. Wrestling tradition says that out-going stars need to use their last moment of fame to “put over” new talent. While Cena arguably did this at No Mercy, there is no bigger stage to make this statement than WrestleMania.
11 What are The Deadman's plans?
Previously, we discussed John Cena’s transition to Hollywood and how his spectacle at No Mercy pointed towards him “riding off into the sunset”, but leaving enough question as to whether this truly was his last match. If that was the case with Cena’s segment, then The Undertaker’s final moments at WrestleMania 33 were as ambiguous as they come. Following his match with Roman Reigns (I’m sensing a trend here), The Undertaker ceremoniously took of his hat and gloves, and left them in the ring before solemnly walking to the curtain, leaving us all questioning if we had seen the final match of our aging hero.
The Undertaker’s performances have been the genuine highlight of countless WrestleMania cards and many fans look forward to his match each year as a bright spot. As of this writing, fans have not received a definitive course of action on The Undertaker’s career, and are still waiting with baited breath for if we will see one more excellent match from The Deadman. Until WWE announces The Undertaker’s decision, fans will continue to wait. Before we get too far into the Road to WrestleMania, the WWE needs to let fans know otherwise their attention will be elsewhere, when it should be focused on plans that are in the making.
10 Who is the Alpha-Female?
As a wrestling fan from the 1980s, I have seen many changes in Women’s wrestling. Whether it is from the “New Generation” of Alundra Blayze, the Attitude Era of Trish Stratus or the Ruthless Aggression era with…never mind. Women’s wrestling has always had a place on WWE programming, for better or worse. With the "Women’s Revolution" being brought to the forefront of both RAW and Smackdown, we are in a true renaissance for female athletes.
However, the division has struggled for the most part to develop a true corner-stone of main-event caliber performers. While there was a brief period of both Charlotte and Sasha Banks being featured as the both the main-events of RAW and Hell in a Cell last year, the division has slowed down considerably in terms of spectacle performances. With all the excellent performers on the roster there is no reason that we cannot have multiple, high-profile Women’s matches at this year’s WrestleMania. WWE needs to make a decision about who can be trusted to run with the Women’s division so the feuds can be developed much prior to WrestleMania, lest he women be subjected to another “thrown together” multi-person match.
9 Who Is Getting The Rub In A Match With Shane-O-Mac?
For the past two WrestleMania events we have seen Shane McMahon involved in a marquee level match with one of the company’s top stars. Both matches with The Undertaker and AJ Styles exceeded expectations given Shane’s potential ring-rust and wrestling abilities, which was a positive for anyone watching the event. Featured heavily in both matches, Shane has been given the proverbial “ball” during WrestleMania, and given his heavy involvement as a character on SmackDown, it is likely the Shane-O-Mac will have a spot on this year’s WrestleMania event.
The question is – who will be placed in the feud with him this year? Kevin Owens and Shane just hit a climax in their feud at Hell in a Cell.
This leaves the door open to multiple wrestlers to have a marquee match with Shane – whether that wrestler is someone like Jason Jordan who needs the elevation of a big program, or Dolph Ziggler who is floating through obscurity right now, the decision needs to be made soon.
8 Who is the Host?
What do The Rock and The New Day have in common? Besides an incredible fashion sense and excellent mannerisms, both have been the “hosts” of WrestleMania in recent history. Both hosts were chosen because of their ability to rile up crowds with their catch-phrases, charisma and connection with the audience. Having a host at WrestleMania adds some consistency to the show, and WWE seems to enjoy including them each year. The decision that WWE needs to make here is who (Who? Who?) should be tasked as the host of this year’s WrestleMania, and more importantly how they can made the host add value to the show.
The host of WrestleMania needs to have enough pomp and circumstance to make the event more special that it already is – whether it is a celebrity like Conor McGregor or a WWE Hall of Famer like Ric Flair, the host should be a bigger part of the show and assist with drawing fans in to watch and attend.
7 7. Has the Hall of Fame run dry?
The Hall of Fame ceremony and inductees is one of my highlights of WrestleMania season. Since I have been a wrestling fan for over 25 years, I get very giddy when I see one of my favorite wrestlers from the past inducted into the Hall of Fame. Whether it is seeing the Jake “The Snake” Roberts finally get his vindication and rightful place in the HOF in 2014, or hearing Bobby Heenan tearfully say that he missed Gorilla Monsoon in 2004, it brings up a lot of nostalgia for long-time wrestling fans.
However, as I look at the long list of inductees ranging from Andre the Giant to Snoop Dogg, I am left with one simple question – who is left to induct? Dave Meltzer wrote, “There are only so many people that they can have headline a class. They really need to make more new stars to ensure that they can keep filling arenas for the ceremony.”
At this point, there are very few eligible and appropriate choices to round out the 2018 Hall of Fame class. In order to have these choices be meaningful and bring forward the feelings of nostalgia, WWE needs to make their decision on who is the most deserving of a Hall of Fame induction.
6 6. Musical *groan* Acts
I was lucky enough to attend WrestleMania X8 in my hometown of Toronto. I have very fond memories of sitting in the (unfortunately terribly high up) 300 section of the SkyDome in my “Ass-Clown” Chris Jericho t-shirt, watching the event unfold in front of my eyes. For those that have been able to attend a WrestleMania event before can attest to the feeling of being a part of an event like this. I am still able to recall the emotion of chanting loudly for Hogan during his match with The Rock
What I cannot remember from the event, were the musical acts - Saliva and Drowning Pool – that performed during the event. The reason that I cannot remember is because during both performances, I took it is as an opportunity to visit the restroom. I came to enjoy a wrestling show and have little interest in the band’s performances, which is a sentiment I still share to this day when a music act is scheduled to perform. T
he WWE needs to make a decision about the tone of their show, and if musical acts really have a place during the event. Given my experience as a teenager, I am a vote to have another featured match on the card because the restroom lineups were far too long at the SkyDome.
5 Do They Care About the Battle Royal?
Surely the dream of performing at WrestleMania is on the mind of every member of the WWE locker room, particularly if they have never been a part of the event before. For young talent like Cedric Alexander and Elias Sampson who have never performed at WrestleMania in the past, the thought of being featured live on the card must be unimaginable. Unfortunately for them, WrestleMania is already a 5+ hour event so the likelihood of being featured in a marquee match is unfortunately very slim. The most expected possibility is that mid-card level talent will be featured in the annual Andre the Giant Battle Royal.
Unfortunately, the Andre the Giant Battle Royal has a storied history of being grazed over on the card, or with the winner being forgotten about very quickly. Past winners Mojo Rawley and Cesaro can surely attest to this, as their post-battle royal careers have not panned out incredibly favorable for them. However, if WWE made the decision to commit to a worth-while storyline or angle for the winner of the battle royal, fans would begin to see it as more of a “must-see” type of match, instead of a potential bathroom break.
4 4. Will the Maharaja Still be Champion?
When Jinder Mahal pinned Randy Orton at Backlash in 2017 to win the WWE Championship, it was genuinely one of the more shocking moments of recent memory. Especially considering that Mahal was not employed by WWE only one year prior to this event because he was released in 2014. Having Mahal as the reigning WWE Champion has been a breath of fresh air on SmackDown, and he has succeeded most expectations that fans had for him – his dastardly, evil character is a highlight of the weekly shows, and Mahal should be commended for his hard work over the past year.
What remains to be seen is how (or if) Mahal will be featured as champion at this year’s WrestleMania event. Given the fact that there has been six months of build-up for Mahal has a genuine main-event level wrestler, not featuring him in an important spot at WrestleMania would be considered a waste of everyone’s time, as there would be no pay-off on the fan’s investment in his title run. WWE needs to make a decision on how Mahal will be featured in order to make his title reign and character development worthwhile. More importantly, has Jinder Mahal proven to be a draw big enough for a WrestleMania championship match?
3 3. Ladder Match, anyone?
As I spoke about in the Women’s Championship entry, the WWE needs to make a decision about its mid-card talent, and the likelihood that they will be “thrown together” in some sort of multi-person match at this year’s WrestleMania. For both WrestleMania 31 and 32, the Intercontinental Championship was showcased in a multi-person ladder match, with Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder winning their respective matches. Unfortunately, both of these title matches ended up being inconsequential for all the performers as Bryan retired shortly after winning the match, and Ryder lost the title back to The Miz the next night on RAW.
While ladder matches are entertaining parts of any event, there are very talented performers on both RAW and SmackDown stuck in the mid-card that would shine if given the opportunity in a match that truly means something. If WWE is fixated on booking a ladder match at each WrestleMania (which has been the trend for the past three years), then a true effort needs to be taken to invest the fans in the match, instead of having it on the card for the sake of it.
2 Are we Allowed to Talk About Hogan?
When most people think of WrestleMania, especially if they grew up in the 1980s immediately think of Hulk Hogan who was the main fixture of the event from its inception in 1985 until the early 1990s. Simply put, Hogan is synonymous with WrestleMania. Hogan’s last appearance at WrestleMania was in 2014 when he appeared in the opening segment with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, setting the stage for a night of action in the Silverdome Superdome.
The relationship between WWE and Hogan was irrevocably changed in 2015 when a recently released sex-tape of Hogan revealed numerous racial slurs, which WWE was very quick to distance themselves from and release Hogan from his contact. During an interview in the latter-half of 2015, Triple H alluded in an interview that he was hopeful that Hogan could one day return to WWE - “Do I think he can be forgiven and make amends with the world and move forward? Yeah, absolutely.”
Given this statement, it is possible that Hogan could be involved with the company again in the future. The decision that WWE needs to make at this point is – are they ready for the potential backlash of reintroducing Hogan to their audience?
1 Make Up Your Minds About Reigns
Now on his third mention in this article, Roman Reigns is a popular topic of discussion coming in to WrestleMania. There is no use in beating around the bush because there is an obvious polarization about how fans feel about Reigns. Some express their extreme displeasure regarding Reigns’ current status in the WWE while others are completely pleased with how Reigns has presented himself on WWE programming as a no-nonsense badass who can dish out punishment to anyone that is put in front of him. Regardless of where you stand currently with Reigns as a fan, there is no denying that the company has big plans for him come WrestleMania 34.
Very simply put, I have one question on my mind when I see a Roman Reigns match or promo – how am I supposed to feel about him? There are times where Reigns is doing some heroic things, but I have also seen Reigns do despicable things, such as continue to attack Braun Strowman after he had already beaten him in a match. Making Reigns “polarizing” is one thing, but this appears to be a lack of clear direction on who the character is, which makes it difficult for fans to truly connect with him. Whether Reigns is a good or bad guy needs to be fully decided on come WrestleMania, or the reaction to whatever he ends up doing will not turn out in his or WWE’s favor.