Based on how WWE is handling the road to WrestleMania 33, it would be fair to say Vince McMahon and company has completely stopped caring about pleasing their fans. Putting on a satisfying wrestling show isn’t important, because the tickets have all been sold and the money is basically made already, and this mindset has been rampant throughout the WWE Universe for quite some time now.
That isn’t to say WrestleMania 33, or WWE in general for that matter, doesn’t have the potential for greatness absolutely everywhere on its roster. With widely varied talents populating no less than four separate rosters, some insiders argue the talent working for the company is on the whole better than ever before. Unfortunately, McMahon no longer has any idea what to do with it, at least not in a manner that attracts viewers or leaves the few people who watch out of habit feeling good about what they watched.
The saddest part of it all is how easy it would be for McMahon to start righting the wrongs and turn the 33rd Grandest Stage of Them All into an event worthy of that title. Scratch that—the real tragedy is that no matter how many people screams these fixes at McMahon’s face, he’ll never listen, too stubbornly convinced the terrible show he’s building to is the only option available. If you can suspend disbelief enough to pretend Vince McMahon is actually the type of person who listens to suggestion, keep reading to discover 15 changes WWE needs to make to save WrestleMania 33 before it’s too late.
15 Call Up Shinsuke Nakamura
When the largest WWE crowd ever was bored out of its collective mind during last WrestleMania’s main event, it didn’t entertain itself by chanting for one of the competitors in the match (because there was no interest in either of them). Instead, the crowd chanted for the most charismatic member of the WWE Universe, new recruit from New Japan, Shinsuke Nakamura. The night prior, Nakamura wrestled the best WWE match of the year at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, and yet for some bizarre reason, he’s been relegated exclusively to NXT ever since. Nakamura has already won and lost the NXT Championship twice, and there’s absolutely nothing left for him to prove in the brand. That he hasn’t been called up already is a disservice to the entire wrestling community, as his presence literally anywhere on the card would instantly elevate WrestleMania 33, or any show he was on for that matter.
14 Start Planning For The Long Term
WWE famously has no off-season, meaning that the show never stops. There’s always the next Raw, SmackDown, NXT, or whatever other show WWE might create in the future to replace or improve upon what they have today. WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year and often contains some of the most important matches, but it isn’t the end by any means. The company needs to rage on the very next night, and it already looks like WWE has forgotten this fact with a card littered with part-timers who have no intention of staying with the company. Part-time wrestlers are controversial to begin with, and the subject will continue to come up as the list goes on. For now, the bigger problem is that WWE books WrestleMania like it’s the last show of the year, when in fact it also needs to be the launching pad for the next one. If they don’t, they’ll lose even more fans literally overnight.
13 Get The Part-Timers To Matter Full Time
So, speaking of those part-time wrestlers, they would be significantly less controversial if that “part-time” wasn’t so specifically resigned to the WrestleMania season. Fans wouldn’t be so upset when The Undertaker made his biweekly appearance if they got a reminder of his whereabouts throughout the year. Even better, just have whichever athlete Undertaker is going to wrestle at Mania talk about him long before he shows up, making the story relevant for more than a few months. The same could be true of Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, or whatever other part-timers they want to pop up. The casual fans will still be happy when these part-timers actually do show up, and the diehards will at least have to acknowledge it was relevant to the storyline. It would also mean WWE needs to plan more than a few days in advance, though, and for multiple wrestlers, so it’s a particularly unlikely change.
12 Build Feuds, Not "Moments"
This is a criticism relevant to pretty much all of the WWE Universe in recent times, although WrestleMania has always typically been where the problem is most transparent. By and large, Vince McMahon has come to the conclusion if he says something is a big moment (and/or has Michael Cole say it’s a big moment), therefore it is a big moment. Nothing is earned anymore, and crowds chant “You Deserve It” for almost every single title change because that’s what they’re supposed to do. There’s going to be plenty of this at WrestleMania, and the live audience will have fun doing it. People who watch wrestling year round will shake their heads and disagree, knowing full well how undeserved everything at the show is bound to be due to the horrible build and lack of strong characters. There should be a reason these matches are happening, and “because Vince said so” just isn’t cutting it.
11 Remember, It's Still A Show
Including the pre-show, WrestleMania 32 was very close to 8 hours long, and the rate WWE is going, this year’s effort will be even longer. There are so many flaws with a show this long we won’t even try to name them all, with the most obvious being that nobody wants to sit still in one place for eight hours. If somehow somebody does, they want to see a show with a clear beginning, middle, and end, with a growing build throughout the experience. The worst part of WWE’s eight-hour extravaganza last year was that it had absolutely no flow, with random matches spattered about the card with no rhyme or meaning. Yes, WrestleMania is a gigantic show that pretty much sells itself. Obviously though, fans still need to be able to watch it, and few people could sit through anything this long.
10 Don’t Point At The Sign Unless There’s Something To Say About It
Whenever a sports entertainer points at the WrestleMania sign, it is as though WWE is very blatantly saying [insert build here], without even trying to help fans fill in the blanks. The company only created the trope within the last decade, and yet it has already become the laziest and most tired way for two wrestlers to express their anger for one another. In all fairness, it works in the rarest of occasions—the Royal Rumble winner gets to point at the sign pretty much no matter what, and maybe a few part-timers and legends deserve creatively framed standoffs with the sign in the background. That’s about it, though, and everyone else who points at the sign is lampshading how pointless doing so can be. Especially because none of the rumored matches hold any intrigue to the average fan, the wrestlers need to say something to justify their matches now more than ever, and the sign simply doesn’t cover that in the slightest.
9 Make Way For Tomorrow
As WWE loves reminding fans, WCW went out of business largely because the company had no idea how to make new stars, constantly relying on part-timers and old legends to fill in the gaps. Not only did this mean everyone in the main event was slower and worn down; it also meant when these part-timers wandered away thanks to their flexible schedules, the company had nothing left that fans wanted to see. WrestleMania has pretty much turned into WCW, with any wrestlers who actually get cheered or feel unique stuffed at the bottom of the card, so John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Randy Orton, and etc. stars of the past decade (or two) can stay in the top spots. Outside of Daniel Bryan, who they waited too long on, and Roman Reigns, who no one other than Vince McMahon likes in the slightest, WWE hasn’t even tried to make a new star at WrestleMania since The Miz in 2011. And that didn’t really work, either.
8 Utilize The WWE Network To Its Full Potential
The WWE Network has felt like a godsend to wrestling fans new and old, yet many feel the full potential of the service has nowhere near been met. While most complaints are based on a lack of old shows (which definitely need to get added), there’s also the fact whoever is in charge of the live stream could use it exclusively to build to Mania, and instead fans get daily episodes of Total Divas and various one-season-wonder reality shows. In fairness to WWE, they aren’t entirely inept at this area, as old WrestleMania’s will likely get aired more and more as the show comes closer. The company will also hopefully use their retrospective section to build the relevant feuds and matches. Granted, the fact it seems like a no brainer doesn’t necessarily guarantee WWE will do something these days, so it still needs to be pointed out just in case they botch this one.
7 Try Something Completely New
Even the most ardent anti-WWE, anti-Roman Reigns hater/anti-fan would have to admit the ending to WrestleMania 31 was completely unexpected. In case you missed it, some 15 minutes into a heavily promoted WWE Championship bout between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to enter and win the match. Something like that had never been done before, and that it happened at the main event of WrestleMania made it transcend from a clever piece of booking to a downright legendary moment. It also helped that there haven’t been any other surprises in the WWE Universe for quite a long time, particularly to the diehard fans who spend thousands traveling to Mania. Though this obviously takes a great deal of ingenuity and is easier said than done, genuinely shocking the fans could more than make up for a mediocre show.
6 Use Legends The Right Way
Continuing on the theme that part-timers and legends aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just booked that way, one of the worst moments at WrestleMania 32 saw a group of legends beat up a bunch of current wrestlers for pretty much no reason. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley all made unannounced appearances to easily dispatch The League of Nations, and Austin made sure to get one up on their opponent Xavier Woods, as well. Later in the show, The Rock singlehandedly took on the Wyatt Family, assisted by a returning John Cena when he was very slightly overwhelmed. Both of these incidents would have been completely fine if the younger stars got the advantage over the legend. Even if they were evenly matched, or relegated to a simple war of words, there wouldn’t be much to complain about. Putting legends over new talent helps no one, though, and is basically no more than a waste of time.
5 Quit Wasting The Top Talent
Worse than the fact WrestleMania 33 will mostly be filled with legends in roles that don’t suit them well is that the current talents in the company are going to be wasted in bizarre and terrible matches no one wants to see. John Cena is rumored to be teaming with Nikki Bella against Miz and Maryse. A.J. Styles is apparently facing off with Shane McMahon because [insert build here]. Last but not least, it looks like Kevin Owens will lose the Universal Championship before the show, leaving his match on the midcard, as well. These three held WWE’s main championships for the lion’s share of the past six months, clearly the true top talent in the company on a day-to-day basis. And all three are being wasted at the Grandest Stage of Them All. Sure, Owens will wrestle a decent match against Jericho whether the title is on the line or not, but it would obviously mean more if it did. As for those other two matches, we don’t know what the hell Vince is thinking about those, so let’s just move on.
4 Cut Back On The Commentary Team
Fans and critics alike have been complaining that WWE’s three-person commentary team has been a bit crowded of late, chiefly because the people sitting at the booth are wildly unqualified for the job. On top of that, Vince McMahon constantly yelling in their ears most certainly doesn’t help. Naturally, McMahon’s solution has been to add more people to the booth and yell at them even more. Had virtually any other businessperson been given this problem, they would have gone the other way, and once again the only justification Vince has for not figuring that out yet is blind stubbornness. The scary thing is he’ll probably feel a need to go even bigger with WrestleMania, and fans could see the first ever six or seven person announce team in sports entertainment if the trend continues. Hopefully the clutter will start to get to Vince, and he’ll realize he can’t control that many people at once.
3 Stop Hotshotting The Raw Women’s Championship
In the grand scheme of things, WWE needs to stop bouncing around just about all of their titles, but the Raw Women’s Championship in particular has changed hands way too many times for a belt that’s only existed one year. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley have been trading wins and losses with such incredible frequency none of them look good, with each subsequent great match looking meaningless in retrospect and killing everything they worked for. They already wasted a huge opportunity in having Bayley win the title on a random episode of Raw when she could have had a huge moment, and the tragic thing is fans are almost assured she’ll lose it back before then, maybe twice. It was bad enough WWE split the women’s belts in two and made the revolution weaker in the process, and by not letting a champion define the division, they’ll never build it back to something that matters.
2 Take Away Randy Orton’s Title Shot
There were worse options than Randy Orton to win the 2017 Royal Rumble, although none of them were ever in serious contention. Unfortunately, none of the many, many better options were ever seriously considered, either, and the result is going to be perhaps the least exciting WWE Championship match at WrestleMania since, well, the last time Randy Orton challenged for the gold in the main event of the show. No matter what WWE tells you, Orton is and always has been a boring vacuum of charisma who coasts on his good looks and famous family connections, and he’s been getting significantly worse with age. Teaming him with Bray Wyatt slightly saved Orton’s career by letting someone interesting and new do all the work, and now WWE is taking all of that away to once again remind fans nepotism and having friends in the right places are the only things that matters in wrestling.
1 Keep The Universal Championship On Kevin Owens
It probably says something about our cynicism that we’re already convinced Goldberg will defeat Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship and defend it against Brock Lesnar in Orlando. Rumors have been pointing that way for a while, and there’s simply no reason to be hopeful about WWE doing the right thing, or the decent thing, or even the comprehensible thing. Said right, reasonable, comprehensible thing would be to keep pushing at least one of their newer wrestlers, who just about everyone except fat-shamers accepts as the future of the industry, as a main event level star. Giving the title to one part-timer so he can lose to another part-timer is meaningless, and it takes away the only potential the company has at surviving past April 2nd. Fingers crossed, WWE will come up with some way for Owens to keep his title without hurting Goldberg. Since that might not happen, lets just hope Owens’s career doesn’t suffer too badly because of it.