The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment is just around the corner, and WWE is finally starting to prepare for the occasion. It’s about darn time, because all eyes have been on the company since January’s Royal Rumble started setting the card. Not that fans needed the promise of Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka earning title shots to get interested in WrestleMania 34, as its simply the time of year every wrestling fan in the world looks to Vince McMahon’s company for a massive showcase of everything the WWE Universe has to offer.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone expects a great show. In fact, criticism of WWE is at an all time high, and the negative feelings tend to reach a fever pitch around WrestleMania season, and with good reason. For the past three years now, the so-called Grandest Stage of Them All has also been terribly underwhelming, getting longer, more pretentious, and less interesting with each passing event.
Thus far, it seems entirely possible that April 8 will see another event fitting this trend, and in the very least, the odds of a truly unforgettable experience are pretty low. That said, anything can happen in the WWE Universe, and the company’s superstars can rise to the occasion even when the booking is fairly dull, so there’s hope yet that fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could indeed be in for a Showcase of Immortals. Keep reading for 12 signs WrestleMania 34 is going to be another massive bomb, plus 9 reasons it just might not be so bad.
21 DISASTER: There’s Barely Enough Room For All The Gold
Not including titles defended primarily in NXT, there are currently 9 major championships in the WWE Universe. Even at their current length, the average WrestleMania only has 10 or 11 matches, meaning very little room for competition unrelated to titles. Because there are a few main event superstars who pretty much need to be on the card but don’t have any gold, chances are at least one or two champions will get left off the show or under utilized in order to make room. Aside from the World Championships and whichever belt Asuka chooses to challenge for, almost every belt is in jeopardy of getting forgotten. Sure, a couple of them will appear, but even those that do will likely be connected to slapdash storylines, making most title matches feel token at best. This isn’t a great way to go into a show that’s supposed to showcase everything great about WWE, which is the whole point of a wrestler winning a title the rest of the year.
20 COULD BE GREAT: The Women’s Wrestling Revolution Rages On
Thanks in part to the rise of a female WWE executive in Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, women in professional wrestling have more opportunities in front of them than ever before. Not only that, but the women in WWE today are arguably the best crop of female superstars the company has ever seen, making them perfectly poised to take full advantage of the attention. Over the past few years, women have main evented their first WWE Pay-Per-Views and broken all sorts of ground, capped off by Asuka winning the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble. Whatever Asuka does at WrestleMania, plus just about anything else the other women of WWE could accomplish, is almost certain to be just as historic and revolutionary as the work they’ve accomplished in recent months. Maybe the matches won’t change the world, because we don’t see women main eventing WrestleMania, but they could still easily steal the show, or save it, which would be a huge feat in and of itself.
19 DISASTER: Forgetting About Big Stars
In fairness to WWE, it’s a little early for us to complain about this next issue, since the WrestleMania 34 card is still almost entirely unannounced. In addition to waiting so long to book the biggest show of the year being a problem in and of itself, as the list already covered, WWE is compounding the issue by leaking rumors that suggest almost none of their most popular regular stars will be present in important roles. While vague plans exist for John Cena, The Undertaker, Ronda Rousey, and a few WWE champions, the fate of significant names like Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, The Miz, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and so many more are still completely up in the air. Several of these wrestlers could get thrown into whatever multi-person match is held over the Intercontinental or United States Championships, or the André the Giant Battle Royal, but the point is they all deserve a major program of their own, and there’s just not room for it at this point. This means all of their fans will be severely disappointed, something Vince McMahon just doesn’t care about.
18 COULD BE GREAT: Ronda Rousey’s First Match
Aside from WWE champions and their challengers, only one sports entertainer is already booked to wrestle at WrestleMania 34: former UFC megastar “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Granted, fans don’t exactly know what she’ll be doing yet, but the Royal Rumble hinted and Elimination Chamber confirmed that Rousey will definitely be making her official debut in the squared circle at the Showcase of Immortals. There’s also a chance Stephanie McMahon or Triple H could be involved when she does, adding an even greater spotlight and importance to the proceedings. Even if Rousey were to simply appear in a 30 second squash against a random jobber, though, it’s almost certain her match will be amongst the most talked about of the night. It’s entirely possible that Rousey’s second match could be for either WWE Women’s Championships if this match goes right, and on the other hand, it could be a sign the company is in for a rough road ahead if she fails to deliver. Point is, Rousey’s debut will be one of the most WWE important events of 2018, and fans are appropriately interested in the results.
17 DISASTER: NXT TakeOver: New Orleans Is Going to Be Better
Truth be told, this next issue won’t hurt WrestleMania 34’s chances of being entertaining, but it’s a relevant trend all major WWE events have followed over the past two years. Each time WWE hosts an NXT TakeOver the night before a WrestleMania, SummerSlam, or Survivor Series, all the company is doing is ensuring they’re top superstars will be outclassed and outperformed in every way by a bunch of so-called “rookies.” From the early looks of it, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans looks to continue that trend with what should be an incredible main event between Andrade Cien Almas and Aleister Black. The event also promises a rematch between Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler over the NXT Women’s Championship in a feud that rights every wrong with the way the women’s revolution is going on the main roster, plus a NXT Tag Team Championship match which should outshine either WWE Tag Team Championship match simply by existing with a coherent storyline. Of course, this isn’t so much a problem as it is a gift to fans who actually want to see a good show on WrestleMania week.
16 COULD BE GREAT: Triple H Slowly Gaining Control
Cynics are going to call this entry questionable, noting that it contains as many negatives as it does positive. While that may be true, for now, the increasing power of Triple H is a bit of a wild card when it comes to WrestleMania. In addition to having booked NXT since it’s inception, HHH has recently been given complete control of 205 Live, and reports indicate Vince McMahon even lets him oversee select episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live. It’s more or less out of the question that McMahon would ever simply hand his son-in-law WrestleMania before even giving his protégé a regular Pay-Per-View, but it’s possible HHH could have more influence over the booking than ever before. One way Triple H has influenced all of WWE is increasing the importance on match quality, which could pay off huge if made a focus of the Grandest Stage of Them All. On the other hand, it could mean Triple H back in the main event of WrestleMania 35, which could land this on the other side of next year’s list.
15 DISASTER: Refusing To Let The Dead Man Rest In Peace
At this point, it’s getting hard to even remember the first time The Undertaker teased retirement. While he hasn’t quite reached Terry Funk status, the Dead Man increasingly offers signs he’s calling it quits with each WrestleMania appearance, only for WWE to basically begging he comes back when they realize they don’t have any ideas without him. WrestleMania 33 seemed to be The Undertaker’s most definitive exeunt of all, placing his hat and robe in the ring before bowing to the fans after suffering his second defeat at the event, further desecrating his once revered undefeated streak. Unfortunately, it looks like WWE might pull him out of the doldrums just so he can lose once more, this time to John Cena. The only worse idea would be Taker winning, because it would mean the inevitable rematch at WrestleMania 35. Even if it’s a one and done deal, the point is that WWE seriously needs to just let The Undertaker retire for good already.
14 COULD BE GREAT: Interesting Hall of Famers Could Lead to Surprises
No matter what happens at WrestleMania, the night before will be historic for an entirely separate reason: the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This year, there have already been a handful of shocking announcements about who will get the nod, including WCW legends Goldberg and Jeff Jarrett and ECW hardcore icons The Dudley Boyz. While joining the Hall of Fame typically means a wrestler is done in the ring, it also leads to inevitable chants of “One More Match.” Sometimes, it also leads to full-time returns to WWE in one way or another, as was the case with Kurt Angle’s 2017 induction leading to an ongoing stint as General Manager of Raw. At this point, there are no rumors to speak of relating to Jarrett, Goldberg, or anyone else, but it’s entirely possible any one of them could get involved in WrestleMania in a unique and interesting way. If nothing else, Jarrett bonking someone with a guitar or Goldberg hitting them with a Spear would get people talking.
13 DISASTER: Ignoring The Tag Division (As Per Usual)
With WrestleMania barely over a month away, WWE has yet to announce any title matches of note aside from their World Championship bouts. This list already mentioned that there’s not enough room for all of them, and to get a little more specific, it’s almost a certainty that the tag team division will be shafted yet again. Neither the Raw nor SmackDown Tag Team Champions have matches booked yet, and if the trend of the past few years continues, there’s a good chance they won’t. The SmackDown Tag Team belts didn’t feature at last year’s WrestleMania at all, nor did the combined doubles gold make an appearance at the main show of Mania 30, 31, or 32. This flagrant disregard for an entire genre of wrestling makes it very clear WWE and Vince McMahon just don’t care about the subject, and are bound to keep it ignoring it for another year. Considering some of the most talented wrestlers in the company are in the tag division, leaving them off WrestleMania would be a huge disappointment to fans.
12 COULD BE GREAT: Styles vs. Nakamura
Okay, so most of the positives on this list are speculative in nature, and there’s bound to be a whole lot of crap at WrestleMania 34 even if they all hold true. However, one thing that not even Vince McMahon could screw up is a rematch of one of the best matches in recent wrestling history when Shinsuke Nakamura challenges AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Granted, there’s the smallest chance it won’t happen, as Styles could lose the gold before the Grandest Stage of Them All, but that’s too unlikely and unpleasant a scenario to picture. For now, let’s assume it’s a guarantee Styles and Nakamura will finally square off again after their epic battle at New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2014. Not only have both performers experienced two further years of improvement since then, but the stakes are much higher than before, and the crowd larger, with far more fans worldwide interested in the WWE Championship than the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. What all this means is serious potential for a classic, show stealing, five star match.
11 DISASTER: Burying Anything New For The Predestined Result
Long before any other discussions about WrestleMania 34 began, most fans knew the main event would be Brock Lesnar against Roman Reigns. This list will get into that match more a bit later, but for now, let’s focus on the fact this means other, more popular wrestlers are getting passed over so Vince McMahon can have his (and nobody else’s) dream match. Since early 2017, Braun Strowman has been receiving the biggest superstar reactions in the company. In recent months, names like Rusev and Seth Rollins have been joining him, and any one of these three performers could use a major WrestleMania coronation to cement their role as the WWE Universe’s top star. Unfortunately, McMahon doesn’t want any of them as his top employee, even if they are more popular and talented than his preordained champion. That person would be Roman Reigns, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, leading to consistently boring WrestleMania’s fans are increasingly prone to ignore.
10 COULD BE GREAT: The Cruiserweights Have A Chance To Shine
Quite frankly, it feels pretty tenuous putting this next item on the list, considering the fact it will almost definitely get delegated to the pre-show. On the other hand, this could simply mean the best and most exciting match in WrestleMania pre-show history. What we’re talking about is the final round of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament, which has slowly been taking place on 205 Live since Enzo Amore was stripped of the belt and fired from the company. Knowing full well they have to reestablish their brand after Amore’s scandalous departure, the cruiserweight superstars have been consistently bringing their A-game throughout the tournament, the finale is almost guaranteed to be one of the best matches of the bunch. It’s still unclear who will compete, but all remaining participants can deliver a great performance under the right circumstance, and there are few scenarios better than a tournament ending at the Grandest Stage of Them All.
9 DISASTER: Competing With WrestleMania XXX
Since the death of WCW, the WWE Universe has basically existed without any competition aside from itself. When Raw or SmackDown comes to town, all fans really have to compare it to is, well, the last time Raw or SmackDown came to town. The same thing is true of WrestleMania, with the caveat that the Grandest Stage of Them All is obviously a less common occurrence. That said, fans in New Orleans will have a chance to compare the experience of one live Showcase of Immortals with another, as WWE has decided to hold WrestleMania 34 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the same location as WrestleMania XXX. This is just a little bit of a problem, because there’s almost no way this year’s show will hold a candle to the one WWE held in 2014. To many fans, WrestleMania XXX was the last time the company got it right, ending with the brief coronation of Daniel Bryan as WWE Champion. A show with Roman Reigns on top simply can’t achieve the same reaction as that one, destined to pale in comparison.
8 COULD BE GREAT: The WrestleMania Crowd Is Always A Show Of Its Own
Although this list is suggesting there are far more reasons WrestleMania could be a bomb than a success, we’re completely aware fans are going to tune into the show en masse either way. The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment is always bound to receive at least 1 million buys or more, make boat loads of money, and jam pack 70,000+ fans into one arena for a night of nonstop action. Wrestling critics on the Internet can complain all we want about it, but this sort of success means at least some people must be enjoying the show, and most of them will be live in New Orleans to vocalize that joy. Even better, the loudest of all will stick around for Raw and SmackDown Live the next two nights, creating unique and interesting chants that often dictate the direction of WWE for the next year. Crowds like this are at their best when the wrestling is getting boring, so if WrestleMania 34 is the bomb we think it will be, the ability of its own crowd to save the show might prove integral.
7 DISASTER: It’s Gonna Be Even Longer Than Last Year
Once upon a time, WrestleMania was a simple albeit explosive affair that took place in a cool two hours or less. If things got especially crazy, and there was more going on at the Grandest Stage of Them All than usual, maybe the home video release could get stretched to three, three and a hour hours, tops. Nowadays, two hours is just barely enough for the WrestleMania pre-show, and that’s in addition to the main show itself having potential to go seven plus. While the show gradually increased in length over the years, it’s seriously exploded since 2014, and all signs indicate 2018 will either continue the trend or make things even worse. It would be one thing if the shows were this long because they featured two dozen diverse matches, but most of this time is spent on complete and utter filler, like The Rock wandering around with a blowtorch. All an event this long does is bore the hell out of fans, making them too worn out and tired to care when something exciting actually happens.
6 COULD BE GREAT: The Roster Always Finds a Way To Deliver
To the credit of every single wrestler currently signed to WWE, it needs to be acknowledge that the problematic state of the company is in no way their fault. Well, okay, not all WWE superstars are created equally, and some of them may not deserve their jobs, but the fact remains that the good ones are extremely good at their jobs no matter how poorly they get booked. When all cards are on the table, a talented enough wrestler can turn even a really stupid storyline into an incredibly good match, and WrestleMania is the time of year when this happens on a constant basis. Even if the build to an encounter was boring, cliché, or just plain stupid, if the wrestlers make a memorable experience for fans, nothing that comes before it will even matter. The WWE Universe has a bigger and more talented roster than ever before, so the odds of this happening at least once or twice at WrestleMania 34 are actually quite high.
5 DISASTER: Leaving Everything To The Last Minute
A running theme of this list has been the fact WrestleMania 34 is barely over a month away, and WWE has done almost nothing to plan for what should be a momentous event, which is a big enough mistake in and of itself that it deserves an entry of its own. Way back when WrestleMania was just establishing itself, Vince McMahon would meticulously plan his shows for months, if not full years. In the very least, the main events would be clear culminations of incredible journeys, either with two extremely bitter rivals finally doing battle, or a hot, young athlete finally getting their shot at the WWE Championship. This kind of narrative is no longer possible, because the average shelf life of a WWE storyline is about three weeks, until the company shifts gears for the next Pay-Per-View. The trend is a drag on the month-to-month, making it far too easy to tune out for a while without missing anything. At the biggest show of the year, it’s can outright kill the show, as fans will stop caring about it the moment it’s over.
4 COULD BE GREAT: WWE Knows There’s A Problem
In all honesty, nothing on this list should be too surprising to the most hardcore fans of WWE. The wrestling audience at large is well aware WWE has been facing dire straits for quite some time now, and things aren’t exactly looking up. The one solace harsh contrarians have is that not only are all the fans cognizant WWE needs some fixing, but executives within the company definitely know there’s a problem, as well. Just about every interview with Vince McMahon or Triple H brings up the fact fans reject the show and hate Roman Reigns, and while their answers don’t bring much promise to these problems go away, the fact remains they know fans aren’t happy. WrestleMania is the perfect time of year to turn things around and surprise the crowd more than ever, and if they act on this impulse and actually try to address some of the company’s bigger issues, the entire other half of this list could be moot.
3 DISASTER: Trying To Jam Everything Into One Night
When the NWA invented the idea of a wrestling super card with Starrcade, the whole idea was to put all the champions and distinct styles of sports entertainment into one night. Vince McMahon created WrestleMania using that exact same game plan, and he holds on to it to this day, albeit with a key change having taken place in recent years. Rather than focus on all the different kinds of wrestling the WWE Universe can offer, Vince wants to spotlight all the diverse forms of entertainment his company can provide. This explains the many extended backstage comedy segments and irrelevant moments of manufactured drama between legends and celebrities. The catch is that while wrestling fans will appreciate a unique match even if it’s not all that good simply for the variety, unique non-wrestling segments are unwanted in every sense of the word. If WWE tries throwing too much comedy or overproduction, fans might tune out before the first bell even rings.
2 DISASTER: Relying On Part-Timers
If there’s one thing every WrestleMania has consistently had in common over the past decade, it’s that the most memorable moments of the show came from wrestlers who only appeared at most two or three times per year. Ever since The Rock made his big comeback to be a part of WrestleMania 27, part-time celebrity superstars have gotten all the attention, with the regular roster shunted down to supporting roles at best. With the only real focuses of WrestleMania 34 thus far being John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and The Undertaker, it’s very clear this trend of ignoring those who do the most work for WWE is going to continue into 2018. Considering Ronda Rousey’s second match could still be a long way coming, her big debut performance could also be considered part of this issue. While it makes perfect sense for WWE to bring out a few big stars when all eyes are on their product, failing to spread it out makes the entire regular roster look weak, and at this point, they really don’t need to look any weaker.
1 DISASTER: Roman Reigns Supreme Again
For as ill prepared, unplanned, and uncoordinated as WrestleMania 34 looks just weeks before the event is going to take place, there’s one thing about the 2018 Showcase of Immortals that’s pretty much been locked in stone more than a year now. Anybody who knows WWE is already well aware that the main event will see Roman Reigns defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Champion in an attempt at righting the wrongs of WrestleMania 31. And WrestleMania 32. And, well, every other event that was supposed to end with Roman achieving a heroic victory to great applause. Of course, what always happens is the arena boos the hell out of him, getting louder and louder as we inch closer to the inevitable conclusion. That WWE would even put Roman Reigns in the main event again after three years of him getting booed out of the building for even showing up is a sign they seriously don’t care about their fans. To redo one of his most maligned storylines takes it further, and proves they openly hate us.