The Problem With WrestleMania 31

WWE ran off a bridge on "the road to Wrestlemania 31" this year ...

Really? That was it?

The final image of the final Raw before WrestleMania 31 is supposed to be that lasting image that is going to force you to buy the show. It’s that one last chance to make the show feel like it’s going to be something that special. Something that you can’t miss.

That’s not what WWE delivered on Raw this past Monday.

The last image splashed on our screens before Raw went off the air Monday night was Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns playing tug-of-war with the WWE title. It looked like a pair of toddlers fighting over the rubber ducky.

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“It’s mine!” … “No! It’s mine!” … “Give it back or I’m telling on you!” … “Vince! Brock won’t give me the belt Vince!”

In the end, WWE simply did not have a final sales push. That speaks volumes about the problems within the show.

Sure, Paul Heyman’s promo was great. Aren’t they all? But Heyman’s words sold the match. Nothing he could say is going to sell Roman Reigns.

The number one babyface in the company, or at least the guy who is supposed to be the number one baby face of the company, simply isn’t over. As we wrote last week, maybe that has something to do with the fact that he constantly acts like a heel. But regardless, the man who 80,000 people are supposed to be behind on Sunday night isn’t over.

Did Roman Reigns even speak on this show? Did he say a single word? Nope. Outside of that video package, you did not hear Roman Reigns’ voice. Know why? Because he can’t cut a promo. He can’t cut a promo and his moveset makes Kevin Nash look like Rick Steamboat.

But he looks good. He has nice eyes. So he’s the top guy.

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I can see that Reigns isn’t connecting from my couch. How people who have done this for a living, and have been entrenched in the wrestling business their entire lives, can’t see that is beyond me.

On paper, most of these matches look pretty good. But in execution, the build has been lackluster for almost all of them.

WWE likes to call this the reality era, when in fact it’s anything but. The best storyline WWE has right now is whether or not Brock Lesnar is going to re-sign his WWE deal. That’s reality.

Triple H vs. Sting should also be a fun match to watch. It’s going to feel like you’re part of history. And maybe that needs to be the only selling point. But where’s the heat? Sting has barely been on television. It’s hard to build what is supposed to be a history-making event when one of the participants is barely heard from.

I’m sure that the Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt is going to be a great match. But we’ve seen Undertaker in this build less than we’ve seen Sting in his.

In the top three matches on the card, including six men, there is one full-time wrestler who is over with the crowd. Bray Wyatt. That’s it. That’s a problem.

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And that’s also why this build throughout WrestleMania season has felt like a total dud. It started flat when Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble and the crowd in Philadelphia farted on it, and it never recovered. This might be the first time in history where there has never really been a true WrestleMania season. The last three months have felt like any other three months throughout the calendar year.

That’s shown in the ratings as well. Raw and Smackdown are down significantly from past years’ during this same season. If ratings are down now, what are they going to be in May and June?

For the time being, I don’t think WWE cares. They have your money for WWE Network. They have their money from NBC Universal on the television deal. There is no incentive. WWE no longer has to earn business. They have it already.

With no competition, Vince McMahon can force Roman Reigns’ down his audience’s throat. WCW wasn’t a real competitor in 1993 either, and McMahon did the same thing with Lex Luger. It flopped.

In the late-90s, when McMahon was getting his tail kicked in by Eric Bischoff, he was forced to listen to the audience and adjust his booking. Do you think he wanted Steve Austin as his top guy? Probably not. But the crowd did, McMahon had his back against the wall and he needed to listen. He did and it provided one of the biggest boom periods in the history of the business.

He doesn’t have to listen to you anymore. He’s the only game in town. Not only that, but he already has your money.

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Pro wrestling began at the carnivals, where promoters would “work” the audience into thinking it was a real fight. They were fooling suckers. It’s 100 years later, and not much has changed. We’re the suckers.

Quick Strikes

1. It was a mess of a match, but WWE did a nice job featuring Ryback in that 10-man tag match early in the show. It was a total cluster and I’m sure Ryback is going to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, but this match featured Ryback well enough to make him look like a legit competitor.

2. Hulk Hogan made a surprise appearance, helping Snoop Dogg toss Curtis Axel from the ring. It was a fine segment for what it was. I like that they allowed Axel to get some rub with Hogan, even if he’s a 60-year-old man at this point. Axel is good, and should be on TV more. If this was a chance to get him out there, I’m fine with it.

Match Results

1. Dean Ambrose & R-Truth def. Luke Harper & Stardust

2. Ryback, Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder & The Prime Time Players def. The Miz, Damien Sandow, Adam Rose & The Ascension

3. Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury

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4. Nikki Bella [c] def. Paige in a Divas Title Match

5. Los Matadores def. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro & Natalya

6. Rusev def. Jack Swagger

7. Dolph Ziggler def. Daniel Bryan

The Finish

For a go-home show to WrestleMania, this was a total dud.

The Sting promo to open the show was pretty good, actually. The Bray Wyatt promo was really good as was the Paul Heyman promo. So out of the three hours, 11 minutes, about 18 minutes of it was definitely worth checking out.

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