Op-Ed: Hopeful for great things at WrestleMania

By: 
Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

I haven’t written about the WWE in several months. That’s because it’s been terrible. There are only so many columns I can write on how terrible it is before readers start getting bored and depressed.

But it does seem to be picking up again with a few new feuds. It’s also a new year, a time for a fresh start, and this new year kicks off with the perfect event for fresh starts: The Royal Rumble and the road to WrestleMania. Even the most disillusioned WWE fan (me) can’t help but be more than a little excited by that.

First, let’s look at where the WWE has been going wrong. The two most prominent examples of what the WWE is doing wrong are embodied by two wrestlers: Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.

Brock Lesnar defeated Bill Goldberg for the Universal Title at WrestleMania 33. Lesnar is incredible to watch in the ring, truly one of a kind. Not only is he huge, he’s a former MMA fighter and very good at it. He’s not hampered by his size, he moves as fast as a cruiserweight. His every muscle is an iron trap ready to lock in on an opponent’s neck and take them down. This wrestler is so impressive that it is impossible for any wrestler to face him without looking great afterward. Even wrestlers who get completely destroyed earn the respect from the fans simply for getting into the ring with him.

But Brock Lesnar doesn’t like to work. He’ll make a few appearances in the 30 days surrounding his rare title defenses, then that’s the last the fans see of him, or the Universal Title, for two or three months. As of WrestleMania 34, he will have held the Universal Title for a year. In addition to that, he’s already been a four-time WWE World Champion for a combined 579 days, he was chosen to end The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, and he is one of the WWE’s highest paid stars.

As for Reigns, well. Vince McMahon was convinced for years that he could force the fans to like Reigns. Reigns is highly marketable in India and to children, and since Cena is on the road to retirement, McMahon wanted a new boring invincible superman character. He put Reigns at the front of the line, sweeping aside the many, many more talented wrestlers that the fans truly loved. When McMahon finally realized his plan failed, he chose Reigns to end The Undertaker’s career at WrestleMania 33 in a move that can only be seen as revenge against every fan that ever booed him. These would be the same fans who’ve been watching and buying the pay per views for over 25 years.

The heat against Reigns was never more intense than right after WrestleMania 33. This was the level of rage that could have erupted into a riot.

These two need to be mentioned because, even almost a year ago before WrestleMania 33, wrestling insiders with a lot of credibility said Vince McMahon already planned for Roman Reigns to defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 for the Universal Title. Their prediction of Lesnar holding the Universal Title for all that time is likely to come true, unless they decide to take it off of him at the Royal Rumble. Vince McMahon’s donkey-like unwillingness to listen to fans and learn from his mistakes make it very possible that Reigns will win the Universal Title again.

And I have to mention another thing done horribly wrong: Bray Wyatt’s booking. His last match against Finn Balor, in which Bray was supposed to wrestle as Sister Abigail, was cancelled when he and two other superstars came down with bacterial meningitis.

I’m pretty sure this was God saving Bray Wyatt’s career.

So what are they doing right?

Two words: Braun Strowman.

Strowman is the only superstar in the WWE who looks like he’d stand a chance against Brock Lesnar in a real fight. It’s not just his size, but his power and the ease with which he moves. He’s not as agile as Lesnar, but he looks like a very convincing threat when these two are in the ring against each other.

Lesnar is also one of the few wrestlers to beat Roman Reigns clean. And by beat, Strowman destroyed Reigns. This was right after WrestleMania 33 and may signal that McMahon finally got the message.

The WWE has booked Reigns well since WrestleMania 33 also. He hasn’t been in the Universal Title picture since then. That, along with Reigns joining the reunified Shield team (which fans loved), has done much to get fans on his side again.

Another very good thing the WWE has done is pull the trigger on “Woken” Matt Hardy. The WWE tried for a year to get the “Broken” gimmick from TNA wrestling. They finally decided, forget it. Let’s do exactly the same thing he was doing in TNA and just call him Woken Matt Hardy instead. It’s working perfectly. And while I, personally, find Woken Matt Hardy to be very annoying, I’m in the minority on that one. Fans on Twitter are eating it up.

There is a problem with this, though. Hardy is in a feud against Bray Wyatt. Wyatt has had so many losses, even his dominating victory over Seth Rollins and his feud with Finn Balor (prior to the Sister Abigail thing) failed to get him back over with the fans. Wyatt desperately needs not just a win, but a win from a feud that captures the interest of the fans.

Hardy can handle a loss, so I really hope the WWE takes the new year as an opportunity to fix the mistakes they’ve made with Wyatt.

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