For once, we may all be able to agree on something as of late: that the build up to this year’s WrestleMania has been weak at best. Perhaps not for all the matches within the card, but certainly the main event bout that features WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns. The ending of the March 23rd episode of Monday Night RAW was a disappointment to say the least, as fans at home watched Lesnar and Reigns ‘tug’ on the WWE title as the show closed. Is it the cynicism I carry as a mature, more informed fan? According to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and COO Triple H, kayfabe is dead; especially for the smarks on the internet who know every detail leading up to WWE’s flagship event.
Does having full knowledge of ‘what’s going to happen next’ weaken the momentum of WrestleMania 31? It has to some degree. One fine example of this is what took place this past edition of Monday Night RAW. Some sports entertainment fans were aware that “The Stinger” would be making history that night by opening Monday Night RAW for the first time as it was leaked out prior to the start of RAW on the web. While the segment was nicely done, and helped to further a great storyline between Triple H and Sting; the element of surprise was eliminated for a certain fan demographic who were already expecting Sting. However, nothing was released about Hulk Hogan being at RAW that night; and I for one, thoroughly enjoyed the segment –Snoop Dog’s tiny arms and all.
For many months now, anyone who follows the WWE online has been fully aware that the company has been planning to build up Reigns to be the next John Cena. Since Lesnar won the WWE title at the 2014 SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV), or perhaps even sooner than that, there has also been a general consensus that Lesanr’s contract would end the day after WrestleMania; and that the powers that be were moving forward with an angle where Reigns would be the superstar to knock “The Beast Incarnate” off his pedal stool at WrestleMania 31, after a dominate year-long run from Lesnar. The only shocking thing that has happened in recent months to deter me from thinking that Reigns would not win the WWE Championship on The Grandest Stage of them all was his emergency hernia surgery back in September 2014. It was only then that I thought there was a small chance that these blue print plans might be wiped away, simple because the superstar lost months of important build up time and main event opportunities.
My point is, how can any match or program be built up, when the fans already know the outcome? Now I do not doubt that Lesnar and Reigns can’t or won’t put on a good show come March 29th, I’m just questioning how fans can get excited about a match within these circumstances. If sports entertainment is like a continued story, wouldn’t you put the book down if you have already read the last page? While I find that Triple H’s program with Sting has unfolded pretty flawlessly, knowing Sting was going to be at the 2014 Survivor Series PPV did in fact down play his entrance (for me). However, I did not tune out entirely. The key was: I didn’t know what Sting would do at Survivor Series, why he was there and which match he would be a part of. The surprise factor was still there. And what has helped Sting and Triple H’s feud along is that suspense of why “The Stinger” has come to the WWE after all these years; a story that has not been told online, but left for an in-ring promo by “The Vigilante” himself. While we speculate that Sting will win at WrestleMania 31 (it just makes sense for the story and superstars moving forward), fans still really don’t know for a fact who will win the match. Not knowing is half the battle, and leaving the fans in suspense to see the story unfold is just how you create hype and promote a feud and match.
Now, the Reality Era isn’t something new to the WWE, fans and sports entertainment media. The company has been battling this issue for years, whether they knowingly leak certain information out to work over the internet savvy fans or word truly gets out from untrusting sources within. At the end of the day, they have a product to sell and they need to figure out how to work with the cards that they have been dealt. It’s clear, WWE Creative has dropped the ball when it comes to the build-up between Lesnar and Reigns, because really, there is no story there at all. Other than the fact that Roman Reigns wants to be WWE Champion (don’t all the superstars want to be champion?), there is really nothing for the fans to relate to. We may still want to continue reading the book, even after seeing the last page; but if the book is blank, what’s the point? Now Paul Heyman has worked hard with his promos and they have all been an incredible watch; but if there is no story to tell of why these two superstars want to battle in the ring, there’s no reason for fans to want to turn the page and watch. And while it’s a challenging job to for WWE Creative to have to cater between differing demographics and leaked information in this new Reality Era; the basics of telling a story is sports entertainment 101 – and this has simply been largely overlooked with the Lesnar/Reigns WrestleMania main event.
As a friendly reminder, WrestleNewz will have WrestleMania 31 play by play coverage this Sunday.