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Wrestling With My Thoughts: WrestleMania 31 booking ranges from puzzling to farce




WrestleMania will be, I’m sure, an interesting spectacle but the booking of some of the key matches ranges from puzzling to out-and-out farce.

Randy Orton returned at Fast Lane to a huge heroes reaction, which only built further on the Raw the night after. Seemingly for no other reason than to fill time, he was briefly once again aligned with the Authority and as such that eventual moment where he got his revenge on Seth Rollins really didn’t come across as it should have. The beat down went on for far too long, and though the RKO through the table got a decent reaction, the crowd on the whole wasn’t into it. Now, also, how is anyone supposed to be excited by the match from a storyline perspective when Randy Orton has already exacted a vicious revenge on Rollins? Purists will be looking forward to the in ring action, but is that really enough for a really high-profile WrestleMania match?

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Undertaker’s special effects, in allegedly a sports based television show I’m not sure there is any space for thunderbolts setting fire to a chair mid ring. Nonetheless, this match just doesn’t work on a number of levels. The Undertaker really has to win, I’d be hugely surprised if he isn’t used in a feature, perhaps retirement, match next year in Dallas and as such two losses on the trot can’t really happen. I don’t buy into the ‘working with someone gives you an automatic rub’ theory – did working with John Cena, and ultimately losing the feud to him, do much for Wyatt last year? No, it set him back by a long way.

Wyatt’s in ring work has largely not connected with the audience, perhaps because elements of his act are difficult to dislike. This sort of situation is always amplified in front of a large, mostly smart, crowd at WrestleMania and my big fear is Wyatt loses in a match that really does not get over at all.

It is questionable as to what physical state the Undertaker will be in come bell time, and another issue WWE is going to face is that a huge part of his act is his mysterious and dark entrance and this will be extremely difficult to stage in the circumstances in Santa Clara. The stadium is outdoors, the show starts at 4pm local time and the sunset won’t likely be until the main event entrances are over and done with. It may seem a minor point, but how will the Undertaker’s walk down the aisle look in bright sunlight blazing down on an ageing legend coming down the aisle in a big dark cloak?

The build to John Cena and Rusev has been more positive than negative so far, but the finish of that match is a similar scenario to Wyatt and Taker. While Cena certainly doesn’t need to win, and a loss won’t hurt him, I can’t imagine with WWE’s largely parity based booking that he won’t come away with the US Championship. A loss hurts Rusev, his ‘undefeated’ gimmick would be over and he really should be the one coming out of this feud victorious and moving up the card.

The Intercontinental ladder match I’m sure will be an enjoyable spot fest, however building the match around people stealing the championship belt is right on the side of farce. Why would anyone want to have someone else’s belt when they are not the champion themselves? It isn’t logical and doesn’t make sense. Time would have been far better spent rehabilitating the title with video packages and letting the competitors involved cut promos about the importance of the Championship.

Sting’s video package was solid content wise, but the moment I heard the voice (which was not Steve Borden’s) it took me completely out of things. Why on earth did WWE not use Sting himself for what was a heavily produced, scripted promo? It just makes no sense at all.

Moving onto the main event, this is another one where I fear crowd indifference could lead to a really disappointing finish to the biggest show of the year. The problems with Reigns in this role have been discussed at length, but what WWE really needs to do more of in the next couple of weeks (and Lesnar is not on Raw next Monday) is establish exactly which side of the face/heel divide Brock is on. Given his positive reactions at and since the Royal Rumble, he should absolutely be going into WrestleMania as the anti-authority babyface looking to hold onto the title and maybe even leave the company with it aka CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2012.

It is too late to try and get Reigns over as a strong babyface leading into the match, and any attempt to have Lesnar floor Reigns on the lead in Raw would surely only lead to a largely positive reaction. Defining Lesnar’s role further is the only way that WWE can save what is looking like a doomed main event and Championship match.

Near 30 year fan of Professional wrestling, I grew up watching World of Sport in the UK before getting into the WWF in 1990. Favourite performers of all time are Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage & Steve Austin. Highlights as a fan were being there live for Rock vs Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven, Hogan vs Rock at WrestleMania X8 & CM Punk vs the Rock at Royal Rumble '13.

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