5 Reasons Why WWE Wrestlemania 31 Will Actually Be a Good Show
A sizable contingent of the online community expects WWE Wrestlemania 31 to be an all-time bad Mania. And I can kind of see why so many people feel that way.
For one, after being the cause célèbre coming out of last year’s event, Daniel Bryan isn’t in the main event this time around, even though WWE had the perfect story RIGHT THERE the entire time (Guy who never lost the title challenges unstoppable champion in David vs. Goliath clash, a confrontation between the two big stories coming out of WM 30). Instead, he’s being wasted in a ladder match for the Intercontinental title, a likely spotfest that could end up needlessly imperiling his well-being, considering he’s only just gotten back from an almost career-ending injury. Speaking of which: Dolph Ziggler, after a year of busting his ass and getting over at a level far above the babyface who’s actually main-eventing, is being relegated to that same throwaway ladder match for the Intercontinental title, a belt he’s already won and lost three times over the last six months alone. A belt that has pretty much served as a death knell for anyone unlucky enough to hold it.
Meanwhile, the three big matches at the show are populated by part-timers who aren’t going to be week-to-week characters on the show. Hell, it’s hard to know when or if we’ll ever see Sting or The Undertaker wrestle again after this, and even with Brock re-signing, it’s hard to imagine an increased number of dates will be in the bargain. And let’s say they are. Is that even going to mean anything to the quality of the in-ring action? Are any of those part-timer matches actually going to be any good? Sure, Taker’s match with Brock last year was subpar largely because he got concussed fairly early into the match. But Bray Wyatt, while a good “big man” brawler, isn’t exactly HBK or CM Punk. And while HHH is arguably one of the best workers of his generation, will he be able to get a good match out of Sting, a man who hasn’t seen in-ring action since his TNA run came to an end? Lastly, will the clash of styles between Brock and Reigns – two guys who admittedly can’t lead a match on their own, relying instead on far more experienced workers to call it in the ring – produce a surprisingly solid power match, or will it just be a trainwreck? It’s hard to know at this point, and so people are understandably concerned about just what kind of Wrestlemania they’ll be getting.
And yet, I don’t see why Wrestlemania 31 is so dreaded. Maybe expectations were set so high that this lineup is ultimately a letdown compared to what we could have gotten. But even then, I can’t imagine a scenario in which this will be worse than, or even as bad as, the truly bad Wrestlemanias like 9, 11 and 13. I’m actually quite looking forward to this show. Here are five reasons you should be too:
The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to RULE: Yes, it’s powerfully stupid to waste guys like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose in a throwaway title match for a belt that hasn’t meant a damn thing since the Jericho/Mysterio feud in 2009. But there’s a very real possibility that the Intercontinental championship ladder match could steal the show. In addition to those three stellar, world-class workers, you’ve got Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, and Luke Harper deepening the field. Hell, even R-Truth should be good for a comedy spot or two to help keeping things lively during the “Five guys lay around outside while two other guys do their spots in the ring” period. Is this the best possible use of guys like Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose and Rhodes? No. But I’d argue it’s not exactly a bad use for them either. At the very least, this match is cracking three and a half stars just by virtue of the talent in the ring alone. Factor in that it’s Wrestlemania and these are 7 guys with something to prove, and we could be looking at the match of the night.
Sting in a WWE ring for the first time ever: Okay, so he’s over the hill, sure. And yeah, this is happening about 14 years too late to really mean anything. But dammit, it’s STING! In WWE! Seriously, this Wrestlemania is the WM where hell froze over. Sting wrestling for Vince McMahon, the Macho Man going into the Hall of Fame, Brock Lesnar having a headlining, marquee match at a time where his contract status is once again in question (echoes of WM 20). This was a day I wasn’t sure would ever come, and although the story building the match has been virtually nonexistent up to this point, you can still trust that HHH is going to do everything he can to get it over in the ring. Even if the match stinks up the building, it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, since it’s not like Sting is going to have his first-ever WWE match every year.
Randy Orton and Seth Rollins could steal the show: The Intercontinental title ladder match has the most potential to be the show that everyone remembers best once the show ends, but I think Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins is a dark horse candidate to steal the show. Orton is back from a long hiatus, and arguably wants to prove he can still go at a main event level. Meanwhile, Rollins is absolutely on fire, in a way few up-and-coming stars have been in recent years. He busts his ass even when he’s in there with an average worker, whether it’s Roman Reigns or Ryback. When he’s in there with a worker at the top of his game, the man can produce fireworks. If WWE gives them enough time out there, they could easily hit four stars.
Brock Re-Signed: The match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns has a peculiar amount of casual interest for a match that a lot of fans didn’t really want in the first place. And most of it has very little to do with how the match will actually play out. Brock is a one-of-a-kind worker, but I’m not sure he’s capable of carrying a lesser worker to a great match. Similarly, Roman Reigns can keep up with a good worker, but I don’t think he can create a great match out of thin air unless he’s in there with a guy like Orton, Rollins, Ziggler or Bryan, so the issue of match quality is a real one. But the bigger question driving interest in this match is just who will leave as WWE champion? Roman Reigns has been built up for the past year for just this moment, so it’d be kind of crazy if WWE switched directions at the last minute. But WWE is at a crossroads with its fanbase, where the company is essentially the heel here. Sure, people liked Roman Reigns well enough before, but in the past several months, WWE has seemingly gone out of its way to turn Reigns heel while still presenting him as a babyface.
For one, Vince has been scripting him some godawful promos. The Jack and the Beanstalk and “sufferin’ succotash” promos would have been enough to curtail the rise of Steve Austin and The Rock, much less a guy who’s one-tenth as charismatic. But it got worse, since not only did they give him lousy promos, they put him in there with stiffs like Kane and the Big Show. And instead of steamrolling them, WWE had Reigns go 50-50 with those guys. Hell, he even LOST to the Big Show on Raw (and Seth Rollins too!). Reigns is a guy who got over as the silent badass who went out there, kicked ass, and left without a word. Nobody wanted him to crack silly jokes, or have competitive matches with Kane and The Big Show, two guys who should have retired back when I was still in high school. Reigns would have been far more over had they just booked him the way he’d been booked in the Shield. Have him kick ass, rarely speak, and generally serve as a destructive, unbeatable one-man force, so that when he came head-to-head with Brock, it literally felt like “the irresistible force meeting the immovable object,” to borrow Gorilla Monsoon’s turn of phrase.
But they didn’t. They booked him like a midcard goof, and then they brought back Daniel Bryan way too early. It would have been fine to bring back Bryan for the Rumble if the plan was to actually have him win it, but if that was never the plan, then all WWE was doing was instilling the fanbase with false hope that Bryan would main event Mania for a second year in a row. When that didn’t come to pass, fans were pretty much going to boo that Rumble into oblivion even if it hadn’t been the worst Royal Rumble of the modern era. So what we’re left with is a main event babyface that fans don’t seem to want in that position vs. a guy who’s actually been booked the way Reigns should have been since the day the Shield broke up. Brock kicks ass, takes names, and doesn’t waste a ton of time talking about it either. He just goes out there and gets it done. There’s a mystique about him, and while he’s presented as a mercenary who doesn’t care about the business or the fans, a sizable contingent of the audience wants to see Lesnar take Reigns apart.
And now that Brock has re-signed with WWE for a three-year deal, there’s suddenly intrigue on who’s actually going to win the match. Had Brock failed to come to terms with a deal, Reigns would be winning this, without question. But now there’s doubt. And doubt just might save this match. Does WWE pull the trigger on their golden boy and risk fan revolt? Or do they keep the title on Lesnar and continue having a champion who only has limited dates on his contract? Will Seth Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase? Reigns could lose and Rollins could cash-in afterwards, allowing WWE to anoint a new guy in the main event of WM, one that crowds might be more willing to accept, since he hasn’t been pushed down their throats in the same way Reigns has been. Besides, Rollins is arguably a better heel than Brock, simply for how he’s able to get crowds to boo him (in an era where it’s cool to cheer the heels, that’s huge). If WWE wanted, they could have Reigns beat Rollins for the title down the line, since that will presumably be a match where crowds will boo Reigns’s opponent instead of Reigns himself. If nothing else, I can’t remember the last time a Wrestlemania main event title match had this level of intrigue over who will be the champion coming out of the big show (because, really, was there any chance Bryan wasn’t winning last year?). Much like with HHH/Sting, even if the match sucks, it’ll be the kind of spectacle you don’t always get to see on WWE’s biggest show of the year. Hell, the fifth and final reason this will be a show worth getting excited for is the reason Brock/Reigns is a match I’m stoked to see…
The atmosphere is going to be ELECTRIC: Maybe fans won’t be thrilled about the coronation of Roman Reigns, but I can pretty much guarantee that those fans are going to make themselves heard. Say what you will about how Wrestlemania crowds are far more interested in getting themselves over than just enjoying the show, but those smark-filled Wrestlemania crowds create an atmosphere that you don’t get at any other time of the year, except for the Raw after Mania, and your occasional show in hot markets like Chicago. Maybe the fans will be openly hostile towards the main event, or maybe they’ll be surprisingly accepting. But it’s seriously unlikely that the crowd is going to be sitting on its hands the whole night. And that kind of electric atmosphere can elevate a lesser show. Hell, the worst Wrestlemanias of all-time might have benefited a lot from a hot crowd, but you didn’t really have these sorts of crowds for Wrestlemania 2, 9, 11 or 13. But we have these sorts of crowds now, and a hot crowd could potentially save a show by offering an unforgettable atmosphere, for better or for worse.
So there you have it. This year’s Wrestlemania is likely to be well-worth checking out, considering that we know the ladder match, Orton/Rollins, and probably Cena/Rusev will be good. And HHH/Sting, Brock/Reigns and even Taker/Wyatt should provide an interesting spectacle. And while the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale isn’t going to steal the show or anything, there should be some interesting spots, whether it’s Kofi Kingston defying elimination once again, or it’s The Miz and Damien Mizdow imploding in the ring. Throw in the one-of-a-kind crowd atmosphere, and while it might not be an all-time great show, Wrestlemania 31 should be worth the $9.99 Network subscription.