It doesn’t feel like WrestleMania is less than a month away. The excitement, the tension, the debates, even the mainstream crossover publicity is nearly non-existent. The usual Post-Royal Rumble hype hasn’t just been extinguished by the asinine PPV known as Fastlane or the limp house show known as Road Block that WWE tried to pass off as Must-See TV… the problem is that Monday Night Raw has slowly devolved into an inconsistent, wheel-spinning, wet towel of a show. Sports Entertainment is in dire need of some old school Pro-Wrestling! Remember the build up to HBK Vs Bret Hart? The training montage, the UFC like feel of anything can happen in that 60-minute iron man match? Think back to the Iron Mike Tyson press conference where it wasn’t Mike that stole the show but Steve Austin, who made you forget all rumors that this was going to be Shawn’s last match and truly buy into that this was going to be a F**king war! That's what WrestleMania felt like... but what does it feel like today? Just another PPV and that's pathetic.
I’m not going to cry about yesteryear because there will never be a Mega Powers Exploding type storyline that’s given time to breath, but I will cry about the missed opportunities to work within the limitations of the ADD booking of the current WWE product. If NXT can build Sasha Vs. Bayley using the same old-school underdog, Good Vs. Evil structure and make their match that much better for it, why can’t WWE proper, build any of the current WrestleMania Matches in that vein?
The Problem: No One is Over. With the exception of The New Day’s comedy routine and Brock Lesner’s shoot like performances, there is no one on the current roster that is worth paying to see. The WWE brand is what the LA Lakers will be next season, you go for the love of the brand because none of the players really stand out anymore. The Rock is cutting promos that he’s going to show up and that’s their game plan to get fans to buy tickets. Think about how lazy that is… We’ve gone from building matches for the World Title to simply hoping people show up to see the Rock cut a promo and Rock Bottom some random wrestler for old time’s sake. Shane McMahon was brought back in, and while I love Shane and what this storyline could become, it shouldn’t have to come down to yet another “Attitude Era” talent being dug up to draw money. But it has… why? Because No One is Over!
The Solution: The Soul of Austin 316. Austin embodies everything that was right with the WWF, and I'm not talking middle fingers and cursing-- I'm talking about fearless performances that made him feel larger than life and made his opponents feel like legit threats. In the next few weeks, I think there should be a push to take the gloves off, onscreen and backstage. I’m not the authority to tell Vince McMahon what to do, but my suggestion is to give every single man and woman on the roster creative freedom to work within the bullet points of where they need to be by Mania. This means “Austin Rules” you aren’t your character, you are you. Go out there and talk the way you want and work the way you want to, and instead of looking back to Vince like “Please don’t fire me,” it should be a case of “Top my segment!” I don’t care if you’re Stardust with 3 minutes or Ryback with 4 minutes, you have to get yourself OVER!
Keven Owens and Charlotte are two of the best heels right now, but they’re in a box. They both can benefit from not being micromanaged. The larger problem isn’t the main card, but the main event. Triple H should be that Owens type heel, but clearly he won’t be around in-ring after Mania so why would he go hard to get himself over? We have a power vacuum where there is no real power! At Road Block, Dean Ambrose and Triple H title match had less energy and excitement than the NXT tag title match because the fans weren't invested. Go back, listen to the crowd. It wasn’t until Ambrose pulled out the stunt man spots that the crowd woke up with the arbitrary THIS IS AWESOME (was it really or do you like to chant that?) pops. Why that reaction? Because Triple H is ineffective as an in-ring heel. He could turn it up, but he won’t because the company mandate is #MAKEROMANLOOKSTRONG going into Mania. So we had to suffer through a by the books tune up match with he and Ambrose while Roman rests up.
The Austin Rules would mean that Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler (who is a much better heel on Total Divas then he’s ever been on Raw or Smackdown), The Miz, even The New Day would have the freedom to go out there and color outside the lines and piss people off without fear of failing. This would lead to CM Punk level excitement. Remember him? The last guy to actually shoot from the hip? Remember what happened after he did that? He became a legend so much so that Toronto at Road Block chanted for him more than they chanted form Dean Ambrose. Since then no one has followed suite. WrestleMania needs to feel important, and you don’t do that with Roman Reigns and Triple H brawling on the next three Raws… that doesn’t happen with Sasha and Becky playing the Odd Couple routine… that doesn’t happen with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens going through the same motions Ziggler and Owns just went through… that doesn’t happen with Michael Cole reminding us “this match means everything,” because it’s BS, these matches don’t mean shit!
The WWE can take a page from the UFC’s book. Where’s the Nate Diaz rebel on the roster? Where’s the Connor McGregor talker? Those guys are capable of stepping their game up. They just need the greenlight from Vince to put it all on the line. Will WrestleMania suck? It doesn’t matter, it will make its money. But unless they can capture the magic of the Attitude Era in these next few weeks, Dallas could be the last time fans of this number ever buy into a product that has gone this stale. And that’s the bottom line…
Be back here in a few weeks when we break down the official WrestleMania Card.