WrestleMania 38 is just one week away and it doesn’t feel like Mania season at all. Maybe it’s because the roster has been overhauled over the last 2 years. Maybe it’s because it’s spread out over 2 nights and the card feels really, really light for 2 nights. Maybe it’s because—and this is no offense to the talent themselves—most of the roster isn’t over at all. Or maybe it’s because promotions like AEW have made their PPV events seem like major, can’t miss events, with the card stacked from top to bottom. WrestleMania 38 doesn’t feel that way at all.
A Thin Roster
Over the last 2 years, WWE has either released or been unable to resign well over 100 talents. Not just talents but main event level, well-established talents. Bryan Danielson headlined last year’s Mania and he’s gone. Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano were the heart and soul of NXT and are gone and the list just keeps going on and on.
So we’re in a position for WrestleMania 38 where we have not 1, not 2 but 3 celebrity matches. One celebrity match is fine—it’s WrestleMania—but having Johnny Knoxville, Logan Paul and Pat McAfee in 3 separate matches is absurd and is the best case in point that this roster is both thin and not over.
So if that’s the case, and it’s not like WWE is unaware that their roster is thin and not over, then can someone explain to me why Randy Orton and Riddle are stuck in a tag match instead of a marquee singles match? The expiration date for their team has long since passed. We’re at the point where Orton needs to be getting Riddle over and making him a top singles star. WWE might think he’s over but he’s not. He needs a blood feud with Orton to show that he’s more than a goofy character and that feud should be a featured attraction at WrestleMania 38.
Same with Nakamura. It’s obvious that Vince doesn’t see in him what LITERALLY everyone else does but when you have nobody over, you have to use the talent you have that people respond to. Nakamura could become a hot heel or face in one show and have a Mania match people care about. But no, he’s in a meaningless tag team title match with the Freddie Mercury lookalike that nobody will remember 6 months from now. But hey, at least Happy Corbin is in a featured match. Only WWE would book Drew McIntyre in a bathroom break match.
Not Using What You Have
Obviously injuries happened to talents such as Lashley and Big E, but what was WWE going to do with them had they been healthy? Before the Cody story took the internet by storm, the word was that Lashley and Seth were going to have a Mania match, which would’ve been…fine. Big E though? The man who lost the title and never got his fair shake after, despite the fact that fans love him? He was going to be in a meaningless 6 man, reuniting with The New Day vs Sheamus, Ridge Holland and some guy named Butch.
So you have a former champion that people love and you throw him in a meaningless 6 man. The simplest booking in the world would have been Big E vs. Lashley, in the battle of the 2 former champs who both wanted more respect. Or even The New Day in a three-way. People would’ve lost their minds if just the slightest amount of tension was teased. Booking isn’t hard but to WWE, it’s rocket science apparently.
Where Do We Go From Here
Does Ronda beat Charlotte for the title? It seems like she should for that big Mania moment. But where does the story go from there? Is Ronda at TV on a regular basis? Or do the other women have to hold down the fort and then continue to get denied the opportunities they deserve? Bianca has to beat Becky Lynch. That story at least writes itself.
But what about Lesnar and Roman? Traditional wrestling logic says Lesnar should leave with both belts but is he going to take both belts and leave for a few months? Why are both belts on the line to begin with? For the “moment”, that’s why. After Mania, WWE will shamelessly vacate one of the titles and that Mania main event will have a nice asterisk next to it for all of history. It will have been a “moment”, sure, but it doesn’t do anything to advance the story post-Mania. It just creates booking problems.
But honestly? Reigns should win. If WWE has any sense at all, Reigns will cleanly beat Brock and the era of dominance will continue. When Roman finally loses, it needs to be the next person they are going to strap the rocket to or a golden opportunity will have been wasted. If Bron Breaker, for example, is the one to beat Roman, he’s a made man in WWE. If Lesnar wins, who cares? He doesn’t need the rub. Pro wrestling is all about getting the next star over. WWE has been ignoring this very basic principle for more years than I care to count.
WrestleMania 38 will be a fine show. There will be people on Twitter who say it exceeded expectations and love certain matches. And that’s fine. But that’s all it will be—a moment, one show, with no long term impact. WWE can call themselves sports entertainment and not wrestling but entertainment, whether it’s a TV show or movie, is all about telling a story. A story that leads somewhere, that has a payoff. Which makes it no different than wrestling really. WWE is telling stories like there’s no tomorrow and they only want you, the audience to enjoy that single moment in time. Me, I want more from my entertainment and my wrestling.