Major results and fallout from an exhaustive WrestleMania wrap-around weekend, conjecture about where the company might be heading next with some top stars leaving and others returning, as well as rumors about a significant television deal for the upstart AEW promotion are just three of many topics to be explored this week In This Corner.
WrestleMania 35 last Sunday was a huge financial success, offered numerous storyline happy endings and put some new faces in the driver seats as WWE rolled right back into high gear with Raw and Smackdown on Monday and Tuesday and probably has Creative going with oh so little sleep as it tries to sort out the logistics for tomorrow night and Tuesday night’s Superstar Shake-up. For as many positives as there were with Mania week, there were also quite a number of issues that prevented the festivities from being the unqualified success story everyone would prefer.
WrestleMania is simply too long. This year it lasted seven and a half hours with the pre-show starting at 5 o’clock and the main event ending about 12:30 am. The idea of getting everybody in the company a WrestleMania moment on the show is commendable, but if that is the goal, matches have to be shortened — maybe not quite as short as the Mysterio-Samoa Joe bout, but shorter than the Batista-Triple H match that ought to have been kept short for several reasons. It was a grudge match brawl, not a Brisco-Funk wrestling classic. Hunter is a part-timer coming off of major surgery and Batista is now a full-time actor who wanted one last hurrah on the big stage with his friend. Neither are young men anymore. Bruno Sammartino feud-ending gimmick bouts in cages (think Larry Zybzsko, Superstar Graham or Stan Hansen) or Texas Death affairs (Bobby Duncum, Spiros Arion, or Ken Patera) drew sellout crowds and were non-stop action generally kept in a 7-15 minute range most of the time.
Real fights don’t last real long and the Rollins win over Lesnar to start the main show was current proof of the assertion. The bout got over big despite being short, although it had the distinct benefit of an exuberantly fresh crowd that the women’s three-way did not have at midnight in another match that should have been a little shorter for everyone’s sake. There is also way too much filler with video recaps, as well done as they are. Fans know the stories behind the matches. We certainly did not need the Hulk Hogan posing. WWE does limit the intros on the battle royals, which actually deprives some folks of their Mania moment, but there is no easy fix there. The Kofi-Bryan match was probably the best and most over match on the card because of the story they were telling and overall execution, but it too, could have been shaved a bit time-wise without costing any drama.
Due to Mania going so late, thousands of disgruntled fans had to wait in long lines in the rain for limited New Jersey transportation and Uber services with horror stories of some fans not getting back to their home or to their hotels until well into the wee hours of Monday, a school/work day for those not there on vacation.
Aside from Lynch winning both women’s titles, costly for Rousey as she reportedly broke her hand in the match, Lesnar knocking off Lesnar and Kofi upending Bryan for the top men’s belts, Ryder and Hawkins wrestling the tag straps from the Revival, the Iconics grabbing the Raw women’s tag team championship, the Demon smoking Lashley for the IC strap and Neese wrestling the cruiserweight crown from Murphy, Joe held onto the U.S. belt and the Usos did the same with the Smackdown tag titles, although they subsequently dropped them at Smackdown on Tuesday to the Hardys. Carmella and Strowman captured battle royal honors. Shane took the measure of Miz and Styles defeated Orton in bouts that could have both been shortened. Corbin beat Angle, but it does not appear to matter in terms of getting the Baron any traction. Cena returned doing a preposterous rapping Babe Ruth gimmick to punk out Elias in another segment we could easily have done without.
Monday at Raw, the Undertaker showed up to harass Elias. I predict that won’t help either, as once the bell rings, people just don’t care about the guitar player actually wrestling. They did a Kofi celebration with his family and New Day and teased a unification match against Rollins that resulted in an unpopular disqualification finish due to interference by the Bar that morphed into a tag team match to close the show. There was a post-Raw Shield sendoff for Ambrose. Lars Anderson showed up at Smackdown and attacked the Hardys after their tag team title win, but quite honestly did not look as promising in terms of getting over as many in the main office would likely have been hoping.
Sami Zayn returned at TV from double shoulder surgery that had him on the shelf for several months and turned heel on the crowd after losing cleanly to Finn Balor. With Lesnar toying to go to UFC again, Ambrose heading for parts unknown, Rousey off for the foreseeable future (Lacy Evans appears to be the next direction for Lynch), Sasha Banks reportedly off to wrap her head around coming back or not after dropping the tag belts at Mania, Nia Jax set for double knee surgery and Big E needing meniscus work, Styles hurt from his bout with Orton, there are clearly lots of changes coming for WWE top spots. Kevin Owens seems ready to regain a spot near the top of the cards. Batista officially announced his wrestling retirement as he goes back to Hollywood. The draft or shake-up tomorrow night and Tuesday on Smackdown will be interesting, but something needs to get going for the company coming out of Mania season as television ratings have been slipping and they are just months away from heading to Fox with Smackdown and football returning to compete with Raw.
Meanwhile, AEW is reportedly negotiating for a deal with Turner to bring pro wrestling back to either TNT or TBS, where it had a long run, including during the famous wars with WWE in the 1990s. TBS would seem like a better spot if they want Tuesday nights because that is typically NBA coverage on TNT. There is also said to be another major suitor in the effort to land a critical component to the new promotion, a major television outlet, in time for a fall season.