Could This Be The End Of A WrestleMania Era?
Could this be the last great WrestleMania, at least as far as we know them? It’s a question I hadn’t even pondered until a few hours ago, but when it hit me, it really made me think. First and foremost, I will toss a caveat out there-I completely understand that there will be fans who think the era of great WrestleMania PPV events has come and gone. I get it, and we can dive into that shortly. In the grand scheme though, with the pro wrestling landscape undergoing potentially seismic changes, it’s a question worth exploring. Could this be the end of a WrestleMania Era? It could be, but let’s get into why.
One of the biggest reasons? The All Elite Factor.
Honestly, this is probably the single biggest factor to consider. Already, it could be argued that they have influenced WWE thinking. The company is apparently taking a more aggressive approach in retaining young talent ahead of contract expiration, for example. AEW’s presence has also more than likely altered the Royal Rumble and general talent acquisitions. Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks, among others, were long thought to be top targets for WWE-they’ve gone and started AEW. Then the fledgling promotion has locked up, or is expected to lock up, names like Kenny Omega. And then there’s WWE mainstay Chris Jericho, who in January signed with All Elite. Names that WWE had hoped for, or whom they long had counted on, suddenly have a very viable new option to consider.
Then we have the notion that wrestlers won’t be re-signing with WWE when a contract expires, possibly to join All Elite. Dean Ambrose already gave his notice, meaning this year’s WrestleMania will be his last (until he returns down the road, as you have to figure he will). AJ Styles has been rumored to be an All Elite target too-he has plenty of history with many already under contract. Now there’s even a rumor that AEW has offered a major Superstar, with that Superstar possibly being Randy Orton. The implications for any and all of these moves is significant.
This also doesn’t even touch on the fringe talents who may or may not have asked for their releases. Maria and Mike Kanellis may have asked for their release. The Revival sure seems to have. Some of these talents don’t seem likely to play a big role in a WrestleMania match, but it wouldn’t be the first time WWE underutilized someone, only to see them jump ship and do well elsewhere (looking at you, Drew McIntyre).
So why could this WrestleMania be a swan song of sorts? Because it is entirely possible that this will be the last year WWE does not have a legitimate competitor. No other promotion has been able to truly rival the company since WCW was bought and shut down. I am not in any way knocking the various promotions who have done well for themselves-Ring of Honor chief among those. But the reality is, none really have the resources to try to compete with WWE. This doesn’t mean that All Elite plans to fill the void left when WCW closed, but they sure seem to have the ability to do so.
On top of the AEW threat, there is another harsh reality. Several WWE fixtures are seeing their careers end, or at least wind down. The Undertaker may or may not be done with the company-his last couple WrestleMania matches weren’t up to par for him either. John Cena is being involved less and less, as he is off making movies and doing exactly what he used to rip other guys for doing. Roman Reigns is on the shelf fighting Leukemia, so his availability is still hard to guess. Brock Lesnar seems to be in a constant state of contractual limbo-he was set to leave WWE in 2018, but he never really left. He wants back in with UFC, but it’s hard to ignore Vince McMahon offering bags of cash for limited appearances-even though it’s likely time to move on from The Beast. Any or all of these Superstars could be gone from the company in a year, or at least in vastly reduced rolls.
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Could you imagine, WrestleMania 36, April 2019: A WWE without AJ Styles, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, The Undertaker, Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose? Most of those names have figured prominently into some major WrestleMania matches from the recent past. It’s entirely possible (and in some cases, guaranteed) that we will not see any of these men work next year’s WrestleMania. Now, this does not mean WWE is devoid of talent. It does, however, mean that the headlining acts next year are likely to be much different than we’ve been used to. Seth Rollins should be a factor. Roman Reigns might be. Daniel Bryan figures to be, assuming his health plays nicely. This means we could have an opportunity for some new faces-Samoa Joe is long overdue for a big push, for example. You have Superstars like Kevin Owens returning from injury. A guy like The Miz who has long deserved another world championship run. The reborn Drew McIntyre could easily fill the monster heel void, with Braun Strowman being an x-factor. And then there’s the talent on the way in NXT, too-not that WWE would necessarily trust Adam Cole or Velveteen Dream to be in a top match on The Grandest Stage of them All a year from now.
So what does this all really mean? Trust me, I am not trying to be all doom and gloom. For one thing, I think the prospect of a competing product-even if we don’t get back to the Monday Night Wars-is a good thing. Competition keeps things fresh. It will keep Creative honest. That means giving fans a better product, out of fear we’d just shun one show for the new one. More importantly, I do feel as though this edition of WrestleMania truly could be the passing of a torch, from one era to the next. Some guys have been around a few years and are established stars (Rollins), but it may be time to truly trust them to run the whole show-meaning, it’s OK to lean on them to be the tentpole match on the biggest show of the year. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…there’s an incredibly hot women’s division now too, one that has become a juggernaut in it’s own right. WWE should be able to weather any Superstar losses It has coming, no matter who is leaving.
One thing seems sure to me though, at least looking at it now. Next Year’s WrestleMania card may have…probably will have…an entirely different complexion as compared to WrestleMania 35. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. Change can be scary. Change can be good. Either way, change is inevitable, and WWE seems to have a whole lot of change coming.