The Decline of WrestleMania

WrestleMania, said to be the grandest stage of them all. And once upon a time it was. But in modern day wrestling that statement would be questionable. Everything post attitude era has been on a steady slope down hill, but has this wrestling rut done the improbable and actually affected the biggest stage of wrestling? Has WrestleMania lost that essence that made it was it once was or are we as fans just not allowing ourselves to see it? Well, after much thinking I have come up with my views on the matter. So read on and I shall discuss where I stand on “The Decline of WrestleMania”.

WrestleMania X – IC Title Ladder Match, Razor Ramon/Shawn Michaels voted 1994 PWI Match of the Year

1985, the year WrestleMania was born. Vinnie Mac took the risk of producing a PPV, but while others before him failed, WrestleMania was a success. And 26 years on WrestleMania is still an annual tradition as we are set to head into WrestleMania XXVII. In 1986 the success of WrestleMania was repeated with WrestleMania II which was headlined by King Kong Bundy and Hulk Hogan in a steel cage. Then of course both previous WrestleMania’s were topped by WrestleMania III with Hulk Hogan headlining the show once again, this time against Andre the Giant. A rivalry which even saw the birth of the WWE’s second PPV in Survivor Series. And from there Summer Slam, Royal Rumble, and King of The Ring were also born. These PPV’s were then also used in building a rivalry for a match at WrestleMania. And this could have been something simple which got the ball rolling or something with a larger impact. For example Survivor Series 2003 saw Goldberg interrupt Brock Lesna’s interview, which got the ball rolling and then at the Royal Rumble the initial tension was drawn upon and used to actually start the build up to WrestleMania XX. Also at Survivor Series 2003 Kane buried his brother The Undertaker alive. The Undertaker then began tormenting Kane at the Royal Rumble which built into The Undertaker’s return at WrestleMania XX featuring his original gimmick and even being accompanied by Paul Bearer.

Or the initial match at WrestleMania could be built up further after the PPV and see a conclusion at Summer Slam, sticking with WrestleMania XX an example of this would be Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, they had their initial match at WrestleMania XX and then for five months there after match number two was built up. The point of this is that Royal Rumble, Summer Slam, and Survivor Series were classed as the big 4 (alongside WrestleMania), and all three PPV’s were used with the underlying motive of WrestleMania. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is WrestleMania V which saw Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage face one another for the WWF World Championship. The pair was first seen as a team from WrestleMania IV when Hulk Hogan helped fend off his WrestleMania III opponent Andre The Giant, which aided Randy Savage winning the WWF World Championship beating Ted Dibease. This then built into a tag team match at Summer Slam, and The Mega Powers team continued to maintain its momentum at Survivor Series, but then at the Royal Rumble where it’s every man for himself we got to see the team crumble with Hogan eliminating Savage. Hogan vs. Savage therefore had a year building up to WrestleMania V. But as we know the rivalry then continued with a tag team match at Summer Slam, where Hogan would team with WrestleMania IV opponent Ultimate Warrior.

WrestleMania III – 93,173 in attendance. The largest gathering for a pro wrestling event in the United States

So going from WrestleMania III to WrestleMania VI, all rivalries which featured Hulk Hogan flowed beautifully from one PPV to the next which lead to famous moment such as Hogan slamming Andre The Giant “over his head”, or the title for title match at WrestleMania VI. The WrestleMania legacy only then grew from there on out giving us other memorable moments such as TLC at WrestleMania X7, The Undertaker’s streak, HBK vs. Ramon in a ladder match at WrestleMania X, The Rock vs. Austin at 3 separate WrestleMania’s, and Randy Savage marrying Miss Elizabeth to name a few. Even the Ironman Match at WrestleMania XII featuring Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, which many would agree with me in saying that it was a terrible match due to the fact it didn’t live up to its gimmick, but yet that match is often listed near the top of greatest WrestleMania matches and/or moments. So even a match that in my opinion was a snooze fest can be held in such high regards as a great match due to the fact that it was on the WrestleMania stage. On any other event it would not be remembered with such awe. But the WrestleMania stage was always the one event where every detail had to be ten times grander then on any other event prior to it. For example Shawn Michaels entrance at WrestleMania XII where he came down on to the ring on a zip wire. Everything at WrestleMania had to be bigger and better then everything else before it.

I could sit here and reminisce about WrestleMania moments for hours on end as I have sat down and watched them time and again, like I’m sure many others have. But it seems that over the past few years WWE has lost their vision for WrestleMania. We all know that post attitude era has been a downwards slop for them as they’ve split their rosters into separate brands and then have them show up everywhere anyway, to doing brand separate PPV’s and then changing them back to joint PPV’s, or having 15 PPV’s in one year and thinking it was a good idea. WWE haven’t been able to make up their minds on what direction they wanted to take their company in. But at least through out this period WrestleMania stood tall as a memorable show. We had moments like The Undertaker’s return to his old gimmick at WrestleMania XX, the birth of Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 21, we even saw Ric Flair hang up his boots. Despite the poor shows WWE were producing throughout the year WrestleMania generally stood tall and remained a show that gave us something we would remember in years to come. But then in 2009 WrestleMania had it’s silver anniversary WrestleMania XXV! A WrestleMania that I had been looking forward to since WrestleMania XX. In my mind the silver anniversary of the original PPV would undoubtedly be one of the biggest WrestleMania’s in history.

WrestleMania III, IC Title Match, Steamboat/Savage, voted 1987 PWI Match of the Year

So when WrestleMania 24 was over, it was full speed a head to WrestleMania XXV. But watching WWE throughout the year would give you no clues to what would happen at such a historic event as mere weeks before the event was to take place they still hadn’t been able to make up their minds and decide on what matches should be booked. This had to have been the first time that they didn’t even have a rough guide in place prior to Survivor Series. And what we ended up with was a poor excuse for WrestleMania. HBK vs. The Undertaker may have been a match worth watching but beyond that match and few spots in other matches the PPV was a huge let down. It just lacked that essence that made WrestleMania stand out as the PPV giant in any wrestling company. As a result of this I didn’t even give WrestleMania 26 a thought; I just skipped over it and lost a lot of interest in WWE. And having followed nothing since about the summer of last year I have recently been looking at the rosters of WWE and the upcoming matches for WrestleMania XXVII, and once again it seems that they have gone down the route of WrestleMania XXV. Whilst this years WrestleMania might be a lot more organised and planned out then that of WrestleMania XXV. I still can’t really see much of an appeal in this upcoming WrestleMania event.

I mean, the main event features someone who hasn’t even been around for an entire year. He will infact be making his WrestleMania debut in the main event. It just seems too soon to put someone like Alberto Del Rio in the main event of what is meant to be the biggest PPV of the year. Then there is The Miz vs. John Cena, whilst The Miz is the only one that has had the big push in the past year or two that I’m actually willing to support and want to see stay in the main event, it seems that for WrestleMania he should have been up against a big profiled wrestler like The Undertaker. A title match should have been left until at least next year; instead he will likely be walked over by Cena and have to wait another three years before he gets the title again. Undertaker vs. Triple H yet again streak vs. career. Please for the love of god go back to the way it used to be and book The Undertaker in a rivalry not his streak! The only one that it’s even made sense against to be about the streak was Randy Orton due to the whole Legend Killer gimmick he had. But the last one to be booked against The Undertaker and actually look like he could win was Mark Henry at WrestleMania 22, whilst it didn’t seem likely there was still that doubt because he was booked to look like he could end the streak while not making the streak the focus.

WrestleMania III – Hulk Hogan body slams and pins Andre the Giant

Beyond that point it has only ever been about the streak and it has always been a case that The Undertaker was clearly going to win. But now Triple H is going to be involved in this little world which has been around HBK, The Undertaker, and Ric Flair of last few years. Move away from the streak and from the old guys’ careers and book The Undertaker against someone new who could use a push in the right direction like The Miz. Lawler vs. Cole (w/Swagger)… no! Just no! I don’t feel that this is a worthy match for Raw let alone WrestleMania. Whoever came up with this match should go out back and give themselves the same treatment as an injured horse, we would all be better off with out them. The idea that Triple H will be leaving is good, however it just means he is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year. And it will be much like Shawn Michaels where it’s just too soon to induct him after his retirement. So beyond The Rock being at WrestleMania I can’t really see anything thus far that makes WrestleMania XXVII stand out as a WrestleMania PPV. What has happened to the days when WrestleMania was the bee’s knees? If you were even given a match on the lower card part of WrestleMania it showed you were doing something right and could actually last in WWE. But now wrestlers are booked poorly in hype-lacking matches and the whole aroma of WrestleMania has disappeared.

WrestleMania has become an event based on routine rather then one which tops the previous year of wrestling with carefully planned out feuds which draws in an audience. WrestleMania is a shambles and a mere shadow of what it used to be. In business a product is said to have six stages of existence, these stages are:

- Development
- Introduction
- Growth
- Maturity
- Saturation
- Decline

 
Putting WrestleMania into this product life cycle the development would have been all the build up to the first ever WrestleMania in 1985. The introduction would have then been the date of the first ever WrestleMania. The growth would have then been between WrestleMania II and probably all the way up to WrestleMania X7. I would say the growth went on for that long because the whole atmosphere of WrestleMania was given a whole new element during the attitude era where a lot more spots were being shown and some of the biggest spots were broadcasted at WrestleMania X7. It is arguable that by this point WrestleMania would have already entered into maturity however I think it would have been more likely to occur after the attitude era as WWE on a whole seemed to shift into that point on a product life cycle, so I would therefore say that it’s only fair to say that WrestleMania entered the maturity stage at the same post attitude era point in time. This of course then means that as of WrestleMania X8, WrestleMania was into its maturity stage. For those unsure of what it means it is basically when the product has grown to its highest selling point but still has the ability to push for those few extra sales to raise its highest selling point but a small amount. I would say that WrestleMania was then pushed into saturation as of WrestleMania 21.

WrestleMania IV – Macho Man Randy Savage and Elizabeth post match celebration. Macho Man wins the 14 Man Tournament to capture the WWF Title.

The reason I say this is not because WrestleMania had started to lose its appeal by that point but because it was not as big as WrestleMania XX and I personally don’t think that any of the WrestleMania’s that are post WrestleMania XX have managed to capture the WrestleMania atmosphere that previous ones have all had. Saturation is the point in a products life where the sales aren’t growing, but they aren’t declining either. And I think that WrestleMania 21 was the start of that point where it wasn’t really adding to the WrestleMania legacy, but it wasn’t taking away from it either; it was just more or less keeping it at its peak in terms of legacy. With WrestleMania already being in saturation it would mean that the only stage left within its life cycle would be decline. And with the flop that was WrestleMania XXV I question whether or not WrestleMania has already hit the decline stage of the product life cycle. WrestleMania 26 may have been a step back into saturation for WrestleMania, but with WrestleMania XXVII currently looking like it could appear on any other PPV during the year I have to question whether WrestleMania could be hitting the decline period within its life. I mean the current WrestleMania card even looks questionable for Summer Slam.

And as of late every other WrestleMania seems to be lacking. WrestleMania 21, 23, and 25 were all short on a few matches to give it that initial appearance of being bigger then any other PPV throughout the year. Whilst at WrestleMania 22, 24, and 26 actually managed to fill the card. I have always thought that a WrestleMania card should be hitting double digits for the matches they schedule. Even if they book a short gimmick match to feature on the card to make up the amount of matches, if a WrestleMania event doesn’t have at least ten matches scheduled it always looks lacking and unfitting as a WrestleMania card. I would like to say the exception of that would have to be WrestleMania XIX, but then that had four main event matches, five lower card matches, four women in a bed, and a tag team title match which was pushed down to heat due to the overfilled card, so whilst there were technically only nine matches there was actually eleven even if one didn’t actually make it on to the actual card. But WrestleMania is meant to be the biggest event of the year and should always therefore last longer then other PPV’s, have more matches then other PPV’s, have more main event style matches (generally I would say three or four), have more hype and build up surrounding each match, and have each aspect done to perfection.

WrestleMania X – Bret Hart defeats Yokozuna to regain the WWF Title

If it’s not able to meet this criteria then I don’t think it is a fitting WrestleMania card. And thus far WrestleMania XXVII does not meet this criteria. Even the multiple main events seems like it would be lacking with The Undertaker vs. Triple H, The Miz vs. Cena, and Alberto Del Rio vs. Edge. Who would have guessed that could be a possible line up for WrestleMania XXVII back at WrestleMania 26? Two out of three matches don’t even seem like they should be main event style matches at WrestleMania, and they are the two with a major championship on the line. At least going into WrestleMania XIX it looked like Booker T was going to become a 6-time, 6-time, 6-time, 6-time, 6-time, 6-tiiiiime World Heavyweight Champion. Booker T vs. Triple H might not look like a main event match when up against Vince McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan, The Rock vs. Stone Cold, and Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesna. But Booker T looked like a serious competitor and the match had great build up and a lot of hype surrounding it. So Booker T vs. Triple H held its own as a World Championship match at WrestleMania. But the same can’t be said about that of the World Championship matches at this upcoming WrestleMania.

So with WrestleMania XXVII looking like it will be yet another lacking WrestleMania from the previous few years I have to question whether or not WrestleMania has begun to tip over into the decline stage of its life. I would personally say it is teetering on the edge at the moment and WrestleMania XXVII will either push it over the edge if it’s a flop, but if its not I think that WrestleMania will still only be teetering on the edge and by the time WrestleMania 30 is over and done with that WrestleMania will have actually fallen into decline. I imagine it will only be a slow decline at first but after a further five to ten years WrestleMania cards will just begin to blend into the background, and will become just like all the other PPV’s that get shown throughout the year. I would imagine that there would be some misguided attempt to try and build hype around WrestleMania as if it is still the same defining PPV that all others should be judged up against but in reality we will see it for its true worth as that distant cousin you never speak to but feel you should still invite them to your wedding because they are still family. If the cousin doesn’t turn up there’s no real sense of loss, and that’s much like what WrestleMania would become. There wouldn’t be any real anticipation for the next WrestleMania card but you’d probably still watch it just because.

WrestleMania XIII – Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin. Austin refuses to tap out to the sharp shooter, Austin passes out from the pain. Bret/Austin was voted 1997 PWI Feud of the Year

WrestleMania 46, the card itself would look disappointing and you wouldn’t care what happens one way or another. But it would still be around as WWE would do what they always tend to do and milk it out even after it has already died. Should it get to WrestleMania 50 you’d have to think they would put in that little bit extra effort as it’s the golden anniversary of WrestleMania, but if the silver anniversary was anything to go by it would only be a disappointment. So whilst I would say that WrestleMania is likely to see WrestleMania Gold, I doubt there would be much life left in it by that time and would all but be over by the diamond anniversary WrestleMania 60. So whilst WrestleMania may not have hit the decline period just yet, with the way the past few WrestleMania’s have gone I don’t think we are to far away from WrestleMania going down hill.

Back at WrestleMania X7 had you asked about WrestleMania 50, I would have to had to say that it will be a huge historic event and there is no doubt that WWE will make it to WrestleMania 50. But ten years on at WrestleMania XXVII if you ask about WrestleMania 50, I would have to say that I think that WWE will make it to WrestleMania 50, which would still be quite an historic achievement. But I would no longer be able to say that I think that it will such a huge event, and I would even have to admit they I do have doubts as to whether or not it can even make it to WrestleMania 50. This would mean in ten years time the future guarantees for WWE have started to become hazy and questionable. This truly is a sad thing and summarises the current state of wrestling. And I believe that we may now be fast approaching the point where as long as WrestleMania continues it could have the effect of hurting what previous WrestleMania’s have managed to achieve and only end up hurting the legacy of WrestleMania.

WrestleMania XVIII – Rock vs. Hogan, voted 2002 PWI Match of the Year

So has WrestleMania entered into decline? Simply, no. But if I were to expand on that answer then I would have to say that whilst WrestleMania might not of moved into the decline period as of yet, it soon will be. The glitz and the glamour might still be there, but the essence and owe is not. And that essence is the very soul of WrestleMania. And without that soul it’s just another lifeless body going from one day to the next with no real ambition or future. So WrestleMania might not have hit the decline period yet but then that’s because of the power the name still holds. But with recent lack-lustre WrestleMania’s the power behind the name will begin to fade and once that goes then WrestleMania will be hitting the decline period of its life. And when that does eventually happen it will be a sad day to be a wrestling fan.

Macho Man (proud member of OWW Genesis),
R. Eastwood.

  • dsizzle

    Looking at the confirmed matches, I cannot see a lot of interest in Del Rio vs Edge, I like the idea of having a virtual unknown win the rumble for a change but it should be a ‘rocky’ style rags to riches story and with a face not a heel. They have dragged the rock into the Cena v miz match to try and drum up interest, and i have to disagree that the Miz deserved a big push, neither his personality or wrestling style excite me. Cole vs Lawler i agree with you on though, thats trash, Lawler wins and him and Stone cold drink some beers together while cole and swagger get stunners (yawn) orton vs Punk will be a decent wrestling match but again who is interested in this rushed feud? Taker vs HHH will be a 30 minute momentum shifting match in which Taker wins and then dissapears until august.