We’re into the big time of the year now and things have certainly hit the ground running. In this case we have so many major stories going on at once that I could easily do a full column about any of them. Therefore I’m going to combine them all into one and talk about three of them as all of them deserve at least a mention.
First up is the big one coming out of this week’s episode of “Monday Night Raw”: the return of Shane McMahon and the announcement that he’ll be facing the Undertaker inside the Cell for control of Monday Night Raw. Where do you even start here? First of all, there’s the obvious question of whether or not this match even happens. At the end of the day, Shane is 46 years old and hasn’t had a match in six years. I know he’s an athletic freak and can do things that a lot of full time wrestlers can’t do, but that’s a long layoff for anyone, let alone a career part-timer.
So does Shane fight at Wrestlemania? I really don’t think so, but there’s always that chance. This feels like the way a twist on the way John Cena was booked at “Hell in a Cell 2012”. The original story was Cena being in the main event against CM Punk if he was healthy but Ryback was there as a fallback option (and wound up getting the match). In this case, McMahon feels like the fallback option in case someone (probably Cena) isn’t able to get back in time for the match WWE really wants to do.
This however brings us to the question of “Shane McMahon is the best they can do?” Well in a way yeah he is. The roster is almost completely empty right now due to the insane amount of injuries as well as all the 50/50 booking nonsense that has gone on over the last several years. No one is in a position to move up into that spot (save for a few people) as the majority of the roster has been treated like just another person for so long that they can’t fight someone like Undertaker as a credible threat.
Therefore, the solution is to bring back someone who hasn’t been around in several years and is going to get a big reaction because he’s back. Unfortunately there’s more to building a match at “Wrestlemania XXXII” than a single pop and a few stipulations. The big question now is what happens once the Cell is locked and the bell rings.
McMahon was good in his time, but this is the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It took everything that Undertaker had to beat names such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H and CM Punk before he lost to Brock Lesnar. Those were all difficult matches and now I’m supposed to buy McMahon as a real threat to him? The story is good here but the match execution is missing something.
Overall though, I really can’t imagine that the match goes through. There are five episodes of “Monday Night Raw” left and I’d assume that something changes before then. Maybe McMahon gets a replacement for the match who wants to fight for the future of “Monday Night Raw” or maybe Undertaker isn’t happy with being turned into Vince McMahon’s henchman against his will. Either way, I’d be really surprised if the white haired McMahon comes out of retirement for the first time in six years for one of the biggest matches at one of the biggest shows ever.
Speaking of the big show coming up, there’s been a main event announced and the company seems to be in trouble. Just like last year, Roman Reigns is challenging for the WWE World Title and the fans really don’t seem to be thrilled with this. This past Monday night, WWE World Champion Triple H beat the tar out of Reigns and was cheered all the way to the end of the show.
No matter how WWE wants to look at it, Reigns really doesn’t seem to be connecting as a top star. You can argue for days about why he’s not working (for me it was the long rest he took during the 2016 Royal Rumble and then going to the back instead of either laying at ringside or getting back in and fighting) but the problem is simple. In less than six weeks, 100,000 people are going to be packed into AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and if Monday is any indication, Reigns is going to be as popular as a case of the measles.
So what does WWE do? That’s the big question and I really don’t think they have an answer to it. On “Monday Night Raw” they ran an injury angle with Triple H breaking Reigns’ nose. Earlier in the night Stephanie McMahon had implied that an injury would derail the main event, but for the life of me I can’t imagine they’re actually going to change things now as we’re too far into things.
On top of that, who else could they swap in for Reigns? Lesnar and Ambrose are busy, Undertaker wouldn’t make a ton of sense and as far as we know, Cena isn’t going to be able to be at the show. Triple H vs. Reigns is a story that has been built up for months now and it makes sense to run it, though I’m really not sure it’s going to work as the biggest match of the year.
The best thing WWE could do at the moment is have Reigns not talk. Instead, have him turn into the monster killing machine that he was at the end of “Tables Ladders and Chairs 2015” and the next night when he punched out Vince McMahon and won the WWE World Title (one of the two times he’s won the thing clean already before we’re supposed to get behind him winning it for a third time on a bigger stage). That’s the only time Reigns has really worked at this level and it’s because people had a reason to care.
At the moment, Reigns just isn’t that interesting. He doesn’t show the fire that he needs to be considered a top star and has been doing the same things over and over. That’s something that really needs to be emphasized: a lot of the problems Reigns has been having is due to the way WWE has pushed him as this unstoppable monster with almost no flaws and almost always fighting members of the League of Nations. He hasn’t been allowed to say anything interesting on the microphone and really doesn’t have a character.
Reigns can basically be summed up as “Samoan Tough Guy.” I need a lot more than that to get behind someone in the main event of the biggest show of the year. The problem is WWE doesn’t seem to see it the same way. Reigns is continuously out there as a guy who is being pushed because it was decided a long time ago that he was going to be given this push no matter what.
This brings us back to Triple H. While you may not be a fan of the guy, it’s really hard to argue that he hasn’t earned at least a good deal of his success (spare me the “he married the boss’ daughter line which never has held up). Triple H is a great heel and someone easy to hate. Fans like this are ready to cheer anyone who has done something well and in this case they’ll welcome one of the greatest heels and performers in general of all time with open arms.
The main event of “Wrestlemania XXXII” is in major trouble at the moment and it’s clear that something needs to be done. If the WWE just stands back and lets this match go through as it’s currently planned, we could be looking at one of the loudest negative reactions in the history of Wrestlemania. Reigns might not win (remember we were in the same place last year at this time) but if he does, it’s going to get ugly in a hurry.
Finally, on a much lighter note, we have the second inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Joining the headliner Sting as the next name was……the Godfather. Yes the Godfather, as in the former pimp who talked about rolling blunts after his stint as a voodoo priest and something like a mixed martial artist, is going to the Hall of Fame.
With this and some other names, it’s fairly clear that we’re running out of names for the Hall of Fame. I know this is said every single year but I didn’t quite buy it until I saw the graphic with Godfather and Sting standing together as the current Class of 2016. The problem boils down to one simple problem: there are too many inductees every year. WWE is fine on headliners for the future (Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Cena, Randy Orton, Vince McMahon, Triple H, Daniel Bryan and I could go on) but they’re really lacking on other names.
The whole point of having a class this big is to have a big event the night before Wrestlemania and you can only charge so much for the sake of three to four names a year. I know the WWE Hall of Fame has been a joke for years but we’re rapidly approaching the point where Koko B. Ware is going to be one of the more revered member of a given class instead of an outlier. Either shorten the list every year or find a new crop of wrestlers to induct because this is getting ridiculous.
We’re getting very close to Wrestlemania and it’s clear that there are a lot of changes coming. The top two matches are set but unless a few adjustments are made, it’s going to be a very long night in Texas. Of course it’s not too late to save the thing, but this could be the disaster that we’ve been waiting on for a long time.
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