As you can tell by watching any WWE show these days (or by knowing your WWE calendar), it is WrestleMania season as we are less than a month away from the biggest show (Or is it shows now?) of the year. WWE knows how to make these things feel special once you get there, as there is really nothing like it in all of wrestling. That being said, there are more than a few things on the Road To WrestleMania that might leave you a bit confused and that was on full display this week.
The last few editions of Monday Night Raw have featured some version of one of the most annoying concepts in all of WWE: the path to WrestleMania. While WWE has the Road To WrestleMania, we also get to hear about wrestlers’ individual paths to the show, meaning they need a way to guarantee that they will have a spot on the WrestleMania card (er, cards). This is something that makes sense in theory, but there is one problem with the idea: it stops making any sense if you think about the concept for more than 2.4 seconds.
First of all, consider what WrestleMania has become over the last few years. While it has always been the undisputed biggest show of the year for WWE, it has become so increasingly bloated that it has expanded to two nights (which might have something to do with the show not feeling as special, but that’s another story for later).
The show has been on two nights for the last two editions, giving us a WrestleMania 36 with with 18 matches (counting the Kickoff Show) and 42 wrestlers and a WrestleMania 37 with 14 matches and 41 wrestlers. Those numbers are just wrestlers and do not include managers, any seconds, special non-wrestling guests, people just in segments or anything else outside of people wrestling a match. Also keep in mind that due to the pandemic, neither show included the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal or the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal.
For comparison’s sake, the last pre-pandemic show, which was held on one night, featured 16 matches with 90(!) wrestlers, with 47 of them coming from the two battle royals. So far, this year’s edition has 9 matches and 24 wrestlers announced. For the sake of argument, we will assume that neither battle royal will take place (though I would be surprised if that is the case) and about 48 wrestlers will be involved in matches. Counting all wrestlers save for people currently out of action, the main WWE roster includes about 75 names. This includes everyone from World Champions down to people like Shanky and Commander Azeez.
Without going into a full list of names, let’s assume that there are about 30 wrestlers who will not be having a match outside of a very last second change of plans or a battle royal taking place. That leaves you with about 45 wrestlers remaining for a card that is likely going to have about 16-18 matches over two nights. Considering some of the matches are going to be tag matches, that leaves a pretty razor thing margin left for putting together the WrestleMania card.
That made it a little bit annoying this week on Monday Night Raw when you had one wrestler after another talk about/be asked about their path to WrestleMania. Names such as Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, the Street Profits and Omos were all asked about how they could possibly make it to WrestleMania, which seemed to put them into an existential crisis. On the other hand, it left me rolling my eyes at how ridiculous of a story this was, plus an extra eye roll for how many times it was used throughout the night.
Anyone with any kind of knowledge of WrestleMania, either recent or in years past, knows that this does not make sense. It is trying to raise the stakes when there are no stakes to be raised, as you either know WrestleMania is going to have a ton of matches, or at least know that it is going to have more than the four matches a night that have already been announced. Forgive me for not buying that the show hyped up as the most important all year is going to have the same amount of action as Crown Jewel spread out over two nights. That isn’t a logical story, no matter how WWE is presenting it.
On top of that, it doesn’t follow the rules that WWE has created. Let’s take a look at some of the matches that have already been announced for WrestleMania. We have the Women’s Tag Team Title match with Queen Zelina and Carmella defending against Rhea Ripley/Liv Morgan and Sasha Banks/Naomi in a triple threat. How was that match announced? Naomi and Banks announced they were challenging and then Ripley and Morgan won a match to be added in. You have one team that just said they were in and then WWE just added in the others.
You also have AJ Styles vs. Edge. How was that made? Edge issued a challenge and Styles accepted it, with the match being made. The same is true with Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville, as WWE is now allowing people who aren’t even wrestlers onto the show. Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory is the same, as Vince McMahon just threw McAfee out there. Of the nine matches on the card, most of them were either just announced by WWE bosses or seemingly made by the wrestlers themselves.
So why can’t Rollins just decide he wants to face Finn Balor for the US Title? New Day can’t throw out a challenge to the Viking Raiders? Xia Li can’t put herself on the card against Sonya Deville? Of course those matches aren’t going to take place, but why can’t they? If wrestlers can just be thrown onto the card because they demand to be (even in the case of Naomi when a WWE executive has been working against her or in Zayn’s case where he claims everyone is out to get him) or because they seem to book their own matches, why can’t the rest of them?
Then there is the big news from this week, as Kevin Owens issued a challenge to Steve Austin to show up as a guest on the Kevin Owens Show. Austin has since accepted, giving Owens a path to the show. Not in a match mind you, but as part of a talking segment, which he said gave him a path to WrestleMania.
Unless he had some meeting with Adam Pearce or McMahon, Owens just announced that he is going to be on the show and happens to be bringing one of the biggest stars of all time. I see no reason why Aliyah isn’t going to challenge Trish Stratus to some arm wrestling to get onto the show. If Owens can do it, why not a fellow Canadian?
I understand what WWE is going for with the concept, but not only is it a bad story but it is something that is not following the company’s internal logic. There are all kinds of ways to get onto the WrestleMania card (or just the show in general) and WWE is going to need as many wrestlers as they can to fill in those spots.
Instead, we are supposed to believe that the new Raw Tag Team Champions aren’t going to need challengers or that some of these matches are going to go an hour and a half each. It doesn’t make sense even for WWE and that is saying a lot, as this company is not known for its logic. There are several different paths on the road, but this one is a big dead end.