“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
This iconic, notable quotable from “The Dark Knight” is applicable in almost any situation that consists of a beloved entity overextending its welcome. Harvey Dent’s memorable words come to mind year after year as I try to enjoy WWE programming like I did when I was a growing up in the late ‘90s and 2000s.
As a savvy fan of pro wrestling, I’m frustrated about how the company seems poised to finally take a step forward into its often-touted “New Era,” only to take two major steps back into the past. This year’s WrestleMania did little to ease my concerns about today’s WWE product, as the spotlight was heavily placed on legends of the “Attitude” and “Ruthless Aggression” eras who need to move on.
With the exception of Shane McMahon — who had a phenomenal match against AJ Styles — seeing Goldberg and Randy Orton try to put forward main event-caliber bouts was a gruesome task. Goldberg and Orton — two veterans whom the crowd has slowly soured upon over the years — have been featured in what seems like an endless amount of high-profile matches. These stalwarts are, for the most part, perceived by several fans as old news and no longer capable of entertaining on the mic or in the ring.
Vince McMahon and company, however, appear to believe that putting these established stalwarts at the forefront of WrestleMania is best for business. It’s hard to argue with that reasoning, considering the brand and marketability of these superstars. But this logic omits the fact the mainstays of the past two decades can’t consistently deliver entertaining matches anymore, and having them headline is hurting the overall quality of the event, particularly the main-event matches.
The past few WrestleManias have been plagued with marquee bouts that have been hit and misses. The veterans’ nostalgia act has yielded average-at-best matches, leading the live audience to cheer very little or even completely boo the superstars in the ring. As a result, the main events have often been outshined by lower fixtures in the card, which normally consist of younger and exciting talent.
This year was no exception, as spectators appeared to have a difficult time accepting the fact that Roman Reigns was actually going up against the The Undertaker — who hasn’t delivered a memorable bout since 2013’s WrestleMania 29 — in the final match of the night. The Undertaker simply couldn’t go the distance this year. He looked winded, and it was painful to watch how time has eroded his body and ability in the ring. It also didn’t help that Reigns, the most despised good guy of the new generation, couldn’t hide The Undertakers weaknesses.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the The Undertaker and everything he’s done for this business. But he and the rest of the living legends of the previous eras seriously need to consider ending their illustrious in-ring careers. Their presence will only continue to hurt the development of today’s talented, up-and-coming superstars who prove themselves time and time again at every televised and non-televised event.
It was such a shame to see a majority of the younger members of the WWE roster relegated to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, a pre-show match that spectators care little for and that rarely results in a significant push for the winner.
But unless the veterans accept that they need to let go of the spotlight and pressure Vince McMahon to let the younger talent headline more often, WrestleMania will continue to be a painful stroll down memory lane. And that is not what’s best for business.
Contact Manny Flores at [email protected]