If you haven't seen the Fastlane PPV last night, or are holding off reading about WWE material until you've seen it, you might wanna bookmark this and come back later, because it's spoiler heavy. In the meantime, here's a picture of The New Day's ice cream bicycle to tide you over. (Which, let's be honest here, CM Punk should have gotten this in 2012.)
Last night after a grueling three hours, the main event of the show put WWE Universal Champion (and quite frankly, the only interesting thing happening on Raw these days) Kevin Owens up against returning WCW-made badass Bill Goldberg for the title. Owens got a lot of pops from the crowd by avoiding Goldberg and hanging outside of the ring. But after Chris Jericho came in for the distraction, it played out like the majority of Goldberg matches we've seen over the years, and it was over in less than a minute with Bill standing tall as champ. And with one fatal blow, WWE has killed any interest I had in watching Wrestlemania, or even watching their programming beyond must-see clips.
If you haven't been following along, a match between Goldberg and former UFC champ Brock Lesnar has been building for a Wrestlemania showdown since late last summer. Goldberg returned at Survivor Series, beat Lesnar in less than 90 seconds, and essentially wrote the rematch in six months there and then. When we got to this title match at Fastlane in the weirdest way possible, the assumption by many fans is that Lesnar would cost Goldberg the title (much like Goldberg did to him at No Way Out 2004) and add another layer to that onion, with Jericho coming out afterward to set up his match with Owens after being betrayed. Seems simple enough, right? Instead, by what we can only assume was the final say of Vince McMahon, the belt was thrown on Goldberg (to add some "sizzle" to their match), and the best heel on Raw just got beat like a chump heading into the biggest PPV of the year. Here's the thing: I don't want to watch a 39-year-old suspended UFC fighter battle a 50-year-old champion for a belt that's existed less than one year, and just lost whatever steam it had going for it headed into Orlando. This is the horrible pattern of booking we've seen from McMahon over the past few years when it comes to his company's biggest PPV.
Let's review for a second. Wrestlemania 30, the original plan was Batista (who was booed for winning the Royal Rumble) vs. Randy Orton, despite Daniel Bryan being white hot at the time. If not for CM Punk ditching the company that year, that's the main event he thought you all wanted to see. Wrestlemania 31, Roman Reigns (booed at his Rumble win) against Brock Lesnar (a part-timer). Apart from getting "Suplex City" posted on millions of shirts, the match was a snooze until Seth Rollins popped out and cashed in his MITB contract to take the title. Wrestlemania 32, Triple H comes out of semi-retirement (rather than making a new awesome heel from younger talent) to win the belt (after Rollins got injured and the crowd was still hating Reigns), only to drop it to Reigns in another predictable main event. And now, Wrestlemania 33, you're getting two part-time wrestlers going for a belt that has little meaning because someone thought it was a good idea to have the same match that failed 13 years earlier. Right now the Wrestlemania card only has one other match. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (Rumble winner, don't know why) vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship, a belt that actually has meaning to it. Plus the possibility of a currently reinjured Seth Rollins vs. the still semi-retired Triple H. Nothing else has been solidified with four weeks to go, and quite honestly, it doesn't matter because McMahon has effectively killed my interest.
This is a company that over the past five years has raided some of the best talents from every major promotion and brought them to the main roster or NXT. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Samoa Joe, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Austin Aries, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Hideo Itami, Kota Ibushi, Bobby Roode, Finn Bálor. Anyone could put together one of the best PPV events you've ever seen with that roster of poached talent on the men's side, and that's not even including the amazing talent in the women's division that doesn't seem to grow beyond Charlotte Flair playing hot potato with the Women's Championship. But instead, we're seeing the same combination of matches week after week while many of these amazing players just serve as cogs in the wheel. People were hoping for Kenny Omega to come over in January, who greatly criticized the company for this treatment and laziness of their current roster, but he chose to stay in New Japan. If he had come over to WWE, what the hell would he be doing right now that the others couldn't do?
WWE as a whole has grown stale, and there's plenty of wrestling commentary sites and video channels who could go into greater depth about all of this, so we're going to keep this simple. The old talent needs to go home and let the new talent have the ring. When Owens and Styles were champions on their respective brands, people were raving as they never thought they'd see the day either man was in the company, let alone be given the championship. Now with Goldberg holding one belt and Orton looking like the clear winner for the other belt in a month, it feels like McMahon and company just don't seem to get the message anymore that there's a growing fanbase who hate the direction they're going. Owens getting cheered for avoiding Goldberg and the lackluster pop for him winning the title should have been a message. But they really don't "listen to the audience," they listen to the audience's wallets. The only reason they keep doing this stuff is because fans keep forking over money for shows and dedicating five hours of time in a week to watching nothing of interest or significance happen. Everyone loves to talk about the Attitude Era, but they forget that the only reason that era happened was because fans were leaving their product, and they got desperate and tried new things. Right now, the company is "comfortable" and doesn't take bigger risks on new and younger talent like they should.
As for me… I'm done for a while. Beyond reading results and catching clips, I'm not wasting good money or four hours of my life on this current product. Nor am I going to dedicate time in my week to seeing two shows that keep having the same matches and fail to utilize talent like it's a rerun of last week. And I know I'm not alone! I know Balor is returning, and I know Nakamura will be debuting after Wrestlemania, and I know NXT is going to keep being a superior show—but things will never get better if you keep feeding the machine and making them feel like everything is okay. It's not okay, it's a waste. Just like watching Kevin Owens lose all his momentum was a waste. Just like watching two freelancers who only pop by 10 days a year is a waste. Just like 70% of the combined roster is going to waste. This is not a good show, and nothing will change until you stop telling them with your voice and start telling them with your money.