Is Wrestlemania Weekend Too Much Of A Good Thing?

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And now that we’ve paid the bills, let’s get to this week’s newsletter, where I’ll share my thoughts on the monster marathon session that was…

To say that Wrestlemania weekend has become an annual, nonstop marathon of wrestling events revolving around the biggest show of the year would be an understatement. For over a decade, Wrestlemania has attracted a swarm of independent companies who want to grab a piece of the fanbase that travels into town from all over the world. Ring of Honor were the pioneers, but before you know it, EVOLVE, CZW, 5 Dollar Wrestling, Highspots, PWS, and even Kaiju Big Battel (if you don’t know what that is, don’t ask) were piggybacking off of Wrestlemania to draw some of their biggest crowds of the year.

Once the WWE Network launched three years ago, WWE began to eat up more of the pie they were cooking by taking their own weekend’s worth of festivities (which they themselves had been doing for years) and turning them into Network programming. WWE had already been airing a portion of the annual Hall of Fame ceremony on the US Network, but are now able to air the event in its entirety on the Network.

Before long, NXT was added to the mix by scheduling NXT Takeover events for the night before Wrestlemania. Along with the Summerslam weekend edition of Takeover, this has now become one of NXT’s two biggest shows of the year. Wrestlemania weekend Takeover events now feature the blowoffs to long-running feuds, and frequently the final NXT appearances of stars who are about to get called up to the main roster to shake things up in the weeks after Wrestlemania.

On top of all that, even Wrestlemania’s PRESHOW has now become almost an entire event in its own right. Instead of the traditional 30 to 60 minute talking head discussions, the Wrestlemania preshow has now morphed into a two hour event featuring not only the panel discussions, but important matches that didn’t make Wrestlemania itself. This year’s preshow included the Cruiserweight Title match between Neville and Austin Aries, the Intercontinental Title match between Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin, and the 4th Annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Even with those three matches squeezed out to the preshow, Wrestlemania 33 itself was an over five hour long monster. It began with AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon at 7 PM Eastern, and didn’t conclude until the Undertaker left his hat, coat, and gloves in the ring before walking to the back at just shy of 12:15 AM. WWE wants to hoard as much of the paying fan’s attention as they can that weekend, and rightfully so: they’re the ones drawing everyone into town. But this year, they may have finally overstuffed the fans with just way too much content.

One of the complaints about the 2007-08 period of Ring of Honor was that the shows just ran too long. The action was great, and ROH shows were typically well-booked, but they were hitting so hard for so long that the fans were burnt out before the main event even got in the ring. This is a different time and a different company, but I have to be honest, I did so much coverage over Wrestlemania weekend that I was burnt out before Wrestlemania 33 proper even began.

I can’t recall if I mentioned this last week or not, but let me quickly recap how much coverage I did for PWInsider over Wrestlemania weekend. First, I spent four hours doing coverage of the Hall of Fame, which was essentially a recap of four straight hours of promos. Anyone who has ever done coverage of a wrestling show knows the promos are the most grueling part because, unlike miscellaneous armdrags and reversals, you have to capture every bit of what you’re watching.

Then on Saturday, I covered NXT Takeover: Orlando which, including the preshow, ran three hours. Sunday morning, I spent two hours doing an NXT Takeover postgame show that also included Hall of Fame talk. The Wrestlemania Kickoff Show began at 5 and ran until 7, then Wrestlemania ran from 7 until 12:15, and THEN I spent two hours doing the Wrestlemania postgame show. Even if you leave out the two hours I spent covering Impact on Thursday night, this added up to a whopping 18 hours of writing and talking about wrestling.

That’s a lot, but it wasn’t just because I was doing live coverage. I spoke to several people who said they got burnt out just WATCHING everything. Wrestlemania in particular went way, WAY too long at seven solid hours of WWE programming (if you include the Kickoff Show). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault WWE in the slightest for wanting to give fans the most content they can, but this year’s festivities got more than a little ridiculous.

I think the weekend would have been a lot more palatable if the did something to break Wrestlemania up, and to that end I have an idea I’ve thrown out there before that I’ll mention again. Since WWE has so many titles now between all their different brands, and since “lesser” champions like the Intercontinental or tag champs have often been pushed off of Wrestlemania to give the “marquee” matches more time, how about pulling all the matches from the Kickoff Show entirely, and running a “Champions’ Showcase” type event at some other point during the weekend?

The Champions’ Showcase could feature defenses of the Intercontinental, United States, Raw and Smackdown Tag Team, Cruiserweight, and UK Titles, and then the Andre battle royal could be the main event. By creating an entire event specifically for the champions, you won’t make titles seem expendable by not having them defended on Wrestlemania. It’ll also negate the stigma of wrestlers seeming like they were “demoted” to the Kickoff Show. Make this and Takeover a Saturday double header, and give it about 3-4 hours between shows to give the fans a chance to catch their breath.

By doing this, you can have Wrestlemania JUST be about the four “major” title (World, Universal, Raw & Smackdown Women’s) defenses, and also the marquee matches like Roman Reigns vs Undertaker and Cena/Nikki vs Miz/Maryse. This way, you can keep the show down to a manageable length, everyone gets something important to do over Wrestlemania weekend, and nobody looks like they’re being buried. Plus, the fans are still awake when the main event of Wrestlemania is headed to the ring. Everybody wins.

Whether WWE goes that route or not, the bottom line is that Wrestlemania was a grueling marathon to try and get through, and they need to change it up in order to not turn fans off from wanting to watch the whole thing. And hey, the idea is to enjoy the show, not treat it like a chore, right?