A fan recounts the night he attended WrestleMania, and how it changed the way he feels about the WWE.
By Luke Tuchscherer (@luketuchscherer)
WrestleMania put me off wrestling. I’m pretty certain that’s not the intent of “The Granddaddy Of Them All,” but sadly, that’s just what happened.
What should’ve felt like the accomplishment of a long-held dream – finally attending a live WrestleMania – was in actuality a complete letdown. More than that, it felt like the company had – to use a British term – completely taken the piss. As I write this, two months removed from the April 7th event, I haven’t watched wrestling since.
The show itself was seven and a half hours long when you factor in the pre-show. SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS. This of course didn’t include travelling from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn to Metlife Stadium, New Jersey – and it certainly didn’t include the hellish nightmare of a journey getting back home.
As an Englishman who moved to New York in autumn 2017, I’d never been able to catch a live WrestleMania before. I’m old enough to have attended Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Stadium (which boasted one of the greatest Intercontinental title matches ever), but WrestleMania has never been held outside of North America. So when it was announced that WrestleMania 35 would be taking place in the New York/New Jersey area, I couldn’t believe my luck.
My wife and I had already been to a Ring of Honor show at the legendary Hammerstein Ballroom in December 2017, and we’d been to NXT Takeover Brooklyn and Summerslam at the Barclays Center in 2018. All good shows. My wrestling fandom had never been higher.
I was a die-hard fan when I was a kid – Bret Hart and Mr Perfect were my favourites – and then I kind of aged out around 11 or 12. I missed the whole Attitude Era (strange, I know).
At university, my interest was revived by some of the great wrestling games that came out on the Playstation 2 in the early to mid-2000s. In 2006, Bret Hart, who had long been on the outs with the WWE, was finally inducted into their Hall of Fame. He had a three-disc career retrospective DVD put out called, predictably enough, The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. I bought that set and loved it.
I said I was die-hard when I was a kid, but to be honest, we didn’t have satellite TV when I was into the then-WWF, so outside of a handful of VHS tapes and a few live shows, I didn’t really watch all that much wrestling. I did have 30 wrestling figures though – just enough for a make-believe Royal Rumble – and a subscription to the magazine.
When Bret Hart returned to the WWE in 2010, that’s when I started tuning in, and I got hooked. It started as some sort of childhood nostalgia, but then the ins and outs of this fascinating business got me fully invested. Superstars like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan soon found their way into my top five of all-time list. My passion for the sport grew so much that I even attended wrestling school once, coached by AEW’s Jimmy Havoc, but that’s a story for another time. Needless to say, I threw up twice and couldn’t walk properly for a week afterwards.
When the (not inexpensive!) tickets to WrestleMania 35 went on sale, my wife and I bought a pair. We also got tickets to Axxess (an exhibition with some meet-and-greets, live matches etc) and the NXT Takeover show. Takeover New York was hands down the best wrestling event I’d ever been to, and one of the best shows I’d ever seen full stop. Axxess was good fun. So we went into WrestleMania thinking it was going to be a fitting end to a great weekend. How wrong we were.
Now, the individual matches weren’t the problem. I have no issue with the performances really, or anyone’s efforts. The men and women worked hard. In fact, the WWE Championship match, the women’s main event and a few others really delivered.
But seven and a half hours is just too damn long for a wrestling show. Bearing in mind that WrestleMania takes place on a Sunday, that the stadium is in the middle of f******g nowhere, that people have work the next day, that people have kids, this show had no business ending at half past midnight.
Not when people can’t get out of the stadium until 1am, when the transport links are completely inadequate and when people were stranded in the rain until nearly 5am.
Something has to give. The two battle royals, the US title match, the IC title match, the Roman Reigns/Drew McIntyre match could all have been stripped from the card. Then if the Triple H/Batista match had been shortened, and the bulk of the zany skits were cut, I think it would’ve been a decent event.
I know that the battle royals reward the superstars for their hard work over the year by letting them appear and get a nice bonus payday. All well and good. But there were loads of previous Wrestlemanias that didn’t have them, and they did just fine. Similarly, now that there are so many championships, not every title has to be defended at ‘Mania (that’s what Night of Champions was for).
All I can say is, for all the people who had to endure watching the show at home, just imagine being there.
Since the event, I’ve managed to watch about half of NXT Takeover XXV. It was a good show by all accounts, but I didn’t watch it live and therefore most of the results were spoiled for me on social media.
I simply haven’t been able to bring myself to watch anything else. My wife hasn’t watched anything either. The weekly shows have always been more of a slog than anything and the Money in the Bank PPV couldn’t compete with the Game of Thrones finale.
Today, I cut the cord. I just can’t see the point in paying my subscription fee to a company that one, thinks it can get away with treating its fans like it did on 7th April, and two, hasn’t put out a very interesting product since then to make amends. The 24/7 Title is pointless. The new “wild cards” are undermining the brand split. There aren’t any compelling feuds. Stomping Grounds at the end of the month hardly screams “must-see.”
This week’s Super Showdown doesn’t appeal either. Like The Greatest Royal Rumble and Crown Jewel before it, it’ll just be another glorified house show to bring money in – despite all the controversy surrounding these events.
I’m not the only one deserting WWE – after all, AEW is positively capitalising on it. People are dumping on the current product all over the internet. Everyone heard Jon Moxley on Chris Jericho’s podcast, with all that he had to say about his time with the company. Wrestling fans seem to think that WWE is stale and boring, and a lot of that blame rests on the shoulders of Vince McMahon (after all, NXT is usually pretty great, and that’s a show he has f***-all to do with).
I’m not saying I’ll never tune in again, but my desire to support the WWE’s product is completely dead at the moment. And all because of WrestleMania.