WWE is at a crossroads, but it’s choosing the wrong path.
WrestleMania 35 was an opportunity for a fresh start: Kofi Kingston, after over a decade of toiling in the midcard and tag divisions, was WWE champion; Seth Rollins had low-blowed Brock Lesnar all the way back to the UFC; and the veterans who did star on the show-such as Batista and Kurt Angle-were retired soon afterward.
Now, though, we’re stuck with more of the same and more retreading of the same plot points.
Here are some tantalizing “what ifs” to ponder, as the WWE Universe reflects on what’s gone so wrong during the past two months.
The Universal Championship match between Lesnar and Rollins was the perfect way to start WrestleMania 35.
It was an acknowledgement that WWE had at long last moved past the Suplex City era, an increasingly one-note booking that elevated The Beast Incarnate to the detriment of the full-time, active roster.
With Rollins winning the title and Lesnar seemingly headed back to the UFC to fight Cormier, it appeared The Beast would be taking an extended break from WWE; the next time we saw him, he would be starting another chapter of his career.
None of that happened. Lesnar decided not to fight Cormier, and he ended up back in WWE, where he is again a main talking point even when he’s not physically on the show. All of Paul Heyman’s screaming bluster can’t save this.
Had The Beast rode off into the sunset, we’d be seeing a much different Rollins, engaged in a feud that every fan could care about.
Instead, no matter what beef The Architect has on Raw, all paths lead to Lesnar. His Money in the Bank win hangs over the universal champion like the sword of Damocles.
Which brings us to our next point…
Strictly in terms of compelling narrative, there was no reason for Lesnar to win the briefcase at Money in the Bank.
He can already get a title shot anytime he wants. His marquee status guarantees him visibility and makes him an eternal contender. The briefcase is redundant considering what he already is.
Had he not won at MITB, someone younger-and with more potential and promise-could have been elevated to main event status.
Andrade, Ricochet or even Finn Balor, who once held the universal championship, could have been a fun plot development. Instead, we’re back to same old same old, while scores of wrestlers sit backstage with nothing to do.
At this point, Lesnar having the briefcase is a bad idea even if he loses it and if he increases the viewership of Raw and Smackdown. WWE is spending too much time on him instead of planning for the future.
It’s a short-term gain for a long-term loss.
Sasha Banks has been off TV ever since WrestleMania 35, when she and Bayley dropped the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships to The IIconics.
The Boss is frustrated with her creative direction, and according Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Felix Upton of Ringside News), all negotiations have reached a stalemate. We may not see her wrestle again until after her WWE contract runs out.
However, had Banks stayed with the company, it’s almost certain Bayley would not be Smackdown women’s champion right now. The Boss’ absence freed her former tag team partner for her current singles push.
We would have gotten months more of The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection, and the two women would have been stuck as a tag team, chasing the titles for the next several months.
Even if it eventually ended in a Banks heel turn and the feud with Bayley we’ve wanted since 2015, the buildup would have been tedious.
The Wild Card Rule is a bad idea.
The rules of Vince McMahon’s new booking gimmick are indistinct and confusing, but the way it works in practice is that it has a homogenizing effect; the Raw and Smackdown rosters are now an indistinct mush, and the shows have both lost their identity.
How can SmackDown be the “land of opportunity,” when the same small group of wrestlers now make cameo appearances on each other’s shows and contend for each other’s belts? It can’t.
The last two months have proved an awkward truth: Becky Lynch is a better contender than a champion.
She’s hungrier, angrier and more competitive when she’s chasing people who have wronged her. These days, she has reverted back to her lovable underdog character from a couple years ago, and The Man shtick has been increasingly watered down.
Fans like Lynch when she’s not trying to directly appeal to them. What’s so badass about The Man is that she’s done with trying to be liked and just wants to kick ass.
It would have been booed viciously, but if Charlotte Flair had won at WrestleMania (maybe through nefarious means), it would have kept that hunger going for even longer.
The appeal was in the chase and not the destination, and the fans would have rallied behind Lynch even harder.