Without question the biggest professional wrestling event on the pay per view (or special event) calendar is WrestleMania . Every year Wrestlemania showcases the finest WWE has to offer. The biggest storylines/feuds peak at the show, the talent goes out of their way to put on the best show possible and the production used is the best all year round. However when you take a much closer look at Wrestlemania you’ll find that, other than a select few, despite its aura, Wrestlemania doesn’t always have the best matches that you’ll see throughout the year. For every Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker bout there’s a Ryback vs Mark Henry. More and more over the years Wrestlemania seems to be the start of feuds and they tend to hit their creative high one month later at Extreme Rules/Backlash. This wasn’t always the case but specifically over the last decade he big stars come out for their one match at Wrestlemania and that usually leaves WWE high and dry for the post ‘Mania season. When looking at this years Extreme Rules super show you could argue it has more interest than Wrestlemania.
The main event of Extreme Rules this year is one of WWE’ greatest success stories of this decade The Shield taking on one of WWE’s former golden groups Evolution. This is without a doubt one of the best possible match ups for The Shield right now. It gives them the opportunity to rub shoulders with the elite of the promotion and if current developments are correct it looks like there may be a future higher card position down the line for Shield leader Roman Reigns. Contrast this high profile bout vs their Wrestlemania one which was taking on Kane and The New Age Outlaws. The Shield may have gone through the three veterans like a hot knife through butter in an extremely brief squash; however given Wrestlemania 30 was the biggest show of the year that was hardly ideal placement for them especially after coming off a fantastic match with The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber. Other than the John Cena’s and The Rock’s of the world it seems if you’re not in the main event position of Wrestlemania then down the line you can find yourself in a match that doesn’t really mean all that much. Going back to The Shield after Elimination Chamber, they had a tonne of momentum after putting on arguably one of the greatest performances of their careers and this only continued with a rematch on Raw. Going into Wrestlemania one of the highest profile groups in WWE had an extremely small role to play which seemed like such an injustice at the time. Now going in to Extreme Rules they face Evolution, another success story from back in 2005. This match has the most fan interest of any other bout on the card and arguably this is much more of an interesting match than The Undertaker defending the streak had against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania had.
When you take a look at previous years of the post Wrestlemania pay per view tradition you will find many more matches that held more interest than many at Wrestlemania itself. Wrestlemania 20 in 2004 featured The Rock’n’Sock Connection vs Evolution in a 3 on 2 handicap match. Whilst on any other show this would’ve been a big deal and felt like a special attraction, the main story of this bout was Mick Foley vs Randy Orton. A feud had been simmering between the two for months and whilst in the storyline it made sense for Mick to recruit a tag team partner and it gave The Rock a chance to appear on the show, you can’t help but feel disappointed especially when you see the one on one match that Mick Foley had at Backlash 2004 with Randy Orton. Foley retired in 2000 (officially) and Randy Orton was just starting to ascend the main event ranks as intercontinental champion. This was the match of the evening and beat out the majority of matches at Wrestlemania 20 as well. Other than the triple threat bout between Chris Benoit, Triple H and Shawn Michaels and maybe Chris Jericho vs Christian, this hardcore match beat out every other match on the show by a comfortable margin. This was a match that really solidified Randy Orton as a singles star and was a true reflection of how to put a performer over in the modern era. How strange that this wasn’t on the big show itself and had it been at Wrestlemania it arguably would’ve had an even stronger impact on Randy Orton’s career and that could have been the Wrestlemania moment Foley had always been looking for.
WrestleMania 28 featured The Rock vs John Cena and whilst you cannot fault this bouts’ place in history due to the incredible momentum and fan interest as a dream match it had going into the big show, the match itself is most certainly not going to be remembered as a fan classic. On Raw the next night a returning Brock Lesnar returned to a booming ovation to assault John Cena building to a match at Extreme Rules. WWE threw Lesnar right in there with their biggest star. Why? Because WWE knows that post Wrestlemania they have struggled to maintain interest in the current product and putting someone like Brock, who hadn’t wrestled in WWE since 2004 at the time, against their top star would in theory draw a big buy rate and maintain interest in the product in what is typically a dull period in WWE. Their match was one of the most incredible spectacles seen in WWE in an incredibly long time. The bout was a hybrid between MMA and wrestling and was an incredibly hard hitting bout which had both men banged up by the end bell. Other than The Undertaker-Triple H Hell in a Cell bout this match comfortably outperformed every match at Wrestlemania and again you’re left wondering why this is happening post Wrestlemania when realistically every year you’re building Wrestlemania up to be the biggest show of the year not Extreme Rules.
There are so many other examples that you can point to show Extreme Rules/Backlash has always really had the upper hand over Wrestlemania. Backlash 2000 is widely regarded as one of the best pay per views of the year and much better than Wrestlemania 16 with their main event of The Rock challenging Triple H for the WWE Championship. Backlash 2002 featured Kurt Angle vs Edge which was a far better use of the two talents and showed they could have a much better bout with each other instead of Kane and Booker T as they both had done at Wrestlemania 18. Backlash 2005 featured the return of Hulk Hogan to the ring teaming up with Shawn Michaels and whilst he had made an appearance at Wrestlemania it was planting the seeds of the rivalry itself not finishing it. Whilst it’s not always the right time to finish a feud at Wrestlemania in recent memory the show has been used far more as the start of the story than the end. Admittedly this years main story of Daniel Bryan finally winning the WWE World Heavyweight title peaked at Wrestlemania and has such strong legs left in it that it can easily be continued in the post ‘Mania season and onwards.
Given today’s climate you have to pay up to £15 per each show on Sky Sports Box Office unless your lucky enough to be one of the select few who’s found a way of getting the WWE network. Given how expensive it can be to get each monthly show fans are becoming more and more inclined to be more selective about what events they chose to buy and given that arguably as a whole Wrestlemania hasn’t delivered on a match to match basis in years where as Extreme Rules/Backlash has. How long will it be before fans en masse start paying more attention to the post Wrestlemania show because logically that’s where the more fun is to be had. Just take a look at how the post Wrestlemania Raw has done in recent years. It seems to be the in thing for the shows after Wrestlemania to be the more fun and to feature the best matches. The power to change this lies solely with the WWE as they are the one’s who have the ability to change the match outcomes and give people the results they want. The Undertaker losing the streak at this years Wrestlemania is an example of not giving the people what they want and this will be used as an example for years to come. It remains to be seen in the future as to what will happen but for here and now my money is on The Shield – Evolution match being one of the most if not the most entertaining matches on the show and largely better than most of the matches at Wrestlemania .
– by Matt Roberts | @matrob90