Earlier today WWE announced that WrestleMania 29 was the highest-grossing event in the company’s history. And while WWE executives and stoc holders may be thrilled with the record-breaking revenue WrestleMania brought in, it is of little comfort to the scores of fans who were left underwhelmed by the event.
Yes, I am quite late in weighing in on the April 7 event, which I attended in person. And maybe that’s a good thing. Perspectives always benefit from the passage of time, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I now understand why many fans did not.
My first reaction when I read the litany of negative reviews was, “What were they expecting?” WrestleMania 29 went almost exactly as I thought it would: John Cena beat the Rock. The Undertaker’s streak remained intact. And, all-in-all, the night’s matches went about as I figured they would.
But maybe that’s just it. The problem isn’t that WWE gave fans what they expected; it’s that what fans expected and what they wanted were two different things.
As vehemently opposed as I am to the Vince Russo booking philosophy of unpredictability for unpredictability’s sake, WWE also can’t stubbornly tell the stories it wants to tell—as logical as they may be—if the fans simply don’t want to hear them.
I’ve often made the argument that, just like in all storytelling, the predictable outcome is often the right one. Good conquers evil, the guy gets the girl, and they all live happily ever after. And while that argument remains sound, there’s one thing I didn’t consider: It’s not enough to simply tell a story logically. Fans have to be interested in that story to begin with. And that’s where WWE has a big problem. Never was that more apparent than the night after WrestleMania, when 16,000 fans inside the IZOD Center absolutely refused to go along with the storylines that WWE was offering. They cheered passionately when Ziggler, a rulebreaker, dishonorably captured the World championship. They sang along with the theme music for Fandango, another bad guy. And they heckled supposed fan favorites Randy Orton and Sheamus throughout their match.
And then, of course, there’s WWE's biggest conundrum of all: the fact that its number-one hero, John Cena, gets the loudest boos every night.
Clearly, there’s an unrest among many WWE fans that has grown too big to simply ignore. This isn’t to say that WWE should acquiesce to short-sighted and unrealistic fantasy bookers whose ideal WrestleMania would have included Ziggler cashing in, Punk ending the Streak, and Cena turning heel.
But it is to say that WWE should do a better job of listening to its fans. I think most of those fans aren’t asking for a complete overhaul of WWE, but rather just a sincere effort to mix things up a bit.
In truth, WWE is doing a much better job at keeping its product fresh than it was just a few years ago, when Cena faced Randy Orton in nearly every WWE pay-per-view main event. Relatively new acts like The Shield and Ryback have been featured prominently, and there has been a steady stream of talent debuting on the major brands.
But WWE shouldn’t rest on its laurels, and shouldn’t dismiss the sentiments of its fans when they’re not going along with the storylines.
PWI Senior Editor