WWE has a WrestleMania problem. There’s more than one way to fix it, but sacrifices will have to be made.
For the past few years WWE’s signature pay-per-view has drawn complaints about being too long and packed with too many matches, making it harder for the audience — especially the live crowd — to stay connected without getting fatigued. Early this month, New Japan Pro-Wrestling held Wrestle Kingdom 14 — the promotion’s equivalent of WrestleMania — successfully over two days and WWE officials have reportedly discussed the feasibility of a two-day WrestleMania.
Last year’s WrestleMania ran for seven-plus hours, if you include the two-hour preshow, with a card whose main event went on past midnight at MetLife Stadium. The past three main cards have lasted longer than five hours and WrestleMania 33 went 4 hours, 49 minutes
As we get back on the Road to WrestleMania 36 with Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view, it’s time to look at how to improve WWE’s biggest show of the year. WrestleMania 35 had 16 matches and WrestleMania 34 had 15. WrestleMania 31, the last to go just four hours, had nine.
There are two solutions to this problem. Keep it one day and cut the number of matches or go to a two-day WrestleMania by sacrificing NXT TakeOver and incorporating that brand’s talent into the dual shows to pad the cards.
One of the issues with WrestleMania is WWE currently has 10 champions if you include the 24/7 title. All of them need to get a place at WrestleMania. So that’s eight to 10 matches/segments on your card right out of the gate. A few have been squash matches at times, and both women’s championships were involved in the main event last year, so there are ways to work around it. But it’s still too many champions and matches.
So if WWE plans on keeping WrestleMania a one-day event, let’s consolidate or lose three belts and let certain champions appear on both Raw and SmackDown.
Though it’s something WWE may not go for from a weekly TV and talent schedule standpoint, here’s the easy way to do it: Have one WWE champion, one women’s champion and one pair of tag team champions. Your titles now mean immensely more, especially the tag belts, which have been hot potatoed around so much at times it is hard to keep track of which teams holds them.
Each brand will still have the U.S. and Intercontinental champion to anchor them and four floating champions. While it could create problems with who works what brand’s house shows and days off for talent, getting WrestleMania down to 12 matches at most, creating unpredictability on your flagship shows and raising the prestige of your championships should be worth the hassle.
If that’s not a realistic solution and WWE wants to expand WrestleMania to a second day to test the financial gain, then they have to lose NXT TakeOver that week and add five to seven NXT matches to the main card for 20-22 overall. Because unless you move the Hall of Fame show to a different weekend, WWE’s current TV deals don’t allow for an extra WrestleMania day just be be added into it’s schedule. Something has to go.
By losing NXT TakeOver, WrestleMania week would look like this: Hall of Fame on Thursday, SmackDown on Friday, WrestleMania over Saturday and Sunday and Raw on Monday. WrestleMania would be two, four-to-four-and-a-half-hour shows with 10-12 matches each, including two on each hour-long preshow. That keeps your total show time for each day to 5 1/2 hours, around the same length the WrestleMania main card has run in recent years.
Yes, NXT TakeOver is often the best show during WrestleMania week, but by integrating the talent into WrestleMania itself you raise the visibility and prestige of NXT for its ratings battle with All Elite Wrestling, you put greater importance on Survivor Series outcomes and storytelling and create some potential crossover dream matches at WrestleMania.
It also allows WWE to tell stories over two days. New Japan did a four-man tournament where the winner become both its Intercontinental and world champion. Jon Moxley won the United States championship the first night and defended it the second.
There is little doubt WrestleMania needs improving. The current model creates a show that is too long and doesn’t put matches and the talent in position to be great because there are too many bouts and not enough time for each.
Fixing it won’t be easy. Sacrifices must be made, but they are ultimately for the greater good for WWE, it wrestlers and its fans.