In case you haven’t heard, WrestleMania 35 is rumored to be the longest show in the history of the company. Just when you thought that last year’s 14-match, 5-hour card couldn’t be topped, it appears as though WWE is looking to out-do themselves and test how long the fans will be willing to stay in their seats for an extended period. This has sparked a debate in terms of how long is too long for WrestleMania.
Let’s start with how this year’s card is shaping up. As of right now, there are 9 matches already confirmed. This is not including the probably WWE Title match between Kofi and Daniel Bryan, the women’s tag title match, the Smackdown tag title match, Reigns vs. McIntyre, and whether or not they want to do a RAW tag title match, an IC Title match and a 2nd women’s battle royal.
That is potentially 7 outstanding matches which can probably make for a separate PPV in itself for a total of 16 matches on the card. How exactly did we get to the point where WWE is loading the deck filled with matches to make for a card that can run potentially for a fourth of an entire day?
If you ask me, one of the most precipitating factors that have led to the ridiculous length of WrestleMania in recent years has been the brand split. For the sake of perspective, the last WrestleMania before the original brand split in 2016, WrestleMania 32, was only 12 matches in length, with 3 of them on the pre-show. Which means the main card only had 9 matches. 8 if you don’t consider The Rock hitting one finisher in six seconds against the least important member of the Wyatt Family a match. Then, enter the draft.
One of the initial concerns I had with the brand split was that we would have far too many titles, and it would eventually lead back into the cycle of WWE re-uniting both brands and unifying titles all over again. Through the brand split, we got an extra set of tag titles, an extra women’s title, and the Universal Title. You could technically say that the Cruiserweight Title is a product of the brand split since it was originally a RAW exclusive title. In addition to that, you could say that the sequence of events that took place after the brand split led to the formation of the women’s tag titles. If you’re keeping tally, that’s 5 titles that were either directly or indirectly created as a result of WWE making RAW and Smackdown exclusive brands.
Not only did this create way more titles that we have to care about, but this also lead to content overload. There were far too many PPV’s. Just when we got watching RAW’s exclusive Clash of Champions PPV, Smackdown’s Backlash was just two weeks later. And this does not include the PPV’s that included representation from both brands. It all got very tedious and monotonous very quickly, becaue we saw versions of the same matchups on PPV each time.
Around 6 or so years ago, I was miffed that the United States and Intercontinental Championships were not getting the respect they deserved on the WrestleMania card and were not being defended. Now, not only have they taken my advice, but they have done it to an extreme degree. Because now, there seems to be an inherent desire to have every title from both brands defended. It is no coincidence that WrestleMania now is approximately double in length as it was before the brand split.
For the sake of perspective, we have two world titles, two women’s titles, two mid-card titles, three tag titles, and the CW title. That’s 10 (!!) titles. Last year at WrestleMania 34, WWE had every title on the show defended. So, naturally assuming that they do the same thing next year, this year’s WrestleMania card will be longer than the pre-brand split WrestleManias from title matches alone. That’s not including matches that don’t have a title at stake (HHH/Batista, Styles/Orton, McIntyre/Reigns, Angle/Corbin, battle royals, potential Undertaker/Cena impromptu matches, etc.). Then, couple in the fact that we have a special guest host, special guest correspondents (I don’t even know what that means) and the special guest musical act, and we may damn well end up getting up to an hour or so in filler.
Another culprit seems to be that WWE has recently gotten an inherent desire to reward anyone who is anyone on the roster to be on the card in some capacity. I’m assuming it can be WWE’s way of saying “thank you” for being a good sport and working live events, and this despite the fact that part-timers frequently get the big slots at Mania. Here’s the thing. As much as it pains me to say, WrestleMania should not be a show where everyone gets on the show just to say they were there.
Just as the NBA, NFL, NHL and other major sport conglomerate are businesses first, so too is WWE. Teams in professional sports will trade players despite how loyal they are if it means it will be better for them in a competitive or financial context. WWE operates in a similar way at WrestleMania. Superstars can remain loyal to WWE for years on end, traveling the road on live events, doing promotional work and traveling to different countries advertising the product and be AWOL when the company’s biggest show arrives. That’s the reality of being a WWE superstar. That is why superstars need to find their niche and see what they can do to stand out. Even if you are worthy of a WrestleMania slot, the show is all about the big names and the big matchups.
You can argue Batista and Lesnar are not deserving of being in high-profile matches at WrestleMania and that Elias and Andrade are. But it, to an unfortunate degree, does not end up that way. It is all about big names and raking in a lot of money. a 50-year-old Batista vs. a 49-year-old Triple H probably isn’t a better match than Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade. Hell, I don’t even think HHH and Batista’s matches were all that great in their primes to begin with (save for their HIAC match). But which match will casual and fairweather fans give their attention to first?
So, back to the original question. How long should WrestleMania be? It is kind of hard to place a number, but we have to have a match card length that will not have the crowd reaching to see if they still have feelings in their legs. The last thing the first ever women’s WrestleMania main event needs is a crowd that is half asleep and want to go home.