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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: WWE Must Protect Post-WrestleMania 34 From Now Through WrestleMania 34
By The Doc
Oct 19, 2017 - 11:42:00 AM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Presuming you aren't looking forward to the WrestleMania 34 main-event, what potential angles are you looking forward to, both at WrestleMania 34 and beyond?

If there was one redeeming quality of learning that WWE was planning a champion vs. champion bout between Brock Lesnar and Jinder Mahal at Survivor Series, it was the idea that Lesnar would be mowing through someone who does not feel like a potential long-term piece in the over-arching continued growth of the New Era, the stars of which are ready, willing, and able to take (mostly) full control of the product from the old and even-older guards hanging onto the lifeline WWE keeps providing them at the expense of the current generation. Mahal feels more like a Yokozuna for the modern product, someone who has come out of nowhere to occupy a major role for a substantial period but whose future ultimately lies in the mid-card; and, like it or not, Brock Lesnar is a roadblock standing in the way of WWE finally committing fully to the future, with everyone from the current generation he wrestles one-on-one experiencing a massive momentum drop after he decisively defeats them. So, truthfully, Lesnar and Mahal are a perfect match, even if it creates temptation to free up my calendar on the evening of November 19th out of sheer apathy.

You see, since WWE has married itself to Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns as the main-event at WrestleMania 34 and, in doing so, has earned a giant, collective groan from the diehard fanbase, focusing attention on what happens after next year’s New Orleans-based showcase feels like a logical thing to do; get all the crap (like Jinder vs. Brock) out of the way, as far as I'm concerned, and say a little prayer that WWE musters some long-term mindfulness so as not to sap the rest of the roster of its mojo in the process.

Man, yours truly is struggling, ladies and gentlemen; I've not been so down on the product in a long, long time (maybe at any time as an adult). I see a present with more problems than solutions and an immediate future at the top of the WWE hierarchy for which I am utterly disinterested. I think the main thing for me is that we have not fully shifted eras in over a decade, when Lesnar, Cena, Orton, Batista, and Edge started and finished the WWE transition out of the Attitude Era. Punk and Bryan made possible the influx of independent talent that populates the roster today and The Shield split-off to pick up where they left off in attempting to supplant the OVW Class of '02, but WWE has never moved on from the mid-2000s. It's 2017...Orton won the Rumble and captured the WWE Title at WrestleMania; Cena tied Flair's World Title record this year; Lesnar is on a never-ending Universal Championship reign; plus we have seen prominent spots offered to Goldberg, Triple H, Undertaker, and Shane McMahon at the year's biggest events, and each of them debuted in the 1990s.

For the sake of my wrestling fan and analyst sanity until something else joins Kevin Owens (and Sami Zayn) as a reason for me to be excited about the near and distant future, I feel compelled to concentrate my written energy on hoping for the best, post-WrestleMania 34, and hope that something will snap me out of a jaded funk that has prompted reactions to recent happenings with little but disdain (The Shield reunion is ill-timed and wrought with Roman's impending doomsday clash with Lesnar, WWE just let walk the talent behind one of the best things that I personally witnessed this year in Neville's ascent to King of the Cruiserweights, Braun Strowman is toast, so too is Shinsuke Nakamura, Kane's comeback is as interesting as socks, etc.). Sad times at Docmont High, folks; I need for something logically awesome to happen that does not involve the nostalgic return of a wrestler on the brink of a hip replacement...STAT!

The best case scenario is that several strong challengers emerge to face The Big Dog, the presumed Universal Champion-in-waiting, once the bright lights dim next April 8th. In order for that to happen, WWE will have to be cautious how they book his most interesting opponents from now until then. There was once a rumor that Finn Balor would be next in line for a shot at Lesnar’s championship, for instance, and the downside to that was that obviously The Demon would lose and be probably borderline embarrassed in the process, peaking his angle without a payoff match that would allow him to save face (thanks as usual, Beast Mode). By the time Balor could have wrestled a marquee match on PPV against Reigns, he would have already been among the examples of stars stated overtly through actions to be nowhere near the league of Roman or Brock, organically lessening any intrigue to see The Big Dog face him and others like him who were similarly dispatched of so handily within the confines of an 8-minute mock-MMA fight.

Balor, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose on the current Raw roster and, presuming another Shake-Up occurs between now and the two weeks that follow WrestleMania in April, the likes of AJ Styles and Bobby Roode on the current Smackdown roster, need to be booked very strongly and protected against common creative blunders so that there will be something interesting to do when the dust settles from the enthusiasm-sucking vortex that is Reigns vs. Lesnar II. For many diehard fans, it might be enough just to have anything to watch at the top of the WWE hierarchy besides what will presumably dominate WrestleMania Season next year but, for the sake of the business in general, two to three or four talents need to be on the brink of something great come the spring of 2018. No feeding to The Beast any of the above, nor dumbing them down to the level of the most mediocre World Champion of the WrestleMania Era. May the remainder of their 2017's be safe from injury and on-the-fly, nonsensical, inconsistent booking.

WWE needs to be pushed to the next step in its product evolution and more of Brock Lesnar’s routine or Hail Mary experiments like Jinder Mahal will not get it there; history suggests that capitalizing on strong WrestleMania Seasons, however, can do wonders for the emergence of new headliners and a fresh product. WWE has a rich roster full of potential all-stars; failing to use it well consistently has started to bite WWE in the behind (and drain my enthusiasm). WrestleMania 33 offered opportunities for WWE to push all of their chips into the New Era, with AJ Styles beating Shane 'O in a memorable opener, KO beating Y2J to culminate their awesome storyline, and Rollins slaying the King of Kings and the Authority (and they could have gone all-in with Reigns as the anti-villain and maximized Balor's long-awaited return) but, as referenced in last week's column about Owens, the process of forward-movement stalled as has become typical and they all stepped sideways instead. Incredibly disappointing when you consider that The Reality Era stalled after WrestleMania XXX (for different reasons, granted) and that things looked comparably promising to 2017 after WrestleMania 31 in 2015. The talent level has only risen in the last two years, yet here we still are.

Imagine if Styles was able to rescue Nakamura's career from the depths of despair, talk McMahon into letting him do that anticipated match with Shinsuke for the WWE Title, and steals the show; imagine if, on that same show, Owens completes his destruction of the McMahon family in a wild brawl against Triple H; and that Ambrose turned heel and had the challenger for WrestleMania show-stealer with Rollins in a match that they seem destined to have; and that Balor upended Miz to win the Intercontinental Title in a Top 10 at Mania-level opener; and that Roode does something glorious. You can't win if you're down by three scores with two-minutes to play and no time-outs; the imagined scenario or something similar to it would at least get the New Era within striking distance of victory again and, as a fan desperately rooting for them, they have my full and undivided support. Again, though, let us now hope that Vince McMahon does not wake up next Monday morning and decide that all the hopefuls should lose to Lesnar and Reigns in a giant handicap match.


(PS – Apologies for the negativity...)

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