We can learn a thing or two from history, and the history of WrestleMania is no exception.
This week on Raw we saw Stephanie McMahon’s best Solid Snake impression, attempting to tiptoe her way into the WrestleMania main event scene as if it were some sort of Alaskan weapons facility. Or a virtual reality program disguised as an offshore oil platform. I hope that’s correct – I’m not an expert on the Metal Gear series, but realistically, who is?
Fortunately, Becky Lynch was wise to this, and attacked Stephanie in the middle of the ring. There was no gigantic exclamation mark above her head, but there might as well have been.
Unfortunately, this pretty much guarantees Steph’s involvement in the eventual match. Given the fact that this will likely be the first women’s main event in WrestleMania history, I’d expected to see the Billion Dollar Princess crop up in a guest commentary role, or perhaps to cut a promo before the match itself.
However, Becky’s attack means that Stephanie now has a logical vendetta, and as we all know, hell hath no fury like a McMahon scorned (especially between the months of January and April).
I’m going to leave the whole injury and suspension angle alone for now, because as strange a direction as it was to take, it clearly hasn’t even started to play out yet. However, I am going to take a look back at the McMahon family’s historic involvement in WrestleMania main events – deciding whether their presence was an improvement or not. Hopefully in doing so, we can determine whether Stephanie’s inclusion is a good thing. Let’s reserve judgement until after the analysis is over. A little decorum, please.
- Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIV – We didn’t think of the McMahons as authority figures until the Montreal Screwjob, where Vince acknowledged his position at the top of the company and embraced a heel role. He wasn’t quite in fully corrupt anti-Austin mode, but attempted to quell Stone Cold’s fire in the face of Mike Tyson. He wasn’t physically involved, but gave the match an extra little anti-authoritarian boost. An improvement.
- The Rock vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XV – Vince McMahon’s WrestleMania main event debut. It was a messy match, truth be told, but his involvement followed the theme of a joyously anarchic finale. Austin overcame him and won, which is quite important in branding this an improvement.
- Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley, WrestleMania 2000 – A. McMahon. In. Every. Corner. Yes, Vince, Shane, Stephanie, and Linda all got involved here, picking a side and truly dominating the main event landscape for the first time. It was too much, and Vince essentially decided the match by switching sides. Not an improvement.
- The Rock vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania X-Seven – A very tricky one. Austin and Rock put on one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time, and Stone Cold’s alignment with Vince was a real shock. On the other hand, it was a catastrophic piece of business, bringing the Attitude Era to an explosive end. Regardless, the match is regarded as a terrific one – partly because of the swerve – so I’ll say his presence was neither option.
- Chris Jericho vs. Triple H, WrestleMania X8 – Chris Jericho should have been on top of the world, flying high as the first ever Undisputed Champion. Instead he was saddled with Stephanie McMahon, embroiled in a messy divorce storyline with Triple H. The Helmsley family dog felt more important than Y2J. Not an improvement.
- Triple H vs. Randy Orton, WrestleMania XXV – A curious one, this. Randy Orton should absolutely have won the match, but Triple H – fuelled by the righteous fire of defending his wife’s family – beat him down and retained the title. The involvement of the McMahons gave a significant boost to Orton’s heel push, but he lost anyway, so it didn’t really matter. Neither.
- Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania XXX – Excellent. Stephanie accompanied Triple H to interfere in the match (after Bryan had defeated The Game earlier in the night) but their involvement was relatively brief. It also enhanced Bryan’s struggle to overcome the odds, and they were dealt with long before the actual finish. An improvement.
- Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, WrestleMania 32 – In an attempt to get fans to cheer for Roman Reigns, Stephanie accompanied Triple H and absolutely poured her heart into an evil heel promo before his entrance. She even took a Spear towards the end. It didn’t matter; we still booed. Neither.
(I’ve decided against including WrestleMania 31. Rollins was the Authority’s golden boy at the time of his cash-in, but he seemed to be acting of his own accord. There was no J&J Security, no Triple H, and most importantly – for the purposes of this article – no Stephanie McMahon).
So, by my count, any number of the four chief McMahons have been majorly involved in the storylines of eight WrestleMania main events.
Of those eight instances, three can be considered a clear boost to the match – two in the cauldrons of the Attitude Era, one during Daniel Bryan’s unstoppable rise.
Stephanie herself has been involved in five of these (we’re including Orton vs. Triple H; Randy knocked her unconscious and kissed her in the build-up). Her record, by my reckoning, stands at one positive result, two negatives, and two non-movers (1-2-2).
This might immediately seem like a bad thing. Should Stephanie continue to stick her nose in Becky and Ronda’s business, the eventual ‘Mania match has a 1/5 chance of succeeding. As Scott Steiner once taught us, the numbers don’t lie.
On the other hand, all three of the WrestleMania endings enhanced by McMahon involvement came in similar situations – an anti-authoritarian babyface backed by an unstoppable wave of fan support (Austin, Bryan). Becky Lynch clearly finds herself in the same ballpark, so surely our takeaway is that Stephanie should get involved – as long as Becky wins…
But wait no! I’m going to double back once more, and say that Stephanie should not be involving herself in this feud. Yes, Vince’s antagonistic presence may have lent Stone Cold’s triumphs an extra edge, and the Authority’s attempts to derail Daniel Bryan only made his victory more glorious.
But in Ronda Rousey, Becky already has a mountain to climb. Yes, the challenger has more swagger and confidence, but let’s not forget that Rousey has been (rightly) booked as an absolute monster since her debut. Lynch tapped out clean in a title match just a couple of weeks ago.
I totally understand Stephanie’s desire to be a part of this storyline – assuming it was her decision to step into the ring with Becky on yesterday’s show. But for the good of the match, and the wider moment as a whole, it would surely be better for this pioneering main event to be about the women in the ring.