As wrestling fans, we all know that there’s nothing worse in the world than wrestling. We love it, and it’s endlessly frustrating, and it makes us not want to watch anymore. But we do because we never learn.
Actually, one of the reasons we can’t escape is because sometimes it delivers drama, suspense, and ultimately triumph on a genuinely incredible scale. Those moments of catharsis – and the promise of future moments – ensure that we stick around through the darkest of days.
I’m bringing this up because of the Royal Rumble, and the fallout on last night’s Raw. I’m going to try to stay calm, but I honestly think WWE may be in the process of booking the most feel-good WrestleMania of all time.
The Rumble was underpinned by two huge babyface triumphs: Seth Rollins clawing his way through a field of dangerous competitors, and Becky Lynch honing in on her destiny like an Exocet missile (despite not being an official entrant).
Even if both had taken the following night off, we’d still have found ourselves launched along the ‘Road to WrestleMania’ at quite a velocity.
But last night took things to another level. Rollins challenged Brock Lesnar, just as we all hoped, and Becky stepped up to Ronda Rousey in one of the best promo segments in recent memory.
Obviously those matches aren’t set in stone, despite being officially confirmed by WWE. Rollins vs. Lesnar looks pretty certain, but I wouldn’t bet against Charlotte Flair turning the Raw Women’s Championship bout into a triple threat. Her Rumble elimination at the hands of Lynch gives her a substantial claim on the title shot – apologies if that sounds a little too Game of Thrones.
As WWE have (sometimes) shown, the simplest booking path can often be the most effective – particularly when WrestleMania is concerned. Should Seth and Becky walk out of MetLife Stadium with the gold, there’s a strong chance of the show being celebrated as one of the best ever ‘Manias. That’s not just due to the quality of all involved, but also because wrestling should ultimately be about the ecstatic payoff. This year’s show is looking like a two-for-one deal in that regard.
For the record, I’ve tried to determine the five most feel-good ‘Manias of all time. They are:
- WrestleMania III – The first two WrestleManias also featured big babyface finales, but the 1987 edition was the first to do so on a massive scale. The original happy ‘Mania saw Hogan topple Andre in iconic fashion, launching the business to new heights and creating a moment for the ages. Bonus points for Ricky Steamboat taking the Intercontinental Championship from Randy Savage after their famous barn-burner.
- WrestleMania X – Maybe the most gallant and dignified of all the feel-good WrestleManias. Bret Hart and Lex Luger had both won the ’94 Royal Rumble, with Vince McMahon eyeing up the prospects of his newest blonde, musclebound superhero. The fans, however, only wanted to see the Hitman finally get his moment in the ‘Mania sun – and that’s exactly what happened. His opening match loss to brother Owen carries echoes of Becky’s loss to Asuka this past weekend.
- WrestleMania XIV – In which an ultra-talented pretty boy was soundly battered by a thuggish skinhead, and everybody lost their minds with delight. This ‘Mania is the darkest of all the happy ‘Manias, even featuring a demonic battle between Undertaker and Kane on the undercard.
- WrestleMania 21 – The WWE equivalent of an arrogant bully being absolutely demolished by the tough kid on the school playground. Batista triumphed over Triple H in a main event of undiluted joy, while John Cena bested JBL in the penultimate match to complete a double passing of the torch. It was just before everybody decided to hate him, too.
- WrestleMania XXX – Of course. Although it delivered the most predictable course of action, few would deny that this ‘Mania featured one of the biggest outpourings of emotion in WWE history. Daniel Bryan’s opening victory over Triple H and climactic title win was a case of pure wish-fulfilment for his army of internet fans.
(WrestleMania XX deserves to feature too, but it’ll forever be looked back upon as bittersweet and dark, given the deaths of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit).
I’m reasonably confident that this year’s show is well positioned to join the likes of ’87, ’98, and ’14 in the pantheon of happy and satisfying WrestleMania endings. But then, of course, we have to look at the other side of the argument.
Last year’s main event seemed to point towards Roman Reigns finally defeating Brock Lesnar and rescuing the seldom-seen Universal Championship – particularly with the Beast Incarnate reportedly making a return to the world of MMA. Instead, Lesnar crushed Roman in a shockingly blunt final match, barely even sticking around to celebrate his victory.
As for Lynch vs. Rousey, once Charlotte Flair is (presumably) included in proceedings, doubts will surely begin to rumble – my own included. If we cast our minds back to WrestleMania 32, everything seemed set up for Sasha Banks to win the Women’s Championship ahead of fellow horsewomen Charlotte and Becky. She was featured heavily in promo packages and posters leading up to the event, and she even received a special entrance alongside cousin Snoop Dogg.
As we now know, Charlotte won that match, submitting Becky while her famous father held Sasha at bay outside of the ring. I think it’s fair to say that Flair was the least popular victor of that match, but WWE clearly saw something in her – faith that has since been justified, as she’s gone on to become one of the best women’s wrestlers in company history. Even though Lynch should win in April, it’s hard to shake the feeling that WWE mightn’t be able to resist adding another huge victory to Charlotte’s resume.
Still, the past three WrestleManias have all ended on a sour note: Roman Reigns booed en route to victory over Triple H, triumphing over the Undertaker, and losing in the match we all actually wanted him to win.
I think we’ve waited long enough for another classic ‘Mania of feel-good babyface wins, and maybe if we all hope hard enough, WWE will drop another on us this time around. If anyone deserves it, it’s Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch.