Failed Roads: Wrestlemania has been WWE’s cash cow for decades. It is the institution that started WWE on its path to greatness and has become one of the best weekends of WWE’s schedule. It is the time of year when the company pulls out all the stops and loads the card as best they can. It is the biggest payday of the year and a night (or nights) when stars can reach immortality.
Wrestlemania is all of these things, but it cannot reach its heights without the preceding months. The build-up to every match must be done well, or else the anticipation and excitement just aren’t there. If the road to Wrestlemania is not a success then the night itself can be a flop.
Below we will look at some instances in history where the road to Wrestlemania was a dud.
Failed Roads – HHH v Chris Jericho (WrestleMania 18)
The program between Jericho and HHH should have been dynamite headed into Wrestlemania. You had the returning Triple H, who was getting thunderous reactions, and a great heel champion in Chris Jericho. Add to this the long history that the two men had and you had the makings of a great championship match headed into the big night.
Unfortunately, WWE decided to go in a different direction and make the building revolve around the martial discord between HHH and Stephanie McMahon. The segments on Raw, and Smackdown, had more to do with their hatred toward one another, while Jericho was pushed to the side. The champion was used as a pawn in Steph and Hunter’s story, helping us all care less about the match come Wrestlemania night.
Failed Roads – The Miz v John Cena (Wrestlemania 27)
Cena and The Miz’s road was doomed from the beginning. The Miz had just started getting traction as a believable champion, but he was not ready for the main event of Wrestlemania. John Cena was the face of the company and was frankly above facing The Miz. At any other PPV this would have been acceptable but heading into Wrestlemania it was hard to get the fans invested in wanting to see this match close out the night.
The build was made even worse when The Rock was announced as the host of Wrestlemania. It had been 7 years since he had been in WWE. It put the spotlight on The Great One and took it away from the main event of Wrestlemania 27. Then, of course, The Rock took issue with everything that Cena stood for. This hatred boiled over into the WWE Championship program leaving The Miz in the shadows.
The champ did what he could to remain relevant, but the fans were more interested in The Rock and John Cena. It was a failed build from the get-go.
Failed Roads – Hulk Hogan v Sgt. Slaughter (Wrestlemania 7)
WWE has had a checkered past when it comes to booking, this failed Road to Wrestlemania might rank up there with the worst.
Iraqi sympathizer Slaughter had captured the WWE Championship from Warrior at the Royal Rumble. Naturally, the Real American Hulk Hogan did not take kindly to this and waged a war on Slaughter that culminated in Hogan capturing the championship.
The fact that WWE capitalized on the real-life Iraqi war was awful. The tragedies that occurred were overshadowed by Hogan and it was a cheap way to get heat on a program that would have had none. There are ways to use real life events to further an angle, but basing one on a on-going war hit home a bit too hard for many. It was a mistake by WWE heading into their biggest show of the year.
Failed Roads – Triple H v Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 32)
Reigns was a failed project from the beginning. Coming out of The Shield Roman was pegged for greatness, regardless of what others wanted. He was pushed to the moon and went over just about everyone he came across. It was clear what WWE was trying to do, but it was not being received well by the audience.
The biggest part of this push was his road to Wrestlemania 32. From January on it was a constant Roman/HHH program. It dominated most of the television time, and this was a problem because if was the furthest from one anyone wanted. Roman wasn’t the fan’s choice and they rebelled loudly. It was impossible to get invested in a storyline that had no desirable components to it.
It could have been anyone else across from HHH but the fact that WWE’s golden boy was there ruined everything. It was a road that no one wanted to take a trip on.
Failed Roads – Sid v The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 13)
HBK was an incredible pain in the late 90s. He was losing his smile and being a general pain in the a&* backstage. He was the WWE Champion and held the main event scene, hostage. It was a tumultuous time and one that didn’t help Wrestlemania in 1997.
HBK and Bret Hart were originally penned to faceoff in a rematch of the previous year, but HBK decided this wasn’t for him. Refusing to drop the title to Hart HBK decided to relinquish the belt citing a knee injury. It was obvious what he was doing and it forced WWE to make a huge change a month before the big show.
What transpired was a hot mess. The strap was won by Hart then quickly moved over to Psycho Sid. He was the big heel from Michaels’s last feud so why not. Then Sid was put against The Undertaker to main event the big night. The weeks in which they had to put this together was not enough. Not enough time to hype the match and certainly not enough time to make the fans care about the main event of Wrestlemania.
Failed Roads – The Undertaker v Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 33)
In their never-ending quest to smash Reigns over WWE put The Undertaker in his path. Starting with Reigns knocking ‘Taker out of the Royal Rumble, the thought was to have Reigns go up against the biggest wrestler in the company. There were only a few problems with this plan.
Problem number one was that no one wanted Reigns in that spot. He was not over with the fans and WWE’s continued push was driving a wedge further between him and the audience.
The second issue was the age of The Undertaker. The top dog in the company was well past his years. He was not the man he used to be when it came to in and outside of the ring. The program hinged on his ability to carry Reigns and he was not up to it anymore.
Reigns across from The Undertaker should have been the defining feud of Wrestlemania 33. Unfortunately, the apathy towards Reigns and the age of The Undertaker left a road to Wrestlemania that no one cared about.