WrestleMania 38: Where the Main Event Is Not a Match

Stone Cold Steve Austin Will be at WrestleMania 38 in a main event segment. What?

I had planned to end my rant about the WrestleMania 38 card being watered down when spread over two nights with my last blog post. Then Kevin Owens announced on Monday Night Raw that his KO Show interview of Stone Cold Steve Austin will be the main event of WrestleMania Saturday.

Let that sink in for a moment. The main event of a WrestleMania event is not even a match!

Granted WrestleMania is always a different show that is intended to stand out from the rest of the pay-per-views throughout the year. It leans more on the entertainment aspects of WWE’s content than a regular show would. But the word “wrestle” is still in WrestleMania! It still should be about wrestling matches, especially in the main event.

Let us flash back to WrestleMania V at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There were fourteen matches on the card.

Midway through the show, Rowdy Roddy Piper hosted Morton Downey Jr. on a Piper’s Pit segment in the ring. Downey was a controversial television host at the time and Piper was already a wrestling legend. The segment lasted for a few minutes and ended with a quick laugh when Piper sprayed Downey in the face with a fire extinguisher because Downey refused to extinguish his cigarette.

WrestleMania V culminated in a main event between Randy Macho Man Savage and Hulk Hogan for the WWF championship. It was an instant classic of a match between the two biggest stars in the WWF at the time that was built up over the course of the year. The main event was not the damn Piper’s Pit segment! That segment was where it belonged, filler in the middle of the card.

I was going to give my analysis of the Austin segment later in the week, but in the context of this rant, I will do it now.

The KO Show featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin

On March 30, 2003, WrestleMania XIX took place at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. In the penultimate match on the card, The Rock defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was their third and final WrestleMania matchup, and unbeknownst to us at the time, it was Austin’s last match. It was kept from the public that it this would be the conclusion of his in-ring career. His body was failing, and he knew he could no longer continue.

The fans were not ready to see Austin retire, and he did not want to leave. He later would admit that he struggled through an existential crisis for years without the job that he loved. But continually refused multiple offers to wrestle any more matches. He knew that he was physically incapable of performing at the highest level. His pride kept him from tarnishing his legacy and embarrassing himself. It was rumored that Austin was once again offered to work a match at WrestleMania 38.

Austin would return for various guest appearances in the 19 years since his retirement. One memorable example was when he delivered a Stunner to Xavier Woods at WrestleMania 32, the last time WrestleMania was in Dallas, Texas. This year, in lieu of the match he reportedly refused, Austin will be in a much higher profile WrestleMania segment.

Austin’s journey to WrestleMania 38 began with Kevin Owens disrespecting and insulting the state of Texas repeatedly on Raw. In the beginning, it was hard to understand where this angle was headed. But Owens, who did not have a match lined up for WrestleMania, invited Steve Austin to be a guest on his KO Show at WrestleMania. In a taped segment, Austin agreed to Owen’s offer the next day.

Let’s consider the potential scenarios for how this will play out:

  • Scenario 1: The WWE will attempt to recreate a classic Austin “raising hell” segment with a prop like a monster truck or a beer truck, but bigger and more elaborate.
  • Scenario 2: Another Austin foil such as Mr. McMahon will interject himself into the segment and Austin will beat him up.
  • Scenario 3: Austin and Owens will come to blows, Austin will grab a microphone and demand a referee come to the ring and ring the bell to start an impromptu match between him and Owens. He will deliver a Lou Thesz Press and a quick Stunner to Owens giving us one last “match” that will total about 45 seconds.
  • Scenario 4: Austin and Owens argue about the state of Texas and Owen’s pilfering of Austin’s Stunner as his finisher. Austin will kick Owens in the plumbs and give him three or four Stunners.

No matter which scenario they pick, Austin will shotgun about a dozen beers and give the crowd the double-bird as the announcers thank us for tuning in.

If you imagine any of these scenarios as a segment somewhere in the middle of the show, it sounds great. We get to see Austin do something funny and he maintains his integrity for not wrestling one more match.

But if you imagine this as the main event of WrestleMania Saturday, it is a creative trap from hell. How do you shape any of these scenarios into a WrestleMania main-event-level production? In Scenario 1 does he bring a machine gun to the ring and blow Owens away? In Scenario 2 does Mr. McMahon make a run-in only to eat a Stunner? In Scenario 3 does a quick match really belong as a main event? In Scenario 4, what can the two possibly say or do to each other that would make this better than a wrestling match in this segment? In conclusion I am not happy with this situation because of where it is placed on the show. I can not get past the fact that the main event of WrestleMania Saturday is not a wrestling match!

Fantasy Booking WrestleMania 32

No doubt that The WWE is looking to make a splash when WrestleMania 32 is held in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas on April 6, 2016.  Not that they ever put anything less than their best effort in for other WrestleManias, but this one could potentially be historic if they manage to sell enough tickets.  AT&T Stadium has a capacity of 105,000 for football if you include standing room.  The WWE has a chance to break the attendance record that was set at WrestleMania III in 1987 of 93,173 fans.  WrestleMania III was headlined by a main event matchup between Hulk Hogan and the so-called “undefeated” Andre the Giant.  It remains to be seen what the special attraction, or attractions, will be for WM 32, but the WWE is certainly already planning something special.

I was at dinner with some friends Pilsener Haus & Biergarten in Hoboken recently and my friend Ned went through a list of matches he’d like to see at WM 32.  It got me thinking about what I would do if I were given the book and told to book the event myself. Since I like to fancy myself as the hottest up-and-coming WWE blogger on the Internet, let’s see what I can come up with.

Main Event: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Brock Lesnar

As an avid listener of Steve Austin’s bi-weekly podcast, I’ve come to learn a lot about Steven Austin and his career.  Two topics come up often on his show.  One is that he didn’t want to have to retire early but was forced to do so due to a neck injury and he spent three years following his retirement in a funk while trying to find his way without a wrestling career.  Second is that he really does not want to come back for another match, citing difficulties in training, among other reasons.

Most of this was known before the WWE announced that WrestleMania 32 was set to take place in his home state of Texas.  Somehow you have to think that negotiations had already started to bring him back for the show around the time it was announced.  Rumors that this match is going to happen were certainly stoked last month during the Stone Cold Podcast on The WWE Network last week.  At the end of his interview with Paul Heyman, Austin suddenly broke into a kayfabe  promo target at Brock Lesnar, proclaiming that if he were to come back for one more match, he would deliver a beating to Lesnar.

This could have simply been done to generate interest in Austin’s next podcast, it could have been a joke, and it could have been many things.  But old-school Austin fans are now champing at the bit in anticipation that this will lead to a comeback by the Texas Rattlesnake for one more match at WrestleMania 32.  An Austin vs. Lesnar matchup could very well be the WrestleMania III-esque type of main event the WWE needs to break the attendance record.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns

The Shield was one of the hottest factions the WWE had seen in years when its members were called up to the main roster prior to WrestleMania XXIX. The combination of Reigns’ look, Ambrose’s personality, and Rollins’ in-ring ability were the perfect set of complementary traits that set them apart from the rest. Originally brought up as heels, the crowd eventually got behind them and they were the most popular babyface team headed into WrestleMania XXX. They were riding a high in the following months in a feud with Evolution, only to abruptly break up when Rollins turned on his team mates to join The Authority.

The split was shocking for several reasons, the biggest of which was that the group was routinely a main attraction on Raw and on pay per view events. It was unclear at the time what direction each would head and which members, if any, would lose momentum and be left behind. It has been just over a year since the breakup, and other than when Reigns lost some time to injury, the three have all emerged as major main-event level talents on their own. Ambrose has main-evened several pay-per-views, Reigns was the controversial winner of The Royal Rumble and competed in the WrestleMania 31 main event, and Seth Rollins is the reigning WWE champion.

The former-Shield member rivalry is still burning pretty hot. Rollins is often the antagonist for both Reigns and Ambrose and the crowd is still fully vested in the animosity that began when Rollins turned on the other two. At Payback in May we saw the three, along with Randy Orton, compete in a Fatal-Four-Way match. The crowd popped for a spot when the former Shield members performed their trademark triple-powerbomb on Randy Orton.

The ultimate payoff for this group would be a championship match with just the three of them at WrestleMania. Rollins would be the heel, Reigns the babyface, and Ambrose would be somewhere in the middle.  It would truly be a contest with no obvious winner headed into the match. The buildup would be intense and emotional. The match itself has the potential to be remembered as an all-time classic. Out of all the matches I’d like to see, this would be the one I’d hope the WWE actually puts on in Dallas.

Triple H vs. The Rock

The verbal confrontation between these two Attitude-Era icons at WrestleMania 31 was likely more than a one-time encounter. The two semi-retired legends have wrestled countless times in the past, but never at a WrestleMania.

Triple-H is a constant mainstay on WWE television as the villainous COO of the WWE. The Rock is a worldwide sensation in the entertainment realm as one of the biggest box office attractions in movies today. A match between the two would generate interest from long time fans and fans of The Rock’s movies alike. This one seems like a no-brainier to me.

Ronda Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon

One of the most popular female athletes in the world today gave WWE fans a surprise appearance in a WWE ring at WrestleMania 31 alongside The Rock during his confrontation with The Authority. It was highly unusual to see an active UFC competitor in a WWE ring, but the drawing power of someone like Rousey was certainly enough for the WWE to make an exception. The confrontation ended with Rousey physically removing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon from the ring and has left the fans wanting more from her.

A lot of things would have to happen for Rousey to compete at WrestleMania 32, not the least of which would be for her to get clearance from UFC, and for her to train to compete in a worked match. But there is no doubt that if these hurdles were cleared, it would attract fans from both WWE and UFC to Dallas to watch this match.

This wouldn’t be a straight up wrestling match, given Rousey’s dominance in the UFC, it’s not realistic to think that Stephanie would be able to beat her one-on-one. This would be more of a special attraction match similar to Mayweather vs. The Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV where there would be some sort of mitigating factor that would tilt the odds in McMahon’s favor headed into the match.

Most importantly, this match would fill up the Diva’s slot on the card so we wouldn’t be made to suffer another low-quality and uninteresting match involving the likes of Paige or The Bella Twins.

Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton

Kevin Owens is off to a hot start on the WWE main roster.  His first two matches against WWE United States Champion John Cena are already considered among critics as potential Match of the Year candidates. His innovative offensive style, combined with his natural arrogance and disrespectful attitude have built him into one of the top heels in the company. His rookie run is reminiscent of Kurt Angle’s WWE debut in the late 1990’s, and that is about the highest compliment a young talent can be paid.

Randy Orton is a made man in the WWE. He looks good no matter if he wins or loses. He can always be counted on to get an angle over with fans. His size and deceptively quick style make him one of the most talented wrestlers on the roster. He is going to be prominently featured on the WM card in one way or another.

I think this pairing makes sense for a lot of reasons. Similar to his current beef with John Cena, Owens can also disrespect the veteran Orton. The promos between the two headed into the show would generate a lot of interest in their match. Stylistically, we could expect a fast paced, seesaw battle between the two. This undercard match would be the perfect complement for the main event matches.

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

Not much is known about The Deadman these days. He only works one match per year at WrestleMania and makes very few, if any, public appearances. Not much is known about his health or how much longer he is willing and able to compete on the WWE stage.  The rumor mill continues to circulate that his in-ring career may not have much longer. That being said, he looked good in his match against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 31 and gave no actual indication that he’s anywhere near done. If WrestleMania 32 is indeed his last ride, there would be no better place to have it than in his home state of Texas. Either way, an Undertaker match is always a must-see at WrestleMania.

The pairing against John Cena is something I’ve wanted to see for years but it has never worked out. Now that Cena has become a main-event-level talent on the mid-card and no longer in the title picture, this is a good place for him to land on the card. Long gone is the legendary undefeated streak of The Undertaker in WrestleMania competition, but a match against John Cena would have no obvious winner and would carry a lot of weight on the card as a legend vs. legend contest that we may never see again.

The Rest of the Card

There are a lot of other talents on the roster that could certainly deserve a chance to compete on The Grandest Stage of Them All. It remains unclear if Daniel Bryan will be healthy enough to participate in WM 32, but certainly we should count on something memorable from the likes of Bray Wyatt, The Big Show, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Neville, Luke Harper, Rusev, Mark Henry, Ryback, or several other main-roster talents on the card. The pay-per-view schedule between now and then will undoubtedly set the stage for what is to come for WrestleMania 32.

What are your thoughts? Do you like my match list or would you re-write it in a different way?