WrestleMania 35 Guarantees Hurt Feelings, But We All Will Be Back Next Year

There is nothing worth doing for seven consecutive hours — especially if you’re not getting paid. But us pilgrims will be there for every second of WrestleMania 35 because anything else would be blasphemous. And no matter the verdict of Sunday’s show, it will be no one’s final WWE experience.

WrestleMania is cleansing of sorts — a beginning and an end, but more than anything it's a holiday. And like any day of festivity, there are good ones, there are bad ones, but there will most certainly be a next one.

So, does it even matter if WrestleMania 35 delivers?

As much as we’re looking forward to it, Sunday will be spent in an ironic misery that only a wrestling fan can know. Because WWE’s product is rooted in crowd manipulation, and it actually works better when people are upset.

This isn’t new. Wrestling fans have long been a tormented population, if not a masochistic one. On a subconscious level, we’re begging Vince McMahon and his troupe of wrestlers to insult us on Sunday. Because like politics, wrestling needs its supporters riled up, eager to emotionally invest in outcomes. And the best way to do that is to spit right into their faces — so don't be too shocked if and when Becky Lynch has a weird night at WrestleMania. Because not only does WWE manufacture their conflicts, they supply the resolution — the poison and the antidote.

But how WWE insults fans has changed over the years. Villains used to have to dodge grannies in the parking lot after beating a local hero. In 2019, social media would burn WWE to the ground simply for making what they’ve deemed a poor booking decision. Now fans are offended by predictable outcomes, or unwarranted opportunities, or even WWE’s business operations.

Even though scrutiny is nothing new to McMahon and WWE, things have been particularly surreal since November of 2016 as the company now makes regular geopolitical headlines. With the McMahon’s unapologetic relationship with President Trump, the Saudi Arabian saga, and John Oliver playing a progressive Andy Kaufman, the wrestling conglomerate is relevant in ways no one could have predicted. And even though most of this extra attention has been negative, to WWE, it’s all good news. Because in this day and age, it may be better to be polarizing than beloved.

WWE is well on its way to becoming an institution. While it operates as a business, their product is far more emotional than anything Johnson & Johnson ever created. And even with things looking increasingly realistic, WWE still isn’t exactly a sport, either. So in a way, WWE is the world’s first and last billion-dollar circus.

But WWE offers a level of connection that the Ringling Brothers never could. Through in-ring tales of good vs. evil, WWE gives its live audience lessons in morality through violence. So at its core, WWE falls somewhere between the Old Testament and the Coliseum. Which means WWE is in the business of manufacturing heroes, and realistically, they only need to nail one match this Sunday.

While the internet loves to joke Vince McMahon has gone senile, even the kookiest version of that man can go 1/16. For my money, Seth Rollins becoming Universal Champion is the only necessary outcome we and WWE need on Sunday. Even though Brock Lesnar is an all-time great, WWE simply has run out of ways to tell this story. With Rollins as Champion, things instantly move forward, but if Lesnar retains then we’re right on track for Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at SummerSlam — making the last year wholly inconsequential.

But if even Lesnar wins or Kofi Kingston loses, WWE fans, bless their hearts, won’t be going anywhere. Because irony has it, these are the most optimistic people on earth. Don’t let the social media skepticism fool you, no one has more blind hope than a wrestling fan with fresh wounds. Sure, they’ll thrash about Twitter, making threats with too many exclamation points, but like the grannies of old, all they want to do is see their hero win. But when WWE denies that, it’s in order to deliver a later catharsis that could melt an entire building.

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So don’t expect WrestleMania 35 to be a great show. Because the McMahon's have a vested interest in keeping you unhappy. After all, if Sunday ended neat and tidy, then there would be little reason to tune in to Raw and SmackDown the following nights. That’s the hook. From the outside, WWE appears to be selling a unique version of live entertainment. But it’s far less tangible than that. They sell hope and faith. And that has always been a lucrative combination.

See you next year.