WWE just wrapped its annual WrestleMania event this past weekend, stretching it out across a full weekend for the second year in a row. For some, this change into a two-night show has been seen as an improvement — WrestleMania has been getting increasingly longer after the launch of the WWE Network, and fans hit their breaking point when WrestleMania 35 surpassed seven hours. But others, myself included, are concerned this new format could damage the show going forward.
I've already seen problems developing by making it two nights long, ones that might only get worse if WWE doesn't revert back to a one-night show.
Having covered the last four WrestleManias for ComicBook.com, I believe the shows were getting way too long for one night, but I also noticed a trend starting to pop up with the two-night shows: filler matches.
WrestleMania's mission statement is that it's the time of year when WWE takes their biggest stars, best matchups, and most dramatic storylines — puts them on the biggest stage possible — and broadcasts them for the world to see. If you've been watching from the start, you know they haven't always delivered on that promise, but as time went on (and especially once the Attitude Era started) matches were rarely added to the card purely for the sake of having certain names make appearances.
Each match had stakes and at least some sort of storyline behind them. However, looking at the last two WrestleMania cards, I can count a handful of matches that had next to no build and had no real business being on the biggest show of the year. They were simply included to fill time and get more people on the card, and, while I sympathize with wrestlers jumping at any chance to be on WrestleMania, I also know that those fans at Raymond James Stadium didn't brave thunderstorms and a pandemic because they wanted to see the most wrestlers, they were there to see the best matches.
Unfair to Compare
I'll freely admit that I agree with the prevailing narrative surrounding WrestleMania 37 in that Night One was noticeably better than Night Two. Saturday night shined thanks to great in-ring action, while Sunday had to reconcile with the poor build-up to the show overall. Yet, the moment Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair was over, it seemed like fans decided Night One set the bar so high that Night Two needed to somehow beat it.
Unfortunately, that wasn't possible, and therefore a lot of wrestling fans were vocally panning the show up until the main event. That wasn't fair to the matches like Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn or Riddle vs. Sheamus. They were both solid bouts, but because the show opened on such a low note, those four talents were suddenly being lumped into a narrative they didn't deserve to be in.
Had the show been just one night with a few matches shaved off, these comparison arguments wouldn't exist. Fans also probably would've been a little less critical of some of the weaker Night Two matches like Jax & Baszler vs. Natalya & Tamina.
You Can Have It All
There's this idea recently concocted by online wrestling fans that WrestleMania can only be presented in two ways — either it's spread out across two nights into three-and-a-half-hour digestible pieces, or it has to be twice the length of Zack Snyder's Justice League. This shouldn't be the case.
Let's jump back to the gold standard of WrestleMania, the one that every other installment winds up getting compared to at some point: WrestleMania X-Seven. It managed to have 12 matches, including a 30-minute main event, an all-time great tag match, and representation from wrestlers on every level of the roster. Did it take seven hours to contain all this action? No, it runs just about four hours.
This used to be the standard and WWE was once able to make that work every year. Yet, somehow, only recently, this approach has been forgotten.
The argument in favor of a two-night show also operates under the idea that WWE will keep both nights relatively short and prevent itself from allowing each show to get too long. Yet, I have to ask, what is stopping them from eventually turning the shows into back-to-back marathons? Nothing but their own restraint, and when has the promotion ever been known for that?1comments
Looking back, I enjoyed WrestleMania 36 and 37. They had their faults, but they also had their charms and managed to overcome some obscene outside circumstances. However, this pandemic did not need to be what opened the door for WWE to take its biggest night of the year and stretch it out even further. It was already "The Grandest Stage of Them All," it didn't need an entire weekend.
As of right now, WrestleMania 38 is scheduled for April 3, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. However, the official date was absent from the show's first commercial.