MR. TITO: Did WWE Peak with Wrestlemania 40?

Wrestlemania 40 shattered WWE’s previous gate records as the all-time richest gate ever recorded by the company. Through this event and slightly after, WWE began regularly drawing up to 15,000 for RAW and Smackdown events while experiencing serious elevation of television viewership numbers thanks to the Bloodline and Rock storyline. Then, Wrestlemania 40 happened and it was arguably one of the best Wrestlemanias of all time, if not the best by certain fans’ standards.

After Wrestlemania 40, three of the biggest contributors were gone: Rock went back to Hollywood, Roman Reigns is on scheduled time-off, and Seth Rollins had surgery to repair tendons torn in his knee. Weeks later, Rhea Ripley walked away citing an injury, though many suspect it’s personal time off to reduce some anxiety generated for going so hard for so long.

OK, so how do you top what just happened?

Cody Rhodes vs. AJ Styles, that’s how. *sarcasm*

During the summer of 2019, Disney and Marvel studios released Avengers: Endgame and it broke box office records here, there, and everywhere. Aside from one Spider-Man film produced by Sony that hit the nostalgia nerve, Marvel has been suffering ever since. They just have no follow-up, nor did they adequately replace Iron Man and Captain America following their last appearances in Endgame. There was no plan, other than Disney trying to shove out more quantity over quality and some of those Disney+ series are complete cringe.

Reminds me of the New World Order storyline from WCW during 1996-1998, along with parts of 1999 and later 2002. It was red hot and kept growing and growing through its peak of Starrcade 1997. Then, Hulk Hogan executed his creative control to botch the finish of that match and WCW was never the same ever since. NWO storyline was on fumes and too many hopes and dreams were placed on a newcomer named Bill Goldberg. Sting should have vanquished Hogan and much of 1998 should have been Sting as a strong WCW Champion while the NWO unraveled. Instead, Sting gave his title back, won the title at Super Brawl, and then lost it to Macho Man who quickly turned it back over to Hulk Hogan. Complete stupidity orchestrated by the complete enabler named Eric Bischoff, a guy that places the “who” in “Who Killed WCW” that ViceTV is trying to answer right now.

I thought Austin vs. McMahon ran its course through Wrestlemania 15, as the rest of that Summer got weird with the “Higher Power” storyline and rehashing Austin vs. McMahon. Once Austin left for his neck injury, the WWE (and Viacom, who inked a big TV deal) found out that they’ve hit their peak and were on a 2000-2004 decline for the next 5 years. Austin returned during 2000, but the environment wasn’t the same of what he once left. More corporate, HHH and Rock took more control, and WWE began scripting everything.

Personally, I thought WWE’s decline during the 2010s began with Brock Lesnar completely burying John Cena at SummerSlam 2014. Prior to that, getting 4 million viewers was easy for Monday Night RAW, but after that, their viewership plus attendance and merchandise all began to decline. When Cena would start stepping away, WWE began offering refunds for houseshows. By late 2010s, they were cancelling houseshows because an overpushed babyface named Roman Reigns couldn’t fill that void.

Lucky for WWE, however, a heel turn and adding Paul Heyman as a manager/advisor was the right medicine for Roman Reigns. He came back from his break refreshed and with a new attitude, and clearly, Paul Heyman was helping him forge a new character. From August 2020 through Royal Rumble 2024, Roman Reigns grew and grew into a top drawing superstar and combined with Triple H’s storytelling, he can now be discussed getting near that Hogan, Cena, and Austin God-like tier and is tied with guys like the Rock, Undertaker, Roddy Piper, and Ric Flair.

WWE has been retracting ever since Wrestlemania 40, as viewership came back down to earth and so did attendance. Many are hoping that Roman and the Rock will return soon, but I wouldn’t count your blessings just yet. Meanwhile, this new Bloodline… Sure, let’s hire all of Haku’s kids and have them randomly appear on Smackdown as if we’ve known those wrestlers for years. NO, the reason the original Bloodline worked was due to the Usos being a WWE tag team since 2010 and Roman Reigns being in the WWE since 2012. Oh yeah, those guys are related… Solo Sikoa is their younger brother, so he works well with those guys but no-so-much on his own with the unknown Haku connection.

Go ahead… Sign as many Samoan relatives of each of these guys that you can. Doesn’t mean they’ll draw… Usos drew because we’ve seen them since 2010, and Roman has because we’ve seen them since 2012. We’ve been a part of their journey and rise to the top, along with dealing with their hardships of not making it to the top. While seeing Roman overpushed during the 2010s was a chore, it added to his heat of the heel character because fans wanted to boo him for so long. In addition, Roman now effectively dominating as a top heel allows him to brag that he defeated major top names in the past and headlined many Wrestlemanias.

Everyone is fantasizing about Rock being in charge of a Bloodline containing multiple Haku relatives plus Solo versus a Roman-led version of the Bloodline with the Usos and maybe Jacob Fatu?

Isn’t that NWO Wolfpack versus NWO Hollywood from 1998 all over again?

NWO kept adding members, for no rhyme or reason, just to be in one NWO stable or another. I just don’t know about Haku’s relatives and haven’t been overly impressed, yet, with them inside the ring. But I don’t know either guy… Just because they wrestled overseas doesn’t impress me much, and neither has it impressed AEW fans with Okada and Ospreay NOT DRAWING.

And it’s not the Creative Team sucking… I’m enjoying Chad Gable’s newer character evolution, Liv Morgan and Dominik Mysterio, and a few other midcarder storylines… You can blame Cody Rhodes all day, but it doesn’t appear that WWE had a plan for him as WWE Champion. AJ Styles twice for Pay Per Views and wrestling US Champion Logan Paul? Really? Was KANE not available to feud, as he quickly made Benoit, Rollins, and Bryan’s World Title reigns look lame following their big Wrestlemania runs.

You have RANDY ORTON vs. CODY RHODES right there and is perfect for post-Wrestlemania 40, but WWE isn’t doing it. John Cena versus Cody Rhodes would work, too, though he’s likely in Hollywood right now.

What will Roman Reigns come back to? For one, his feud with Cody Rhodes has already been finished and the “Anti-AEW” & “Finish the Rhodes Story” stuff isn’t there to fuel his chase. Secondly, what made Roman GREAT was his long enduring World Title reign. That’s gone… Unless you have the patience of 2-3 years to build it back up, good luck.

And thanks to the WWE hotshotting Rock vs. Roman Reigns during the week after Royal Rumble for Wrestlemania 40 because they were scared of the Public Relations that Vince McMahon’s sexual habits would bring them with the Janel Grant lawsuit, that DREAM match doesn’t have the shine it once did. However, in fairness, I think that both guys could bring it back, as there is way too much talent and heel Rock was fantastic.

Here’s a hypothetical for y’all… What if Roman Reigns retires?

Who is behind him as the next #1 guy? Sure, you could try a collection of guys up top, but you’re sort of doing that right now. Most wrestling booms have a top storyline and/or top drawing superstar, and when they happen at the same time, mega growth occurs.

I just don’t see any of the current prospects being “that guy”. Bron Breakker is very talented, but they’ve already tried many character turns on him already. Nothing in NXT is jumping off the screen… Much of the NXT call-ups from 2010s and the remainder of the folks from the FCW roster are getting old. CM Punk is older and struggling to stay healthy.

I believe WWE just hit a peak and lucky for them, they just signed a MASSIVE $5.0 billion deal with Netflix for the next 10 years (could be 5 years for $2.5 million). I just don’t know if they can ever top what just happened… Everything through Wrestlemania 40 was too good and I think we’re all spoiled for it.

That said, we have to see what Triple H can do to revitalize the Main Event scene of RAW and Smackdown. I’m sorry, but Cody vs. an older AJ Styles isn’t cutting it.

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