WrestleMania is the most important day of the WWE’s schedule, but the lack of an offseason means the company needs to plan for the immediate future. Failure to do so significantly weakens the product. This can cause disinterest from viewers at a pivotal moment, as WrestleMania often attracts new and returning fans.
This "Road to WrestleMania" appears to be making this mistake.
The most obvious sign of this failure to plan is the lack of momentum behind any of the WWE’s numerous heels except for Jack Swagger and Mark Henry. Leaving those two men out of the equation, it is difficult to see a legitimate challenger within the current crop of heels.
Dolph Ziggler has picked up a few victories with the assistance of Big E Langston and AJ Lee. At that point, he looked to be building momentum, but he ultimately lost to Chris Jericho on Raw. Both US champion Antonio Cesaro and Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett were more notable for being attacked on Raw than for the matches they were involved in.
Damian Sandow and Cody Rhodes have had some success as a tag team, but have lost several high-profile singles matches over the past six weeks. Their immediate future appears to be connected to The Bella Twins rather than championship glory.
No other heel has managed to pick up five or more victories on WWE television this calendar year.
Even the two men who possess impressive records—Jack Swagger and Mark Henry—could be less attractive as potential title challengers after ‘Mania.
Swagger has been on an amazing run since returning with Zeb Colter at his side. The tale being told going into WrestleMania is driven by America’s ideals of being a land of opportunity. It would be a brave move for the WWE to allow the oppressive Swagger to become champion. His potential reign and character direction could result in questions being asked that would be uncomfortable for some fans.
Then there is Swagger’s current overhanging court case for his possession of drugs. This could also cause the WWE to drop him from the title picture once WrestleMania is over.
Mark Henry appears to be in prime position to challenge for one of the major belts if he is successful at WrestleMania. This will require him to go over Ryback, though. Much time and effort as been spent by WWE’s creative team in the creation of Ryback, which would appear to be very much wasted if he were to lose to the World’s Strongest Man.
Yet, if Ryback is successful, it will be a hard sell for the WWE to immediately put a WrestleMania loser into the title hunt. Especially as Henry will have effectively lost a match in which strength is key, that being his greatest attribute.
Four other heels have been a big part of WWE television this WrestleMania season.
Three of the group known as "The Shield" have been on almost every broadcast. They rarely wrestle matches and so do not have many wins under their belts, but are still undefeated. However, they have been chased off more often than they have been able to attack over the past month. The group’s motto also suggests that their interest in becoming champions is rather low.
Finally, there is Brock Lesnar, who is constantly being advertised as a wrecking machine yet whose only success has been the breaking of a pensioner’s hip. Otherwise, Lesnar has had little impact, and his part-time schedule probably means he will not be around after WrestleMania anyway
This could well leave the company without a legitimate contender for the WWE championship, and possibly the World Heavyweight Championship as well after WrestleMania.
Of course, it could be argued that this is a repeat of last year. WWE failed to build up a new threat, so the following pay-per-view consisted of two championship rematches. The successive events after the pay-per-view saw the previously defeated challengers gifted an opportunity at the other title instead.
However, this year does not offer such opportunities.
Last year’s challengers, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan, had unique reasons to be allowed so many opportunities at the titles. Bryan and then-champion CM Punk have led the way for indy wrestlers coming to WWE, so a clash between them was intriguing. Jericho is a legendary figure who had just returned to television, and there was the possibility that it was his last run.
Jack Swagger doesn’t possess any of these unique factors, so one rematch will be as far as his character can be used in the title picture unless he captures the title.
The Rock certainly will not be around for the next three or four months to challenge for the belts in constant rematches.
WWE also had the much-anticipated return of Brock Lesnar to distract the audience from the rematch marathon. This time around, the WWE does not have a figure of this stature to bring back, so the focus will be on the WWE championships
WrestleMania is the focus of every WWE fan’s mind right now. That is how it should be, as it is the biggest show of the year. However, the WWE needs to look past the grandeur and make sure it can back up the highlight of the year with more compelling television. Lets hope the company has a plan, or the next few months could be underwhelming.