WWE WrestleMania XXIX is almost here, but WrestleMania season just doesn't feel as big or important as usual.
With a subpar undercard and a build up that has been scattershot outside of the top matches, the WWE seems to be content with pushing this year's WrestleMania as a glorified one-match show.
Long Raws have further made what should be a spirited sprint to New Jersey seem like a marathon. And while WWE may be justified in the long run when the buyrate comes out, perhaps this ride could have been smoother.
Problems with the WrestleMania card have led to the under emphasis of key figures and championships while potentially alienating the WWE fanbase. Is this really the type of show that spectators should be willing to brave sub-40 degree temperatures for?
Contrary to locker room belief, there is no one superstar who deserves to be on any given WrestleMania card more than The Rock.
It was Dwayne Johnson who used his well-documented franchise-saving abilities to rescue the WrestleMania brand in 2011, and he hasn't looked back since.
With that being said, The Rock's absence in 2013 has adversely affected the build up to his rematch against John Cena. The Rock is the current WWE champion. The flagship show went without its top champion for almost an entire month during WrestleMania season. This made the WWE championship main event seem like less of a big deal.
WrestleMania seems less major league with so many advertised debuts. Fandango and Big E. Langston are set to make their in-ring debuts. Meanwhile, Jack Swagger will be competing for a world championship just two pay-per-views into a new gimmick.
The WWE's grandest show usually features a culmination of angles, feuds and character development. Instead, WWE creative is going backwards. WrestleMania XXIX seems closer to WWE NXT with every booked match.
Jack Swagger's "Real American" gimmick got off to a hot start. Zeb Colter's biting anti-immigration promos showed promise, especially with Alberto Del Rio as a possible opponent for his protegé.
However, the WWE played it too safely with Colter's flirtations with racism. They eventually infused an ill-advised comedy aspect to the world championship angle, with Del Rio and Rodriguez parodying the Swagger-Colter YouTube promos.
Swagger has since garnered heat through attacks of Ricardo Rodriguez, which is hardly the most effective method of heat-seeking given Colter's obvious talents on the microphone.
WWE Raw's move to three hours have slowed down WrestleMania hype, forcing the WWE to book matches on free TV that will be repeated come WrestleMania.
One particular feud that has been a casualty of this dilemma is Miz vs. Wade Barrett. The two have already faced off on two different occasions on Raw. Their rubber match will come at WrestleMania for the intercontinental title.
Raw ratings during WrestleMania season have shown a noticeable drop from the second to third hour, indicating viewer fatigue. Hopefully WrestleMania is already destination programming, and the long Raws have not adversely affected fan interest.
WrestleMania has been home to midcard classics. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat.
This year, the WWE has done a poor job taking their time with midcard feuds. Instead, many superstars have been mixed and matched. In some cases, feuds—like Jericho vs. Fandango—have come out of nowhere.
The gross undercard negligence could mean that the WWE is content with its record-breaking WrestleMania main event from last year. However, with very little else to captivate the WWE Universe, a WWE championship version of a rerun may not have the same magic as it did last year.