Grading the Booking Thus Far of Every WWE WrestleMania 39 Feud

Philip LindseyMarch 18, 2023

Grading the Booking Thus Far of Every WWE WrestleMania 39 Feud

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    The road to WrestleMania can be such a euphoric time of year for wrestling fans. Even the most cynical fans can easily get swept up in the nostalgia surrounding the event, but it's also a culmination of many of the storylines viewers have been following for months.

    The build to this year's event has had its undeniable highs and lows. The ongoing stories focusing on Sami Zayn and The Bloodline continue to be a highlight. However, some of the other week-to-week angles have grown repetitive.

    For example, the conflict between Dominik and Rey Mysterio has been entertaining, but it feels like we've seen the same segment countless times. How many times has Dom tried to goad his dad into a fight until he refuses and leaves him in the ring as the camera follows him up the aisle? It's an effective way to build up anticipation, but it has gone on a little too long.

    WWE's plots can tend to drag because it needs enough material to fill weeks of television between each premium live event. Sometimes, the creative team strikes the right balance to give us enough new developments and leave us wanting more. More often, it seems like the company pads Raw and SmackDown with filler or inconsequential story beats.

    It's one of the reasons why some fans just watch the PLEs and ignore both weekly series. This alternative can be a much more concise and enjoyable viewing experience.

    At any rate, let's analyze the booking for every feud heading into WrestleMania 39 and look at what's working and what's not.

Bianca Belair vs. Asuka

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    This feud is a perfect example of the decompression we described earlier. Bianca Belair is a tremendous champion, and Asuka's new persona makes her an intriguing challenger.

    However, this storyline has been seemingly running in place for weeks. Nothing is interesting about watching these two engage in a staredown and then point at the WrestleMania sign. Let The Empress of Tomorrow cut a promo explaining why she returned to her roots, or give Belair time to express why this WrestleMania match is her biggest challenge yet.

    Do something else, because this is sadly underselling what will probably be one of the best matches of the weekend.

    Grade: C-

Brock Lesnar vs. Omos (with MVP)

2 of 10

    This matchup is still such a head-scratcher, and WWE hasn't done much to prove it will be anything more than a squash match. This feud and its build have been paper-thin.

    Cowboy Brock is still a fun change of pace, but you can't help but feel like there had to be a better use of such a massive superstar. Omos has potential, but he hasn't shown us enough to make him an exciting opponent for The Beast Incarnate.

    Hopefully, this will at least lead to something significant like The Hurt Business reuniting to justify its addition to the card.

    Grade: D

Gunther vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus

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    Gunther is officially the longest-reigning WWE intercontinental champion since The Honky Tonk Man.

    The Ring General has been an excellent addition to SmackDown and will inevitably enter the world title picture. So, it makes perfect sense to showcase him against two former WWE champions and cap off his most notable rivalry on the main roster.

    Sheamus and Drew McIntyre have great chemistry together, and The Celtic Warrior produced a certified banger with Gunther at Clash at the Castle. So, this is an ideal use of all three competitors.

    The last few weeks of this build have been a tad predictable, but it's not enough to dampen expectations for this Triple Threat match.

    Grade: B

Austin Theory vs. John Cena

4 of 10

    WWE has booked this feud surprisingly well. To that end, the new regime has done a commendable job with Austin Theory.

    It would've been easy to write him off after his failed Money in the Bank cash-in because it has ruined others' careers. WWE effectively leaned into the criticism of the newcomer and used it to give him his dream match with its most significant success story.

    John Cena returned on the March 6 episode of Raw and cut a scathing promo on Theory, leaving some fans to wonder if this was a burial. Nevertheless, this is a make-or-break moment for the reigning United States champion and a subtle deconstruction of what made his idol's rise in popularity so special.

    Grade: B

Trish Stratus, Lita and Becky Lynch vs. Damage CTRL

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    Trish, Lita and Becky Lynch vs. Damage CTRL is the most well-constructed angle featuring women heading into WrestleMania 39.

    The Man's ongoing rivalry with Bayley and her cohorts is already much more engaging than either of the women's title matches. It's a nice way to pay off a plotline that has been going on since Damage CTRL debuted at SummerSlam.

    Lita and Lynch's tag titles win was a pleasant surprise and a nice callback to their 2022 feud. It was also a fresh idea to add the two Hall of Famers to this program, because another one-on-one match didn't exactly feel WrestleMania-caliber.

    It's a shame that it means there won't be a women's tag team championship bout on the card, but this star-studded six-woman tag match is still a welcomed addition.

    Grade: B-

Edge vs. Finn Bálor

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    Edge vs. Finn Bálor is a rivalry that has been going on for about nine months, but it hasn't overstayed its welcome.

    That's likely because their pay-per-view matches have exceeded expectations so far. Their "I Quit" match at Extreme Rules kept the tension brewing, and Rhea Ripley and Beth Phoenix stole the show in their mixed tag encounter at Elimination Chamber.

    Hell in a Cell is the logical next step for this feud because it's the only way to keep The Judgement Day from interfering again. It could also be a nice way to reintroduce The Demon King.

    Grade: B

Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul

7 of 10

    WWE deftly used the first two events of the year to set up Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul. The Visionary also did some heavy lifting on Instagram Live and The Pat McAfee Show to explain why he didn't like the popular social media influencer.

    It was also wise to use Rollins' growing popularity to position him as a stalwart who opposes an outsider, and Paul just works better as a heel.

    Still, the best aspects of this feud haven't happened on Raw. The segments have been very hit-or-miss since it transitioned to a week-to-week build. That's partially because Paul isn't available every week, which is kind of Rollins' initial point about him.

    The other problem is there's just too much Miz and too many talk-show segments. It's making a straightforward storyline appear convoluted.

    Grade: C+

Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley

8 of 10

    Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley had the makings of a hot feud due to their history together and the latter's awesome Royal Rumble win.

    However, the pacing has been off for such a heated rivalry. It made perfect sense for Ripley to challenge the woman who derailed her most successful run with the company and handed her a humiliating loss in 2020.

    It's also a WrestleMania rematch that WWE should revisit in front of a live crowd. Nonetheless, the exchanges between these two have left us wanting more.

    The pull-apart brawl from the latest episode of SmackDown was a much-need change of pace, but we still want to see Flair and Ripley delve deeper. There's so much material here, and they've only scratched the surface.

    Grade: C

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. The Usos

9 of 10

    WWE hasn't officially announced the match yet, but everyone is expecting Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to challenge The Usos for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship.

    This has been the best storyline on weekly television for months. Some fans may still be disappointed that The Great Liberator is out of the world title picture for now, but his story arc is still just as captivating.

    His conflict with Jey Uso was a fitting direction following his universal title match at Elimination Chamber. Even more, it was a stroke of genius to stretch out his reunion with Owens. The moment felt earned when the longtime friends finally hugged on the latest edition of SmackDown.

    Everyone's motives are clear and realistic, and their character development over the past few months has been unmatched. It's truly the greatest story WWE has produced in a long time.

    Grade: A

Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes

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    Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes is a quintessential WrestleMania matchup worthy of the main event.

    This was the best option, and The American Nightmare has proved to be the right choice to dethrone The Tribal Chief in two weeks. WWE has kept him undefeated, and his promos haven't gotten progressively better every week.

    All of the segments since his Royal Rumble win have been gold. He didn't back down when Paul Heyman came to Raw and he held his own against Reigns on SmackDown. Rhodes feels like every bit of the star the company has needed him to be.

    Nothing he's doing so far has been a huge departure from what worked with All Elite Wrestling. His promos are still as passionate and believable, and he still knows how to tell a wrestling story while giving us a glimpse behind the curtain. It's a refreshing approach that makes him stand out with WWE.

    The Head of the Table still looks like the ultimate final boss, but his feud with Sami Zayn has left him more vulnerable than ever. His first in-ring segment with Rhodes exposed the vast difference in experience between them.

    The 37-year-old is already one of the most decorated and long-standing champions of his generation. He's on pace to break Hulk Hogan's record for the most main event appearances at The Showcase of the Immortals.

    Rhodes hasn't received the same opportunities, and it showed. That's what makes his hunger to prove himself and pursue his dream so genuine and relatable.

    Grade: A