Mistakes WWE Must Avoid Making While Booking WrestleMania 35
WrestleMania is the biggest event of the year for the WWE Universe. With all that pressure come feelings of both excitement and anxiety.
While the hype hopefully leads to something amazing, fans are well within their right to simultaneously feel nervous that WWE will somehow screw it up and fall short of expectations, as that has happened before with various feuds over the years.
Over the past 34 years, there have been a multitude of problems arise during WrestleMania season and at the show itself, ranging from poorly timed lineups that see matches rushed to storylines that are poorly executed.
There isn't too long left until WrestleMania 35 takes place April 7, so it is time WWE planned ahead to address any problems before they come up.
To help identify those and point the creative team in the right direction, let's call attention to some of the issues the company must avoid while booking the remaining weeks and the card itself for WrestleMania this year.
Becky Lynch Must Defeat Ronda Rousey
Whether WWE originally wanted a singles match between Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania has become a moot point, as Becky Lynch has proved to be the hot ticket and must be given priority in this Triple Threat feud.
Knowing WWE, though, there will undoubtedly be a chance to mess this up in a number of ways.
For instance, it would be a mistake for Rousey or Flair to win that match in the hopes fans would want to see Lynch continue to chase the championship and carry that into whatever the next event is. People do care about The Irish Lass Kicker, but they want to see her win at WrestleMania, not at something like Backlash.
Giving the win to Flair or Rousey will just upset people and prove WWE officials want to anger the fanbase instead of please them, and it will break the trust that storylines will lead somewhere with a happy resolution.
Likewise, WWE has to avoid wanting to "save" the singles match between Rousey and Lynch for another time by having The Man pin or make Flair submit to win the title.
The theory would be that if Rousey doesn't officially lose, she has all the reason in the world to challenge Lynch to a rematch, and the two could fight at something like SummerSlam. While that makes sense, it reeks of protective booking and would have fans calling it a cop-out.
WWE will give off the impression Lynch isn't good enough to beat Rousey and that this was done to save Rowdy's ego, which will reflect poorly on WWE and cast doubt on The Lass Kicker as the true top woman in the company.
If WWE wants to make sure this goes off without a hitch, this match should be changed to an elimination-style bout, with The Man forcing Flair to tap out before pinning Rousey to establish her dominance.
At the very least, anything short of Lynch forcing Rousey to tap out or fall victim to a three-count will be a disservice to The Man's future and WWE's most popular star.
Asuka Cannot Be an Afterthought
By this point, it's clear WWE's attention is so much more dedicated elsewhere that Asuka and the SmackDown Women's Championship have fallen between the cracks.
The Empress of Tomorrow was mostly kept off television after the Royal Rumble and little has changed as the bare minimum was done to set up her match against Mandy Rose at Fastlane.
Their match wasn't even announced on SmackDown. It's terrible to think WWE must not have valued this enough to even dedicate 10 seconds to have a graphic on the screen, with the commentary team mentioning it. Instead, it was announced through social media.
Such little effort has been been put in that it's not looking good for Asuka and her title come WrestleMania, as it's doubtful the weeks following Sunday's Fastlane will be spent properly building a major contender.
Instead, it seems WWE's answer is Lacey Evans will be "good enough" despite her booking consisting of nothing but coming out and reminding people she exists.
Some of those in charge must think all the eggs have to be put in one basket and that 90 percent of the screen time should be dedicated to the Raw Women's Championship, as that's the match that matters most.
However, that's a misguided notion. Focusing only on one thing doesn't make that better—it only takes away from the SmackDown Women's Championship.
If WWE doesn't pick up the slack to build a match for Asuka that feels like a big deal and one fans can invest in, the writers will have nobody to blame but themselves.
Brock Lesnar Must Not Retain the Universal Championship
For the love of all that is holy in the multiverse, Brock Lesnar cannot leave WrestleMania 35 with the Universal Championship, even in the scenario that he would drop it the next night on Raw.
WWE will probably be tempted to book Seth Rollins to lose in order to allow room for Roman Reigns to re-enter the title picture and be the savior who dethrones The Beast Incarnate, as that has been the plan several times in the past.
Reigns and Lesnar have had far too many matches together, and there is too much bad blood surrounding those two. If WWE goes down that road again, nothing good will come out of it.
It took five years and leukemia for The Big Dog to finally be cheered the way WWE wanted, and all that progress will go out the window if a swerve happens to put him above Rollins.
For that matter, even if it isn't Reigns who does the job, the idea of Lesnar retaining the belt any longer, as he's essentially held it since WrestleMania 33.
That short gap with Reigns as champion almost doesn't count because it feels as though the belt has been around the same person's waist for two years, and Raw desperately needs that to change.
It was way past time for a new champion by WrestleMania 34, and there were plenty of opportunities to take the belt off Lesnar in the year since then, such as giving it to Braun Strowman at Crown Jewel, but WWE's favoritism for The Beast kept the title in the same limbo it's been in for too long.
Under no circumstances can WWE think it's a good idea to stall even longer—unless the goal is to make it crystal clear to fans that the Universal Championship is cursed.
Don't Book Too Many Multi-Superstar Matches
The telltale sign of lazy booking for WrestleMania is when WWE can't think of anything to do for a proper feud, so to counteract the lack of a worthwhile storyline to drum up hype, multiple people are thrown into a match.
Effectively, the star power of a bunch of wrestlers makes up for the feud falling short, and all that needs to be done leading up to April 7 is to pair off everyone in random singles matches and some sort of tag team affair.
There's already a Triple Threat for the Raw Women's Championship in the works, and it's beyond likely WWE does something similar for up to five other titles too.
The United States Championship has folks like Andrade, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, Mustafa Ali and more who could all be in the hunt for R-Truth's belt. Likewise, the Intercontinental Championship has Bobby Lashley, Lio Rush, Drew McIntyre, Elias and plenty of other potential challengers.
The tag team scene could also easily turn into a mashup. WWE doesn't seem too high on The Revival, even as champions, since they keep losing. So if the thought process is that they have little value, it's likely they are booked against more than one team.
Be it a Four Corners match, Fatal 5-Way, Six Pack Challenge or whatever, these matches can be fun, but they feel hollow and don't come close to creating the same level of anticipation as a one-on-one feud.
If WWE runs into a problem with too many Superstars and not enough spots, there needs to be a pecking order based on who needs prioritising, who will create the best lineup, which people will have the best matches and what will result in the most entertaining WrestleMania without hurting the Superstars who aren't in those matches.
The leftovers should then be put in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal to help build the hype for that, as that match is never hurt from an increase in star power.
Don't Make the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Useless Again
Not a peep has been mentioned about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but we can assume it will come back this year after taking place at each of the previous five WrestleManias.
WWE fans aren't stupid enough to think this is anything but a filler match to get people on the card, so everyone is aware it's at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of importance.
Typically, only a few names are announced in advance, and everyone else is thrown in without rhyme or reason because WWE puts next to no effort into setting up this match.
What's a shame, though, is that this could be used to catapult someone's career or be worth something, yet all five winners have failed to get a solid push out of this match.
It isn't hard to avoid this mistake. All WWE has to do is take someone the writers have plans to utilize after WrestleMania, put that person in this match and have them win it before following up with their already-planned ideas. That's it.
Otherwise, this bout will, for the sixth year in a row, be pointless. And nobody will care about it. It's already hanging on by a thread, as it's always on the Kickoff, and winners like Matt Hardy amount to nothing afterward, so fans know not to get invested in it. But that shouldn't be the case.
The same goes for the women's Battle Royal, if that also returns this year. There's no excuse for Naomi winning last year and fading even further into obscurity. A big win at WrestleMania should lead to more opportunities.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute to Announce Matches
WWE should plan out each WrestleMania as much as possible a full year in advance, tweaking things along the way.
By the time Royal Rumble is being booked, most of the matches for The Show of Shows should be set in stone, save for an injury changing the landscape or someone's immense popularity springing from nowhere.
There's no excuse for WWE to be doing what has happened the past several years, wherein two weeks or even on the go-home shows of Raw and SmackDown, matches are still being announced.
Why WWE does this has to be twofold.
On one hand, the powers that be may simply have such poor time-management skills that they didn't budget a better plan and had to rush at the last minute.
Alternatively, WWE may think there's a need for mystery leading up to the final show before the pay-per-view and that fans feel compelled to tune in to Raw and SmackDown without that hook of the unknown.
If the big stories for WrestleMania aren't interesting enough to draw an audience and a gimmick like missing matches on the card is meant to correct that, WWE has already failed.
The problem with rushing something is that it comes off as an afterthought that doesn't matter enough for WWE to have wanted to promote it ahead of time, so fans automatically don't care and have no time to generate buzz about.
Instead, WWE should have every match announced by March 26 so the go-home shows can give viewers the final nudge rather than the setup.
Don't Ignore the Superstar Shake-Up
WrestleMania is the closest thing to a finale the WWE television product ever has, which is emphasized by the Superstar Shake-up soon after.
Once the brands are shuffled around, it's awkward to have residual feuds continue across Raw and SmackDown just because there wasn't enough of a resolution at The Show of Shows.
Some would argue cross-brand feuds are interesting, but the mistake is that any titles on the line are obviously not going to swap brands without some convoluted situation like last year between Jinder Mahal and Jeff Hardy.
Rather than run into this problem, WWE should book WrestleMania as the endgame. Storylines should be wrapped up by the Raw and SmackDown afterward, and everything should get a fresh start after the Superstar Shake-up.
That change gives fans a chance to look forward to what's to come, rather than feel like WWE is cleaning up any lingering WrestleMania clutter.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.