No matter what WWE, Vince McMahon or Triple H try to tell you, there is one particularly coveted spot on WrestleMania -- closing the show. It was a point of contention for CM Punk. He never reached that point, and the already heavy unlikelihood that he would return, he would probably be a part-time star and also probably gain the spot that he sought for so long, but as the type of wrestler he demonized.
WWE has romanticized their past to a level that has left them reliant on utilizing old stars in marquee spots. At this point, there's probably more in-ring talent than ever before, with several wrestlers who can't crack the main event who would have been there in other eras based on that wrestling ability alone.
WrestleMania is the biggest show of wrestling's year, and the final match is a true indicator of a performer's importance to the brand. However, the last several years -- even dating back almost a decade have only indicated that WWE either doesn't have confidence in their own ability to make and create headlining stars, or just don't care enough to put new guys on top.
Every year, a part-timer takes center stage at WrestleMania. The shot itself is often treated as more of a standalone event as opposed to the culmination of a year of storylines from the last Mania, and there's nothing wrong with that. The event draws more non-wrestling fans than any other event does, and sometimes you have to mix the new with the old. Lately, it's been more old than new.
With the Royal Rumble quickly approaching, the WWE Royal Rumble odds and predictions tell an interesting story with some top names that could emerge victorious and end up headlining the annual WrestleMania spectacular.
Let's take a look at part timers featured in show-closing matches in recent years.
WrestleMania 34: Brock Lesnar
WrestleMania 33: The Undertaker
WrestleMania 32: Triple H
WrestleMania 31: Brock Lesnar
WrestleMania 30: Batista
WrestleMania 29: The Rock
WrestleMania 28: The Rock
WrestleMania 27: Appearance by The Rock
The Undertaker also took on a retiring Shawn Michaels in the main event of WrestleMania 26, and Michaels had been winding things down as it was. Nearly a decade straight where part of the main event was carried by a wrestler who wouldn't be around regularly. The last four of those have also been headlined by Roman Reigns, who has a lot of weight to shoulder moving forward.
It's not just me who wants to see things change. Seth Rollins, who has main evented WrestleMania on his own (sort of), was asked about his thoughts on a potential Roman Reigns vs. Rock match at next year's event.
"I’d like it to be Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins. Don’t get me wrong. I love Rocky. I think he’s great. Love everything he’s done for this business. But my gut, my first instinct, says we don’t need him. We don’t need him. If we’re not the guys who can main event WrestleMania, then how are we ever gonna be The Rock? How are we gonna be Stone Cold Steve Austin? We can’t hold onto these guys forever. We just can’t. To me, let’s do Seth Rollins-Roman Reigns before we do Seth Rollins-The Rock. That’s me. I see that perspective 100%. I get it. There’s nothing wrong with growing, getting bigger and putting more eyes on your product. I totally understand that. I get it. But at some point, we gotta move on from that"
Here and there, cameo stars don't just help WWE and WrestleMania, they're needed. Annually, however? That really diminishes the pool of talent you have at your disposal, pushes others further down the card, and backs yourself into a creative corner where one of the most heavily pushed people on your show has nothing to do with it mere days after a highlighted spot. Lesnar, Triple H and The Undertaker are all WrestleMania regulars and The Rock became one, but from a week to week basis, the story of the show can be sacrificed and compromised to make room and stories for them.
Not to say sometimes they shouldn't be, but your prime storyline? Every year? From a story perspective, several of these made sense. Triple H thought only he could stop Roman Reigns since his hand picked options didn't work. Brock Lesnar was a crossover star. The Undertaker may have been retiring. Shawn Michaels WAS retiring. The Rock is one of the biggest celebrities of all time.
WWE has approached territory on a little bit of both with Ronda Rousey. She's not exactly making every live event, but she's there on Raw, every week, doing her best to pay dues and contribute to the program. She seems nearly a lock for a main event slot on a WrestleMania in the future, which could double as the first women's match to close the show.
As things stand, excluding Ronda Rousey, I see two clear options to main event a WrestleMania. On the male side of things a Shield triple threat has been done before, but features three of the top talent in the company with an established history and story to back things. Most importantly, three main event level guys that people care about. With the proper build up, there's no reason all three can't benefit creatively from this match win, lose, or unpinned.
On the women's side, The Four Horsewomen combo of Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair are huge reasons women's wrestling has advanced to where it is. With this constantly referenced in WWE canon, in documentaries and plenty of proven chemistry, it's a safe bet that this will headline a major show at some point. The main issue is that with a brand split, it's hard to load up one roster with all of this proven talent, so some magic may have to take place in order to facilitate it.
WWE's current, full-time roster has a handful of people who have closed the show at WrestleMania. Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins weren't advertised to do so, and Bryan took several years off. The Miz and Randy Orton haven't been at the show closing level in quite some time. It's time for that to change.
WWE treasures making the brand the attraction over individual talent. That wasn't so much the case when establishing the stars that they employ in Mania main events these days, which is what helped make those names larger than life. With that not being the case today, who will be the WrestleMania main eventers of the future when the current roster doesn't do it?