Thursday, April 4, 2019

Wrestlemania 35: The Main Event

And rightfully so.
While I’ll be doing a normal predictions post later in the week for Wrestlemania (and for Takeover New York), there are a few matches on the card that beg for a deeper dive on the storylines that have led up to them, so they’ll get their own posts first. And we’ll start with the biggest, most historic match on the card: Lynch vs. Rousey vs. Charlotte for both women’s championships.

The most interesting thing about this match is how it exposes one of WWE’s biggest storytelling flaws. It’s one that exists across the board, but it’s one that’s especially apparent with the women. And it’s that WWE sees booking as a zero sum game.

Because the more heat and attention the Becky-Charlotte-Ronda story got, from Summerslam until now, the more the rest of the women’s division was sacrificed to make room for it. Nearly every other part of the division suffered, either by losing screen time, being relegated to bit players in the Lynch-Flair-Rousey story, or, in the case of Asuka, both things at the same time while “enjoying” her first ever championship run on the main roster.

Let’s face facts. WWE did very poorly by Asuka, to such a degree that other women on the roster participated in the JusticeForAsuka hashtag on social media. She got the belt because of Rousey fighting with Lynch and Flair, lost it because of Flair fighting with Lynch and Rousey, and was almost completely ignored in-between. It’s ridiculous and unacceptable. You’ve got five hours of television each week and the main feud is mostly on the three hours Asuka’s not on. You could do better.

That said, there’s no denying this match has heat. It started with the Shot Heard Round The World, when, at Summerslam 2018, Becky Lynch beat the shit out of Charlotte Flair in what was, at the time, seen by WWE as a heel turn. But not by fans. Because it turns out, in one of those great conflations of real life and wrestling storylines that make some of the best moments, Becky Lynch was completely justified in what she did. Becky was right. And a wrestler who does what’s right isn’t a heel.

Luckily, WWE figured this out quickly, and the evolution into “The Man” began in earnest. Over the past nine months, Lynch has used her prodigious skill sets in acting, comedy, and social media to transform into an anti-authority, scrappy underdog who will murder you in a heartbeat if you step to her on Twitter. 

She turned “little weirdo” into a compelling, effective insult. That’s how good Becky Lynch is at her job.

That underdog factor, though, has really affected her in-ring booking, especially in 2019. She started the year tapping out to Asuka, and spent nearly every moment since selling a knee “injury” that made her Royal Rumble win a bit less triumphant than it could have been and all her in-ring interactions since then   about her getting beaten up. Only in the past couple of weeks, knee injury forgotten, has she started to look stronger, but she’s still booked like the underdog, taking most o fthe abuse in the go-home six-woman tag this Monday, for example.

What does this mean for Sunday? Well, here’s the thing. Vince McMahon, or whatever cabal of WWE writers whose consistent failings we attribute to Vince McMahon, has an ornery streak when it comes to the fans. Sometimes, just to show he has the power and they don’t, he’ll yank the rug out from under them and deny them what they want. Not because it’s good storytelling, and not because of long-term plans (hah), but just to show us all who’s boss.

And that could happen here. But I don’t think it will. I don’t think this ends any other way than a gender-swapped Wrestlemania 30, with Becky Lynch standing tall, holding one belt in each hand, and confetti raining from the ceiling. She can and should lose or relinquish one of the belts very quickly, but we all want this, we all need this, and we should get this. 

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