After Elimination Chamber, I had hopes for WWE. I really did. John Cena was eliminated early, and the match came down to AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt. And for once, I was surprised by an outcome–WWE put the strap on the Eater of Worlds and it felt like there was a definite shift in direction. But last night, as Monday Night Raw put on the most useless pay-per-view of the year a mere four weeks from WrestleMania, Vince McMahon took a gold-plated dump in our collective mouths.
On paper, having Bill Goldberg come back seems like a fairy tale dream. Right up there with Chris Benoit being tossed into the WWE Hall of Fame. But upon closer scrutiny you see the endless laundry list of problems with this sort of thing. Goldberg is 50 years old and he just won the biggest title in the company. And he’s headed to WrestleMania to face Brock Lesnar, whom is almost 40 years old. Why on earth have these two old men hijacked the biggest wrestling event of the year?
The booking at Fastlane was terrible. Owens came in and out of the ring, walked around the apron, talked trash and delayed the bell ring. When the previous match of Bayley and Charlotte was still going on at 10:50, we all knew some sort of bullshit was coming. When Owens finally got in the ring after wasting our time for five minutes, Chris Jericho’s music hit, the bell rung and then one spear and a jackhammer later, Owens had lost his title.
There was no reason for Goldberg to have a title when facing Lesnar. There was no reason why the inevitable Owens vs Jericho match at Mania couldn’t have been for a title. Instead, Owens vs Jericho is a mostly useless fight, and we now have two old-timers fighting for the Universal Title. One thing for certain that Fastlane did set up was leaving no doubt that Smackdown Live is the better brand, hands down.
Granted, maybe ten or eleven years ago, this might have worked. When Goldberg came to WWE from WCW, this might have been the angle they should have used. But he hasn’t wrestled in 12 years. Then he comes back and “beats” the biggest monster in the company in less than two minutes. Then goes on to “beat” Kevin Owens in less than 30 seconds. Professional wrestling constantly asks us to suspend disbelief, but come on. This is getting a little ridiculous now.
It’s the same formula WWE always desperately goes back to. They recruit gladiators from the Attitude Era and Monday Night Wars and neuter them, parading them around on a leash, and continue watering down our memories of days gone by. Let’s bring back The Undertaker for another year to be embarrassed on live TV as he’s carried through a match gasping for air and spending half the match on his back. Let’s bring back Ric Flair to put over his daughter’s opponent while standing in the middle of the ring red-faced and crying. Let’s bring back The Rock to put over his cousin only to have them both get booed out of the Royal Rumble. Rinse and repeat. And let’s not even mention the epic tragedy of Sting’s WWE “career.”
It is utterly baffling why Vince McMahon and the WWE are so terrified of their young talent. They aren’t prepared to take a chance or push younger guys. It has been that way for a very long time. There are guys (and girls) on the roster that other promotions would kill to have as their champion just being squandered and wasting away into obscurity. We could have a fresh, revitalized WrestleMania with amazing young talent. But instead, valuable ring time is going to be stolen by HHH, Goldberg, Lesnar, and The Undertaker. These guys all had their heydays. They’ve been in the spotlight. News flash, Vince: you aren’t “Showcasing Immortals.” You are cramming the same tired crap down our throats, risking the life and limb of the athletes who should have long since retired from active competition.
They used to call WrestleMania “The Granddaddy of Them All” and that’s never been more true than it is now. Most of these guys are old enough to have grandchildren and frankly, it’s getting a little hard to tune in every year to the same old tripe. I mean, Goldberg has a solid white goatee and white chest hair for crying out loud. Sad times.
Jamie Curtis Baker