Well... that was certainly a WrestleMania to remember wasn't it? Whether you loved it or hated it, you were still talking about it and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Sure it had it's bad moments (wrestling always does) but boy were they outweighed by the great moments.
Two of those great moments came from absolutely nowhere and surprised everybody with their production, choreography, pizzazz, drama and above all else - entertainment. I am of course talking about the two non-traditional matches - The BoneYard Match and The Firefly FunHouse Match. Two never before seen matches and potentially never to be seen again.
The matches have been, if anything, divisive. For every 100 fans who loved them and claimed they made this the best WrestleMania of all time, they were equally 100 people to say that they were nonsense and a complete spit in the face to everything that professional wrestling stands for. For me personally, I can completely understand both sides. But my mindset right now is that WWE not only delivered us a WrestleMania when we had no right to be given one, but they gave us something new. Something different. The literal exact thing that fans have been crying out for.
The question on a lot of peoples lips is whether or not we see these matches again. Should they be protected and used only for special rivalries? Used more often? An entire PPV full of them? I'm going to discuss the pros and cons to WWE using cinematic 'events' in their programming more often.
Pro - 10 More Years Of Taker
Think of The Undertaker over the last 5 years. What springs to mind? Is it classic 5 star matches? Nope. Is it 1995-2010 levels of performances out of Taker? Nope. The only thing that springs to mind is that he should've hung up the boots well before that 5 years.
The Undertaker is on virtually everybody's Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling. He is every bit as important as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair or John Cena. But anybody, Mark Callaway especially, can admit that his best is way behind him. With every WrestleMania that has come, the voices calling for him to stop embarrassing himself have only gotten louder. However, this was not the case at WrestleMania 36.
Taker looked a million bucks on Saturday night. You wouldn't for a second think that his matches of the last few years have had him puffing and panting within 5 minutes of 'action'. What this match showed, above all else, is that The Undertakers career can easily be extended by 10 years in the correct circumstances. The benefit of stopping and starting a production is that he gets time to rest. No more 20 minute slogfests where the only time to rest is during a chinlock.
Con - Commonplace = Boring
I cannot fully explain how much I loved both 'matches'. They were incredibly well produced, acted and executed. This was high-concept art and masterful sports entertainment at it's absolute finest. Should it be replicated regularly? Hell, no. It was brilliant as is and too many attempts to do similar will only result in failure while simultaneously diminishing it. Both events were used to close the curtain on huge rivalries, one of which was 6 years in the making. Would the Firefly FunHouse even work again? The main reason ot worked so well is because of the rivalry showcased within it. Bray Wyatt hasn't had another rivalry like it, certainly not another 6 year long one.
The BoneYard match did have a few moments where it felt over extended and a little too drawn out, but it was must-watch stuff from start to finish. I remember saying it should've ended 10 minutes sooner. But what did I do in those 10 minutes? I kept my mouth shut and watched in amazement at the commitment and passion that WWE had put on show.
The Firefly FunHouse was absolutely perfect and I won't hear any arguments to the contrary. It was quite simply stunning. It encapsulated everything that is wrong with WWE, everything the fans have complained about for many years, and used it to it's advantage. It was hilarious, creepy, poignant and thought provoking.
With this and the Boneyard match Saturday night, the WWE production team proved itself the true MVPs of WrestleMania weekend. Their tireless efforts to make the most of a difficult situation by providing revolutionary 'matches' helped make this year's Showcase of the Immortals an unforgettable viewing experience. Repeating these matches too often, if at all, could have the opposite effect and make them wholly forgettable instead.
Pro - The Dream Match
It had to be spoken about. I know, I know... it has been spoken about to death by now and there have been way more negatives to speak of than positives. But if the BoneYard and Firelfy FunHouse matches have proved any one thing above any other, it is this...
Sting vs. The Undertaker has now become more of a reality.
I don't very often buy in to the term 'Dream Match'. It is a phrase thrown around too often. For every legitimate dream match between two of the GOATs, there is someone who thinks Jimmy Wang Yang facing Funaki is a dream match. But this... this one really is just that.
Let's be honest, it should've happened 15-20 years ago. Both men are old, past it and incapable of putting on the performance that this match would deserve. But can you think of any two more perfect superstars to have compete against eachother in a cinematic event? Sting and Taker are two of the most mysterious characters we have ever seen and a showdown between the two icons would be nothing short of spectacular. The stop and start nature of a pre taped match would hide any flaws in either mans game and help them to roll back the years.
The next question is... who wins? That's one I ain't even gonna TRY and touch!
Con - What Happens After COVID19?
This may be the biggest problem of all. Part of the reason that these events worked so well over the weekend is because we were sat watching them at home. It was no different to watching a short movie, or even a trailer on YouTube. WWE were clearly worried about putting out 7+ hours worth of content with no atmosphere whatsoever. These matches took away from that, albeit briefly, and didn't have a chance to suffer from a lack of crowd interaction or disinterested fans. The real issue arises when there are live crowds in attendance again.
COVID19 has turned the world upside down and caused WWE to think outside the box for the first time in forever. Would either of these matches have happened at all if the world wasn't in the middle of a global pandemic? It's unlikely. It is one thing to make a live crowd sit and watch a backstage interview or WWE shop commercial on the big screen, but to watch a 30 minute match staring up at a screen of various sizes depending on where you are sat? I can't imagine that going down too well, especially after the complaints that came in when WWE aired the Ultimate Deletion on a live episode of RAW.
Pro - Variety Of Matches
One of the worst things we can do coming out of WrestleMania is try and place other wrestlers into these matches. They worked because they were special to the men involved. Sure, Roman Reigns would work in a FunHouse match, but who else would make sense? Who else would fit into a BoneYard match? What WWE should do is try and come up with as many potential feuds as possible, in as many environments as possible.
I'm just spitballing here but how about something involving Stone Cold Steve Austin at the Broken Skull Ranch? Undertaker vs. Kane in the burnt down funeral home that introduced The Big Red Machine to the WWE? Seth Rollins vs Alesteir Black in some form of church setting? Killer Kross in an asylum? Ciampa v Gargano in a literal Street Fight?
The possibilities are endless and the WWE roster is so deep that new scenarios will keep popping up over the years to come. Not only can these matches be used a spectacle to finish off a rivalry, they can be used to sdd an extra layer to a superstars character, or to give a part timer something more meaningful than a cameo or promo.
Con - Alienting The Purists
One of the biggest issues surrounding the FunHouse Match is that it wasn't strictly a wrestling match. The BoneYard match can be forgiven to a certain extent as it was essentially a Buried Alive match which has ways followed a certain path, but the FFFH was so new that nobody knew what to expect. However, the mere fact that the word 'match'was included in the title would suggest substantially more wrestling than was actually featured.
WWE simply cannot afford to alienate any more fans than they already have done in recent years. Lots of things have happened over the course of the last decade to turn fans away and for the first time in a very long time, WWE have legitimate competition in AEW. While most did enjoy the matches, it is understandable that they have been viewed as 'childish' or 'insulting' to a small number of fans. The concerning thing with that is, even a minority of WWE fans could still amount to millions. If they see things being done 'properly' and in a more traditional fashion over at AEW, it's only a matter of time before they log out of Twitter and let their TV remote do the talking.