The Anti-Antagonist: Starting Fresh

Adam Gorzelsky

WrestleMania 29For me, the end of Wrestlemania season usually is a bit of a letdown in the excitement department. Months of preparation and build-up are expended on one night, leaving an inevitable lull when the dust finally settles.

A small part of me is feeling that letdown now that Wrestlemania 29 is in the rear view…Let’s face it, no matter how solid the product may be throughout the year, there is nothing quite like the excitement created when the eyes of the world shine down upon professional wrestling for  that one fleeting weekend.

Unlike most years, though, this post-Wrestlemania hangover encompasses only a miniscule portion of my feelings toward the product…In fact, for better or for worse, I’m somewhat ecstatic that this year’s granddaddy-of-them-all finally is in the books.

I’ve written and talked extensively about my dislike for the product since the beginning of the year. I felt that WWE was setting itself up for a lucrative but incredibly lackluster Wrestlemania…Not so bad in business terms, but certainly displeasing to the eye of the seasoned fan.

Wrestlemania came off exactly as I anticipated…I didn’t expect much in the way of shocking surprises or compelling character development, so I didn’t find myself terribly let down by the outcomes. I was entertained, but I wasn’t glued…An accurate analog to my relationship with the product since the Road to Wrestlemania began. In actuality, when I’ve sat down and thought about it, it has become clear that this really has been the story for the past year.

I enjoyed significant portions of post-Wrestlemania 2012 as a fan. The reign of CM Punk, the rise of Daniel Bryan from indy legend to household name, and the debut of the Shield, to name a few. Professional wrestling succeeds when it creates lasting moments in your mind and I can safely say that 2012 instilled a number of these images in my long term consciousness.

Despite the number of positives that I can identify from 2012, I always had a nagging feeling about the ultimate direction. In the summer months, I can recall numerous podcast conversations with Martyn Nolan in which a common term continued to be recycled…In both of our minds, the overwhelming feeling emanating from the product was that WWE was doing nothing more than treading water.

After experiencing the buildup and ultimate result of Wrestlemania, is there any doubt that this was the case? Rock/Cena for the WWE title was the unquestionable plan since the final bell rang in Miami…Everything that we saw and felt in the meantime was nothing more than a placeholder…a time killer.

Punk’s reign was made to feel like a transition rather than a landmark…Ryback was sacrificed to fill a short-term void…Ziggler faded into oblivion after flirting with the main event. While I understand the move from a business perspective, it makes it incredibly difficult to remain invested in a particular story or character when it is being used as a means to an end rather than an open-ended opportunity.

It is for this reason that I am cautiously optimistic about the road ahead. Given the somewhat lackluster performance and the manner in which the Rock graciously conceded defeat, I don’t foresee a Rock/Cena: Third Time’s the Charm. While WWE may be considering a Rock/Brock encounter at Wrestlemania XXX, a match-up between two part-time individuals should not interfere in the big-picture booking throughout the year.

What this means is that WWE should be free to regain a semblance of flexibility and unpredictability in its creative direction. I think back to numerous missed opportunities from the past year and wonder how many were the product of a Wrestlemania that had been set in stone for a year…I wonder how little room remained for creativity.

WWE cashed in on Wrestlemania 29 like never before by sacrificing a number of principles that create a solid “wrestling” product. I see the end of Wrestlemania season as a chance to start fresh…as a chance to resurrect much of the promise from the past year that had been buried by long-term planning run amok.

Am I setting myself up for disappointment? Quite possibly. Nevertheless, I look forward to a new beginning with an ending that is not yet written. Will we like the picture painted by the time Wrestlemania XXX is in the books? Not necessarily…but I’ll feel better about the result knowing that it began with an empty canvas.

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