The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
Heading into WrestleMania, WWE seemed to be percolating with fan interest. They had a dream WWE championship match lined up, they had Ronda Rousey debuting and they had several other big programs featuring top names headlining the show. On top of that, WWE was even fortunate enough to have Daniel Bryan come back as a member of the main roster.
However ever since the big event, WWE has felt very flat and fans are being left unsatisfied by the current product. Two weeks ago I had a review for Backlash and while I didn't think the show was good I didn't think it was the worst show the company would produce all year. However the feedback I got was that fans hated it; and that was coming on the heels of the Greatest Royal Rumble, an event that fans also saw as a disappointment.
Comparing the momentum that WWE had before Wrestlemania and the momentum or buzz they have today, it fells like night and day. Heading into Wrestlemania WWE looked like it was going to have its best show of the year, but just weeks after WrestleMania it feels like the company has never been duller. This has been reflected in year-low ratings and a complete lack of buzz around RAW and SmackDown each week. What has happened since early April that has caused WWE to feel so lifeless?
I think one of the main issues has been so far since WrestleMania ended, WWE has produced two lightweight PPVs that failed to meet expectations. The Greatest Royal Rumble and later Backlash, were both promoted as being big shows for WWE, but in hindsight they really only served as glorified episodes of RAW and didn't accomplish much. Everything that took place at the GRR, or Backlash, probably could have have taken place on an episode of RAW. In short, those shows did not feel special and that's an issue when the wrestling calendar is built around those big monthly shows feeling special.
Another issue is that Brock Lesnar has been M.I.A. for most of the time. Since Lesnar is still the Universal Champion, that means the most important title in WWE is rarely seen. Without the world title, it is natural for the programming to feel less important. Since Lesnar isn't defending the title until at least after Money in the Bank in June; it's possible we won't see the Universal Championship on RAW again until July.
On a related note; constantly dragging down RAW each week is the pathetic saga of Roman Reigns. Reigns was supposed to be crowned world champion (again) at WrestleMania, but for whatever reason Lesnar ended up beating him clean. This was followed by a botched finish at the Greatest Royal Rumble that fans didn't care about; and yet Reigns is still being positioned as the number one contender once more for Lesnar. Not only is WWE not moving the Universal Championship storyline along with the absence of Lesnar, by still positioning Reigns as the top contender, it doesn't really feel like things have changed much since WrestleMania.
Things have changed though; by coming up short on his last two attempts, WWE has effectively neutered Reigns once and for all. His two latest failures basically evaporated any support he was getting from fans; and his dismissal by Lesnar had only prolonged the agony hardcore fans have been under dealing with the never ending push for Reigns to be the face of the company. The result is that Reigns is either confronted each week by thunderous boos or, as was the case at WrestleMania and later Backlash, complete indifference from the fans.
WWE has held off on Reigns winning the Universal Championship, probably because they believe they can still get him over as a babyface. So they don't believe Reigns is the guy right now, but they have failed to place anyone in his role in the interim. The situation now is that WWE hasn't anchored the show around Reigns, but they also refuse to build around anyone else. That means when Lesnar is absent; WWE lacks a top star on their programming, which kills the idea that what WWE presenting is real, top flight programming.
It doesn't help that Reigns' current attempt at getting over as a face is a disaster. The storyline is that Reigns is an anti-authority underdog that is being held down by management. This angle ignores that Reigns cleanly lost at WrestleMania to Lesnar. Of course, the mere idea that Reigns is being held-down by WWE is preposterous to anyone who watches WWE regularly, so the angle has been met by complete and utter disdain from the live audiences. Reigns complaining about management makes him come across like a wealthy teenager who hates his parents for buying him an Audi instead of a Porsche.
In addition to the lackluster PPVs and the absence of a world champion on RAW; WWE has not been aided in recent months by a dearth of very bad programs. Take your pick which one is the worst; it could be Sasha Banks and Bayley who have had a feud that has been on and off every week for months. It might also be Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, as WWE tries to position Jax as the Be A Star champion. Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has also been awful, with things likely only to get worse on Monday when Zayn brings out Lashley's "sister" in an angle that everyone is already saying may be the worst of the year. Plus, you can't rule out the impending Jinder Mahal and Roman Reigns feud; I mean, do I really need to even say anything more than that?
The SmackDown side isn't that much better. Daniel Bryan, the most popular babyface on the roster, is working a mid-card feud with Big Cass. Asuka has her undefeated streak broken by Charlotte; only for Charlotte to lose the title to Carmella, who as a wrestler just isn't ready for that role. Even AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura, which seems like a flawless feud on paper, has stagnated a bit thanks to repetitive booking and consistently underwhelming finishes.
It's typical of WWE to go into a bit of a lull following WrestleMania; but there is really no reason for things to be this bad. It's not like WWE lacks talent; it's quite the contrary, WWE has a ton of talent. Since WrestleMania, WWE has also brought in more talent, including Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre and Andrade "Cien" Almas. If that wasn't enough, the Superstar Shakeup should have created more opportunities for new and exciting storylines as the rosters switched around.
The fact is the writing has been bad and uncreative; and it seems like feuds exist just to occupy time instead of creating interest. It's amazing just how little of WWE you have to actually watch week to week to remain up to date on everything that's happening on RAW or SmackDown. Things will likely get better as the year goes on; it's hard to imagine it getting any worse; but it doesn't change that WWE felt like it was heating up right around WrestleMania, but since then interest has fallen off a cliff.
One man, however, has stood out since WrestleMania as a spectacular, must-see performer and that is Seth Rollins. It's hard to overstate how impressive it is that during a time when almost everyone on the roster feels weakened, Rollins is growing stronger each week. He's been the best performer in the company in 2018, and if WWE is looking for someone not named Roman Reigns to beat Lesnar, than Rollins fits the bill. Despite the recent sleepwalking; Rollins remains a top performer not just in WWE, but in all of wrestling.
Must Watch Matches:
Adam Brookes vs Will Ospreay: ****1/4 - PWG Time is a Flat Circle