WrestleMania 34 is just hours away, and after TakeOver last night, it’s tough to get excited. I waited to write this until today for a specific reason, I wanted to see if my anticipation would grow. Sadly, it has yet to do that, but we are still several hours away.
WrestleMania was always a life or death event. Fans truly felt that if they had missed it, then they missed a life-altering event. That’s the way the WWE would always make WrestleMania feel. It was this larger than life event, where giants and legends would grace us with their presence. This year, that feeling seems to be lacking.
What this year’s event was truly missing with the build to WrestleMania was that final image, the cherry on the sundae, the stellar “go-home” show. The go-home show has always been used before the big events to nail down the feuds and matches and hammer home what fans need to pay attention to. Both RAW and SmackDown Live had lackluster final shows heading into WrestleMania, and it left a bit of a sour taste, at least for me.
This is something the WWE has always been great at, getting their fans excited about these final shows and making them must-see as well. Especially going into WrestleMania, the go-home shows were almost as big as the actual major event.
Heading into WrestleMania 20, the final episodes were building at a rapid pace. The final SmackDown prior to WrestleMania 20 would see Stone Cold Steve Austin make his way to SD to confront Brock Lesnar. This was an exclamation point on a heated rivalry between Goldberg and Lesnar that saw Austin named as the special ref.
Sending Austin to SmackDown and having him brawl with Lesnar as the final thing fans would remember going into WrestleMania 20 was a genius move by the WWE. It brought extra heat to that match and made it a must watch, sadly it didn’t live up to the build. One of the most famous final events before a WrestleMania was all the way back before WrestleMania 1.
The War to Settle the Score was a major event in its own right as it would pit Rowdy Roddy Piper against Hulk Hogan in the main event, after months of heated exchanges. The two would brawl back and forth until their respective WrestleMania 1 tag partners Paul Orndorff, and Mr. T would interfere. This isn’t an exact go-home show, but it was the last big push by the WWE to get fans interested in WrestleMania 1. Piper had been poking and prodding Hogan for months and for Hogan to finally get his hands on Roddy was huge.
WrestleMania 1 was the biggest event in company history and if it failed it would’ve ended the WWE. With Hogan and Piper as the fuel in the gas tank, the event was propelled to astronomical heights. The final push by the WWE at War to Settle the Score, was a hail mary and risk in itself as it placed the WWE’s titans on a free event to push their paid show.
Oddly enough, NXT crushed their final show before TakeOver and made the event seem beyond important. That tends to be the confusing equation of the WWE. NXT is a WWE entity and has many of the same production/creative personnel, and yet the developmental and main rosters feel so different. The final pair of shows before TakeOver would see the entire card fully set in stone, and each match gets their respective shine. Hopefully, in the future, those that are running NXT will be able to have more control of the main product, and both levels can succeed.
The go-home show has been one of the most important shows in wrestling history. Much like a cliffhanger during a season finale of a show, it’s what draws you in to watch the next show. This year the WWE sadly didn’t live up to their own high standards, and it left WrestleMania 34 feeling a bit lackluster. I’m hoping that on Sunday night the WWE makes me eat my words and the show is phenomenal.
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