WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart is on his way to defeating Mr. McMahon at WrestleMania XXVI on March 28, 2010, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. WWE’s annual extravaganza has gone from a one day show, to a full weekend of matches. AP file photo

I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling for 30 years, which makes what I’m about to say hard to believe: WrestleMania has become too big.

Yes, I’m aware this could tweak fans of World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual extravaganza, which Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida hosted April 10-11. But by the time Night 2 of the weekend-long show ended, at about 11 p.m., I was completely spent. Exhausted. Wiped out.

Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m now too old? Or — more likely — have we finally reached the point in the 36-year history of the show that it’s overloading wrestling fans?

For the record, I enjoyed WrestleMania 37. There wasn’t a match on the card that I hated. The main event for Night 1 — pitting Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship — was the match of the weekend. The triple-threat match between Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and Edge for the Universal Championship was a fitting show-closer. Heck, even the tag match between the team of hip hop artist Bad Bunny and Damien Priest against The Miz and John Morrison — a match I had anticipated to be average, at best, mediocre at worst — also was one of the best matches of the weekend. Bad Bunny’s work in the ring far surpassed my expectations. He even delivered a Canadian Destroyer to Morrison, which fans and wrestlers alike can tell you is not an easy move to pull off.

My issue is with the presentation of the show, which debuted March 31, 1985 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. What was once a four-hour spectacle on a Sunday every March or April has become a two-day marathon. I’m not even including the days leading up to WrestleMania. There was a two-night production of the “Stand and Deliver” show by NXT — WWE’s off-shoot brand featuring up-and-coming performers — and the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, which took over three hours to induct the Classes of 2020 and 2021.

Here’s a few ideas that could keep the “Show of Shows” great, while also taking it easy on wrestling fans.

Get back to WrestleMania being one day, at four hours or less. This was Year 2 of the show going over two days. I thought nothing of it last year. I figured it was just some ploy WWE used to keep the fans intrigued over the weekend for a WrestleMania in Orlando that had no fans because of the pandemic. The last two WrestleManias have simply dragged on — the Sunday show starts about 3 p.m. and doesn’t end until 11 p.m. Only Super Bowl Sunday is comparable in length.

If you go over the show’s history, the best WrestleManias have been anywhere from three to four hours. Get back to that. It’s the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Have it on a Sunday, start it at 6 p.m. and wrap it up by 10 p.m.

What does this mean? Less matches and less wrestlers performing, I understand that’s unpopular for some, but it will make for more meaningful matches. Fans will stay interested longer. That should be a driving force going forward.

Put WrestleMania in stadiums with a roof. The company decided well over 10 years ago to have the event in major stadiums — as opposed to basketball/hockey arenas — each year. It was a tremendous idea that’s worked nicely. I was lucky enough to attend WrestleMania 27 at the now-defunct Georgia Dome in Atlanta with 72,000 fellow die-hards. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

However, Night 1 of this year’s show started late because of a weather delay, with rain and thunder storms in the Tampa area causing the start to be pushed back well over a half hour. This created a much longer show that stretched deep into the night. While Florida is an excellent destination for WrestleMania, the WWE may want to think about having the next one indoors — say, at Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays play.

WrestleMania 38 will be at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, while WrestleMania 39 will be at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Thankfully, both stadiums have roof options. After this year, I would think WWE may want to keep that in mind when planning for future host cities.

Enough with the graphics. For the past couple of years, WWE has used 3D-esque graphics for wrestler entrances. It almost looks like something from an early 1990s kids show. I have yet to see fans go out of their way to praise it. It doesn’t look great and almost cheapens the product. It’s time for it to go away.

WrestleMania is the spectacle of sports entertainment. I’m convinced it can remain that way, but the presentation needs to be shorter and simplified.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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