ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ah, the theatrics of WrestleMania. There's nothing quite like it, and a record 75,245 fans who flocked to Camping World Stadium can't be wrong. The moments, especially The Undertaker's final moments, will echo through wrestling history.
But this 33rd edition of the grandest day of the wrestling year will go down for something else, too (and we're not talking about James Ellsworth's WrestleMania moment, though it was nice to see him get it). This WrestleMania was all about the action, the ridiculous athleticism. How many moonsaults, sunset flips, Pele kicks and corkscrew elbow drops did we see? It was just incredible.
So much was resolved Sunday night in Orlando, but there were so many things left unanswered. With what's essentially the "new season" of WWE kicking off Monday, there's no better time than the ask the most pressing questions the WWE faces going forward, and attempt to find the solutions.
What's next for Raw with Brock Lesnar as Universal champion?
True, he's the biggest, baddest dude in the business. In case you've you lost count, Lesnar hit 10 German suplexes on Goldberg. Ten. That's double-digits against a guy who once won 173 straight matches. This was unquestionably the best battle between Lesnar and Goldberg by a country mile. While Goldberg can now head off to a vacation and reminisce about the careers they once had with The Undertaker, Lesnar has other responsibilities. He's holding the proverbial WWE torch. But how much will we see him on TV? How much does he want to be on TV? And if he's not the weekly staple that former champ Kevin Owens was, how will that affect the perception, if not more tangible things like ratings, on Monday Night Raw?
Lesnar has reveled in his part-time status since his return and destruction of John Cena the night after WrestleMania in 2012. But with MMA off the table, the 6-foot-3 monster has less of a pull towards other endeavors occupying his time; as Universal champion, he's inextricably tied to the WWE, at least for the short term. There's been conjecture that that next year's WrestleMania main event could feature Lesnar and Roman Reigns, but a lot can happen in a year and it's hard to fathom that kind of build unless we see more of Lesnar in that time.
It would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Lesnar continues to get big paydays and, say whatever you'd like about the rest of the roster, but nobody else radiates the kind of intimidating presence as Lesnar -- and that's before you even consider the immeasurable value of Paul Heyman.
Should we resign ourselves to the fact that Roman Reigns is who he is?
When, Roman, are you going to turn to the dark side? You've heard the question as much as retired people ask about the weather. News flash: He's not, at least not on paper. He's essentially the biggest bad guy the WWE has right now, if reactions on Raw and pay-per-view are any indication. The gray between good and evil is his thing. If WWE creative had not made it clear enough previously, they did so Sunday night. If ever there was one last hope of making Reigns the clear-cut black hat, it would have happened against The Undertaker. But one of the most thoroughly booed "faces" in the history of the WWE was simply business as usual.
There is one major concern, though, that we need to pay attention to. Love him or loathe him, Reigns has always garnered boisterous feedback from the fans, and that's what the WWE has hung their hat on. Sunday night was different. After he took out the Deadman and essentially ended his career, the audience was eerily quiet. Perhaps it was the result of the match, and reverence for The Undertaker as WrestleMania's most accomplished performer. The sight of him lying flat on his back was surreal.
But what if it was something else? Is it possible that fans were so jaded from the unwavering decision to market Reigns the way they are becoming bored, or worse, apathetic towards him? It's most likely not to be the case, and if you don't think he'll be booed out of the building Monday night in Orlando, you're crazy. But to ignore the deafening silence after Sunday's match concluded would be folly.
To say that Strowman and Corbin were non-factors in the biggest event of the year is an understatement. Both were relegated to WrestleMania's preshow and both failed to make the kind of serious noise that seemed almost inevitable after months of building each as tenacious world-beaters.
Granted, it took the entire remaining field to eliminate Strowman from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and who knows what he would have gotten from winning it anyways, but the bottom line is that he was thrown over the top rope -- and early.
Strowman has been on a longer rollercoaster ride than Space Mountain. After spending copious time building the monster of all monsters, slowly, surely and definitively, Strowman was beaten cleanly by Reigns at Fastlane and chased away by both Reigns and The Undertaker -- relegated to third wheel status in the Reigns-Undertaker rivalry as a result.
And even then, during their payoff in Sunday night's main event, Strowman was nowhere in sight. Yes, a lot might have been in deference to the Undertaker saying his final goodbye, but that's another wasted opportunity to showcase Strowman on the biggest stage of the year, especially if you're trying to draw some of the heat off of Reigns. As for Corbin, not only was he moved from the main card, he fell ignominiously to Dean Ambrose during their Intercontinental title match.
Sure, there were fun moments in the match, and the finish was cool, but if you had asked anyone who was the surest bet to walk away from Mania as a winner, Corbin was one of the most popular picks.
A year ago, as a surprise entrant and making his WWE debut, Corbin dominated 19 other wrestlers to win the battle royal at Mania, ostensibly making him one of the next big stars. Since then, the momentum to get him to the next level has been inconsistent; his battles with Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto were definitively middle of the card action, but late in 2016 and earlier this year, Corbin was thrust into the WWE championship conversation and became a big player.
Whereas Corbin would definitely benefit by backing up his grandiose words with his first title reign, Ambrose is in need of a major shakeup; the Intercontinental title doesn't seem to be benefitting him much, nor has the Intercontinental title itself felt more important. Yes, he's funny and witty, but the overall in-ring performances of late from Ambrose have been pretty vanilla. We'll just have to see what the future holds.
What does the future hold for AJ Styles?
Not surprisingly, Styles put on a near five-star performance at WrestleMania 33, and it didn't hurt that his opponent, Shane McMahon might have had his best-ever day in the ring, defying all logic and reason.
But McMahon isn't going to be back wrestling anytime soon.
It seems like, as far as SmackDown and its roster is concerned, Styles' time has run its course. There just aren't a lot of compelling storylines we can fathom going forward.
Sure, he's going to want Randy Orton's title, and he should still have a one-on-one shot in his pocket. There might be some potential with a guy like Corbin but Styles, more than anyone, needs a shakeup to ensure he maintains his status as a top-notch attraction coming off such a performance at WrestleMania 33.
Imagine a trade to Raw, where he, the most technically savvy performer in the business, begins a brouhaha with the baddest of them all in Lesnar. Or even an extended beef with another technical mastermind in Seth Rollins, or a returning Finn Balor, or a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura. The possibilities are vast.
Styles is invaluable to the future of the WWE, and the company cannot afford to give him anything less than a consistent spot in main events. SmackDown will certainly suffer in his absence, but depending on who got sent back in the other direction, it would open up a big spot in the land of opportunity.
How can SmackDown get a grip on their disorderly women's division?
There's zero question that Smackdown has a plethora of uber-talented women on its roster. The matches and the characters have all been built well over the last few months, and the rise of Alexa Bliss has built a star in shockingly quick fashion.
The free-for-all Sunday at WrestleMania, however, was proof of a developing problem going forward -- no clear direction for any one performer.
At least on Raw, despite its dearth of depth among the female performers, there is concise storytelling on a week-in, week-out basis. Having Bayley retain the title was a smart move to ensure there's consistency atop the brand, regardless of what you think of the execution in that match.
The same can't be said of SmackDown. Bliss has all the potential to be a longtime top name, but she's lost the title twice in the couple months. Others like Becky Lynch, Carmella and Mickie James are all interesting personalities, but lack the kind of well-thought-out narratives that have been prevalent elsewhere on SmackDown.
Perhaps this is where Naomi comes in. She regained the title Sunday night after her brief two-day stint following the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. She's athletic and engaging, and fans really seem to gravitate toward her -- just look at the reaction she got on the go-home SmackDown in Richmond, Virgina. A veteran of the WWE, she deserves an extended run atop the SmackDown mountain as the rest of the division continues to grow.
Can the Hardy Boyz push tag-team competition to the next level?
The WWE is blessed with some amazing, diverse tag teams. From the athleticism of American Alpha and The Usos, to the toughness of Gallows & Anderson, to the oddly formed, but highly entertaining team of Cesaro and Sheamus, the resources are bountiful.
The problem lies in the fact that it fails to come close to equaling the buzz factor of the singles division, and the propensity to forget or even drain the essence of the tag team division to attempt to benefit singles stars.
The return of Matt and Jeff Hardy could change that. One of the most popular duos of all time, they returned at WrestleMania in an enthralling, high-flying, daredevil-esque performance reminiscent of their epic TLC battles of yore -- and they immediately won the titles.
Unlike the questionable decisions to have Balor and Bayley win world championships right out of the blocks, allowing the Hardys to shine from the outset was a smart move for multiple reasons. Not only do they carry the goodwill of their previous runs with the company, but they ride back into the company on a wave of momentum built through a cult following and out-of-the-box thinking.
A rising tide raises all ships, and the aforementioned teams and The New Day should all benefit. Seeing the women's division earn a pay-per-view main slot was a transformative moment, and the tag team division could use a similar shot in the arm. At this moment, it seems a bit farfetched to suggest the Raw tag team titles might main event a pay-per-view, but with the Hardy Boyz, anything seems possible.