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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

WWE makes wrestling feel fun again

With Vince McMahon gone and Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque in charge, the sky is the limit.
Baker Hall

Ten years ago, 5-foot-8 wrestling underdog story Daniel Bryan hoisted both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship above his head in front of 75,167 fans while streamers and tears alike fell from rafters and faces. Bryan overcame all odds — he defeated Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in one night to cement his place on top of the world and become a champion.

It can be assumed that the proverbial “wrestling groundhog” did not see his shadow, as the next morning kicked off what would be nearly a decade of rotten wrestling programming when Bryan was forced to relinquish his championships due to injury and ultimately retire nearly a year and a half later.

Under the creative helm of company owner Vince McMahon, WWE consistently produced an underwhelming wrestling program that gave viewers moments such as a literal zombie infestation, a mad scramble for a golden egg and the still unanswered mystery of “Who threw that pie at Kevin Owens?”

During this time period, WWE continued to draw record low ratings for their television shows Monday Night RAW and Friday Night Smackdown. In 2014, RAW averaged 4.56 million viewers, while in 2022, RAW averaged 1.73 million viewers.

Though perhaps you could blame the declining number of cable users, in-house attendance at WWE live events told the same story of decline — WWE’s 2014 year-end reports listed that an average of 6,000 fans attended each live event in 2014, while just three years later in 2017, WWE reported that an average of 5,200 fans attended each event.

WWE’s landscape during this low stretch was built around a wrestler that fans felt was a failed experiment they were being forced to like — a wrestler named Roman Reigns.

Month after month, year after year, Reigns was being placed at the top of the card. If you were watching a WWE Pay-Per-View event, more likely than not, Roman Reigns was in the main event, defeating mainstream stars like John Cena, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker.

On the night after WrestleMania 33, fans relentlessly booed Reigns as he stood silent on live TV for 15 minutes straight. At WrestleMania 34, I personally walked out of the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, along with thousands of others after the opening bell sounded for Lesnar vs. Reigns in the main event.

Aug. 30, 2020, Reigns won the WWE Universal Championship and began to turn the tides. A member of the legendary Anoa’i Samoan family, Reigns leaned into his heritage by introducing a new version of his character dubbed the “Tribal Chief.”

Reigns has held the Universal title since, and has also picked up the WWE Championship, unifying the two under the banner of the Undisputed WWE Championship. His championship reign has lasted 1,283 days, and fans have enjoyed the ride.

At WrestleMania 38, the key to a successful WWE made his return. After a six year absence, the “American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes returned to WWE and could only be compared to Superman — his bright red, white and blue floor-length coat shining under the spotlights. A star had just been born, and everyone in the building that day knew it.

Shortly after this event, company owner and show writer Vince McMahon resigned as CEO amid sexual assault lawsuits, placing Paul “Triple H” Levesque in charge of WWE’s creative direction. Under Levesque, shows have been hot and live event attendance reportedly rose 34% from 2022, up to an average of 8,100 fans attending each event in 2023.

Rhodes and Reigns are not the only stars in Levesque’s version of the company, either, with Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Gunther, Jey Uso, LA Knight, Drew McIntyre or my personal favorite CM Punk all being believable contenders for the WWE Championship.

The main event of WrestleMania 39 saw Rhodes defeated by Reigns in a heartbreaker of a WWE Championship match. Rhodes wanted to win the championship for one reason: to bring home the title that his father Dusty Rhodes never could.

Over the course of the next year, Rhodes began climbing his way back to another WWE Championship match against Reigns, something that seemed surefire after winning a championship match of his choice at WWE’s 2024 Royal Rumble event — until Reigns’ cousin Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inserted himself into the WrestleMania 40 mix, challenging to fight Reigns in place of Rhodes.

Each arena that WWE is traveling to is seeing sellouts, week to week. With Rhodes, Reigns and The Rock all vying for the top spot in WWE, nothing is certain. The feeling is alive, the crowds are loud and wrestling is so back.

Levesque’s storytelling will culminate in the main event of WrestleMania 40 on April 6 and 7, live on Peacock, when Rhodes takes on The Rock and Reigns in hopes of finally winning the WWE Championship.

About the Contributor
Joshua Britt
Joshua Britt, Former Editor-in-Chief
Joshua Britt served as Editor-in-Chief of The Reflector from 2023 to 2024. Joshua also served as the Online Editor from 2020 to 2023.
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