The moment it was announced that Vince McMahon would be handing out the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy Award on an episode of RAW, everyone knew something was going to happen that likely would tie into WrestleMania in a big way. We were not disappointed when during the ceremony a familiar song played over the arena speakers and out came Shane McMahon, the son of Vince McMahon who hadn’t been seen in years.
The crowd erupted for Shane O’ Mac as he declared that he wanted control of RAW. Not to be outdone, Shane’s old man countered his heir’s bravado with some of his own. He declared that if Shane won a match against an opponent of his choosing at WrestleMania, he would gladly hand over the reigns of power to his son. With that second bombshell dropped, Vince went for the trifecta by revealing Shane’s opponent and match. Shane O’ Mac would face the Undertaker in Hell In A Cell. The crowd roared its approval while Shane looked unimpressed. After hearing the news and seeing clips the next day, he wasn’t the only one.
Here Comes The Nostalgia
Everywhere I looked people couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were to see Shane McMahon vs. the Undertaker and I just couldn’t understand why. I asked around to some fellow fans hoping to get an explanation, to make some sense of a situation that stunk to high heaven to me but seemed to have everyone else anxious for Dallas. The first prevailing answer I received was that fans liked and missed Shane McMahon from the Attitude Era, the good old days. While I can agree that I like Shane McMahon, and it is always nice to see a familiar face, I must disagree that his days were the good ones.
The original appeal of watching Shane McMahon in a World Wrestling Federation ring was that he wasn’t a wrestler. He was a rich kid playing wrestler, and you couldn’t wait to see his smarmy tail get kicked by the real tough guys who actual put their blood, sweat, and tears into the business. That’s why his match with X-Pac at WrestleMania XV was a classic. It was Shane running away and getting his henchmen to do his dirty work for him, like a rich non wrestler would. Throughout the years though, Shane seemed to develop super powers and this untrained kid who was running away from wrestlers was now going toe to toe with them (Kane, Randy Orton) and being treated as an equal, which he never should have been. Did he provide some memorable moments? Of course he did. His toughness and bravery can’t be denied, but it never made sense for him to be treated like a wrestler, because he is not a wrestler.
This is part of the reason fan’s reactions have baffled me. WrestleMania opponents for the Undertaker are often debated with great scrutiny in the World Wrestling Entertainment Universe. The merits of his opponents are discussed to death, to the point where a match with the Undertaker is considered as important as the main event. This is a sacred spot for many, and everyone is just okay with the fact that it has been given to a part time, 46 year old spot artist for no good reason other than nostalgia?
Days of the Dead Roster
Another explanation I’ve been given as to why this decision might have been made is that fact that right now WWE is lacking star power and thus a star big enough to take on the Dead Man. That is a statement I cannot argue. The man most suspected as the Phenom’s original opponent, John Cena is injured, as is Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Sting, and others, so in the mind of many, bringing in a name from the past to face the Undertaker makes sense.
This is an explanation that doesn’t hold water simply because there are other, better options for the Undertaker. With Brock Lesnar no longer feuding with the Wyatt Family, why not have Bray Wyatt face the Dead Man again? Hell, if you’re worried about repeating matches from last year, why not have Wyatt feud with Shane McMahon instead of giving him nothing to do during the biggest show of the year? That would open up a spot against the Undertaker for a guy like Kevin Owens who could put on a great match with the Phenom and get made in the process. There just seems like there are so many other options that would have worked for either man.
It also felt so rushed and illogical. Vince chooses the Undertaker, a man that fans won’t boo even when they’re given reason to, to face his son Shane, another fan favorite that just returned to a huge crowd pleasing reaction, in a match usually reserved for ending personal feuds between hated opponents. When announced that he would be facing one of the most feared competitors in company history in the most brutal match conceivable, Shane reacted like Vince had said he would be facing Hornswoggle in a pillow fight. It smacks of lazy writing and hot shot booking.
Smoke and Mirrors
With all of that said, I like Shane McMahon being back in WWE. I like the idea of Shane possibly being added to the power mix and if it means the rumored brand split we keep hearing about, I’m all for it. That stuff can make for a good angle, but the match on it’s own, Shane McMahon vs the Undertaker, Hell In A Cell, is dead upon arrival for me. One fellow writer on the LWOS Wrestling staff put it like this:
“What I like to do with a lot of WWE booking stuff that people praise, ask yourself, what would this look like if WCW or TNA was doing it? If Ric Flair is in the ring with Miss Hancock giving her the Nature Boy award and David Flair comes out to confront them for ownership of WCW, and Flair tells David he has to beat Goldberg if he wants back in the company, is it praised?”
Of course, the biggest difference when talking about WWE and WCW is that WWE usually has a plan. Another response I keep hearing from those in conversation about this topic is that we still have weeks until WrestleMania, which is why I haven’t yet written this angle off. For me, there are some interesting elements at play. Who knows what could happen between now and Dallas? Is there a larger scheme at play? We still haven’t heard from the Undertaker, how will he react to being treated like a pawn in Vince’s game? Could Shane have another ace up his sleeve in the form of a representative to wrestle the match on his behalf? There are many possibilities and the match could change completely. I’m still optimistic that it will.
One thing no one can debate is the attention garnered from Shane’s big return and match announcement has paid huge dividends for WWE as it seems to be the only thing wrestling fans want to talk about, which in turn has garnered a lot of attention towards WrestleMania. Let’s hope that WWE capitalizes on this situation and creates some compelling television with all those eyes watching, instead of a WrestleMania co main event that deserves to rest in peace.