|IMAGE CREDIT: WWE.com|
What WrestleMania 30 was is clear. WWE told us right off the bat. It was in their signature, and Michael Cole repeated it at the start. “Then. Now. Forever.” That's what WWE highlighted to us at WrestleMania 30. They not only had Then and Now on the same show, but those two concepts collided and exploded. The result is whatever we agree this new era is called.
WrestleMania 30 started with Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock in the same ring together. An iconic moment. For many of us this put a smile on our faces. Nostalgia at its best. I wasn't alive for the birth of Hulkamania, nor was I a WCW fan. Rock and Austin defined my childhood as a wrestling fan, but I know what Hulk Hogan means to wrestling. I know what he was, and what he still is. I know how iconic that moment was. It was a feel good nostalgia moment. But that's all it was. These men aren't what this show is about. They're important, but they're “Then”.
Later in the night, The Undertaker would face Brock Lesnar and lose for the first time in WrestleMania history. The Streak died at WrestleMania 30. To all intents and purposes, this was also the last time we'll see The Undertaker compete. Wrestling fans across the world were heartbroken. Many of us are still reeling from the shock of knowing that these two entities which seemed like they'd never stop are both gone, one forever and the other at least for now. As Undertaker made his way to the back, Michael Cole called it the “end of an era”.
The show ended with Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. An Indy darling with a scraggly beard standing atop the WWE mountain as the focal point of WrestleMania's 30th birthday wasn't any longer just a fantasy we all shared. It was now a reality. If Undertaker's WrestleMania defeat marked the end of one era, Daniel Bryan becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion symbolised the start of the next. With Bryan's victory, WWE had switched gears. From Legends to Superstars. From “Then” to “Now”.
Raw the following night cemented the shift. The stars of the show weren't Hogan, Rock, Austin, Undertaker, or even a certain long rumoured but still yet to show “Icon”. It was about Daniel Bryan, who got the loudest and most passionate reaction of the night. From “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to “You deserve it!”, New Orleans let WWE know that they welcomed the crowning of this new king. But it wasn't just about Bryan. It was about The Wyatt Family, who gave another star-making performance against John Cena, Sheamus and Big E. Langston. (And won clean, by the way.) It was about Cesaro, winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial battle royal and the fans hearts, aligning with Paul Heyman as the latest Heyman Guy. It was about The Shield, who cemented their place as fan favourites by turning on The Authority and aiding Daniel Bryan. Welcome to “Now”.
Raw also featured newcomers. Over the course of the night, we saw vignettes for the arrival of Bo Dallas and Adam Rose. Alexander Rusev, who's brushed with the main WWE roster before, made an emphatic Raw debut, crushing Zack Ryder in moments. And NXT Women's Champion Paige showed up on Raw and somehow snatched the Divas Championship away from long-time holder AJ Lee. WWE debuted more than one new face on Raw. They showed us the future, or some of it (maybe), anyway. A reminder that this machine never stops. There's always a tomorrow. Always something around the corner. It goes on. “Forever”.
For me, WrestleMania 30 and the Raw which followed it were statements from WWE. A literal representation of their mission statement. Over two nights, we remembered the past, got swept up in the present and were given a glimpse into the future. From Stone Cold, The Rock and Hulk Hogan to Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, and The Shield to Alexander Rusev, Adam Rose and Paige.
Then. Now. Forever.
We've been waiting for this for a long time. The time where nostalgia gives way to the present day properly. Truth be told, WWE have been heading towards this point for at least the last two years. But it's important that we get behind this new era, which I'm going to call the Now Era. If we don't show WWE that what we want is more of what we got on Raw and at WrestleMania, they'll throw their hands up in despair and go back to the status quo. It's time to put our money where our mouths are. Remember, what you spend your money on is the quickest way to let WWE know how you feel. So buy the T-shirts and the tickets. Tune in when the guys you want to see are on. This is what we wanted, right? So prove it.
Welcome to The Now Era. And remember: how long it lasts is up to us.