SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Having worked in both television and wrestling production for years, when WrestleMania season rolls along I’m always fascinated by the entire aspect of trying to time and produce such a massive show. Just for fun, I would type up a very basic run-sheet for my like-minded friends to enjoy. Like clockwork, as Mania day grew closer every year, I would frequently be asked if I was going to do one. The same occurred this year and for the first time, I thought I would share it with the Torch readers to possibly give fans a different way of viewing such an event.
Every live televised broadcast you see gets very specifically timed out and produced to the smallest detail – from the projected hit time for every individual segment to where the cameras need to be to when the announcers are on screen to every single pre-tape, musical cue, and on-screen graphic that is needed throughout the broadcast. The live nature constantly dictates a series of changes that evolve throughout the show such as segments getting killed due to running heavy (i.e. the show is running longer than originally planned and changes have to be made to keep it on schedule to hit the same out time). Sports events are a little more unpredictable when it comes to their length and have “floating” out times as opposed to a news broadcast or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ type show which have “hard” out times (meaning they have to be hit at an exact time). At one time, all WWE pay-per-views had to be out by the 3-hour mark (4 for WrestleMania) but with the evolution of the WWE Network, their pay-per-view events have migrated more towards a floating out time.
This year’s out time is a floating 12am ET/9pm PT, a five hour window which is the same as the last two Manias (which ended at 12:10am and 11:52pm). There will be likely between 22-27 segments depending on how many matches actually end up on the pre-show. It’s in the timing process that you really determine what there will not be time for on the main show. Now when you see the 22-27 segments, keep in mind that covers a variety of things that are not actual wrestling matches which usually add up to around 30-40 minutes worth on the show. Here is a breakdown of the ones that regularly occur during WrestleMania:
- 6:00 segment – ‘America The Beautiful’, followed by pe-produced Cold Open for the show
- 2-3:00 worth of segments – One or two backstage promos
- 1:00 segment – On-camera introduction of ringside celebrities
- 1:00 segment – Site location of next year’s WrestleMania announced in pre-produced commercial
- 2:00 segment – Announcement of crowd attendance
- 3:00 segment – On-camera reset/recap with preshow hosts about 3/4 of the way through the show.
- 6-7:00 segment – for any potential concert act that is not part of a specific ring entrance
- 6-7:00 segment –Hall of Fame introductions
- 6:00 worth of segments – Commercials for various products – WWE video games, Snickers, Tap Out, WWE Network, etc.
Between the ones that do occur and then the additional pieces such as exterior shots of the Superdome, New Orleans, and on-camera announcer segues between segments you end up with right around 30-40 minutes of non-match segments on your typical WrestleMania show. There will occasionally be a non-match segment aberration such as the Rock/Rousey-Triple H/Stephanie promo from Mania 31 which was a 24-minute segment but blew up the non-match segment total for that show to 56 minute. On the other hand, the Rock-Wyatts segment from Mania 32 was a 28 minute segment but since it was “technically” a match, that kept 32’s non-match segment time at 32 minutes. So as we progress just keep in mind that for WWE’s purposes, it’s all about the segment time and not the actual match itself. In fact, the segment time is usually close to 3/4 of whatever the actual match time is. Two drastically different random examples: Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania 25 went 13:13 from bell to bell but was a 21 minute segment with the packages, ring-introductions, and post-match wrap-up. Undertaker vs. Triple H from WrestleMania 28 technically ran 30:50 but had a whopping segment time of 52 minutes.
- Moving on to breaking down the WrestleMania 34 undercard where there are 14 matches scheduled (the most since WrestleMania VII and production elements were MUCH different back then so there really is no comparison for this article’s purpose). Here’s how each segment time breaks down based upon what has traditionally been the case for similar segments:
- Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali – Neville-Aires last year had a 20:00 segment/15:00 match which seems on the high end as far as a Cruiserweight match on a Mania card so trimming it back just a hair, a 16:00 seg/11:00 match feels about right. For anyone wishing this match to be on the main show instead of the pre-show; if it was moved it’s time would be cut and a 12:00 seg/8:00 match would probably be the maximum.
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal & WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal – Last year’s battle royal was a 17:00 seg/14:00 match and the inaugural one at WrestleMania XXX was a 17:00 seg/13:00 match so I’d expect about the same here for both. Only a handful of wrestlers will get actual ring entrances and it’s pretty straight forward.
- The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor / Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev / The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers – The multiple-man undercard title matches usually fall into a similar range with both last year’s Women’s 4-way & Men’s tag title 4-way getting a 23:00 seg/11-12:00 match while the World Heavyweight title 3-way at WrestleMania XXV with Cena-Big Show-Edge got a 28:00 seg/14:00 match. A 23:00 seg/13:00 match feels close to the max on all of these. I should note that the Smackdown U.S. title Fatal 4 way match feels like the most collapsible for time if the show runs heavy which makes it a prime candidate for the semi-main spot on WrestleMania.
- Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Braun Strowman and TBD – Usually these mystery partner scenarios range a little close to the shorter end of things and considering Braun is already in the match only makes it that much more likely. There’s not a lot of similar situations for Mania specifically but the Dolph/Big E vs. Kane/Bryan tag title match at WrestleMania 29 had an 11:00 seg/6:00 match which feels about right for this.
- Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax – It’s a unique case to have multiple women’s matches on a WrestleMania but this one being third from the top on the women’s side means it will get the least segment time. Last year’s Smackdown Women’s 6-way got a 12:00 seg/5:00 match and this one should be along those same lines.
- Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn – Now we get into the matches that will really get time as well as certainly having packages attached to their segment (adding around 3 minutes each). Shane and Owens had 29:00 and 25:00 segments last year respectively and while this match will seemingly be more story based than anything, that feels like the proper range for a 5th or 6th from the top match.
- Undertaker vs. John Cena – Undertaker historically gets time at WrestleMania more than anyone, including Cena. In fact, over the past ten years, there have been five segments that hit the 50-minute mark and Undertaker was involved in four of them. Realistically, that trend shouldn’t continue considering he’s another year older but that could have also been said three Manias ago. In addition, there has been a very unusual build for this match which seemingly indicates a promo instead of the traditional package before the match and possibly a much shorter entrance than the traditional Undertaker WrestleMania one. The Undertaker’s shortest WrestleMania segment in years was with Bray Wyatt at 31 (27:00 seg/15:00 match) and this one feels like it’s headed more in that direction.
- Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka – The longest Women’s singles segment in WrestleMania history is the Women’s 3-way from ‘Mania 32 at 29:00 seg/16:00 match and there’s no reason to think that this one won’t at least match that.
- AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – The #2 belt on the show but the #1 match for the hardcore fans. The closest comparisons would probably be Jericho-Edge from WrestleMania 26 who had a 27:00 seg/15:00 match or Punk-Jericho from WrestleMania 28 and it’s 32:00 seg/22:00 match. I feel that 32/22 is in the ballpark for this one.
- Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon – Triple H’s times usually skew high with 39:00, 44:00, 36:00, 42:00, & 37:00 segments the last five years but it’s reasonable to think that they keep the segment fairly contained due to Ronda’s experience. Of Triple H’s shortest times – the 36:00 seg/18:00 match with Sting at WrestleMania 31 – seems the most similar in nature to this one.
- Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns – Since they last met at WrestleMania 31, Reigns’ segment times have been 51:00 and 44:00 while Brock’s have been 19:00 and 23:00 so they’re clearly on other ends of the spectrum. Their match three years ago had a 31:00 seg/16:00 match which feels like a solid median of everything they’ve done since and a safe bet for this year.
- Trying to come up with a match order prediction is next to impossible when you’re dealing with fourteen matches and seven hours including the preshow so in trying to finalize it all, I laid out everything in a logical order, added the times, and moved the stuff that could be moved as needed. After completion, I was able to end the show at 12am ETon the dot but the one omission that could alter things is the addition of any live musical concert, including a potential Elias segment. A normal concert would add approximately 7 minutes to the event and an Elias segment would likely add closer to 15-20 minutes. Again, for our purposes, that’s why the U.S. title 4 way match is slotted in the semi-main spot as it’s a glaring candidate to shave time off of. So with that said, here is my very unofficial WrestleMania 34 runsheet predictions:
5:00pm ET/1pm PT – Cold open for Preshow, out to exterior shots of Superdome, Cut to Preshow panel
5:30pm ET – Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali (16:00 seg/11:00 match)
5:57pm ET – Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (17:00 seg/14:00 match)
6:30pm ET – WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal (17:00 seg/14:00 match)
7:00pm ET – ‘America The Beautiful’ by Chloe x Halle, followed by pe-produced Cold Open for the show (6:00 segment)
7:06pm ET – The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor (23:00 seg/13:00 match)
7:29pm ET – Commercial (1:00 segment)
7:30pm ET – The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (23:00 seg/11:00 match)
7:53pm ET – Commercial / On-camera introduction of ringside celebrities (1:00 segment)
7:54pm ET – Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax (12:00 seg/5:00 match)
8:06pm ET – Backstage Promo (2:00 segment)
8:08pm ET – Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (25:00 seg/16:00 match)
8:33pm ET – Commercials (1:00 segment)
8:35pm ET – Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Braun Strowman and TBD (11:00 seg/6:00 match)
8:46pm ET – Commercials (1:00 segment)
8:47pm ET – Undertaker vs. John Cena (27:00 seg/15:00 match)
9:14pm ET – Site location of WrestleMania 35 announced in pre-produced commercial (1:00 segment)
9:15pm ET – Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (29:00 seg/16:00 match)
9:44pm ET – Hall of Fame introductions (7:00 segment)
10:51pm ET – Backstage Promo (1:00 segment)
10:52pm ET – AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (32:00 seg/22:00 match)
10:24pm ET – On-camera reset/recap with preshow hosts (3:00 segment)
10:27pm ET – Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (36:00 seg/18:00 match)
11:03pm ET – Announcement of Superdome crowd attendance (2:00 segment)
11:05pm ET – Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev (23:00 seg/11:00 match)
11:28pm ET – Commercials (1:00 segment)
11:29pm ET – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (31:00 seg/16:00 match)
12:00am ET – Fade to black
Grant Sawyer has been the technical director for over 600 professional wrestling events and is the editor of the History of Professional Wrestling books at Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @Statmark.