Over the past five years, the Wrestling Mayhem Show has celebrated the weeks leading up to WrestleMania with Mayhem Mania. It’s kind of a competitive thought experiment that challenges players to make the best WrestleMania matches possible. WWE’s pool of talent has been historically deep in recent years, and our goal is to demonstrate the full potential of their roster.
The ground rules are simple. Only the talents that WWE can realistically book for the real WrestleMania are eligible. Current injuries, contract statuses and other factors help us decide who can be booked. We start by creating an 8-match card. Over the weeks that follow, players make changes to the card, swapping individuals or event entirely new matches. As the weeks go by, some matches survive long enough to graduate to a permanent supercard, opening up room for new matches.
At its most basic, Mayhem Mania is a popularity contest. The matches created over its first 5 years are like a time capsule, revealing who fans wanted to see in the biggest matches on the biggest show of the year. But, as most of us know, the tastes of pro wrestling fans are fickle. A talent who is hot one year can cool off quickly. The name we’re all fighting to book in Mayhem Mania this year may not be mentioned in the next.
Over the first five years of Mayhem Mania, 220 different names have been used to create a wide variety of matches of varying levels of quality, but no name has been used more often than Finn Balor.
That’s 35 weeks when Balor has been booked in a match in Mayhem Mania. He’s been one of the most consistently used names over the past five years, something that will become even more impressive as we take a closer look at his history compared to other names.
Although Balor’s usage was down slightly in 2019, a recent heel turn and well-received return to NXT sets the stage for a likely resurgence in 2020. Despite his ups and downs in WWE over the past five years, Balor has remained one of the most consistently popular personalities among fans.
It took a down year for the former holder of the top spot, Brock Lesnar, to open the door for Balor to claim it in 2019.
In the 2019 edition of Mayhem Mania, Brock Lesnar was booked in a match just once. That’s an alarmingly sharp decline for a name that was among the most popular in Mayhem Mania. It will be interesting to see if Lesnar bounces back or remains on the sidelines.
Balor and Lesnar are among an exclusive group of eight individuals who have been booked in a match for at least one week during every year of Mayhem Mania.
- Bray Wyatt
- Brock Lesnar
- Charlotte Flair
- Daniel Bryan
- Finn Balor
- Roman Reigns
- Sasha Banks
- Triple H
Bray Wyatt‘s history in Mayhem Mania is probably what you’d expect. He was extremely popular from 2015-2017, but he barely made it into a match in 2018 and 2019.
A lot has changed for Wyatt since the 2019 edition of Mayhem Mania. He’s now “The Fiend”, the WWE Champion, and more popular than ever in the eyes of many fans. A big bounce-back should be expected in 2020.
Among the “Five For Five” group, the most interesting name to me is Daniel Bryan. He spent a sizable portion of the past 5+ years retired from in-ring competition. Yet, somehow he kept finding his way into Mayhem Mania. Did we allow a little too much leeway in allowing our players to book a guy who wasn’t medically cleared by WWE? Maybe. It’s still a testament to Bryan’s enduring popularity and the hope fans always held onto that he would one day resume his in-ring career.
As for the two women in this group, Charlotte Flair leads all female competitors with 23 weeks being booked in a match over the five years of Mayhem Mania.
* “Michelle” refers to Michelle McCool. “Stephanie” refers to Stephanie McMahon
Charlotte’s position on top may not be surprising, but she may not hold it for much longer. Despite being used in just the past four years, Asuka has nearly caught her. Also, a closer look at Charlotte’s history shows that her popularity has declined.
As for Sasha Banks, she was popular during three of the first four years of Mayhem Mania, but her usage took a dramatic dip in 2019.
Now, let’s take a look at a slightly larger group – those who were booked in a match for at least one week during four of the first five years of Mayhem Mania. Included in parenthesis is the year they were not booked.
- AJ Styles (2015)
- Asuka (2015)
- Bayley (2015)
- Bo Dallas (2019)
- Big E (2018)
- Braun Strowman (2015)
- Cesaro (2016)
- Chris Jericho (2019)
- Dash Wilder (2015)
- Dean Ambrose (2018)
- Eric Young (2015)
- Harper (2017)
- Jey Uso (2017)
- Jimmy Uso (2017)
- John Cena (2016)
- Kevin Owens (2019)
- Kofi Kingson (2018)
- The Miz (2016)
- Rowan (2017)
- Rusev (2019)
- Samoa Joe (2015)
- Scott Dawson (2015)
- Seth Rollins (2016)
- Tommaso Ciampa (2015)
- Undertaker (2019)
- Xavier Woods (2018)
Some of the missed years are easily explained, and most deserve a place (with an asterisk) in the top tier list of those booked in all five years of Mayhem Mania. AJ Styles, Asuka, Eric Young, Samoa Joe and Tommaso Ciampa were not yet full-time competitors in WWE in 2015. Others were under contract with other organizations, meaning they were not eligible to be used. The absence of others in certain years is the result of them being off television due to injury: Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Rowan.
Despite each missing a year, AJ Styles (31) and Cesaro (29) are not far behind Balor for the top spot on the list of all-time most booked names in Mayhem Mania. Styles has been a very popular name, but can he sustain that popularity? It’s easy to be doubtful after taking a closer look at his Mayhem Mania history.
As for the reason why some other names are on the “4 Out Of 5 Years” list instead of the “5 Out Of 5” list…
Bayley was left out of the first edition of Mayhem Mania in 2015. She was still in NXT at the time, and was in the NXT Women’s Title picture for part of year. She competed in a fatal 4-way match for the championship in February 2015 at NXT TakeOver: Rival, but the best was yet to come. After Mayhem Mania 2015 concluded, “Peak Bayley” arrived with her championship victory at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in August 2015. You can see the reaction. Bayley was a popular choice in Mayhem Mania in 2016. However, her popularity has eroded since then.
Dash and Dawson were teaming regularly in 2015, but they were not yet The Revival. They won the NXT Tag Team Championships for the first time in November of 2015.
Braun Strowman was rarely seen in NXT. His popularity didn’t start to rise until he debuted on WWE’s main roster in August 2015. He’s been a fairly consistent choice in Mayhem Mania ever since.
Chris Jericho likely would’ve been booked again in 2019 if he hadn’t signed a contract with All Elite Wrestling. Over the first four years of Mayhem Mania, he was a reliable option for our players.
Kevin Owens returned from injury in time to be eligible for Mayhem Mania in 2019, but he was never booked. In 2018, he was booked only once. Owens was one of the most popular names in Mayhem Mania in 2017 and 2016. So, what changed? Early 2017 marked the end of Owens’ reign as WWE Universal Champion. That appeared to mark the beginning of his slide. Owens seems to be in a much better place in early 2020. Perhaps a comeback is in the cards?
Undertaker‘s absence in 2019 after appearing in the first four years of Mayhem Mania is clearly a sign that fans are less interested in seeing him perform in the ring.
Bo Dallas is an interesting case. Inexplicably, he was booked in at least one match during the first four years of Mayhem Mania. But in 2019, his slowing momentum came to a full stop and he was not mentioned once. The high point of his modest success was in 2017, when was booked in a match during three weeks of Mayhem Mania. During that time Dallas was still a member of The Social Outcasts.
Now, we’ll look at some of the one-year absences that are less easily explained.
The Usos not being booked in Mayhem Mania in 2017 is somewhat puzzling. They were newly crowned SmackDown Tag Team Champions in March of 2017. But the titles were not defended at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida. Instead, The Usos participated in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Just like WWE, the Mayhem Mania players couldn’t find anything interesting to do with The Usos.
Another tag team worth looking at is The New Day. All three members were left out entirely during the 2018 edition of Mayhem Mania. What makes this so unexpected is the fact that The New Day were still riding the wave of a hot feud with The Usos over the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. The two teams were in a three-way match for the titles, with the Bludgeon Brothers as the third wheel, at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. For some reason, The New Day in early 2018 wasn’t what the Mayhem Mania players were looking for.
In early 2016, The Miz was the WWE Intercontinental Champion, but he wasn’t capturing the imagination of the Mayhem Mania players. Perhaps WWE sensed that as well. After seeing Zack Ryder win the IC Title at WrestleMania 32, The Miz teamed up on-screen with his real-life wife Maryse to reclaim the title the following night on Raw. The addition to The Miz’ act worked. He’s been booked in every year of Mayhem Mania since then.
Rusev is a sad case. He was booked in the first four years of Mayhem Mania. His popularity and the “Rusev Day” phenomenon made him one of the hottest names heading into WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans in 2018. But Rusev’s star faded not long after that. In 2019, he wasn’t booked in a single Mayhem Mania match. His Mayhem Mania history is an uneven pattern. Rusev has been a big part of Raw recently. Maybe he’ll bounce back again.
Luke Harper‘s absence in 2017 may be the most baffling omission of all. During the months leading up to WrestleMania 33, you could argue he was having the biggest run of his career. He was in the middle of a long-simmering Wyatt Family breakup story line involving Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. At the 2017 Royal Rumble, Harper turned on both Wyatt and Orton. He followed that up with some memorable in-ring encounters with AJ Styles. Unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with the Mayhem Mania players in 2017. Harper’s name wasn’t used a single time. For all his hard work, something about Harper’s run didn’t click with us or WWE. He found himself in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33.
So, we’ve been able to pinpoint a good amount of names that started hot in the early years of Mayhem Mania before fading. Now, let’s try to find some “Ones To Watch”. There’s a group of names that have burst onto the scene and surged in popularity over the recent years of Mayhem Mania.
- Ricochet: 14 weeks booked over the last 2 years
- Aleister Black: 12 weeks booked over the last 2 years
- Velveteen Dream: 12 weeks booked over the last 2 years
- Nikki Cross: 9 weeks booked over the last 3 years
- Johnny Gargano: 8 weeks booked over the last 3 years
There’s another group that made a big splash in their Mayhem Mania debuts in 2019.
- Io Shirai: 7 weeks
- Zelina Vega: 7 weeks
- Ali: 6 weeks
- Rhea Ripley: 6 weeks
- Lio Rush: 5 weeks
- Walter: 5 weeks
Io Shirai and Zelina Vega both benefited from being attached to a trios tag team match booked in 2019 that included The IIconics on one side and Asuka and Kairi Sane on the other. To me, their popularity individually is still something that needs to be proven in Mayhem Mania.
On the other hand, Ali and Rhea Ripley made far bigger impressions during Mayhem Mania 2019. Both kept finding their way into matches. Since the 2019 edition of Mayhem Mania, Ripley’s stardom has grown dramatically. She won the NXT Women’s Championship in December 2019. I’m proud to say we were on her bandwagon nearly a year earlier.
As for Ali, his momentum feels like it’s stalled since the early part of 2019, when he was orbiting the WWE Championship picture. We’ll see if the Mayhem Mania players remember him in 2020.
There are many more names we could break down. Producer Missy and Mad Mike deserve a ton of credit for helping to bring all the Mayhem Mania data together and organize it into spreadsheets. It’s really interesting to look at years of data and the trends that emerge. But as I mentioned earlier, this is pro wrestling. No one knows for sure what fans and our Mayhem Mania players will want to see in 2020.