In April, we were all chugging beers like Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 32. The event set an all-time attendance record for WWE and CEO Vince McMahon’s crew of jacked-up grapplers, with 101,763 fans showing up for a weekend of bodyslams and steel cage dives.
On Tuesday, WWE returns to Dallas for the first time since Wrestlemania. Members of the WWE crew will film an episode of Smackdown Live at the American Airlines Center. But lots has changed in the wrestling world in four months, so before you dive back into the the snark-infested pool of professional wrestling, catch up on these five big changes at WWE since Wrestlemania.
The Brand Has Split
WWE decided to drum up competition within the company this summer by splitting their ever-growing roster for the first time since 2011. The company held a draft in July and divided the wrestlers between two competing shows, the flagship program RAW and Smackdown. So who is on the Smackdown brand? Lucky for us, Smackdown features many mainstay WWE talents such as John Cena, Randy Orton and current WWE Champion Dean Ambrose. Wrestlers drafted to RAW include former WWE champion Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar (so they won't be in Dallas on Tuesday).
Shane McMahon Is Alive and Now Runs Smackdown
Shane McMahon created the most memorable moment of Wrestlemania 32 when he jumped off the top of a 20-foot steel cage in an ill-fated attempt to obliterate his Wrestlemania opponent, the Undertaker. That Hell in a Cell match had high stakes; if Shane won he would be given creative control of WWE’s flagship program RAW. Shane missed that elbow drop from the top of the cage, but he remains a key fixture on WWE television. You see, Shane’s dad Vince McMahon decided to console him by handing him the reins to WWE’s other brand, Smackdown. WWE has always done a fine job of blurring the line between reality and fiction, so it's unclear whether Shane is just a figurehead or he actually has creative control. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing that he's still part of WWE after his near-death jump from a steel cage.
A Whole Lot of Suspensions
Ten years ago, following a few high-profile wrestler deaths, Vince McMahon implemented the WWE Wellness Policy, which includes regular testing for everything from performance-enhancing to recreational drugs. Since then, WWE has suspended 50 wrestlers. In 2016 alone, six have been suspended, including Wrestlemania 32 champion Roman Reigns, who tested positive for Adderall. The most dramatic suspension of the year, however, belongs to Brock Lesnar. After his UFC victory over Mark Hunt, it was discovered that he'd tested positive for drugs that are typically used as a companion to steroids. UFC suspended Lesnar, but the WWE has yet to follow suit.
Dean Ambrose Is WWE Champion
Dean Ambrose won his first WWE championship just a few months after his Wrestlemania street fight against Brock Lesnar when he successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. The contract guaranteed him a WWE title match whenever, wherever, and he used it against former stablemate Seth Rollins just minutes after Rollins defeated Reigns for the championship. Ambrose was drafted to Smackdown, so that means WWE’s marquee champion will be coming to Dallas on the Aug. 30.
There have been plenty of new faces called up from the NXT developmental brand since Wrestlemania. The trash-talking tag team of Enzo and Cass, former women’s champion Bayley and former NXT champion Finn Balor will all appear on RAW. Smackdown will feature tag team specialists American Alpha; female Samoan wrestler Nia Jax; and Mojo Rawley, who formed a team with Zack Ryder called The Hype Bros. With so much talent across their two main brands and the developmental brand NXT, WWE hopes to keep its product fresh between Wrestlemanias.
See WWE Smackdown Live at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, at American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave.). Tickets are $20 to $250 at ticketmaster.com.