That being said, it is somewhat astounding how many professional stories go unresolved. While the many twists, turns and revelations are the crux of any good story, without a satisfying ending (or an ending at all in many cases), the whole thing feels like a wasted venture. Being a fan of professional wrestling for many years now, I have witnessed this ability to scrub the slate clean without any explanation time and again, and it's a practice that shows no sign of stopping.
But, it is always fun to speculate the "what ifs" of wrestling and explore the potential of this incomplete story arcs to consider what might have been. The writers and bookers of the time might not have been interested in finishing these storylines, but that isn't going to stop me. This is the chance to stand toe-to-toe with inept storytelling and give it the beatdown it deserves. Traveling through time across WWE, WCW, TNA and more, I will endeavor to create the fitting conclusions to these unsettled tales, ensuring they left fans with a bang and not a whimper.
With WrestleMania less than two weeks away, this first edition takes its inspiration from the premier match of last year's grand event. We look into the clash inside Hell in a Cell and ask the question: What was inside Vince McMahon's lockbox?
In the month leading up to WrestleMania 32, Shane McMahon made a shocking and celebrated return to WWE for the first time since 2009. Shane had been pursuing opportunities and growing companies outside of his family business, returning to confront his father Vince and sister Stephanie and take back control of WWE. His first promo after the rapturous reception from the audience mentioned one important detail behind his pursuit of the company - Shane knew about a lockbox that Vince McMahon had kept away within which held classified, embarrassing information.
Clearly the impact of Shane's return and the revelation of this lockbox infuriated WWE's chairman, as Vince McMahon said he would hand over control of RAW to Shane if he could win a match at WrestleMania. Against The Undertaker. Inside Hell in a Cell. In an instant, this whole angle became the hottest thing heading into the biggest show of the year. All talk surrounded Shane's future with WWE, if Undertaker was going to lose for only a second time on the Grandest Stage (against a non-wrestler no less) and the contents of that fabled lockbox.
However, after this was mentioned in the first few weeks of this feud, focus on the lockbox soon disappeared entirely. It must have been extremely well-hidden by Vince as he managed to make it vanish completely from the storyline, forgotten by himself, Shane, Undertaker—everybody except the fans. The abruptness of this gaping plot hole played a big role in a overly convoluted and nonsensical rivalry that severely under-delivered at WrestleMania itself.
What Actually HappenedWith the lockbox swept completely under the rug, the flaws apparent in the Shane McMahon and The Undertaker rivalry became even starker. Why was The Phenom performing the bidding on Vince McMahon? Why was Shane desperate to anger The Deadman when they had no reason to despise each other? It was hard to understand the logic behind their fight, and yet it was still the main drawing point of WrestleMania 32, which demonstrates the lack of interest in the rest of the card clearer than anything else.
The match itself was built around a single spot—Shane McMahon plummeting from the top of the enormous Hell in a Cell structure, only to miss the prone Undertaker and crash through the announce table. Outside this, the match was rather pedestrian and needlessly competitive, with non-wrestler Shane actually getting the better of the former world champion on numerous occasions. If this was the first time someone had seen Undertaker wrestle, they would probably imagine he wouldn't last a minute in his upcoming match against Roman Reigns.
The epic visual of Shane falling was the only highlight of an otherwise forgettable match which Undertaker would win to increase his record to 23-1. With that loss, Shane had seemingly missed out on his opportunity to run Monday Night Raw and would leave Vince McMahon and the dastardly Authority still in power for the foreseeable future. Whether Shane would be back at all was left up in the air based on the injuries he sustained in the match and his lost opportunity to re-establish his presence in WWE.
What actually happened was Shane showed up in the opening segment the next night limping ever-so-slightly, Vince McMahon praised his bravery and handed him control of RAW, rendering the whole storyline, match and lockbox completely pointless. While it was nice to see anyone other than Triple H and Stephanie McMahon take the reins on TV, this ending was unsatisfying and confusing to say the least.
So, what more could WWE have done with the lockbox to give it closure and make Shane's return more impactful than it proved to be?
Filling in the Blanks
Firstly, we have to establish what would be in the lockbox. Seems like the logical first step for anyone that isn't on WWE's creative team. It would have to be something only Vince and Shane would know about, with Vince being desperate to keep under wraps from the world—Stephanie in particular. Coming up with something that would fit into this scenario is admittedly tricky, which is probably why writers determined it was best forgotten about. But, I have one idea that, while not perfect, could have fit the bill…
In the lockbox would be evidence that Shane McMahon (who outside of WWE remains today the Vice-Chairman of Wecast Holdings Inc.) had been lending money to Vince in order to keep WWE afloat. Due to the poor management of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon—which had seen many popular talents held down in favor of their handpicked stars and aging veterans—WWE's ratings were down and money was tight, so Vince had to go to his son Shane and agree to a loan. Vince was too proud to reveal his choice of Stephanie as the future was the wrong one and when Shane came to collect, he wanted to steer Monday Night Raw back into prominence.
This would be an interesting way to go because it plays on the thoughts many fans of WWE have had in recent years regarding Shane's departure and Stephanie's creative influence on the current product. The major caveat would be that, as previously shown during Donald Trump's brief takeover of WWE, any mention of the company being in financial straits could alarm their shareholders. It would need to be made clear well in advance to them that this was only a storyline in order to appease any fears of a decline in stock prices.
Vince takes objection to this and sets up the match with The Undertaker. The Deadman, instead of blindly going ahead with the match, refuses at first, saying he doesn't owe the Chairman anything. But, Shane's constant reiteration of a need to change the old guard and make things exciting again eventually infuriates the veteran, and he lashes out. Undertaker rightly argues that his tenure deserves reverence and respect, and that if Shane is so desperate to change everything, then he can try and start with him. This builds the intrigue and splits the crowd, with some desiring the change Shane is promising and others upholding the legacy and respect of The Undertaker.
The match itself doesn't need to be changed a lot to benefit this more logical storytelling (other than it should be far more one-sided in The Phenom's favor). Shane can do his death-defying fall and The Undertaker should still walk out victorious, as after all he is the actual wrestler in the match. Shane is taken out on a stretcher, and isn't seen again until Payback, with Vince McMahon at the helm for the time being.
Vince takes great pleasure in Shane's demise, gloating that no one will ever know what was in the lockbox and that they will never see his bastard of a son again. However, his dictatorial attitude has grown along with his newfound confidence, pushing guys like Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and more over the edge. They implore Shane to return and confront his father. As a man of his word, Shane does not personally reveal what was in the lockbox. But, he is at heart a crafty McMahon, so he goads Stephanie into searching the answers out for herself, leading to the grand reveal on Monday Night Raw that Shane had been bailing out WWE for years.
Stephanie would leave mortified, Vince would be humiliated and infuriated. This could lead to a blow-off PPV match where Shane and Vince choose representatives for the right to take over Monday Night Raw, where Shane finally stands triumphant. However, so Vince can have the last laugh, he announces that Shane can only have Monday Night Raw, but Stephanie will take SmackDown, announcing the brand split out of nowhere and drawing the battle lines immediately. Both siblings will be desperate to prove they run the better show, while Vince fades into the background once again.
There we have it. We've filled the gap of the forgotten lockbox to give it meaning. Not only would this have built the feud more logically and intensely heading into WrestleMania 32, but could have proven a fantastic catalyst for the brand extension rather than simply just announcing it out of nowhere and having to wait a month or two before it actually takes place.