Archive for February, 2012

It’s late February, the winter weather has gave way to wet, slushy conditions and warmer temperatures in recent weeks, and online debate and discussion is running rampant over a certain huge event on the horizon for Sunday, April 1.

Yeah, it’s WrestleMania season alright.

The WWE’s Super Bowl-esque extravaganza takes place in Miami this year, emanating from Sun Life Stadium, where the NFL’s Dolphins call home. And with it being just a week before we’re into the month of March, the WWE has started kicking things into overdrive when it comes to shaping up the pay-per-view’s match card.

As it stands at the moment, four matches have been made official for Mania 28, while others are just speculation based on the direction that certain storylines are headed:

Confirmed
– The Rock vs John Cena
– WWE Championship match, CM Punk (C) vs Chris Jericho
– World Heavyweight Title match, Daniel Bryan (C) vs Sheamus
– Hell in a Cell match, The Undertaker vs Triple H

Rumored
– Intercontinental Title match, Cody Rhodes (C) vs The Big Show
– Divas Title match, Beth Phoenix (C) vs Kharma
– Zack Ryder vs Kane
– Team John Laurinaitis vs Team Teddy Long for 100% control of Raw and Smackdown
– Possible return of the Money In The Bank Ladder match
– Possible match involving the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal

Of the rumored bouts, there are some that can be considered more of a lock than others. For one, things between Raw general manager John Laurinaitis (Super Dave!) and Smackdown general manager Teddy Long definitely foreshadow some kind of multi-man match at WrestleMania, where one team would represent John and another represent Long. One theory floating around the Web is that WWE doing this kind of match with as many as 6, 8 or even 10 guys eliminates the return of the Money in the Bank Ladder match. If that’s true, then I think it’s justified because the PPV already has a major gimmick match as a main event – the HIAC match between Triple H and The Undertaker.

I’m excited for WrestleMania, that’s obviously a given, but I’d be lying if I said the show has been absolutely flawless in execution over the past three or four years, because it hasn’t. Every Mania comes with a set of unique challenges, ranging from the number of matches on the card, the match order and times, finding a suitable spot for any possible musical acts or performances, and dealing with the egos of talent who want at least SOME spot on the card to ensure a nice payday. And those issues have hindered at least a few past WrestleManias; in 2009, Mania 25 was ill-timed on a show that saw Kid Rock do about ten minutes of music while the Tag Title Unification match was bumped to the pre-show, and in 2010, Mania 26 had ten matches promoted and managed to get to them all, but as a result a couple matches were given peanuts as far as match time (Tag Titles bout got 3:30 minutes, while CM Punk/Rey Mysterio got 6:30 minutes).

So trying to find that balance is the key. They’ve already got the main event card locked in, so now WWE just needs to pepper the rest of the show with a solid undercard and carefully prep the match order. This might seem like an easy task, but when it comes to WrestleMania it’s crucial that you don’t tire the audience or get them burned out by simply scheduling the matches to go from the Divas Title bout all the way to the Rock/Cena main event. That’s where Mania 25 went wrong; the instant classic between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker was an absolute epic, and as a result the Houston crowd was damn near too exhausted to show any enthusiasm for the World Title and WWE Title matches that followed it, which is too bad because they certainly weren’t bad matches.

I think WWE should go with eight matches this year. I’d pick those first four I wrote under ‘Rumored’ and then come up with a match order that satisfies everyone. With four hours to work with on PPV, I believe eight bouts ensure that each one can get the proper time to work with. But until WWE officially announces the rest of the card, I just wanna get my thoughts out on each confirmed match that we know of.

Daniel Bryan (C) vs Sheamus for the World Title: I like both guys an awful lot, especially Bryan, but I fully expect this one to be changed into a triple threat match that throws Randy Orton into the mix because frankly, I think it needs the added star power of someone legit like Orton (well, WWE-legit). On their own, I know Bryan and Sheamus can have a very good match, as we’ve seen them feud over the US Title. In fact, most people remember that this same match was supposed to happen at Mania last year for the US gold, only for it to be – you guessed it – bumped to the pre-show. It shows how very far both have come in the last year, going from dark match to main event Title match, but I think the addition of Orton can make it really interesting and a hidden gem of a match among its higher-profile co-main events.

CM Punk (C) vs Chris Jericho for the WWE Title: For technical wrestling purists, this is the one they’re drooling over the most, myself very much included. I think Jericho’s return has left a lot to be desired, with the mysterious, dark-toned video clips signaling ‘the end of the world as we know it’, but then again we could be seeing the early stages of a bigger picture (Mania is still about six weeks away). But at its core, it’s about two guys who claim to be the best in the world and have the resumes to back up both claims, and Jericho says that Punk is a jealous, carbon copy of himself. It’s still early in their feud, because we have yet to see that first real 1-on-1 promo between them, but I think the ingredients are there to have a hell of a feud over the WWE Title. And of course, from a performance standpoint, all signs point to this being the best wrestling match of the entire night. We shall see.

The Undertaker vs Triple H in a HIAC match: I was originally against the idea of a second consecutive match between Taker and HHH. My predictions for the Mania 28 card were that Jericho was going to target Taker and his winning streak, and that Hunter would turn heel and become a corporate heel, putting himself in a WWE Title match against Punk. But that didn’t turn out to be the case, and now we’ve got Taker going up against an opponent for a record third time in Mania history, HHH. But I started liking the idea more and more following Taker’s sudden return on Raw the night after the Royal Rumble, and now that the stakes have been raised I’m very excited over the possibilities in this match. The Cell hasn’t been used at Mania since 1999, and in recent years the concept has lost a lot of prestige as WWE gave it its own PPV every year, with watered-down matches that hardly called for its use and really pulled back on the violence that Cell matches always resulted in. But I think Taker and HHH will undoubtedly bring the match back to sacred ground and prove that it should be used very sparingly. In fact, I think if there was any match that called for the return of blood, THIS would be it. Hunter said it to Taker himself, “We do this, we go all out.” I think that’s exactly what they’ll do.

The Rock vs John Cena: The match that’s a full year in the making. WWE certainly pulled off something different when they decided to book the main event of WrestleMania 28 the night after WrestleMania 27, and now we’re starting to see the build-up more intensified as the show is mere weeks away. I thought booking the main event 12 months out was weird at first, but quickly realized that WWE did it so they could accomplish two things; one, start integrating social media like Twitter and Facebook into the company to not only help build the feud over a year, but get millions of fans to feel involved, and two, give The Rock an out to return to Hollywood for the rest of 2011 without people asking why he left again. So I think it made sense in the long run. Now, this past Monday we saw Cena give a heartfelt shoot-like promo that threw many daggers at The Rock, which I thought was really well done. Why Cena can’t feel that same kind of passion any other time of the year, I’ll never know. So now, The Rock will be on Raw every week leading up to Mania, and I’m very interested to hear his response to the things Cena has said about him. I believe, of course, that a lot of what Cena or Rock say about each other is greatly exaggerated, but it never hurts to have a little real animosity leading to any huge match.

I don’t wanna try and come up with my win/lose predictions for WrestleMania right now because it’s way too early, but I’m sticking to my guns on the main event. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I think the Rock/Cena rivalry is the 2012 version of the Rock/Hulk Hogan feud from a decade ago. You’ve got Cena in the same position Rock was in 2002 – he’s won it all, done it all, and he’s the leader of today’s generation. Then you’ve got The Rock – not in a place where Hogan was ten years ago, but similar in spirit where he was a top guy in another era and who also accomplished everything in his time. The build-up and the match will definitely be different, but I do see it ending the same way, with Cena winning clean in what I’m sure will be a fantastic contest. And then, either at the conclusion of Mania itself or on Raw the next night, The Rock will fully endorse Cena as ‘The Man’ and put him over in a big way.

The Road to WrestleMania is definitely shaping up to be an interesting one with many twists and turns, and like millions of other people, I can’t wait to see where that road ends up on April 1.

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