It was roughly this time last year when I started this blog, so moved I was by the event, and especially the performances of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. This year I am here to cover the Grandaddy of them all, the annual blood-letting of wrestling, the most important day of the sports-entertainment year; WELCOME TO WRESTLEMANIA! (well, my preview of it …)
I’ve heard a lot about this WrestleMania having a disappointing build-up, but I really don’t understand that. It seems to me more like the bitter IWC shitting on whatever is offered to them. How people can’t get excited about The Rock and John Cena facing off, Alberto Del Rio and Christian (an IWC darling) making the main event, a Streak match against a credible opponent in future Hall of Famer, HHH involving the spectre of head of this year’s HoF class, Shawn Michaels.
The only fair criticism in my eyes is the loss of the Money in the Bank match. Until this year’s MITB PPV, this match was quintessential WrestleMania, and I don’t see why it couldn’t be involved this year round. Saying this, there is plenty of scope on a 9 match card to add to it, and I think some early electricity could be generated by our host, The Rock, by coming out, cutting a promo, and then announcing a MITB match. Wishful thinking perhaps, but if you can’t wish at WrestleMania, where can you!?
Dark Match) WrestleMania Battle Royal:
Being a dark match, this might not seem like a big deal, but it most certainly is. It is the route to WrestleMania for those not booked for the taped extravaganza, gives them a taste and a drive to progress, as well as earning them a PPV bonus. Especially with the probability of there being no MITB match this year, there is definitely licence to make a bigger deal out of the result of this match, maybe giving the winner some sort of accolade allowing them some TV time and a push, like the former benefits of the King of the Ring. As for who will win, there seems to be little reason to it as Yoshi Tatsu won it last year, but if more was to be made of it, I would suggest Sin Cara. He is to make his television debut on the RAW following WrestleMania in the aftermath of his very successful series of hype vignettes. A victory at WrestleMania would add even more momentum to his debut.
Winner: Sin Cara
Match 1) Corre (Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater & Ezekiel Jackson) vs Kane, The Big Show, Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov
This was the final match (as far as we know) added to the card, and so, you have to imagine, the one with the least creative depth to it. That, mixed with the big star attractions involved (Barrett, Kane, Big Show), make it the perfect match to open the show with. The combination of the faces seems a little thrown together, despite the fact that its made up of two genuine teams. Contrast them with Corre, who now hold three belts and a tonne of momentum, and it’s difficult to see why the faces would ever win this match. If anything, I think it’s more likely that someone from the faces could turn heel and possibly join the Corre, adding to their momentum and making them even more intimidating. Kane? They do have history with him? Big Show? He could do with a new direction. Kozlov? No longer a tag champ. Speaking of Kozlov, following a match at Axxess, he was attacked by Corre, who severely injured his shoulder. I don’t know whether this will affect the booking, but it will surely add a new story to the match itself. This is a great way for Axxess to be utilised. Not only does it give those in attendance more ‘axxess’, but it adds even more mystique to the whole build for WrestleMania, showing that it is more than a one-night thing where anything can happen at any time; it is a city-wide, week-long spectacle. This can only help Corre, taking some blame away from the faces when they lose. Though there is possibly a chance that the disadvantage factor could swing momentum towards the faces, whatever happens, Corre are going over.
Update!: Following the incident at Axxess, Kofi Kingston has apparently replaced Kozlov in the match. I can only think Kozlov is legitimately injured, which is a real shame if it is the case. I can’t see, on the other hand, WWE taking a Mania spot away from someone just to get Kingston involved live. Its difficult to tell how this could affect the match. The fresh element of Kingston helps the faces chances, but it is also offset by the consequent removal of the adversity factor of taking on a larger team. That being the case, i’m sticking with my original prediction.
Match 2) United States Championship Match: Sheamus (c) vs Daniel Bryan
Last year, Sheamus took on HHH at WrestleMania whereas Bryan was still on NXT (I think), so both have had quite opposite fortunes over the last two years. Bryan had a very impressive US title run while Sheamus dropped from the WWE Championship to the US Championship. However, since picking up the US title, Sheamus seems to be on something of a climb-back to the top, while Bryan hasn’t had many opportunities on TV, having to contend with people like The Rock and Stone Cold for minutes. Nonetheless, Bryan has been involved in some of the best matches in WWE this year, and I fully expect him to make the most of his WrestleMania debut in a match with Sheamus who certainly has potential to put on a good match, especially with Bryan. Given time, which it should be, this could contribute to a consistently very high quality of wrestling on the show. The winner is seemingly quite predictable, however. Having just won the title a few weeks ago, I don’t see Sheamus losing his title.
Match 3) Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes
This is among the most intense feuds on this year’s card; remarkable, seing as how it all started with an accidental injury in a TV match. This has been one of the most visually stimulating feuds for a long time, based as it is on Rhodes’s formerly ‘dashing’ looks turning beastly and requiring a mask of his own which is seemingly contrary to the meaning of Mysterio’s mask, which he then made a prize of. Since then, Rhodes has started to seem part-machine, part beast, making a point of using enhancements to his body, and using them as visual cues to their feud. Last year, Rhodes went down, along with Ted DiBiase, to Randy Orton to secure Orton’s face-turn. The idea of his affiliation with Orton was to propel him upwards. For DiBiase, it hasn’t yet worked, but Rhodes took on his ‘Dashing’ gimmick, and seems ready for his first iconic match on his way to the top. His natural talent, along with Mysterio’s wily high-flying experience, should make for another good match. I understand Mysterio asked for Rhodes personally, so that, along with the rise of Rhodes, makes me think Mysterio is going to put Rhodes over and help launch his career.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
Match 4) John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki vs Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool & Layla
One of the most controversial inclusions in this year’s WrestleMania is Jersey Shore airhead, ‘Snooki’. I understand the skepticism, but I have no problem with her involvement. Like it or not, Jersey Shore is one of the biggest phenomenons in contemporary pop culture, and WrestleMania, like WWE in general is intentionally a pop culture juggernaut, as well as sports entertainment monolith, and from the original WrestleMania, the pop culture icons of the day have been a part of the event. She will hopefully bring eyes to the product and not actually wrestle enough to botch up the whole match. Meanwhile, Trish returning to the ring is always a pleasure, and especially when against the current heads of the divas division, LayCool. That is genuinely of interest. Also, there is the continuation of the burgeoning feud between John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler (a possible future main event in itself). Add all this together, and you have a nice mixture of pop culture and sports entertainment, as well as a match which promises to be fun. Perhaps to add some extra attraction to this match, it would be worth having a mixture of lumberjacks and lumberjills by the ring consisting of those not otherwise booked for the televised event. All this aside, it is absolutely clear that the faces will go over. Future Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus and celebrity guest Snooki wont be showing up to WrestleMania to lose. Snooki will get the pin over Layla, as I don’t see Michelle going through that indignity.
Winners: John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki
Match 5) Randy Orton vs CM Punk
In complete contrast to the match before it, which is in many ways a relief match, this feud is as dark and intense as you would expect from CM Punk and Randy Orton. This feud goes back to Unforgiven 2008 where Orton as a heel cost Punk as a face his World Championship. When this was renewed, the feud had no pretense of good vs evil. Indeed, Orton seemed to know that Punk had a point. In fact, this seems more of a competition over who can be the most despicable. Orton certainly achieved that by punting the whole of the New Nexus in the head, but those four or so weeks of build were a repetitive waste. It was only when Punk was left alone that the match started to build well. Two weeks ago, Punk pounced on Orton’s understandable complacency by threatening The Viper’s family as a trap to lure out Orton and attack him with a wrench to the knee, saying ‘now ‘aint that a kick in the head’. He followed up on this the next week with another attack on a seriously injured Orton, showing the shift in momentum that has seemingly taken place. The textbook would suggest that Orton will come back and defeat Punk, but I have a feeling that there’s more to this feud, and that its continuation will be best helped by a Punk victory. Not only that, but Punk, despite being a definite top talent, would benefit more from the victory and be hurt more by the loss. Saying that, this is the first really difficult match to predict, especially seen as a Punk prediction will really tip the balance towards the heels. Nonetheless, i’m sticking to my (unsure) instincts.
Winner: CM Punk
Match 6) Jerry “The King” Lawler vs Michael Cole w/ Jack Swagger, with Special Guest Referee, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Like the Bret Hart-Vince McMahon match of last year’s WrestleMania, this match is not going to be pretty – this year’s blood-letting. The inclusion of Stone Cold and Swagger will just be to prolong the spectacle. Of course, if it was a one-on-one match, it would be over in seconds. I don’t expect it to be that long a match, but it will last out for some time. I imagine Swagger will get involved, gaining Cole the upper-hand for a while before Austin chases Swagger off, allowing Lawler to recover and beat Cole. After celebrating with a cold one, Cole will get up, only to be stunned back down. It wont be the best match, but seeing Lawler at WrestleMania will be special enough, and the sheer release of seeing Lawler finally dish out some justice to WWEs most obnoxious employee.
Winner: Jerry “The King” Lawler
Match 7) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge w/ Christian vs Alberto Del Rio w/ Brodus Clay
Ever since debuting in WWE, Alberto Del Rio has been on an express route to the top, and since winning the Royal Rumble, his path seems all the quicker. It seems clear that he can only prevail at WrestleMania, earning his breakthrough moment and continuing his meteoric rise. For Edge to beat him now would undermine this. His feud with Edge has been intense, but it was only when Christian became intrinsically involved that it really took off. The long history between him and Edge not only makes his involvement more anticipated, but more engaging. People seem to be sure that Christian will turn on Edge at this event, partly for storyline purposes, and partly to legitimise Edge’s loss. I too believe this is a strong possibility, and believe it is so obviously a possibility that WWE could add an extra element to this angle. It seems quite an oversight not to have Drew McIntyre on the card, and given that he has been feuding with Edge recently, this could be his opportunity to get on the show. Depending on how big of a rub management want to give the Sinister Scotsman, they could have him actually cost Edge the match as his retaliation for coming between him and Kelly Kelly. If not, Christian could cost Edge the title after McIntyre’s already interfered, making it seem like it takes even more to defeat Edge. Either way, Christian could continue to beat down on Edge after the match, saying he’s waited all these years to humiliate Edge on the grandest state of them all. The only problem with such a promo is that it would take some spotlight from Del Rio. Either that, or the swerve could be that Del Rio wins clean and Christian stays alligned with Edge. Either way, i’m sure Del Rio will be leaving WrestleMania as the World Heavyweight Champion.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Match 8) The Undertaker vs Triple H
It will be a brave call if this match is not the main event after the effect the streak match not being the main event had on WrestleMania XXV. Nonetheless, for reasons which will become clear, I think the WWE Championship match will be the main event. As for this match, it obviously has the potential to steal the show, being as it is between two of the most decorated veterans in recent history. Despite his weaker body these days, we can always count on ‘Taker to deliver at WrestleMania, and as for HHH, he has his own history of great matches. The build to this match has been truly memorable. There has been no physicality whatsoever, as if these two ‘outlaws’ have no need to make any points through violence any more. This is purely a match based on respect, and no doubt that will show during the match. There will be lots of drama and near-falls, and with an 18-year streak on the line, the tension will be unbearable whenever there is a pincover, and that is surely the makings of another great streak match. I also believe the spectre of Shawn Michaels will be present in this match, especially after that mesmerising promo this week on RAW. There has been a lot of speculation that HBK may actually cost HHH the streak, angry that he feels he can do what Shawn couldn’t. That would surprise me though. For one thing, physical interference would affect the purity of the match and it would surely be something of unwarranted heel-turn for a guy who is actually retired and a new entry in to the Hall of Fame. What I can see is Undertaker using HBK’s music or something to get inside The Game’s head as part of his legendary mind-games. Despite how much jeopardy the streak seems to be in, I can’t see it being broken this year, if ever. If it ever is to be broken, which I don’t think it should be, it will be in Undertaker’s final match, and I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Winner: The Undertaker
Match 9) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs John Cena
No one knows yet exactly what role The Rock will play at WrestleMania. I have a feeling he’ll be there almost throughout, appearing with as many superstars as possible to give them a rub, but one match where he will clearly play an important role will be this match. Before I get to that though, it’s important not to overshadow the Miz and this match in itself. This is actually quite the established rivalry. Years ago, when Miz was still a mid-carder, he started his rise to the top with his anti-Cena phase which saw him lose, but in some high-profile matches with the face of the WWE. From there he continued to periodically bash Cena before beginning this main event feud with The Champ. To me, The Miz has more than proved his main event status in his beat-downs and verbal assaults on Cena, and main-eventing WrestleMania will not only be the zenith of his rise, but also of his feud with Cena. Neither Miz or Cena are the greatest wrestlers in the world, but they are also both very underrated, and can and have put on excellent matches. They both have a real knack for drama in matches, even if its not based in technical wrestling. Regarding The Rock, most people are scared that this will all end in Rock deciding to back Cena, beating down Miz, and raising Cena’s hand at the end of the night. However, far too much seems to have passed between the two for such a clean, polished finish. There will be phsyicality between Rocky and both Miz and Cena. I don’t think Rock will cost Cena the match, but I do think Cena will take a Rock Bottom, and I do think Miz will retain. Miz has also been on a huge rise (like Del Rio), and for Cena to win at WrestleMania again would stall all that surely, denying Miz his WrestleMania moment. After a lot of confusion, and maybe interference from Alex Riley, Miz will come through and retain his title. I think this will close the show, not only because Rocky’s involvement is part of the marquee, and because Miz’s win will be shocking in many ways, but because I also see Cena turning heel. After losing the match, a furious Cena would attack Rock from behind and would later blame his loss on relying on his useless fans while Miz went all out to win the match using underhanded tactics. If that’s not shocking enough to cause a heel-turn, then maybe Cena will need to win the title in an underhanded, heelish way, while also attacking the Rock from behind after the match. Whatever happens, I think what happens at WrestleMania will only continue the feud between these three. Indeed, The Rock is said to be very open to wrestling again, and that could lead to him sticking around until Summerslam, or even WrestleMania XXVIII in his hometown of Miami. With all these variables, nothing is predictable with this match, but i’m going to stick with The Miz for this match, simply for the reason that it seems important to his rise to being undisputed top heel.
Winner: The Miz
Again, the idea that Cena will turn heel is perhaps wishful thinking, but this is one of the most timely opportunities for it to happen since Cena was forced in to the Nexus. Though that is desirable, even without it, this promises to be an excellent WrestleMania. Even the relief match should be good, while every other match has interesting or compelling reasons to watch them. The final two matches hold the most interest for me, but every match here could be satisfying and fantastic.