What more to say? This is WrestleMania. Always iconic. Almost always brilliant – This is WrestleMania, and I couldn’t be more excited. The card is very good, and if I may be controversial, certainly better than last year’s (already stellar) card. It will be a privilege to witness Rock vs Cena; it is truly what the hype says – icon vs icon, arguably the biggest match in the history of wrestling. Aside from that, we have Taker-HHH, which is a match I didn’t look forward to last year, but which delivered in the end. More crucially, my two favourite wrestlers ever, Chris Jericho and CM Punk have alligned and are wrestling one of the top matches on the card. All that, mixed with a strong card almost throughout makes this a really mouthwatering spectacle, and I, like any true wrestling fan, can’t wait!
Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
Yes it’s a shame that this match, for one of WWE’s most prestigious titles will only be defended during the first match on the card, but, like last year, this actually is quite a boon, helping to frame the event with a feel-good finish. Indeed, the result has a lot to do with me placing this first on the card, though I should also say that my prediction has become less confident of late given the sheer brilliance of Daniel Bryan recently. I was of the opinion that Bryan was just being given a run with the title until dropping it to Sheamus in order to provide the Celtic Warrior with his ‘moment’ at WrestleMania to really cement him as a top guy. However, this narrative may have been altered by the fact that Daniel Bryan has become one of the best characters in the whole of the WWE since becoming champion. His slimy, overly-confident, overly-congratulatory, wily champion character has brought him tonnes of heat, and he has really shone brighter than even Sheamus. With this in mind, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they extended AmDrag’s run. I am, despite this, sticking with Sheamus, and that is for the simple reason that a Sheamus win allows for a feel-good moment, the continuance of the feud as well as Sheamus’s moment in the spotlight. The match could be really good given time, and I imagine AJ will reluctantly get involved, will be banned from ringside, and as a result, D. Bryan loses the title clean, allowing for his rematch clause to be activated and the feud continuing.
Match 2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs The Big Show
Usually, I have no interest in a match involving The Big Show, but this match involves the eminently brilliant Cody Rhodes, and that gives me an instant degree of interest. While Show is a one-dimensional void of charisma (albeit a popular one), Rhodes has been growing in ring and in character for over a year now, and has done some great work with not very much material to add genuine tension to this feud. His delivery of the packages detailing Big Show’s flops at WrestleManias has been achingly callous and smarmy, and added to this have been efficient displays of stealth and intelligence, using anti-Big Guy tactics against Khali to show he could beat giants before trapping Big Show and humiliating him with a series of blows to the head with boxing gloves – a move also sinister in it’s brutality. Rhodes has played a perfect heel here, creating actual heat for what could have been a lacklustre feud, and providing a platform where people will really want to see Big Show finally get his hands on him and snuff him out. Indeed, i’ve seen some predictions where this very scenario is favoured, but I don’t see it happening. It’s great for Rhodes and the prestige of his title that Big Show is facing him for it, but there is absolutely no value in actually giving the title to Show. By WrestleMania, Rhodes will have held the Intercontinental Championship for 236 days, making Rhodes the longest-reigning IC Champ in nearly 8 years (only 8 days behind Shelton Benjamin), and 9th-longest-running IC reign of ALL TIME. Very impressive, great for Rhodes, great for the championship, and too much to waste on a momentary pop for a Big Show victory when Show is (in historical billing terms) above the title anyway. Even if it’s through cheating, give Rhodes the WrestleMania rub and help create a legendary reign for a future star.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
Match 3) Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres
Ok, so this is undoubtedly the weakest match of the card. There were dreams of Beth vs Kharma, or Beth vs Natalya, or similar, but it hasn’t materialised. Nonetheless, WrestleMania thrives on celebrity involvement, and Menounos is a keen wrestling fan who will give her all (despite a rib injury), and her involvement may actually afford the divas more time than they usually get. The shame is that the babyface celebrity is surely almost certain to go over, and that harms our Divas Champion a little. I just hope she isn’t the one to get pinned (or, that i’m REALLY surprised, and Beth Glamslams Menounos for the win – you never know, Menounos could return down the line …).
Winners: Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos
Match 4) Randy Orton vs Kane
I’m a big Randy Orton fan. He’s a great wrestler. But to my memory, since wrestling a series with classics with Christian last year, and putting Mark Henry over as champion, Orton has struggled to get embroiled in a really good feud and, consequently, has suffered from less intriguing matches. He has apparently been lined up for a bit of a dream feud with Alberto Del Rio in the future, but for now he has been lumped with the freshly unemployed (in storyline terms) Kane after the Big Red Machine was dispatched by John Cena at Elimination Chamber. The feeling that these two big names have been thrown together because they kinda have to be at WrestleMania wasn’t helped by the arbitrary-feeling nature of their feud, justified as it is by Kane being angry that Orton humanised him last year on Smackdown by shaking his hand on Smackdown, a moment that has haunted Kane ever since, supposedly. It’s paper-thin, but I don’t want to bury this match before it’s started, so it’s also important to remember that Orton can put on great matches with anyone, while Kane is a seasoned veteran, and is always capable of shock. I expect Orton is probably the favourite for this, but I have the feeling Orton, Kane, and WWE will want to salvage something from this; so I think Kane might gain a shock win. If Orton was to win, Kane would have been polished off by two stars in as many PPVs, and would lose all of his credibility as a ‘monster’, while a win for Kane will completely reinstate all the credibility lost when he was dispatched by Cena. A loss could fire up Randy to come back at Kane in future matches ready to move on to ADR looking great. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, and Orton will just RKO Kane in minutes, but it’s what i’m going for.
Match 5) 12-Man Tag Team Match To Decide the Future General Manager of Both RAW and Smackdown: Team Johnny (David Otunga, Mark Henry, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger & Drew McIntyre) vs Team Teddy (Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, The Great Khali & Booker T)
There’s a lot to talk about regarding that match, though not that it carries that much importance in many ways. This match was a good idea in that it gives twelve (mostly) deserving superstars a WrestleMania spotlight. I’m especially pleased about Zack Ryder (who deserves it for his hard work despite his shortcomings) and Drew McIntyre (who deserves it in every way) getting the call to Mania, though for people like Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry and The Miz, it’s a shame that this match was the best they could do – especially Dolph and Henry, who have been some of the brightest stars in the company this year. I have absolutely no doubt that this will be a really fun match. Ther’ll be great spots from guys like Dolph and Kofi, while Santino, Zack, Teddy, and Laurinaitis will no doubt provide some swell comedy. What is more, at least one person will be given a good rub here, i.e., the person who gets the final pin (though the whole winning team will look good. That team will be, surely, Team Johnny. John Laurinaitis, flanked by David Otunga, have quickly become hugely effective at what they do, growing in to engaging and easily dislikable bureaucrats, while Teddy Long – with all due respect to the MacMilitant -has become a staid cliché (search for the comical Teddy Long flowchart, which illustrates the point). With that in mind, I can’t believe WWE would back Teddy over Johnny, and so I think the heels will go over here. Which leaves us with the question of who will get the final pin. Well, it’s hard to rule any of them out. Apart from probably Jack Swagger, each man has a lot to gain from the rub, and a lot of currency to take it; Dolph as the fastest-growing star among them, Otunga as captain and fast-growing heel who has been doing some great work of late, Mark Henry, who is in the midst of renewing his dominance of a few months ago, The Miz, who main evented last year’s WrestleMania, and who seems to be on his way back, and finally, Drew McIntyre, who could use this rub as a catalyst back to his push of a year or so ago. My heart says McIntyre, but my head says Miz, who has a distinctly Jericho-esque tendency to sweep up the pieces to gain high-profile wins, and who’s success would be all the more poetic given the lengths he went to to even get on the team.
Winners: Team Johnny
Match 6) WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
Ok, so it’s a shame that the WWE Championship match, and the match i’m most looking forward to, wont be the main, main event, but it is the right call. Not only is Rock-Cena one of the biggest matches ever, but as great as this match will be, and despite the fact that it will almost certainly be the stand-out wrestling match, it will struggle to follow the sheer mangitude of The Streak and Rock-Cena. Jericho at least will be smart to this following his experience at WrestleMania 18; this matches best chance for success is if The Streak and Rock-Cena have to follow them. That aside, it’s hard for me to properly express how much this match means to me. Jericho and Punk are not only two of the greatest wrestlers and sports-entertainers ever, but also happen to be my two favourite ever. This is my dream match, and it’s hard to say more than that. Give these two time, which I believe they will, and these two will dish up a bonafide classic. The build to the match has been great, with Jericho trolling us all with ‘the end of the world’ before launching in to this battle of Best in the World vs Best in the World. Tantalising enough, but Jericho then plunged the depths of the Reality Era by bringing Punk’s troubled family in to the mix to get under the champion’s skin. This is how the Reality Era should work. By playing off Punk’s history with an alcoholic father and difficult upbringing, Jericho in fact framed the Punk we see today wonderfully, making him and his straight-edged, stand-offish and rebellious character one we as an audience one we can really understand and see in a sympathetic light. Jericho is extremely popular with the fans, and from day 1 of his return he has been frustrating and annoying us to get heat, and he has been successful. With each passing week, his attacks on Punk get more personal, and more childish, and from huge pop at his return, Jericho is now hated again by the fans; he sure is a master puppeteer. As for Punk, he has shown a more vulnerable, but determined side, which mixed with the traits that got him over during the ‘Summer of Punk’, will make him even more of a top top star. That is how well considered and crafted this feud has been so far. I can only see one winner here though, and that is, rightly, CM Punk. Punk is the next person to be properly ‘made’. He already has been, it should be noted, ‘made’ as a top top star on par with John Cena, but he is still lacking his big WrestleMania moment like Cena had at WrestleMania 21. Also like John Cena, if Punk wins, he will join an exclusive club (only him and Cena) to have succesfully wrestled for the WWE Championship at all of the ‘Top 4’ PPVs in a single year. Quite the vote of confidence, and quite the change from this time last year. As for Jericho, I feel he’s deserving of another WWE Championship run, and believe he will get one down the line as his feud with Punk hopefully continues beyond WrestleMania. Jericho has been avoiding Punk, and getting shots in cheaply. The story of this match will be Punk finally shutting Jericho up and proving himself the Best Wrestler in the World!
Winner: CM Punk
Match 7) Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs Triple H w/ Special Guest Referee, Shawn Michaels
This is The Streak, and therefore it is exciting, and emotional, and the rest. Every year, arguably nothing more is on the line – a history that is literally perfect and untainted (just showing the genuine prestige involved in wrestling, despite it’s pre-ordained nature). Last year, I wasn’t so excited about this pairing going in, and it turned out to be a classic between to legendary veterans. I expect no less this year. What is more is that, somehow, WWE managed to rescue the aura of Hell in a Cell from the grasps of its PPV namesake, simply by playing to it’s strengths – announcing it unexpectedly, and using it to clean up a long-lasting rivalry. Perhaps the stip, and indeed, the introduction of Shawn Michaels, is so much smoke and mirrors, but it is certainly intriguing, and does a good job differentiating this match from last year’s. For that reason, a good job has also been done, along with playing to the memory of the beating Trips gave Taker last year, in renewing the feeling that HHH really could beat the Undertaker this year. That is all great, and my heart will be in my mouth during the inevitable near-falls HHH gets over Taker, but ultimately, I don’t think it will happen. There is absolutely no benefit to having Triple H end The Streak, except for H’s much-mythesised ego. So the question becomes, how will Taker maintain The Streak? The answers are limited, as they both have – by way of stipulation – have to relate to HBK, so either Michaels calls it down the middle and Taker wins legitimately, or HBK jealously screws his friend. I don’t know which it will be, but I certainly don’t want it to be the latter. Not only would it tarnish Taker’s win, and therefore, The Streak somewhat, but it would play in to a storyline that has been rumoured of late for next year’s WrestleMania: a main event match between HHH and HBK. That happening would be wrong for so many reasons, but most immediately, these two: 1) HBK is retired, and as much as the fans want to see him wrestle again, they want to see him not go back on his word for a pay day more, and 2) and HBK-HHH match is not only something we’ve already seen before, but it takes a spot away from the full-timers, who are already squeezed at WrestleMania, without being special enough to warrant it. But enough of that unpleasantness – The Undertaker will return, he will win a fantastic, dramatic match, and everyone will have another classic Undertaker-WrestleMania memory to hold as he takes it to a ridiculous, beautiful, 20-0.
Winner: The Undertaker
Match 8) The Rock vs John Cena
In many ways, this match is perfect. The Rock and John Cena are natural enemies from different spheres of the same world; one the ‘attitudinal’ electrifying and hyper-masculine Rock, and the other the ‘PG’, family friendly but unstoppable, never giving up franchise, John Cena. It is, for once, not hyperbole to call this ‘the biggest match of all time’, and ‘icon vs icon’, as well as any other superlative you may want to think up for it, and so the wrestling aside, this is destined to be an unforgettable match, and possibly the best of all time. For the longest time, I was convinced that Rock would win in his home-town, leading to futura battles between the two, but now it doesn’t seem quite so clean cut. If Rock wins, why would he come back to wrestle Cena again? Also, if Cena loses, and Rock goes away to film movies, what does that do to the credibility of the WWE roster? I think the second question is actually the most troublesome for a Rock prediction (after all, the same could be said the other way regarding the first). My answer to the second question is flimsy, but I think potentially good enough: Cena has won literally (not literally) every match he has competed in for the last seven years, and although wrestle fans have, of necessity, short memories, this one loss wont add up to undermining the whole roster. After all, Punk beat Cena twice this year, and is the WWE Champion, so Cena isn’t the only representative of the best of WWE, and Cena losing certainly doesn’t lower the bar for the roster. Actually, that isn’t so flimsy! The outcome of this match basically depends on how you think the whole Rock-Cena feud will pan out, but the constant is that the lasting image that needs to be created, is Cena overcoming the Rock. If you think this is their only match ever, pick Cena, if not, it’s so easy. Rock has already been announced as having a role at WrestleMania 29, and there are rumours that Rock-Cena will turn in to a trilogy of WrestleMania 28, Summerslam 2012, and WrestleMania 29. That seems good, and even likely to me, and so that is the framework i’m going to work from, and if that is the case, The Rock HAS to win. If the end-point of all this is Cena finally proving himself against Rock, that can only happen at the end of the feud, at WrestleMania 29. Cena can’t win at WrestleMania 28, because that gives us the moment of Cena proving himself prematurely, and renders the other matches essentially meaningless (at least in the Cena proving himself thread, and only if he wins clean). And so the sequence has to be this: Rock over at WM28, Cena over at SS, Cena over at WM29 to win the series. Given my earlier shakiness with my prediction, i’m now certain, The Rock will win on Sunday, in his home town. Cena will continue to evolve as a character, questioning himself and perhaps becoming obsessed with beating The Rock. The problem then becomes how to coax the Rock back to Cena’s ring, but then again that may necessitate something desperate and shocking from Cena, which in itself could be great. The journey could also be one which sees the fans come back to Cena as they watch and sympathise with him against an arrogant and gloating Rock. Maybe. But enough analysis. Whatever happens on Sunday (touch wood), this match will be, and indeed, already is iconic, and featuring two guys in their prime, will be a great match, as well as surely timeless.
Winner: The Rock