michael dworkis delivers an off-the-wall pros and cons preview of ‘mania …
This might be the most confusing, disastrous, entertaining, sensational WrestleMania to-date. How on Earth did I come up with that for an opener? Keep reading.
An NXT performer makes his main roster in-ring debut at WrestleMania. His opponent sings, dances, and hosts a robot TV show.
A former WWE Champion and current Intercontinental Champion compete on the pre-show.
A streak is on the line, in a match would could go down in history as the most epic of his WrestleMania matches. Or, it could be the end of it all.
Someone will have to retire if he loses. Retire from what, I do not know since he is already retired from in-ring competition.
Will someone get deported?
Will another cash in?
Will two men break the ring or ruin the night with a snooze-fest?
Will a six-man brawl turn out to be a surprisingly good match, or will it prove to be nothing more than six people showing up to claim a paycheck?
For a WrestleMania that was largely set up in under a month, we have a lot of matches the have potential to be great. Also potential to disappoint. We have matches that are supposed to be the main draw, and then we have matches which make the supposed main draw a candidate for a bathroom break. Yes, I begin with the “not-at-all a-once in a lifetime” match between John Cena and The Rock. This time, The Rock is defending the WWE Championship. A quick look at some pros and cons:
The Pros: The Rock headlines another ‘Mania, and The Rock = Ratings. Lately, Cena = Channel Changing. Last year, their match was billed as once-in-a-lifetime. This year it is “Fooled You! We’re doing it again!” Cena could finally go heel, something faces do when their gimmick has just run dry. Last year their match was decent, but nothing to brag about. This year, with the WWE Championship on the line, this is an opportunity for them to put on a damn good show. We know Cena can wrestle. Go back a decade and watch some matches against Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. Watch his recent matches with CM Punk.
The Cons: It could be another lackluster match, worse, a giant sleeper-hold. If Cena and Rock are going to close the show, they better watch Punk vs. Undertaker and take notes. There are so many other matches that look promising, Cena and Rock closing the show could ruin the night. The Rock has not been on TV promoting WrestleMania 29, except in the past week. Cena cut mostly promos, and bored people into changing the channel. Seriously. There is zero focus on the WWE Championship. Once Punk lost the belt to The Rock, the title just vanished, with The Rock from television, and you know the old saying… “Out of sight, out of mind.” I guarantee younger wrestling fans forgot the title existed until this past week.
Fact is, the match they had last year does not excite anybody. Cena needs a change, and a heel turn is they way to go. The Rock is doing his movies, and a simple match between the two would be a waste. We need a surprise, this match needs a shocker.
Tons of Funk (Tensai/A-Train & Brodus Clay) & The Funkadactyles vs. The Rhodes Scholars & The Bella Twins
If there was ever a match to both hit the bathroom and go binge drinking, this is it. Sandow and Rhodes are being wasted here. My twin daughters, not even two yet have better wrestling skills than The Bellas. Bellas… that is a type of mushroom, a fungus. Yeah, Brie and Nikki Bella are fungus that will not go away. Sandow and Rhodes were put back together since WWE appears to have nothing else for them to do in singles matches. That, is fine. They make a great team, but they need the WWE Tag Team Championships around their waists in order to be taken seriously. There are no pros to this match, I can only see cons for this one.
Pre-Show Match: The Miz challenges Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship
Wait wait wait wait … Just WAIT ONE MINUTE. Cesaro doesn’t have a match, while Tons of Funk does? The Intercontinental Title Match is the PRESHOW? Am I crazy here? Does any of this seem right to you? No. It should not. The Miz is a former WWE Champion. Barrett is a main eventer and current titleholder. That mish-mash of a tag match should be the pre-show and this should be on the main card.
Pros: Miz and Barrett are solid athletes in the ring and solid on the mic. They will have a great match and there is no doubt about that.
Cons: Putting them on the pre-show degrades the Intercontinental Championship and tells the world that Miz and Barrett are not worth of being on the actual pay-per-view event.
Jericho vs. Fandango
Well, this just earned the “why is this a match” trophy. Maybe because Jericho keeps quitting to do other ventures that inevitably fail, WWE is punishing him by making him fight a ballroom dancer a-la Dancing with the Stars. I guess that means next year he’ll go against a robot or a singing wrestler. Hey, go through the WCW archives and find … The Maestro!
Pros: As bad as this all sounds, this match actually, believably has potential. Stop… stop it. I hear you laughing. It does, listen. Just listen. Stop laugh… Come on, please? Jericho is a veteran and Fandango (Johnny Curtis) is a rookie. We have see rookies before make pay-per-view debuts, and for Mr. Curtis, this is a golden opportunity to show why he should be part of the next generation of WWE superstars. Aside from the gimmick, Curtis showed a lot of talent and promise on NXT. He did show up on SmackDown! for a shirt while, but then got sent back down to the minors. He has good mic skills, and good in-ring ability. This does mean he is going untested in a pretty major league environment. He could surprise us and put on a good show with Chris Jericho.
Cons: On the other hand, it could bomb. Terribly. Jericho is a vet, and if Fandango chokes, Jericho would have to carry the match and you never want to be the guy who does that on a pay-per-view, and certainly not at WrestleMania. Jericho might not care anymore, he is becoming more like Rock, Austin, Triple H, and others who show up, hang around for a few months then vanish off, only to return when needed. Going against Fandango is risky. Jericho could look really bad if the match goes south, and I do not think doing yet another “career-ender” is a good idea for Jericho.
Ryback vs. Henry
I covered this earlier, and I have very little more to add. This is Brock vs. Goldberg redux, and everyone is at the edge of their seats … said no one, ever.
Pros: I am trying to be nice, because I am actually a fan of both Henry and Ryback. Henry is a beast, and for him to be taken seriously again, he will need a title reign. Going against another powerhouse like Ryback is good, since it puts Henry back in main event contention. The same holds true for Ryback. There is not a whole lot for him to do, but going against someone he has yet to beat, and someone who can beat him for the matter will dictate where their careers will go in 2013. Maybe we will get the top-rope-superplex-which-breaks-the-ring spot.
Cons: The match can fast turn into a bore-fest. They could sit there and do bear hugs for ten minutes, or just run around the ring colliding with each other. I feel that the loser will come out looking weak and for both men, not a good thing at all. Henry just came back from injury, and a win over Ryback will gain attention. A loss will make him look like a chump with a failed comeback. Again, the same goes for Ryback. He goes on a tear through Cesaro and top-tier mid-cards, but a loss to Henry will end everything built up for him. He took the pinfall loss when he, Cena, and Sheamus lost to The Shield. He was eliminated by John Cena at the 2013 Royal Rumble. Another loss will further his decline. A win, is meaningless, unless he starts taing on real opponents in the form of Sheamus, Orton, Barrett, and yes, CM Punk.
The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, & Roman Reigns) vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus, & The Big Show
A match I (and everyone not living in a cave) was able to predict would come together. This falls under the could-be-good, could-be-bad category of match. All six people in this match are talented, skilled, and damn good performers. Every single one of them. Big Show is not really a baby-face, more like the ominous deadly giant looming over the hesitant yet open-arms Orton and Sheamus.
Pros: All six participants have nothing else to do, thanks to an overcrowded roster and a shortage of creative storylines since the focus of WrestleMania 29 is on four high-profile matches. Orton has been stagnating for months, while Sheamus has been at the top for so long, it just feels odd to see him in a low-profile match, teaming with The Big Show who we could say the exact same thing. This could be a chance for change. Orton, Sheamus, or Big Show could pull a swerve and surprise us with something we did not expect, or better, if Orton turned heel, that is something we expect and would be quite happy with. There is great potential in this match we could be quite surprised at what these six men can do.
Cons: The Shield members and their nWo-like escapades are starting to run dry. The New World Order pulled surprises and recruited members, continuing their invasion of WCW. The Shield has done none of that. Maybe they will at Mania, but I am not expecting anything Earth-shattering. There are no stipulations, no special circumstance for this match whatsoever. This is a match that “got personal.” That tag-line worked in the 80’s. Not now though.
Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) defends the WWE Tag Team Championships against Dolph Ziggler & Big E. Langston
This one is tough to call. Bryan and Kane have proven to be a solid duo in the ring, despite skepticism at their initial pairing shortly after WrestleMania 28. If you recall, last year Bryan lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in 18 seconds, in part to a distraction by AJ Lee. Somehow, I do not see that happening again. Ziggler has been buried, and I think purposely to throw his fans off-guard. He is not being buried because WWE has nothing for him to do, in fact, I think that is the idea all along. Have him lose matches, not stand out on Raw or SmackDown!, have him tagging with Langston, just to play him down … Then WHAM! He cashes in and wins the World Heavyweight Title, surprising everyone. It is a very good plan too, if that is true.
Langston is big, mean, and strong. For some odd reason WWE does not, or rarely if at all, mentions that he is the current NXT Champion. If there was ever a time to put NXT at the forefront, he should come down the aisle wearing the strap. He is a force on NXT, a monster. However, this is WrestleMania, and like I said about Johnny “FanDANgo” Curtis in my previous column, Mr. Langston will have to step it up to impress.
Pros: All four combatants are highly talented and are no slouches. Kane and Langston bring a combination of power and agility, while Bryan and Ziggler will no doubt put on a mat-based technical wrestling clinic. Regardless of who wins or loses, chances are wrestling fans will be the winners here. I would say putting the belts on Ziggler and Langston might be the way to go for now, pushing their makeshift stable. However, a loss prior to the World Heavyweight Championship match might suggest Ziggler will cash in.
Cons: Kane and Bryan are a solid team, but we know all teams in WWE inevitably come to an end. If there are plans to push Kane and Bryan towards individual competition, then a split would not seem so bad. Unless, they go the way of other divided duos and wind up stagnating in mid-card hell. For a match featuring the WWE Tag Belts, one would think they would have a bigger match, maybe with two or three more teams in a Fatal-Four or a Gauntlet-style match showcasing other teams like The Usos, The Colons, and The Prime Time Players. Keep Team Ziggles in there too, they all have potential, but that seems to have been thrown on the wayside for whatever reason.
Jack Swagger with Zeb Colter challenges Alberto del Rio with Ricardo Rodriguez for the World Heavyweight Championship
With a quick turn, Alberto del Rio became a convincing baby-face champion. Defeating the Big Show on SmackDown and earning the adoration of the WWE Universe. Great speeches and confrontations with his challenger confirmed that turning the once-arrogant Mexican Aristocrat into a humble champion was a good decision.
This match was built up, then slowly faded, the got built up again, but now seems to have been played down a bit. If you recall, when Swagger returned, shockingly winning the Elimination Chamber to earn the Number One Contendership, people began to take notice. Then with Zeb Colter arriving and blasting his views on America, well, everyone took notice. YouTube videos, anti-immigrant tirades, and the catchphrase “We The People” took the entire world by storm, drawing attention to news outlets, and earning the ire of Glenn Beck.
Then Swaggs got arrested. Thanks to being caught with marijuana and slapped with a DUI, Swagger brought a dark cloud over his head and the storyline in general. Typically, when a wrestler does something this stupid, he or she gets suspended, fined, and taken out of the main event. Ask Rob Van Dam. He lost both ECW and WWE titles in a week. Swagger, I am sure got punished, but since the incident, you cannot help but wonder if that he pre-determined the outcome of the match. Insider websites initially all reported “Swagger out of main event” and “Swagger’s Career in Jeopardy” or even “Swagger to Lose at WrestleMania 29.” Talk about jumpy and ambiguous. A week after nothing happened, all those so-called insider website reported “Swagger not out of Main Event” and “Swagger To Win Title?” Please people, it is called sports-entertainment. Just watch the show and enjoy yourself. WWE continued to push the envelope and push the anti-immigration gimmick, which continued perfectly thanks to one Dutch “Zeb Colter” Mantel.
Zeb, or Uncle Zeb as he was once known, is one of the best on the microphone. He cuts a promo so sharply, if it were tangible would out-perform Cutco knives. Swagger has never been good on the mic, he like one Brock Lesnar always needed a corner-man to deliver the intimidation in verbal fashion. Zeb Colter does just that. He also has that ragged hillbilly, wounded-warrior, old-time American look to him. Guess what, it resonates with everyone, not just wrestling fans. It was Zeb Colter and his messages to American which earned this storyline national notoriety.
Pros: Forget what dirtsheets say, just take it for what it is. Jack Swagger and Alberto del Rio will exercise a clinic. Swagger is an incredible amateur wrestler who easily translates his strength and ability in the ring. Del Rio is versatile as both a mat-based and luchador-style wrestler. It would not surprise me if their match goes longer than 20 minutes. It will be a great match. It will not matter who wins the title, we, the wrestling fans win by seeing a WrestleMania-worthy championship bout.
Cons: Yes, the dark cloud of pessimistic anticipation is there, whether you try to forget the incident or not. It lingers, and the length and pace of the match will quickly determine if there is something to be concerned about. If it is a short squash of Swagger, then we know he finally got his punishment. Swagger not winning the title will be looked at, as part of his punishment, and not, “part of the angle.”
Then again, neither one could walk away with the title … It could be Mr. Money in the Bank, Dolph Ziggler.
Triple H versus Brock Lesnar – No Holds Barred, If HHH loses, he must retire.
The stipulation has me a bit confused. Triple H, is retired from active competition. He just came back for Mania. Maybe if HHH loses, Brock takes over the company? The stipulation really does not matter, we just want a decent match out of these two. Their last encounter was terrible, and forgotten because no one wanted to admit it ever existed. Triple H has become like other longtime WWE vets, able to perform at the big events while still playing a role within the company. Fine by me. Brock Lesnar on the other hand, seems to have forgotten his roots. They focus on the fact he is a former UFC Champion, yet forget how he would have suplex-fests with the likes of Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle.
Shawn Michaels will be in the corner of Triple H for this one as well. Before the match at SummerSlam 2012, HBK was slated to be in the corner of his best friend, until Brock “broke” the arm of the Heartbreak Kid, preventing him from siding with Triple H at the event. This time, HBK will be in the corner of his DX partner, and that could prove for some interesting speculation.
Pros: This will be a brutal, bloody match. They might as well put the ECW or Hardcore Championship on the line because that is what we can expect from this. No wrestling, just blood. Call it No Holds Barred, a Street Fight, Falls Count Anywhere, or even Last Man Standing, because it will be all this and more, rolled into one match. Triple H shines in these types of brawls, and we have seen, from is few recent matches, Lesnar no longer wrestles like the former NCAA Champion that he is, but like a former UFC fighter who still has fight left in him.
Cons: I do not expect any German suplexes from Brock anymore. I do not expect any grappling holds from Triple H. That is part of the problem. We know these guys cannot actually wrestle anymore, and it is disappointing. What is also disappointing is recalling the two previous matches Brock Lesnar had. Both were duds. His fight with John Cena was the worst in recent history. Brock even tripped and fell over the top rope like Doing the Clown. To be honest, T.L. Hopper and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese probably had better matches than that. Brock beat down Cena for 10 minutes, and then Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment to win. Yep. Brock then set his sights on Triple H, and that match was completely bland, Brock forced The Game to tap out. Can Brock rise to the occasion here, or will he lumber around the ring again?
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
This, in my mind, and in the minds of everyone, should be the true main event, the show-closer of WrestleMania 29. I would love to leave the MetLife Arena in New Jersey with this match as my last memory of the show. This match is for everything. It is more than just Undertaker making his annual appearance to put his WrestleMania undefeated streak on the line, it is the pinnacle for the career of CM Punk.
CM Punk, who made an early appearance in WWE was way back in 2006 at WrestleMania 22, where he was one of the “gangsters” riding on the getaway car when Cena made his entrance in Chicago. Punk also donned the black robe as one of the Druids when the Undertaker made his Mania entrance, possibly more than once. Fitting one might suppose as on the final RAW before WrestleMania 29, Punk, disguised himself as a druid and attacked The Phenom.
He has come a long, long way. You do not need another history lesson, unless you are under the age of 16 and believes Punk only competed in WWE. Having built his career in Ring of Honor, he had a handful of matches in what was then known as NWA:TNA, then back to ROH and tours all over the world, before training in OVW, and eventually made his debut, under the now-defunct ECW brand under WWE control.
Here is another fun fact: Before Punk left Ring of Honor in 2005, he won the ROH Heavyweight Championship and threatened to take it with him to WWE when his contract expired. Does that gimmick ring a bell? It is the same gimmick, performed in WWE when Punk defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship the day before his contract expired, threatening to take it elsewhere. This match came after a series of verbal ‘pipe bombs’ directed toward Vince McMahon and WWE management.
Punk began on ECW, established himself as a top contender and champion before being moved to Raw and SmackDown where he would go on to win Money in the Bank, not once, but twice. He also won the World Heavyweight Championship three times, defeating Edge and twice from Jeff Hardy. He lost his third World Championship at the 2009 Hell in the Cell, which took place in New Jersey, to The Undertaker.
Having suffered through mid-card status on SmackDown as leader of the Straight-Edge Society, CM Punk began his climb back to main eventing by seizing control of The New Nexus. After the group fell apart, Punk changed his demeanor to the truth-talking, promo-ruling performer that makes CM Punk the best in the world. He held the title for 434 days, the longest reign in recent history. He changed from face-to-heel, but never changed his attitude, just who he directed his incredible promos at. The addition of Paul Heyman served to boost the ire drawn from the crowds. Punk has truly reached the top of his career.
Having lost the title to The Rock, many wondered where Punk would go next? Back into obscurity? Mid-card hell? Nope. He goes against the Undertaker in what might be the last match of the career for the Deadman. The Undertaker has been there and done that. When he first clashed with Punk, he was an upstart in WWE, still making a name for himself and certainly not the same CM Punk who exists today. The Punk of 2009 was just a fragment of who Punk is now.
If there is one person who could believably end the undefeated WrestleMania streak of The Undertaker at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, it is CM Punk.
Pros: This could be the match of the century, if The Undertaker is healthy enough to keep up with Punk.
In the humble opinion of this writer, CM Punk vs. Undertaker has been built up as the apex of WrestleMania 29. This angle has been going on since Punk lost the championship to The Rock, while this so-called Cena/Rock feud has been poorly built, and the WWE Title has been largely absent, due to its absent titleholder.
It is likely Cena/Rock II will close the show, but it may still be a good match. I would rather see Punk/Taker in the final slot of the night, but it is WrestleMania, and I will say this is one of the better cards in a while. A lot of these matches on paper may have some in doubt, but if you put it all down on paper, each match features wrestlers who compliment the other in terms of ability, wrestling skill, and in-ring storytelling. The 2013 WrestleMania will likely have a number of surprises in addition to some great matches.
That is all from me as I now start training for my WrestleMania match, a match against Billy Kidman for the vacant WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
In my dreams.