Many WWE fans fear that predictable booking is turning great Wrestlemania matches into WrestleLame-ia. The WWE’s March programming has gone in like a lion, and out like a really angry lion. Here’s what you can expect for WrestleMania 28.
The Over-Stipulated Old Man Match: After weeks of HHH and The Undertaker dragging out their syllables and segments, they are slated to do battle in a Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. A Hell in a Celleree match.
HBK as Referee: As we’ve seen for the past couple of weeks, the Undertaker can accept defeat as long as it’s “pure,” which seems kind of lofty for someone whose whole thing is that he unexpectedly shows up to show people death’s door. If he wants purity, I hope he talks to The Rock about all the virgin John Cena fans because rarely is a guest referee fair, and rarely is Shawn Michaels not up to mischief. The idea of an Undertaker who values purity over winning does intrigue me. Maybe he is far more zen than we thought, and that whole “ending people through the art of wrestling” thing is just a facade for his softer side of Bikram Yoga and veganism.
It’s hard to say which side of the coin Shawn Michaels will fall on should he try and flip it. HHH’s recent passive aggressive behavior towards Michaels has been reminiscent of how the most popular girl in school talks to the second most popular girl in school. They let Kevin Nash sit at the cool kids table, and look what happened to him after he got into a fight with the HHHead cheerleader. Nobody remembers him now, sitting with chess nerds and Mathletes and theater geeks (my people). But, Shawn and HHH have been besties forever. They even have those necklaces where one half says “best,” and the other says “friend,” and when you put them together, they make a heart.*
I may not have a badass entrance or a painfully long mic segment, but I agree with The Undertaker. Shawn Michaels should remain a strong nostalgia post that doesn’t tinker with the outcome of this match. Nothing should diminish “The Streak.”
*These were actually stylish when Michaels and HHH were in their prime.
The Cell: If you do use the cage to its fullest potential, your body (and your opponent’s body) will take a brutal toll, truly testing your endurance and threshold for unfakeable pain. Shifting the focus of the match to impact rather than technicality could be a great way to dismiss concerns of how rusty these guys are. If you don’t use the cage to its fullest potential, it’s essentially a regular match that viewers are forced to watch through inconvenient (and unnecessary) lattice work. A giant visual obstruction is a great way to hide the fact that you’re super-old. I hope this match lives up to the legendary status of the streak, and is at least in the ballpark of last year’s match.
Winner: The Undertaker. Not even HHH’s ego can defeat the streak.
The “Oh For God’s Sake Someone Turn Cena Heel” Match: A year ago, the WWE decided that John Cena and The Rock would fight at Wrestlemania 28. The implications for this could have been awesome. My trajectory with this was similar to how I felt when Major League Baseball introduced inter-league play. At first, I was excited. Shortly after, I was let down. Then, I HATED it. Now, I don’t really care.
The common thread in both instances is that the implications of how cool it “should have been” far outweighed the extremely ordinary reality of it. The segments between The Rock and John Cena have been sub-par at best, especially on The Rock’s end. Mediocrity is never entertaining, and when you contrast it against such a lengthy promise of greatness, the let down is even larger. The writers are forced to lay in their own bed of glaring oversights in their year long forecast.
What they missed:
Not John Cena Could Be Champion Someday: The writers probably hadn’t predicted that CM Punk would give a 17 minute shoot that would shake up the WWE’s colorless landscape so drastically. Heat started to rise from the dangerous “Champion + Opponent → Champion” formula that they’d trapped themselves and John Cena in.
Punk felt that he was the deserved champion, and that he’s the best in the world. But, he also knew that there were are a lot of talented wrestlers in the WWE who were championship-hungry, have starved for years. Their names are not John Cena. Or Randy Orton. Since Punk’s call for change, we’ve seen Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes, and Zack Ryder all hold championships, and major pushes for hot talent that the WWE burned out in Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, and others. This freshness is more compelling that seeing The Same Guy win. The WWE writers failed to take into account that the usuals might not been the only ones in contention for the championship, and we may all care about that a helluva lot more than the go-to champ, and whoever he is facing. Even if that means the return of one of the best in the business.
The Rock Might Not Be Rockin’: The most electrifying sports entertainer has seemingly shorted. There, I said it. I didn’t want to rip off this band-aid, but I did.
As I’ve hammered away at the unnecessary socio-political wrongs of The Rock’s recent promos, there’s one thing the writers have missed that I find way more offensive: it’s super boring. The problem isn’t that “it’s just not the same”; it’s that it’s EXACTLY the same. We’re not in the Attitude Era anymore despite the WWE’s unwillingness to let go of it, and embrace a new context. He isn’t bringing anything shocking to the table, and what is shocking is politically incorrect garbage that has nothing to do with the match or what’s at stake. And, a lot of the magic is truly lost when he appears via satellite and not in the ring. The writers are confusing living in the past with nostalgia when it comes to The Rock, and even many Team Bring It supporters have admitted that it’s not exciting. Their co-dependence on nostalgia is harmful when you consider that John Cena’s main demographic wasn’t born when The Rock was wrestling. Hell, I wasn’t even watching at that point. Forgetting that The Rock is making a first impression on Cena’s biggest supporters deflates a lot of the excitement in this match.
Everything Else That Could Happen in a Year: But what if someone sustained a serious injury? What if The Rock found a better gig? What if someone’s family member died? What if aliens took over? Though the real push for this match didn’t start until Survivor Series, but there is a huge risk in matches that have such a long burn. If Cena dislocated his shoulder doing an Attitude Adjustment, or The Rock pulled a muscle playing his one chord songs the wrong way, you would have to reconstruct a match that you’d been building for a year. It’s a long road between when you first meet and the wedding, and being blind to the unexpected could result in a nasty break up. Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case, but if it had…?
I still want Punk vs. Stone Cold next year though and I’m totally okay with them telling me that on April 1.
Winner: Cena with interference from The Miz, or the audience if he loses and turns heel.
“The Best In The Whole Wide World At Everything That’s Ever Been Done in The Universe” Match: This will be the best match of the evening. The past two weeks have seen a gut-wrenching set up, with Jericho’s attacks on Punk’s family and identity, and Punks sincerity and vulnerability shining through without compromising his badassness. Jericho’s harsh elevation of his digs at Punk were hard to watch because they’ve been so GOOD, rather than much of the programming that’s been so hard to watch because it’s awful. (Note: In case anybody is wondering, I’m STILL not over the fact that Zack Ryder once changed a tire on my television. I’m working on it). The legitimacy behind their claims that they’re the best in the world (at what they do) gets proven true week after week, and it’s refreshing not only because they’re backing up their claim, but because their road to WrestleMania has been a smooth one. Both their mic skills and in-ring work have created the intensity and anxiousness/excitement that EVERY match at WrestleMania should give. Their ability to deliver week after week hasn’t been diluted by the fact that the outcome seems predictable, as are many with this year’s card. I don’t care what the buy rates say, this match is holding the card together for real wrestling fans, and I hope it gets the time it deserves.
Winner: Punk, but only because their blood, sweat, and tears will electrocute Jericho via light up jacket.
The “…But Where is Natalya?” Match: So Natalya F*cking Hart won’t be at Wrestlemania, but Kelly Kelly will be? Zero Natalya Hart’s and multiple Kellys? The trajectory was set as Divas of Doom would dominate and be super best friends until one of them turned on each other, say sometime between January and March. And then they would fight at Wrestlemania in stupid outfits. And then a woman who can actually wrestle would not only win, but also lose, because actually wrestlers would be the only ones in the ring. And then, in my brain, Karma would come back and kick both of their butts, and the WWE would portray women as strong forces. But instead, the WWE was all “oh no, we can’t have this much talent. Let’s make Natalya flatulent instead. People would rather watch her fart uncomfortably and see Kelly Kelly get winded 43 seconds into a 57 second match. That’s creative”
A true WWE fan, I must ask…
This makes no sense. And not in a “Oh, Tamina is also an actual wrestler, and she’s been outperforming way” (which I don’t think is the case, but at least there would be some validity to that). It makes no sense in a “Hey, let’s just throw away the entire plan we had and make up a story two days before.” It’s like choosing the kid who did their thesis the night beforehand over the kid who planned his out. Except instead of earning a grade more themselves, the WWE is holding back the careers of the truly talented. Flawless metaphor other than that. I hope Karma comes back and laughs maniacally and destroys everyone and the WWE divas writing staff.
Winner: We just all lose
“Yes! Yes! Ye…Oh It’s Over Already?” Match:vDo I think Daniel Bryan is awesome?
He’s amazing. He’s a fantastic heel because his character traits are extremely tangible. Rather than some embodiment of evil, Bryan is like that dick who works in accounting that you actively avoid by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. He’s that guy you tell your friend to break up with because you care whether or not he’s “abusive,” he’s an asshole, and she deserves so much better. He’s that annoying uncle who thinks he has the answers to everything, and tells you all about it after one too many drinks. He’s not just vegan, he’s one of THOSE vegans. He’s brilliant, and you will get like a seven minute glimpse of it as he takes on Sheamus. I love Sheamus in the ring, and he’s alright character wise. I generally like people who overuse the phrase “fella.” I liked him better as a heel, but it is nice to see the WWE push him again after they pushed him so fast he could only decelerate. It will be a great match, but overshadowed by the monster time eaters of HHH vs. Undertaker and Cena vs. The Rock. Considering where these guys were a year ago, it’s nice to see them on the Wrestlemania card, and with some spotlight leading up to it. Let’s just hope they don’t get jobbed out of a match this time.
The “How Does The Great Khali Have a Career?” Match: Well at least he isn’t Jinder Mahal.*
In the words of a friend of mine, The Great Khali is great except for that he can’t walk, talk, or wrestle. If this match doesn’t end with him getting pinned it will be the least believable outcome. He’s weighing down Team Teddy, and he’s a HUGE weight. Like, really big. I love Santino, but having Khali, a man who recently got out of a wheelchair (Ryder), and a crazy person (R-Truth) isn’t a formula for success. Team Johnny seems to be in much better control. I don’t know if you guys have realized this, but Otunga has huge muscles. He shows them to us all the time. And, he’s a LAWYER who hasn’t lost a case. That means he is SMART. He’s smart and has BIG muscles. That’s a great team captain. Also, Mark Henry is large, but unlike Khali, he still can wrestle and speak. He’s also super mean, which seems to help. Christian and Ziggler are also amazing in-ring workers, and don’t seem to have self-esteem issues. I can only assume Khali has crippling self-esteem because he can’t really do anything. Also, Jack Swagger is there. So that’s something. He doesn’t seem to add a ton of value, but he is an All-American, American. That means he is Entirely American, and at least twice as American as everyone else, and the same amount of American and Kelly Kelly is Kelly. Maybe his patriotism will fuel his team spirit and they will emerge in ethnocentric victory.
Winner: Mark Henry or anyone pins Khali, but control of SmackDown is unrelinquished, playa.
Wade Barrett is out with an injury that he sustained while trying to save Dolph Ziggler from dying (seriously) as they both crashed into the announce table. As amazing of a salesman as Ziggler is, he was headed towards severe injury, and Barrett was hurt trying to protect his brother in the line of fire. Unfortunately, Barrett hasn’t recovered in time for WrestleMania. In no way is Kane a viable substitute.
But, here we are. The match has been made more palpable by severe time cuts (often cuts down to 0 seconds) on Kane’s mic spots. It’s also been supported by Orton’s ability to create excitement while still somewhat protecting his recently healed shoulder, delivering sneak attack RKOs and catching Kane off guard. This match has the potential to be cool, and considering the level of disgust most everyone had for Kane, they’ve done a good job of at least catching people’s interest by knowing they aren’t going to hook it entirely. It will be a solid match that utilizes Orton’s agility and Kane’s size and strength, though a short one. Orton will quickly go to “that place where only Randy Orton goes” (Walmart? The Bahamas? A meadow? A no-pants dance off?) and hopefully do something drastic. Perhaps rip off Kane’s mask, and Kane will garble the words to Phantom of the Opera. And maybe cry on Cody Rhodes shoulder because he’s just the only one who gets how he feels. Then, pyro things will happen.
The “Well, At Least You Won’t Be Bleeding From the Face?” Match: Poor Big Show. Cody Rhodes has been picking on him for months about not winning at Wrestlemania, and The Big Show didn’t even do anything to him. He was just going about his business, being Big and A Show and the what not, and Cody refused to pick on someone his own size. No no, he went bigger. It’s not very dashing of him. And quite frankly, I’m still disappointed he hasn’t sung a single song from Phantom of the Opera since he stopped wearing his mask. Between Daniel Bryan’s successful Napolean complex and Cody’s blatant dismissal of the fact that HE hasn’t exactly had historical WrestleMania moments either, Big Show must be the saddest show. And, Rhodes is probably going to win, because he needs the Wrestlemania boost to continue a push, where as Big Show has been established for years. Now, Big Show has to lose to some jerk AND get less time at Wrestlemania? Poor guy! At least he likely won’t be bleeding from a broken nose a-la No Way Out in 2008.
Winner: Cody Rhodes. Meanie.