Written by Marc Valeri of VoiceofValeri.com
It’s that time of year again–the grandest stage of them all–WrestleMania. As always, I’ll be sewn to my couch watching the event live on Pay-Per-View, so there won’t be any live blogging for this show. A show of this magnitude requires full attention. This year’s event is being pushed as the biggest and best yet (as it usually is), but this year’s card has so much potential to be kickass, my head is spinning. More on that later. But for now, I’ll run down the card and given you my thoughts and predictions on what’s going to happen. I’ll try and improve my less than stellar 4-4-1 ‘Mania prediction record. Who says WWE booking is predictable?
*Note: all photos are property of WWE.com.
WWE Tag Team Championship–Triple Threat: (C) Primo & Epico vs. The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel
Snore. This match was announced Friday evening as the dark match. The match will stream live on WWE.com and YouTube at 6:30 ET/3:30 PT. I probably won’t be watching this mostly because I could care less what happens. I’d like to see Kidd and Gabriel win it just based on their talent and potential, though.
World Heavyweight Championship: (C) Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
It’s looking like this match will open the show, but as always, things are subject to change at a moment’s notice. This program has been booked as your classic babyface/heel, where Bryan has shown typical heel traits such as cowardice and fear, using his girlfriend AJ as a human shield to protect his own skin. Throughout the feud, Bryan has done an incredible job of playing the arrogant, obnoxious and pompous ass, and right now, there isn’t really a reason for that to stop. Having Bryan win could really thrust him as one of the top dogs on the roster. There’s also talk of a feud with Randy Orton following WrestleMania, but that’s unconfirmed. If it does happen, I think it’d make more sense to keep the title on Bryan to give him a little extra heading to that feud.
Of note, the last four Royal Rumble winners (Alberto Del Rio, Edge, Randy Orton and John Cena) all lost their respective WrestleMania matches. The last person to win their Rumble match and win at ‘Mania was The Undertaker back at WrestleMania 23. Does Sheamus continue the streak? I think so.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Kane vs. Randy Orton
I’ll be honest, I don’t care for this match. It was a weak storyline to have the feud stem from last year’s handshake stuff, and it’s ancient history that no one remembers. It’s almost like every match has a purpose this year, but Kane/Orton sticks out like a sore thumb. It just doesn’t fit. I think this will be nice and quick, with Orton hitting an RKO in 5-10 minutes.
Winner: Randy Orton
Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres vs. Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos
Does anyone really care about this match? I don’t. Is there even a story behind it? I have no idea. I saw one clip where they appeared on Menounos’ show, Extra, but that was it. It’s especially weak that Menounos hasn’t been on WWE TV to do anything to progress this. Granted, she’s busy with her TV show and with Dancing with the Stars, so I guess it’s understandable. Menounos recently suffered two broken ribs practicing the cha-cha-cha for DWTS, but maintains that she’ll be healthy enough to compete. If she doesn’t, what will we ever do? Sarcasm. It makes you wonder why people like Natalya or Alicia Fox are being left off the card for someone who’s appearing once a year and can’t even be considered a part-time talent. Why not do Beth vs. Natalya or something? They’re probably the two best female wrestlers since Trish Stratus, Jazz and Lita. Instead, we’ll get Eve’s sloppy dropkicks and Kelly’s ear-piercing screams while I’ll probably get up and refill the salsa bowl or grab another beer. I really don’t care who wins, but if history is any indiction, the celebrities always win.
Winner: Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos
Team Johnny (Captain David Otunga, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz) vs. Team Teddy (Captain Santino Marella, R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Booker T and The Great Khali)
Now, instead of wasting 10 guys in what’s essentially a nothing match, why not have the 10 guys compete in a Money in the Bank ladder match? Wouldn’t giving the briefcase to someone like Ziggler or McIntyre be a good way to push them into the main event, and, you know…develop superstars that you were complaining you lacked? Why waste Ziggler, one of your best in-ring performers and arguably your best up-and-coming star, on a match that doesn’t benefit his future or progress him as an on-air talent?
According to reports, the MITB match was originally scheduled with Wade Barrett scheduled to win it, but when he got hurt, they nixed the idea altogether. I just hate the concept of a Raw and SmackDown Money in the Bank winner. Why not just have one? And the whole GM angle is so played out. What happened to the anonymous Raw GM? The angle disappeared into thin air with no explanation of where or why it ended. It just did. Who cares who’s running the show? It’s not even a believable concept given that WWE uses their ‘Board of Directors’ excuse every once in a while, so why have a GM if he can get overruled anyways? For years, there was no GM–matches were made just because there was a show. Why not keep doing that? Whatever.
Anyways, this match ends when one team is fully eliminated, and the winning team will have their guy become the sole GM of both Raw and SmackDown. Just like with Raw or SmackDown when we have 6-man tag matches, you can expect a whirlwind of crazy as everyone goes to hit their finisher in a sequence where all hell breaks loose. I’ve giving the win to Team Johnny because he’s been on TV far less than Teddy.
Winner: Team Johnny
Intercontinental Championship: (C) Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–that white IC title is tits. Like with Bryan, WWE has booked Rhodes so well during this feud in making him your classic heel. And like with Bryan, a win over Show to retain the title at ‘Mania could get Rhodes over the hump as a solidified superstar. On the flip side, Show has held every active title in the WWE except for this one, and his Hall of Fame career would have the finishing touches put on if he were to win, even if it’s only a short reign before putting over another younger superstar. I really like how WWE hasn’t let Show get any offence in since the feud began, so the fans are likely to explode once Show lands his first few shots on Sunday. It’s a great concept–if you want to see Show get his revenge for all the embarrassing video packages Rhodes aired, buy the Pay-Per-View and see what happens.
If Rhodes were to lose the match, he’d likely move up the card, so it’s a give-and-take situation. But for right now, I don’t think he needs it with a heel holding the top SmackDown title. Ultimately, he needs to win this match more than Show does in his career, and I think he could do just that. I’d be fine with Show winning it for his HOF resume, though.
Winner: Big Show
WWE Championship: (C) CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Best in the World vs. Best in the World for the most prestigious title in professional wrestling. This buildup has been excellent. First off, I love that neither guy is getting their hands on the other–having a feud with no physical confrontation can work if it’s done properly. Look at Triple H/Undertaker from last year–zero physical contact, and the story and match were excellent. Second, I love how Jericho is sending messages via satellite, furthering his cowardly persona and still getting under Punk’s skin without having to come out and cut a promo. Finally, I love how WWE has added a nice kick to the feud by having Jericho bring Punk’s family into the fold. Punk’s straight-edge lifestyle is essentially being called into question with his dad’s alcoholism and his sister’s drug abuse history, not to mention the whole “bastard child” stuff with Punk’s mom. The fan-favourite WWE Champion is enraged having been insulted and embarrassed for a few consecutive weeks, and WWE has booked it so that the only way you can see him get revenge on Jericho is to buy the show. Classic heel booking by WWE Creative. Great stuff.
If given time, I think this could be a match of the year candidate. That said, it gives you a taste of how deep this year’s card is when two of the best in-ring performers the industry has to offer is just the third most significant match of the night.
Of note, Extreme Rules is being held in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, and if history is any indication, the hometown hero almost always loses. On one hand, I think Punk wins at ‘Mania, but Jericho gets the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules. That said, I could easily see the exact opposite happening, with Jericho edging out a victory–caused by Punk’s anger getting the best of him–but Jericho dropping the title in Chicago next month. I’ve been on the fence about this for a while. I’m giving the nod to Punk.
Winner: CM Punk
The End of an Era–Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Triple H w/ Shawn Michaels as Special Guest Referee
This should be incredible. As with Punk/Jericho, this match could easily become the best of the year. Did you know there are websites that actually let you gamble on matches? If you’re feeling lucky, why not empty you life’s savings into Undertaker? At last check, every $1000 returned $113 profit. Seriously.
So, yeah. Undertaker wins. I think that’s pretty much a given. And he’ll be bald, which is new. If you’ve been reading this site regularly, you’ve seen pictures of him with his new doo. As Triple H has been saying, a Taker loss would be bad for business. And it’s true. The Phenom has become a brand now–it’s no longer about whether he’ll win, but how he’ll win. The match should follow a similar formula from last year’s, where Taker is dominated but pulls through at the end as HHH begins to slow himself in realization that he’s ‘ending an era.’
As for Shawn Michaels’ role, I could see something where both guys end up getting in his face over a slow count or something, and he ends up giving both guys Sweet Chin Music midway through to set up for the final build or something. HBK wants revenge on Taker for their ‘Mania match two years ago, while HHH maintains that he’s better than Shawn. Either way, HBK has reason to Sweet Chin either guy. I could also see HBK Superkicking HHH by accident when he’s aiming for ‘Taker, but I question whether or not WWE Creative would let ‘Taker win with a dirty finish.
Despite all that, Michaels could simply be a decoy or tease, making you think he’ll influence the decision when he really won’t play a substantial role at all. I’m expecting a match around a half-hour in length, which probably pushes 45-50 minutes with video packages and entrances and stuff. I’m totally psyched for this one, though. I’d love to see some big spills through the Cell, or off the top and through the announce table. Now would also be a good time to add some bloodshed to add that extra something, but I’ll try and keep my expectations in check.
On a side note, contrary to The End of an Era story, I don’t think either Undertaker or Triple H will be competing in the final matches of their careers on Sunday. Taker is wrestling in literally one match per year because his body can’t withstand any kind of schedule right now, while HHH is phasing into the executive role in order to slowly take over for Vince McMahon. Neither guy really needs a story or excellent feud to come out and have a match or two per year. You can just pluck and drop them into just about anything, and it’ll become a must-see match, even without a buildup or story.
Bottom line, the streak continues to 20-0.
Winner: The Undertaker
Once in a Lifetime: John Cena vs. The Rock
Holy Santa Clause shit. The biggest and best WrestleMania has to offer is coming to a head in the most built-up, hyped match in WWE history. Not to mention, these two absolutely hate each other. There’s legitimate heat between these two megastars. What’s great is that Cena/Rock has also been a full calendar year in the making. Think about that. It’s been 50 weeks since this match was announced. I expect the crowd to be insane throughout, especially with Rock in his hometown of Miami, Florida. He’s sure to show some ring rust, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of spills and bumps he’ll take after so many years away from the ring.
As for who wins? I’m going with Cena. It’s the passing of the torch from one superstar to another. Cena needs this more than Rock, because, as Cena’s said in his promos, life goes on for Rocky, while Cena stays in the ring every day. Everyone already knows Rock has beaten everyone these is to beat–Cena excluded, of course–but because he’s a part-time player in WWE, there’s really no incentive to have him win or than nostalgia purposes. Cena is still the face and future of the company, and while Rock’s storyline will likely end shortly after ‘Mania, Cena can do a number of things afterwards depending on Sunday’s result, including turning heel or possibly even planting Rock vs. Cena 2. More on those later.
I can, however, also see Rock coming out on top. There has to be more to this match than just one-time deal between these two. Like I said, a rematch next year would make sense. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the loser held the winner’s hand up to end the show this year, though. It’s likely both guys will kick out of a series of finishers, but I’m already imagining a staredown like Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X-8. It may not be the best sound, technical wrestling match we’re going to see on Sunday, but it sure as hell will be damn memorable. The end result could really be a coinflip here, especially if there’s a rematch, where one wins Sunday and the other wins at WrestleMania 29. I’ve been on the fence with this match too, but I’ve got to give the edge to Cena.
Winner: John Cena
It’s the showcase of the immortals, where legends are made. This is the one show where everyone puts in 110%, and the stars shine brighter than any other time of year. WrestleMania 28 feels like it has something special to it, and I truly hope it kicks my ass. I honestly can’t remember being this excited for a show ever. The last few ‘Mania’s have been great in their own way, but this feels different, as if more is at stake. There’s not much left to say, other than ‘enjoy the show.’ But before I go, I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts on some widespread rumours that I’m getting a lot of emails, messages and tweets about. If you’ve been reading the site regularly, these updates are nothing new, but now they’ll all be here in one place. Make sure you’re sitting down for this.
Weather update: The latest weather forecast for Sunday’s WrestleMania 28 pay-per-view is a high of 87°F and a 30% chance of rain. The Weather Channel shows a small chance of isolated thunderstorms around 4-6pm on Sunday night but it looks pretty clear after that.
WrestleMania 29 Main Event/Announced on Following Raw: According to the PWInsider, word going around WWE’s International Media Day on Friday was that a major match for WrestleMania 29 will be announced at Monday’s post-WrestleMania RAW. It’s believed that WWE Creative will use the next year to build to a top match like they did with John Cena vs. The Rock. It’s also very possible that we could see Rock vs. Cena 2, with another storyline built up one year in advance.
Mystery star at WM28: Figure Four Weekly writer Bryan Alvarez stated Friday afternoon on Twitter that a ‘big name’ is in Miami, Florida for this weekend’s WrestleMania XXVIII festivities. “So there is a big name here in Miami this weekend. #WrestleMania.”
CM Punk vs. Stone Cold at WrestleMania 29: WWE Champion CM Punk sent a tweet to Stone Cold Steve Austin that simply stated, “29, son” – presumably an indication that Punk is looking to wrestle Austin at WrestleMania 29. Austin, not one to back down from a challenge, responded with,“Just worry about 28. If the stars all line up I always have a big can of Whoop Ass ready to take to NYC. #rogerthat“ Austin and Punk have exchanged messages on Twitter for months, both expressing interest in a match with one another. Austin has stated in multiple interviews that he has one more match left in him – and if he could wrestle anybody, it would likely be CM Punk.
Chris Jericho’s summer hiatus: According to the PWInsider, Chris Jericho’s representatives have negotiated an extension on his current WWE deal, which was originally for 6 months. The challenger for CM Punk’s WWE Championship at WrestleMania has extended his contract for several months, and will be “full time” in WWE through the summer. It is not known what happens to the Fozzy concert tour that was originally scheduled for the summer, but Jericho’s tenure in WWE for what he has been jokingly calling “this tour of duty” has been confirmed as “extended,” which means he will either continue feuding with CM Punk or be a major part of the WWE Draft to help the SmackDown brand after WrestleMania.
Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 29: Shawn Michaels shot down a online rumor stating that he will come out of retirement to face Triple H at next year’s WrestleMania. Michaels was asked, “Any comment to the WM 29 hype match? You vs HHH?” He replied: “Bogus!! False!! Lie!! Completely made up!! Too much?:-),”
Brock Lesnar return at WM28/ Lesnar vs. Rock at WrestleMania 29: According to the PWInsider, former WWE Champion and former UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is in negotiations with WWE to make a surprise appearance at WrestleMania XXVIII. Negotiations are ongoing, but a source within the company says that there is a 50/50 chance Lesnar will appear on the show. WWE reportedly wants Lesnar to appear, and is hoping that a deal can be finalized by Sunday. Lesnar is legally able to appear at WrestleMania on Sunday since he is no longer under contract to the UFC. The Wrestling Observer notes that as of Saturday morning, the two sides were still working on terms of a deal including financial issues and a number of dates that he would be working for WWE. WWE wants Lesnar to have a somewhat regular role.
The Rock at WrestleMania 29: A writer for the AP stated in his article on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that if WWE wants to squeeze another potential blockbuster buy rate out of The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment, the last man standing to get the headline match would be Brock Lesnar. “I’m not saying a thing (laughs). I didn’t say anything.” I don’t even know what to say about this. If Lesnar comes out and F5’s Cena and/or Rock, I’m going to shit my pants on the spot.
Cena Heel Turn following WM28: WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart says he could see John Cena turn heel this Sunday night at WrestleMania. During an interview with Rob McNicol of the UK Sun’ “One Sided Ring” podcast, Hart said:
“I wouldn’t be the least bit surprise if Cena has some sort of role reversal – the fact that all the fans are against him so much. I can’t see him being a villain or a heel, but at the same time wouldn’t that totally blow everyone away? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will be Rock that turns heel or something else but I’m fascinated by what direction they might go with Cena and Rock.”
In an interview with the London Free Press, however, Cena explained why won’t turn heel.
“Although I can handle business when I need to, I really make conscious choices to do the right thing. There’s still a giant portion of the audience associated to the Attitude Era that I believe thinks I am a bad guy. But I’m not a bad guy. I generate so much hatred just because of the way I act. I look at Tim Tebow as a good example. People couldn’t stop saying his name. He’s such a stand-up guy. People don’t believe it because it’s almost too good to be true. And he generates that hatred. I have fun with this business. I love every second of it. I love to be right there in the middle of the hunt. At the end of the day, it’s not my job to force people in any direction. I just go out there and see what happens. You can analyze character development all day, but with the current state of affairs, there’s no need or rationale for me to deviate from what I’m doing.”
As I said above, the result of Cena’s match can directly influence his immediate future, while Rock is expected to film GI Joe over the summer. On top of that, the potential for Rock vs. Cena 2 makes Sunday’s result that much more lethal.
Batista return at WM28: Former WWE superstar Batista is currently in Miami, where WrestleMania 28 is being held. Batista recently announced that he’ll be participating in the 2012 Nautica South Beach Triathlon on Sunday, which is raising money for the St. Jude’s children’s charity. While that isn’t related to ‘Mania, Batista’s arrival was picked up by WWE, according to F4WOnline. How awesome would it be if he made a run-in or an appearance of some kind? Given that the two sides are at the same place at the same time, it wouldn’t come to me as a shock if the two sides discussed a new contract of some kind.
Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 29: Jim Ross was asked on Twitter about the possibility of a match pitting Brock Lesnar against Bill Goldberg at next year’s WrestleMania. Ross responded:
“@Goldberg vs Lesnar at WM29 would be miraculous ie HIGHLY UNLIKELY.”
Goldberg, despite his well-documented negative feelings about WWE and specifically company head Vince McMahon over the years, says he’s interested in the bout. He wrote Friday,
“……I’d do it.”
Goldberg last competed for WWE at WrestleMania XX in a match against Lesnar with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin serving as special guest referee. The match garnered a hostile reaction from the audience due to knowledge that both competitors were leaving the promotion. After Goldberg defeated Lesnar, both wrestlers were laid out with Stone Cold Stunners. Meanwhile, Goldberg still apparently views Chris Jericho in a negative light nine years after the two last worked together. A fan wrote to the former wrestling champion Monday, “Y2J sucks u should have came out there & speared him.” Big Bill responded:
“Would have been my pleasure.”
Goldberg also stated in late-2011 that facing Stone Cold “would be a dream match. But let’s all be realistic.”
John Morrison return: John Morrison recently spoke to Phil Strum of the Poughkeepsie Journal about the possibility of returning to WWE one day. Morrison says he left on great terms and his body simply needed a break from the hectic WWE schedule:
“The door is open to go back. I left on really good terms with everybody and what I wanted to do was take time off to heal, get refreshed and take a little vacation…I was working a 250-plus day a year schedule and I wanted to be refreshed.”
He also revealed that he wasn’t enjoying himself anymore towards the end of his most recent run:
“Right before I left, I felt like I was going to work. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as when I started.”
Morrison will be wrestling his first match in the Untied States since leaving WWE back in November on Friday night at Northeast Wrestling’s Wrestlefest 16 at Poughkeepsie, New York’s Mid-Hudson Civic Center.
Kevin Nash return: Former WWE and TNA star Kevin Nash recently appeared on the One Sided Ring podcast hosted by Rob McNichol. Nash on a Possible TNA return:
“I have a fifteen year old son, and at this point my son needs a Dad more than the world needs a wrestler. The thing that makes TNA work for me is that first of all I have way more friends there than in WWE. I made some friends once I came there – Punk and I got along well, me and Ziggler got along well and I got a chance to hang out with John Cena – but my crew of guys that are still in the business are more the TNA guys. It’s fifty miles from my house. I can drive over there; I don’t have to get on a plane. I can put my gear in the trunk, drop the top on my convertible and be over there and do it. It was always a really easy travel day for me. I enjoyed being down there. I also part of a lot of the young guys – AJ, Eric Young, Bobby Roode – in their early stages of development. Now these guys are becoming stars. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go back. If they had something for me and they needed me, I would go back and do it. Right now I’m starting to get bored!”
WWE.com removed Nash’s profile from the Raw roster page and placed it in the Alumni section. Nash has not appeared for WWE since losing to Triple H in a Ladder Match at the December pay-per-view TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. He succumbed to The Game after taking a sledgehammer shot to the face. The legendary grappler went on Twitter to comment on his immediate future. He tweeted:
“Punk, Cena got Raw covered. While I have my couch covered. My 15 year old so needs a Dad way more than RAW needs big sexy.”
Michelle McCool pregnant?: Vickie Guerrero suggested Friday on Twitter that retired wrestler Michelle McCool is pregnant as she said her former WWE associate is expecting a ‘bundle of joy,’ which is another term for baby.
“My surprise party was flawless for Michelle McCool!!! Great lunch with friends and family. Im so excited for her bundle of joy!”
McCool stated earlier this week on Twitter that she would be on hand for the ‘Mania festivities in Miami, Florida. Despite her retired status and apparent pregnancy, the four-time champion is not ruling out a return to the ring. When asked this week on the microblogging site about the possibility of a squared circle return, she stated “time shall tell” and “never know” in two separate messages.
Edge’s new haircut:
— Former WWE superstar Edge will have a new look when he gets inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this weekend. Check out these pictures of Edge with short hair: