Saturday, March 3, 2012

Analyzing Wrestlemania So Far

We are just under a month away from Wrestlemania, and things are starting to take shape. The Big 4 matches are finally set, and those matches alone make this one of the most must see Wrestlemania's off all time. It almost makes me wish that I was going to Wrestlemania this year and saved my money and not had gone last year. But I had to see my favorite all time go into the Hall of Fame. But he should have gone in this year!

Okay, enough being selfish for myself. In all seriousness, this Wrestlemania does look really good on paper. Now that doesn't mean the WWE won't find a way to screw this all up, they usually mess up one thing come Wrestlemania time. But it is going to be tough for them to find something to screw up here. I think one of the reason's I believe this is because I trust the performers in all of the top matches. Six of the eight guys in those matches are veteran performers who know how to put on a good match, know how to entertain the crowd, and know what it means to be so high on the card on the biggest stage of the year. Now of course, there is something to be said that the WWE has to use HHH, Undertaker, and The Rock once a year to pop a buyrate for Wrestlemania. If they did a better job building up stars then they wouldn't need them. But I digress.

The key to any good Wrestlemania is to keep it interesting for four hours. Viewers have a hard enough time staying tuned into RAW for two hours. Having a four hour show can be a big risk, but if booked properly and having the proper spacing then it can make time fly by quickly. Spacing on any Wrestlemania is key. You don't want all four of your top matches at the end. The crowd will be worn out by that point and there won't be as much heat for your main event as you like. That is why I didn't have a problem with the World Title Match starting the show last year. It had good crowd heat and the crowd was into it. Had it followed Undertaker/HHH, there would have been very little of that. It was smart booking.

So with all of that being said, lets take a look at each Wrestlemania match, or matches that look like they are likely to happen, and gauge the job the WWE has done with it so far.

Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Big Show
The rumors for a potential Big Show match at Wrestlemania kept coming and kept coming. At first, it was rumored to be Big Show vs NBA Legend Shaquielle O'Neal. Then there was talk of Big Show and Shaq vs Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett. Then the WWE came out and did a piece that said Shaq would not be appearing at Wrestlemania. Then Wade Barrett dislocated his elbow and probably won't be ready in time for Wrestlemania. I still think Shaq might appear at Mania, maybe in Big Show's corner. Shaq is a great personality. You could always throw Wade Barrett in Cody Rhodes corner. Barrett was on fire heading into Mania and it sucks that he won't be able to wrestle on the card.

This match was officially announced on this past week's Smackdown. But some kind of match between these two has been brewing for weeks. Rhodes has been ridiculing Big Show over his past Wrestlemania appearances in recent weeks. Big Show lost to sumo wrestler Akebono at Wrestlemania 21 in a Sumo Match, then he lost to boxer Floyd Mayweather at Wrestlemania 24. Show doesn't have the greatest track record at Wrestlemania. But what I like about this feud is that they are actually building it to mean something. Show's reaction to Teddy Long's announcement made it look like he was excited to be fighting Rhodes and for the IC Title. Show is a veteran guy. Showing that kind of enthusiasm is good, and makes the IC Title seem important. It is also nice to see the IC Title defended in a meaningful match at Wrestlemania.

Cody Rhodes has done a lot for the IC Title. I love that he brought back the old belt design. Rhodes has also done great as a performer in the last year. Hopefully both of these two continue to get air time and build the feud even more. Even though I am not the biggest supporter of Big Show, he can cut a good promo. Hopefully he brings up the IC Title lineage and what an honor it would be to win the Title. I'm looking forward to seeing this program develop.
Interest Level: 7 out of 10

Rumored: Team Laurinaitis vs Team Long: Control of RAW and Smackdown On the Line
This match is rumored to be happening. I don't know if it is Team Ace vs Team Long, or just a one-on-one match. Anything but John Laurinaitis vs Teddy Long. That would be bad. I would rather see David Otunga vs Santino. Some form of this match is happening. Do I want to see that rather than Money in the Bank? Absolutely not. It makes sense somewhat. The brand split is so non-existent that having one authority figure makes some sense. But neither of these men have done enough to make me care about a Wrestlemania match. Also, the authority figure isn't big enough nowadays to have that role mean something. Gone are the days when Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman ran the show.

Obviously to make this match important, you are going to need some star power. It seemed like at Elimination Chamber John Laurinaitis had a pretty set team: Christian, Alberto del Rio and Mark Henry. Of course Del Rio and Christian haven't been seen since. You could always throw Jack Swagger or Dolph Ziggler on the team as well, along with Ace's right hand man David Otunga. What about Team Long? Well, there is Randy Orton. But is Orton really going to be wasted in a match like this? You figure Santino would be on the team, as well as Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. Long's team probably wouldn't have a history of supporting him., it would probably be just an assortment of random faces. That is also part of the reason I don't want to see this match. There hasn't been any official battle lines drawn with enough wrestlers supporting either GM.
Interest Level: 2 out of 10

Rumored Possible Match: Kane vs Randy Orton
I, I just don't get it. Kane chokeslammed Orton to end Smackdown this week, but why force a new feud onto the audience with less than a month to Mania. Orton has had a pretty good year and deserves to be in a better match than this if it happens. I would rather see Orton in a former World Champion MITB match. Orton is just as over as C.M. Punk is, and deserves better than a pointless Kane feud. Please WWE, don't let this be building to a one-on-one match. Nothing against Orton, but I don't want to see this.
Interest Level: 1 out of 10

Why Isn't This Match Happening???: Kane vs Zack Ryder
This pretty much books itself. Kane abused Zack Ryder time and time again in his battles with John Cena. You would think Ryder would be back in the coming weeks. Have Kane take out a few lower card guys, then have Ryder come out and just go crazy on Kane. It is a ready made feud, it could make Ryder look like more of a serious character, and it would get good crowd heat. But for some reason, the WWE likes to make Ryder the butt end of jokes, so he will probably be in some comedy segment on the show. If this happened, my interest level would be very high.
Interest Level: 8 out of 10

World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
This matched happened at Wrestlemania last year. But it happened as a pre-Mania dark match. And it was for the United States Championship. The match wasn't bad for the few minutes it was on, but it ended up turning into a battle royal. But these two have grown tremendously as characters since then, and they reversed roles. Last year, Bryan was the face and Sheamus the heel. Bryan has grown into a great heel character. He is always trying to find ways to hang onto his World Title. Sheamus won the Royal Rumble and has turned into a huge fan favorite and I believe has a bright future ahead of him. I would have never guessed that Sheamus would have been as good a face as he's become.

I have no doubt these two can put on a good match in the ring, but I need to get more invested in their feud. There's something there that just isn't clicking, at least for me. Both men have been great in their separate roles, but they need to start doing better together when on screen to get me invested. Sheamus did a decent job running down Bryan to open Smackdown this week, but I need better. My guess is that this match opens Wrestlemania. The opening match at Wrestlemania has actually become important in recent years, so it isn't really a spot reserved for mid-carders anymore. I'm looking forward to seeing these two work together in the ring. However, they need to do something to get me invested in their program other than "Sheamus won the Royal Rumble and picked to face Bryan at Wrestlemania."
Interest Level: 6.5/10

WWE Championship: C.M. Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
This is the program that WWE fans have been dreaming of since Chris Jericho was rumored to be coming back. Punk and Jericho are two of the best all around workers in wrestling. They can both work in the ring, both work a mic and both know how to work a crowd. They are always entertaining to watch. C.M. Punk broke out in the summer of 2011. Everyone knew he always had the talent, but the WWE for some reason always wanted to hold him back. But Punk's program with John Cena this summer put him on the map, and he has been a huge success ever since. Punk's in ring work, mic skills and all around talent is at an all time high. Punk is a huge in ring and marketing success that doesn't look to be going away any time soon.

Jericho has always been one of the better workers in wrestling. The big thing about Jericho is that he knows how to work an audience and knows what the fans want. Everyone was expecting this grand scheme with Jericho's return because of his promos and return vignettes. But Jericho trolled us all, and it was great. Jericho's "beef" with some stars, especially Punk, is that he believes Punk stole a lot of his material. Jericho was walking around calling himself the Best in the World long before C.M. Punk did. Now Jericho has his shot to prove it to Punk at Wrestlemania.

What happened this past Monday on RAW is exactly what was needed to kick this feud into high gear. The two had been exchanging jabs back and forth for a few weeks, but their promo exchange at the beginning on RAW this past week was excellent. I think it was better than The Rock and Cena. And the best thing is that you know these two are capable of getting even better. Punk will call out Jericho for continuously leaving and coming back, while Jericho will get at Punk for ripping him off. These are two of my favorite workers ever, and it easily the match I am most looking forward to at Wrestlemania.
Interest Level: 10 out of 10

Hell In A Cell: Triple H vs The Undertaker
So it seems like this match is being billed as the last of two legends from an era going at it. Or something like that. Basically, these two are the last two guys left of a dying era. Guys who bleed the business 24/7/365. In many ways, that  is a true fact. Triple H and Undertaker are legends in the business. They've been locker room leaders who are respected by everyone in the WWE locker room.

Last year at Wrestlemania these two put on the best match on a slightly above average show. The match wasn't a technical master piece. It was big spot, break, big spot, break. These were two guys who weren't regulars at the time, and still aren't. Triple H wrestled a couple of times in the fall, but nothing full time or major. Undertaker for all purposes only shows up at Wrestlemania now, and that seems like it will be the case for the foreseeable future. Undertaker has a bad rotator cuff, hip and knees. Triple H, meanwhile, has become more of a figure behind the scenes and has a lot of responsibilities.

Now this feud gets re-ignited. Last year, although Undertaker won, Triple H walked away from the battle. Taker was carted off. Taker wants another match so he can be the one who walks away this time. The reason for Triple H not wanting to fight the Undertaker was kind of smart. Undertaker is a brand, he wants to preserve that brand and make money of it. Taker getting Triple H to agree to the fight was well done. Hell In A Cell was the next logical step for these two. I didn't think it would happen with Mania being outdoors this year, but somehow they will find a way to get that structure up and in there.

I'm interested to see what Shawn Michaels involvement will be going foreword. There has been talk of him being the special guest referee. This Monday, HBK will address Triple H for saying that he knows he is better than Shawn. Right now, Triple H could put on a better match with Taker. But Shawn is always and will always be a better all around performer than HHH.

This match has a big feel to it, but they still need to get it into second and third gear. HBK's involvement will help that. These two won't be able to get away with the constant resting like they did last year. These two need to go all out in the Cell. Hopefully this feud doesn't involve too many backstage references. That could drag it down. I think this feud will follow a pattern similar to last years: slow build early, but then pick up in the last few weeks.
Interest Level: 6.5/10

The Rock vs John Cena
It is the match we have been waiting a year to see. A few years ago this was a dream match that we never thought could happen. But The Rock agreed to comeback last year, and now he's wrestling on the grandest stage of them all.

There is no doubt that The Rock is one of the best performers in WWE history. His mic work might be the best of all time. As evident by this past week's RAW, he can take a crowd and two minutes into a promo have it in the palm, of his hand. The audience loves having The Rock back. Yes, he may be taking away a spot from a star on the roster. And he may not be the most liked guy backstage, but he is still a huge draw. No doubt about that. Personally, I think some people are just a bunch of babies because The Rock didn't say hi to them. Maybe if these guys worked a bit harder they wouldn't need The Rock back. Sure part of it is booking, but if the WWE had faith in these guys, they would push him.

Many people have always considered John Cena a Rock-lite. There is no doubt he is the WWE's top star, but he isn't as over, isn't as skilled on the mic, and isn't as polished in the ring. John Cena has two very different sets of fan bases. The girls and kids like him, but the adult male audience do not. It has been like that for a while, and I don't think it will change anytime soon. Cena doesn't mind it, however, and I respect him because of that. He doesn't let it bother him and often times plays along with it. And I'm glad the WWE finally started to recognize it. They try to spin it off in a positive light, but it still is not to finally have it recognized.

We have had about two weeks of this feud so far, and there is no doubt in my mind that John Cena has gotten the better of The Rock in these first two weeks. Cena's promo after Elimination Chamber on RAW was very good. Then, Cena completely one-upped The Rock this past week on RAW. I talked about how The Rock's response to Cena was critical. It wasn't the best, however, and Cena took advantage again. While Rock pandered to the audience, Cena again called out Rock for all of his lies and even the notes he had on his arm. Some of this was apparently set up by the WWE, as they are trying there hardest to get a 50/50 split of the crowd at Wrestlemania. They could have The Rock come out and kill five cats, he would still get cheered at Wrestlemania in his hometown. I like Cena so far in this feud, and you know it will only continue to get better.

I expect Cena to continue to get the upper hand in the coming weeks before Rock just goes all out and rips Cena a new one. As far as physical confrontations go, I don't even know if I would have the two touch heading into Wrestlemania. Maybe have a shoving contest, or have two heels come out and then have Rock and Cena accidentally take one or the other out, but I don't think I would go for an all out brawl. The match may not have the same great crowd reaction Rock and Hogan had, but I expect it to be up there. These two guys are good on the mic, and I am looking forward to their exchanges in the coming weeks.
Interest Level: 7.5 out of 10

That's all I got. How interested are you in Wrestlemania?

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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