I’ve occasionally wondered if the MGK.com audience is interested in professional wrestling analysis, and I suppose there’s no better reason to test the waters than what Dave Meltzer calls “the biggest money-drawing pro-wrestling show of the last 130 years.” (It is a little known fact that the Earp brothers and the Clanton gang actually settled their differences with a eight-man tag in front of a sellout crowd at the Tombstone Sportatorium.)
The sensibility that WrestleMania is a special show on the WWE calendar is somewhat artificial. There’s no particular reason that WWE couldn’t save their biggest matches or their stadium events for, say, SummerSlam or Survivor Series. But WrestleMania has an aura about it, primarily because of epic matches like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (1987), Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior (1990), the Rock vs. Steve Austin series (1999/2001/2003), Hogan vs. the Rock (2002) and Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker (2009-2010). For WrestleMania XXVIII, WWE is poised to deliver the same kind of big-time, clash-of-the-titans feeling with a main event the company has been hyping since about a month before WrestleMania XXVII. It’s just that big!
John Cena vs. The Rock
I’m not sure the wrestling fandom has anticipated a match this much since Hogan and Andre. For over a year I’ve heard serious discussion about whether fans in the Sun Life Stadium will riot if the Rock loses in his hometown. There’s been tons of buildup for this one, as Rock and Cena have traded “is this a fake storyline or something more?” barbs at each other for years. Ostensibly, the story is that Rock retired in 2004 to make movies, and now he feels like coming back but Cena resents that the “people’s champion” walked out on the people. Recently the Rock has added the wrinkle that he wants to prove he’s the greatest of all time by becoming the only man to defeat Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena at WrestleMania.
The real story, though, is as follows:
- The Rock was one of the biggest stars of one of WWE’s hottest eras.
- John Cena is one of the biggest stars of the last 7-8 years.
- Hardcore wrestling fans can’t fucking stand John Cena and want to see him die.
- But nobody ever really beats John Cena when it counts because he’s a big star.
- But the Rock is a bigger star, and if anyone can get the job done, it’s him.
Basically, this match is every online Superman vs. Batman debate made manifest. Up to and including the part where nobody notices that Batman is just Superman with a blue cape.
Who will win? Let’s put it this way: WWE is hoping this will be the highest-grossing WrestleMania of all time, and very few people are paying to see the Rock lose.
Who should win? My personal WrestleMania experience would be perfect if I could hear millions of butthurt Cena-haters wailing as one on April 1, so I’m rooting for John Cena.
WWE Champion CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
CM Punk was on the verge of quitting WWE last summer until his career was revitalized by a “everything else in wrestling is fake but this is really real” story, where he called WWE management stupid and threatened to win the top championship and take it with him out the door. He is now well on his way to being one of the “made men” in the regular roster. Because Cena vs. Rock and HHH vs. Taker are on this show, the WWE title match is at best a distant third in terms of drawing money. This match can’t be about being the biggest star, so it’s about who is the best wrestler. Punk thinks he is, Jericho thinks he is, they will fight to find out.
The storyline has been a bit muddied in the home stretch by a series of promos in which Jericho tried to get under Punk’s skin with allegations about his family. The promos themselves didn’t work too well on me, but Punk’s reactions were excellent. I firmly want to believe that the next time Punk sees Jericho, he will break bones. And the next time they’ll see each other will be in the ring on Sunday.
Who will win? Conventional wisdom is that this is only the first bout in a series, and that the smart move would be to have Jericho win the championship so that Punk can win it back at the next show in his native Chicago. But “WWE” and “conventional wisdom” don’t go together very well, so I’m predicting Punk.
Who should win? Punk. He’s only held the title for 132 days, and I’m a big believer that wrestling title reigns should generally last longer than that. There’s no sense in having Jericho win the belt just to lose it back to Punk in a month, so I say keep it where it is.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
This is the battle of two sociopaths who love inflicting pain and being as boring as possible. I believe both of them made speeches in 2011 about rededicating themselves to remorseless cruelty, and if you read me the transcripts I probably couldn’t tell them apart. Picture Kane going for a chokeslam, Orton reversing it into an RKO neckbreaker, and Kane reversing that into another chokeslam. For nine minutes. That is what I expect to see.
Who will win? Orton.
Who should win? Both maimed and killed.
David Otunga (captain), Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, The Miz, & Drew McIntyre
(w/John Laurinaitis, Vickie Guerrero, and Brie Bella)
Santino Marella (captain), Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Booker T, & The Great Khali
(w/Teddy Long, Aksana, Hornswaggle, and Nikki Bella)
In case you can’t tell, WWE likes to cram as many of the performers onto the WrestleMania card as possible.
Since 2002 WWE has divided its roster into two “brands” named for its flagship Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown programs. Laurinatis and Long are the general managers of the two brands, and lately they’ve been a-feudin’ so this match is to decide which of them takes the other’s job and becomes the GM of both brands.
This match tells you everything you need to know about WWE’s midcard. The bad guy team is largely made up of former world champions and/or “next big things” that haven’t lived up to their hype. The good guy team is a bunch of losers booked as comedy goofball acts that couldn’t win a world thumb wrestling championship. The characters in this match that WWE has invested the most effort into promoting are the non-wrestlers–the aging executives and the shrill managers and the hot chicks and the leprechaun. If you’ve been noticing lately that WWE builds WrestleMania around retired superstars, this is why.
Who will win? I expect Laurinaitis will become GM of both shows and Teddy will stay on TV as his butler or something until the next big power play storyline.
Who should win? Ideally, Mark Henry would get pissed at his team and clubber them all, because Mark Henry is awesome and does not get to split enough wigs. Then in the confusion Zack Ryder would score the pinfall for his big WrestleMania moment, ensuring that I get Teddy Long twice a week and John Laurinaitis zero-ice a week. Holla holla!
Brodus Clay squashes some guy
Funk is on a roll / Funk is on a roll / Hey hey hey yo! / Can somebody call my momma / It’s about to get funky up in here! / Somebody call my momma / Somebody call my momma / Somebody call my momma / Will somebody please call my mom!
Who will win? “SHOULD I HIT HIM?”
Who should win? Yes you should, Funkasaurus.
WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres vs. Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos
I have nothing against women’s wrestling, but WWE management could not give a shit less about it, so women’s wrestling in WWE is always a meaningless affair where the bookers don’t try and the performers aren’t given enough time and the audience has been trained not to care. Maria Menounos is the host of Extra or something, and she is in this match because she is so famous I had to look up what she is famous for. I gather that Menounous legitimately broke a couple of ribs this week and I still haven’t heard that she’s been pulled out of this match, so more power to her. But this is still going to be the official piss break.
Who will win? Usually the team with the celebrity wins, but I figure the bad guys win instead, and then the good guys get revenge after the match. Perhaps someone’s pants will be pulled down! Ho ho ho!
Who should win? I think Phoenix’s arms are bigger than Menounous’s thighs, so she really ought to be snapping the good guys like twigs here.
World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan (w/AJ Lee) vs. Sheamus
An explanation for the uninitiated: WWE actually has two world titles, the WWE championship and the World Heavyweight championship. So CM Punk is the world champion of WWE, and Daniel Bryan is WWE’s champion of the world. Does that make sense? Because if it does, you have my have a promising future in the world of sports entertainment.
Daniel Bryan is the traditional chickenshit heel, who won the title via dishonest chicanery and has since defended it mainly by running away and/or hiding behind his girlfriend. I have to give major props to Byran and AJ for becoming the comic book nerd version of Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth–he has this beautiful manager, he treats her like dirt, fanboys everywhere are in love with her. Now, once and for all, there will be no running, because it’s WrestleMania and stuff!
Sheamus won the right to challenge for this title by winning the 2012 Royal Rumble. It seems weird to write that, because for 20 years winning the Royal Rumble and challenging the (a) champion at WrestleMania was a really big deal, a storyline attached to the top match of the show. Obviously this year Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus wasn’t going to be Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t try to make it feel like it could have been the biggest match of a different card. As it is, this has been promoted like it’s the main event of a Smackdown TV taping, and not even during sweeps. Nevertheless, I like both guys and I’m still hoping it’ll be good. I just wish WWE was paying as much attention as I will be.
Who will win? Sheamus, unless WWE realizes they’re onto something with Bryan’s character.
Who should win? Unless they’re willing to commit to a 600-day reign of terror for Bryan, and I don’t think they are, now’s the right time for somebody to end his run, and Sheamus is the guy to do it.
WWE Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes vs. the Big Show
The story to this match is that Cody is a dick and he keeps rubbing it in that Big Show always chokes at WrestleMania. Except for 2006. And 2010. And, uh, last year. Wrestling is not very good at history or stats.
Who will win? The unwritten rules say that you don’t put the intercontinental title on a great big guy, so I’m thinking Cody goes over here.
Who should win? Cody is rightfully the greatest wrestler in all non-insular landmasses.
WWE Tag Team Champions Primo & Epico Colon (w/Rosa Mendes) vs. Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel
This match is scheduled to be broadcast for free on YouTube, so that tells you how important the tag titles are these days. I don’t know if Gabriel and Kidd are faces or heels–last time I looked, they were one of each, which goes to show how much time these jobbers get on TV.
Who will win? I don’t think WWE cares enough to do anything but stand pat, so the Colons retain the tag belts.
Who should win? If they’re giving this match away free to entice late PPV buys, I’d put the belts on the Usos to get people’s attention.
Hell in a Cell (w/special referee Shawn Michaels)
The Undertaker vs. Triple H
This is a rematch from last year, but it’s also carrying on themes from the three Manias before it. After Shawn Michaels retired his friend and idol Ric Flair at XXIV, he became obsessed with being the first man to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, to the point that he put his career at stake and lost at XXVI. Going into the HHH/Taker match at XXVII, it was very much about Hunter avenging Shawn and also following Shawn into the same mid-life crisis of having no worlds left to conquer. The match itself shifted the focus to Taker’s career being in a crossroads, as Triple H beat him within an inch of his life and left him struggling to continue like Flair at XXIV. The finish was perfect, as HHH very nearly beat Taker but for one mistake, but only Hunter was able to walk away from the fight. One year later, they both have to fight again, and the Hell in a Cell cage is there to make sure it’ll be the last time.
There’s a lot of symbolism in this match that makes it special. Triple H is a wrestling veteran in his early forties, entering a phase of his career where the only real challenge is staving off death itself. His instincts are to continue like he did in his youth, but against Undertaker that’s tempting fate, and if he’s not careful he’ll end up like Shawn–a regretful shadow of his former self. Whereas Triple H can’t be the Cerebral Assassin forever, Undertaker can always be the Dead Man, but the Dead Man can’t always be a world-class wrestler. He got destroyed last year, to the point where I was watching at home wondering if he had sustained brain damage, and all the urns and druids and caskets in the world weren’t going to save him. So for him this match is about proving he’s still relevant professionally, against the greatest professional left in the industry. Triple H is an aging man who needs to prove there’s life after death; Undertaker is an old god who needs to prove men haven’t moved beyond him.
You can probably tell I’m really stoked for this match. WrestleMania XXVII really would have sucked a turd if it hadn’t been for the HHH/Taker match, so I’m counting on the rematch to make this year’s show a can’t-miss proposition.
Who will win? As time goes by I’m more and more certain that Undertaker’s streak–and his career–is on borrowed time, and sooner or later we’ll see him go down for the count and not get up. But this isn’t the year to do it. Undertaker extends the streak to 20-0, semi-retires Triple H, and returns next year for his next victim.
Who should win? My head says Taker ought to win, but I for the last three or four years I’ve rooted against the streak, if only because I want to say I saw it die. 19-1.