Say this for World Wrestling Entertainment–by booking their schedule around big names who only appear a few times a year, they’ve turned Wrestlemania into a star-studded spectacle AND a show you can watch without knowing anything that’s been going on since the last Wrestlemania. That might work out for them if they ever get going with their plan to move the rest of their shows to a proposed wrestling cable network. Although, at $69.99 for the HD broadcast, they’d better hope the Rock and Undertaker don’t retire until they’re seventy.
THE ROCK vs. JOHN CENA
After Rock beat Cena at last year’s Wrestlemania, he vowed to win the WWE championship. Which he did, so naturally Cena ended up becoming #1 contender. This match only exists so Rock can give Cena his win back, so it’ll be big on spectacle and short on unexpected twists or innovations on the first match. Keep an eye on crowd reaction for this match, because the internet has largely declared they didn’t need to see this again, and I’m curious whether the live crowd feels the same way.
Cena has done some interesting promos suggesting he’s gone Captain Ahab about losing last year, so many fans are hoping he’ll somehow turn heel. However, fans have been hoping Cena will turn heel since 2005 to no avail, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.
TRIPLE H vs. BROCK LESNAR
I was underwhelmed by their previous match at Summerslam, until I realized they were probably holding back to save something for this, the rematch. The stipulation is that if HHH loses he will be forced to retire, but he was already sort of retired so that’s really a non-issue.
This is a classic example of a fake wrestling match being intriguing because the real writers are painted into a corner. They’re paying Brock a lot of money–too much money to have him lose all the time–but Hunter is one of their most protected stars and it feels like it’s time for him to get his revenge on the bad guy. I’m hoping this match will be a wild brawl that keeps me guessing as to the winner.
THE UNDERTAKER vs. CM PUNK
Undertaker spent the last four Wrestlemanias having match of the year candidates with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, so the pressure is on Punk to prove he can deliver similar results. Unfortunately, the storytelling headed into this match hasn’t been on par with Taker’s last four programs. WWE ran “somebody steals Undertaker’s magic urn” into the ground about eighteen Wrestlemanias ago, so I am less than enthused about seeing it CM Punk do it.
Punk wants to break Taker’s undefeated streak the cheap way, by agitating him into a making a mistake or getting disqualified. Undertaker wants to hurt Punk so badly that he’s stopped giving a shit about preserving the streak. So the psychology of this match is going to be critical, in that each man is trying to make the other blink, which is fitting since both of them look like they have never slept in their lives.
ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JACK SWAGGER
Del Rio is the World champion. (See, Rock is the WWE champion of the world, and Del Rio is the World champion of WWE, or something like that. It’s better than the BCS, so shut up.) WWE really wants to have a heroic Mexcian wrestler to appeal to Latino markets, so they hired Del Rio and…booked him as a bad guy for three years. But now he’s a good guy. Yay! Also Jack Swagger is an evil Know-Nothing who hates Mexcians. Boo!
To give you an idea of how little fans care about this match or its participants, the main intrigue is whether the winner will immediately be challenged by Dolph Ziggler. See, Ziggler has a magic briefcase that says he can wrestle the champion whenever he wants, without warning. (Still better than the BCS!) He has until July to use the thing, but if he doesn’t want to win the world title at Wrestlemania he has to be the stupidest character in wrestling since Kamala, the wrestling cannibal who didn’t know you’re supposed to pin people face-up. So ultimately Del Rio vs. Swagger is mostly about whether Dolph Ziggler is an idiot.
RANDY ORTON & SHEAMUS & THE BIG SHOW vs. THE SHIELD
The Shield is the team of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns, who exploded out of developmental last year to debut as a trio of badass ass-kickers who ambush and destroy anybody they want. WWE’s new policy of introducing new wrestlers as actually being awesome has really paid off with these guys. So they’re fighting the three tippy-toppest guys that didn’t make it into the main events, and I favor the Shield to win.
The psychology of the Shield’s matches is that they like to outnumber their opponents, but even when it’s three-on-three their superior teamwork overwhelms the other team. The new factor this time is Big Show, so it’s more like three-on-three-and-seven-eighths. Look for the Shield to prove that won’t help by doing some impressive triple-team attacks on the giant.
Fans have been speculating that Randy Orton will turn heel during this match, but fans have been expecting Randy Orton to turn heel since 2011, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. (Fans sort of want everybody to turn heel for some reason.)
MARK HENRY vs. RYBACK
Mark Henry is my favorite wrestler right now, because he’s a big mean man who looks like Action Hank if he ate Clubber Lang and absorbed his super powers. Ryback is the biggest, meanest man in WWE who is not currently a bad guy, so it made sense for these guys to have a short, explosive fight at this show. I keep hearing that they’ve been wrestling each other on tour and reviews are not good, but the kind of nerds who review house show matches are not the kind of people who appreciate a good Mark Henry match, so screw that.
CHRIS JERICHO vs. FANDANGO
Fandango is a new wrestler who gets mad when people don’t say his name right. And he dances. That is his entire character. Chris Jericho used to mispronounce his opponents’ names all the time, so I suppose these two are logical enemies. I can’t shake the feeling that Jericho will win in thirty seconds to kill off the character, but I’m sure I’m in the minority on that.
DANIEL BRYAN & KANE vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER & BIG E LANGSTON
Last year Daniel Bryan and Kane both dated AJ Lee, and then after she dumped them both they went to therapy and became a goofy, dysfunctional tag team. Now AJ is dating Dolph so he has to fight her exes. Think of it as a fanfic as written by the WWE shippers on Tumblr. Langston is involved mainly so the tag team championship can be at stake, and so we can call them “Ziggy and Big E.” I don’t know who will win, but I’m hoping AJ splits with Dolph because she’d be better off dating Langston. I call my pairing “AJ+E=<3,” in case you were wondering.
BRODUS CLAY & TENSAI & NAOMI & CAMERON vs. CODY RHODES & DAMIEN SANDOW & BRIE BELLA & NIKKI BELLA
Brodus’s team (the good guys) is two chubby guys and their hot cheerleaders, and Cody’s team (the bad guys) is two guys with weird facial hair and their bland interchangeable girlfriends. When a match at Wrestlemania has more than six people in it, it tends to be a short, throwaway affair, so I’m not expecting anything out of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets bumped down to the pre-show.
WADE BARRETT vs. THE MIZ
This is already set for the pre-show. They’ll be wrestling for Barrett’s intercontinental championship, which is such a prestigious accolade that the other twenty-six men on this show are all more important than it. Essentially they’re both jobbers fighting to determine which of them is the King of the Jobbers, and is worthy enough to lose to Randy Orton on Smackdown every week.