WrestleMania 28: Five Things That Must Happen for WrestleMania to Be a Success
WrestleMania 28 is only one month away, and already, anticipation for wrestling's biggest event is through the roof.
With plenty of young, up-and-coming talent, returning legends, and an impressive card to date, WrestleMania 28 is shaping up to be one of the more solid Manias in recent memory. But with high expectations come demanding standards.
The Rock and John Cena will face off in a match riding a full year's worth of hype, Undertaker puts his streak and his legacy into the Cell, and Chris Jericho looks to reclaim his moniker of "best in the world" from CM Punk. On paper, it seems as if WrestleMania 28 is bound to deliver, but what exactly does that even mean?
WWE programming is coming off a pretty strong run of shows, and the final month heading toward Miami is guaranteed to keep up the pace, but what happens when the road stops and the clock strikes midnight?
WrestleMania 28 will undoubtedly provide some great moments, and hopefully a classic match or two, but what must happen for the pay-per-view to be called a success? How can WrestleMania 28 solidify itself in the pantheon of memorable Manias past?
Here are five things that WrestleMania 28 must do in order to be called a success.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho Must Steal the Show
From the moment Chris Jericho was even speculated to be the man behind the mysterious "it begins" campaign, the general belief held by many in the wrestling universe was that Y2J was back to challenge CM Punk for the WWE Championship.
After weeks of unusual behavior, Jericho unveiled his plan to show the world that CM Punk is nothing but a "Chris Jericho wannabe" by defeating him for the title at WrestleMania 28.
This match is immensely important for both superstars, and for WrestleMania 28 to live up to its full potential, Jericho and Punk must steal the show.
Since the Royal Rumble, the way Chris Jericho's initially incredible return has been handled by the WWE can only be described as an absolute disaster.
What started as an intriguing, creepy, ground-breaking piece of character work has turned into a bit of a joke, as Jericho's ominous guarantee to "end the world as we know it" was revealed to be getting kicked in the head and eliminated from the Rumble.
After basically admitting that his silence, bizarre actions, flashy jacket, and prophetic vignettes mean nothing, he set his sights on CM Punk and reclaiming his title of "Best in the World."
CM Punk is extremely hot right now, riding his "Summer of Punk" momentum to become the most over face in the company. In many ways, Punk is the most important commodity for the WWE at the moment: an accomplished wrestler, skilled on the mic, beloved by the fans and IWC alike.
Now, with a worthy adversary in Chris Jericho, Punk has the opportunity to cement himself in the upper-echelon of WWE talent permanently, finding himself in a title match at WrestleMania.
These two superstars must be given the opportunity to put on the match that wrestling fans know they have the ability to deliver. Their championship match has transcended the belt and has become an arena to determine just who is the very best in the world right now.
A match that fails to deliver will set Jericho's return back even further, as well as damaging Punk's credibility as an A-list, main-event talent.
Regardless of who wins, Punk and Jericho must be given the chance to let their in-ring abilities steal the show.
The Undertaker Must Defeat Triple H to Keep WrestleMania Legacy Intact
Last year, The Undertaker managed to defeat Triple H to bring his WrestleMania record to an astounding 19-0. In doing so, he was pushed to the ultimate brink, and for the first time, The Deadman seemed very mortal.
This year, The Undertaker has returned, beckoning The Game for one last match; an invitation for two guards of the passing age to go out in a blaze of glory and hellfire. After much reluctance, Triple H was finally pushed to accept under one condition: their final showdown take place in The Cell.
The spirit of The Undertaker has truly become a larger-than-life entity. From his earliest days, the lights go out and that bell tolls, and the hairs stand on end. The Undertaker no longer exists as a gimmick, a character, a wrestler, or even a human being. He is an everlasting symbol of WWE wrestling as we know it.
His WrestleMania streak is something that no other wrestler has duplicated, and likely never will. A career spanning three decades represented by the names of his victims. Wrestlers like Jimmy Snuka, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Kane, Ric Flair, Edge, and Shawn Michaels stretch through history like a timeline. A testament to The Undertaker's immortality as a WWE icon.
Now that The Phenom's legendary career is drawing to a close, Triple H has been appointed the man to put Taker down, once and for all. If he should succeed, The Undertaker's streak would be broken, and his legacy forever tarnished.
Which is why The Undertaker must win at WrestleMania 28.
There is no reason why The Undertaker can't finish off his career with a victory, finishing his WrestleMania masterpiece a perfect 20-0, and then ride off into the sunset.
Losing to Triple H would not allow him to "rest in peace" or any other hokey sentiment similar to that. It would merely tarnish a history that is more about lasting presence than personal achievement.
As good as Triple H is, carrying quite the career of his own, The Undertaker and his streak have transcended the realm of man vs. man, and now represent man vs. history.
Is there a man alive worthy of ending the streak? Of doing something that 17 men, many of them Hall of Famers, could not do? And if so, is that man really Triple H?
The Game does not need to add The Undertaker's streak to his trophy case. WrestleMania 28 must go down as the night The Deadman made it an even 20, then said goodbye.
The Intercontinental Title Must Have a Strong Showing
The Intercontinental Championship has certainly seen better days since its inception over 30 years ago. In recent years, the IC Title has lost much of its prestige, being seldom seen on major pay-per-views and carried by wrestlers untested and unworthy.
While not nearly as bad as the fate suffered by the United States Championship, which barely exists anymore, the spiral into irrelevance did not suit a strap held by greats like Don Muraco, Rick Rude, Bret Hart, Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels.
However, current champion Cody Rhodes has done his part to bring some semblance of dignity back to the Intercontinental Championship. For one, Rhodes has the total package to be a solid member of the WWE roster for years to come.
He has reintroduced the classic white design of the belt from the '80s, giving it an old-school vibe reminiscent of better days. He also has the charisma to bring the Intercontinental belt back to relevancy by involving it in a substantial feud.
Point being, Rhodes as the IC champion can and does matter. For example, if Rhodes lost the belt, it would be a legitimate surprise. If Jack Swagger lost his belt, many would say, "wait...Jack Swagger was the U.S. Champ? This was a title match?"
This makes the Intercontinental Championship bout between Cody Rhodes and the Big Show at WrestleMania 28 an important match. For the first time in quite some time, the IC belt is being showcased.
Rhodes is defending against one of the biggest (no pun intended) names on the roster today in the Big Show, on the biggest stage of them all. A good showing here could go a ways to putting the IC Belt back on the map.
Should Rhodes win, he will be put even more over by defeating a legitimate main-event player in the Big Show, and as a result, the belt he carries will carry more weight as well.
Should he lose, having the IC title carried by someone like the Big Show will ensure that only worthy competitors will be able to challenge. Basically, the belt will matter again.
Neither of these outcomes will matter if the match is not up to standards. This will be a strong test for Rhodes, who will likely have to carry the slow, aging Big Show if the match hopes to stack up against the rest of the card.
If he is up to the task, and if the WWE still believes in the Intercontinental Title, this match must return the belt to its former glory.
Win or Lose, Daniel Bryan Must Put Up a Fight Against Sheamus
Say what you will about the lack of bloodshed, the sub-par matches, or age of the target demographic, I strongly believe that one of the biggest reasons why PG Era wrestling has not been up to snuff is the lack of strongly cultivated, well-paced rivalries.
The current status of the WWE roster is really not that bad. Plenty of young guys with talent, looks, and time to improve other facets of the game are just waiting to be utilized effectively, looking for that push that will propel them into the realm of the big-time players.
Yet week after week, guys who were pushed yesterday are being squashed to push the next guy today, and the cycle continues with no one really going anywhere.
Two young guys could enter into a feud not based on titles, but because they just flat-out don't like each other. In this way, character is revealed, and matches take on much more meaning.
Enter Daniel Bryan.
Daniel Bryan's heel turn and World Heavyweight Championship reign has been scrutinized by many for portraying the gifted mat technician as a soft, cowardly, paper champion. What more can be expected when the man battling Bryan night in and night out (Big Show) could probably swallow him whole?
Now that the Big Show has moved on to Cody Rhodes, Bryan has been targeted by Royal Rumble victor, Sheamus. Here, a great opportunity lies for Bryan and Sheamus to engage in a rivalry that stems from their WrestleMania encounter and carries on from there.
Sheamus has been floating about aimlessly for a while now, squashing random opponents left and right, yet lacking direction. Now that he has his sights set on Bryan's title, the possibility now exists for these two to begin a heated feud, allowing Bryan to showcase his talent against an opponent he can fit his arms around, and Sheamus to actually engage in a storyline worthy of highlighting Smackdown!
This all hinges on their showdown at WrestleMania 28. Despite his recent portrayal as a coward, Bryan must put up a fight against Sheamus to validate any sort of rivalry that could stem from this. He cannot become yet another victim to the Brogue Kick, which has grown extremely boring.
Win or lose, Daniel Bryan has to prove himself a worthy competitor to compete with not only Sheamus, but the rest of the WWE roster, especially should he remain a main-event talent.
The Rock vs. John Cena Must Be a Game-Changer
The main event of WrestleMania 28 had been slowly building hype for roughly a calendar year before things got really interesting mere weeks ago.
John Cena took to the mic last week and cut one of the better promos of his career, skewering The Rock for being fake, accusing him of only returning to promote his movies, and finally calling him out for claiming he was "home," only to leave once again following WrestleMania 28.
To address Cena's remarks, as well as their impending match at WrestleMania, The Rock returned last night on Raw, and in typical Rock-fashion, had the people in a frenzy.
Until John Cena showed up. That's when something no one really foresaw happened.
Cena laughed off The Rock's insults, before acknowledging notes that were written on The Rock's wrist for his promo. With The Great One noticeably shaken up, Cena promised decisive victory, and left the ring.
The Rock attempted to strike back at Cena, blatantly avoiding using the word "wrestler" and claiming to be "the most electrifying man in all of entertainment." Not sports entertainment. Just entertainment. He then tossed the mic in frustration, mouthed some colorful language in Cena's direction, and that was that.
Cena came out and beat The Rock at what he does best.
Now, when I say "game-changer," I mean a match that gets us to think about things differently than we had before, and from that point onward.
In just one month, two of the biggest superstars in the history of wrestling, representing two different generations and two totally different wrestling ideologies, will battle it out, and in itself, that match would be a suitable WrestleMania headliner.
But for a full year of build-up, two monumental names, and given the level of uncertainty that is floating around both men, this match must rock the WWE to its core.
Perhaps John Cena's recent edginess results in a new, more popular persona for the much-maligned "Fruity Pebble." Perhaps The Rock's half-hearted return will culminate in a full-blown heel turn. With a solid month to go, anything is possible.
However, given all the components that make up this main event, anything less than a full-on explosion will send WrestleMania 28 out with a whimper instead of a bang.