WWE WrestleMania 28: The Year of the Designated Hitters
Triple H, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, and The Rock—WWE is bringing out the designated hitters for WrestleMania XXVIII.
I never understood, when I was a kid, why MLB pitchers couldn’t hit as well as the other batters. They all were professionals. They all played for a living. It just didn’t make sense.
In the American League, they had designated hitters.
These guys would hit for the pitcher.
It didn’t matter that the pitcher was doing all the work on the other end. When it was time to bat and a run was needed, they called on the designated hitter.
That is what WWE is doing by bringing back the old cast for WrestleMania.
Though some would debate if all these guys are needed, and I would say some matches (Rock versus Cena) make more sense than others (Triple H versus the Undertaker), it is too late to have that argument.
The fact is four out of five of the guys involved in the two hardest-pushed matches are designated hitters. Only John Cena wrestles consistently month-to-month.
By bringing in the designated hitters, WWE is swinging for the fences at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Let’s take a look at what these guys have to offer and what they have to prove.
Still Playing the Game
I will say it plain: Of all the guys returning to action, I think Triple H is least needed at this WrestleMania.
I don’t think there was genuine demand for a third match between Triple H and the Undertaker, and I wonder what Triple H would be doing had he not been attached to the Undertaker’s 20th WrestleMania match.
Would there have been a relevant spot for him otherwise?
Though he has not been as inactive as the Undertaker (he came back in the midst of the CM Punk push), Triple H is still a designated hitter in that he's returning to the ring to support (or get on) the WrestleMania card.
I maintain that Triple H was not as necessary for the card as guys like The Rock and The Undertaker, I feel like he has the most to prove.
Hunter knows history will speak often of The Undertaker’s 20th match. Fortunately for Triple H, I believe he will be saved by the cell.
It's a match familiar to both Triple H and The Undertaker, and without it I don’t think there would be anything left for them to do against each other.
I don’t predict Triple H will end the streak, but I do wonder if he might end The Undertaker.
Personally, I hope not, but if he does, Triple H will live forever as the last man to face the Dead Man at WrestleMania.
Whether it was the best choice or not.
Lost in Shadows
The Undertaker’s fans are a lot like The Undertaker—they very rarely complain.
Maybe the creatures of the night do not have internet access?
The Undertaker is a professional, as much as anyone in the business today. You give him direction, and he goes with it and makes it work.
A lesser man might argue that his 20th WrestleMania match (though hyped in many commercials) has yet to gain the genuine momentum of some of his former WrestleMania matches.
From begging for the match to standing by as the bulk of the program has centered on Triple H and his recurring obsession with Shawn Michaels, it feels as if the significance of this match may be overlooked.
But no matter the focus or lack thereof, The Undertaker will step out of the shadows and into the spotlight come WrestleMania. This is his 20th match, and it will go down in history.
The Undertaker’s streak, which is unlike anything we’ve seen before it, could possibly be over, win or lose, after WrestleMania XXVIII.
Though he hasn’t wrestled in a year, The Undertaker deserves to be on this card as much as anyone else—he has earned it.
Again and again, like no one else, he has earned it.
Showstopper and Show Stealer
Shawn Michaels—Mr. WrestleMania—continues to amaze me.
Though he arrived back not quite in wrestling shape and sporting a gray beard, the fans have still showered him with HBK chants each time he has reappeared. Even when he wasn’t in the arena and the focus was meant to be on Triple H, they chanted HBK.
Don’t think the lack of a wrestling role means Shawn Michaels is not coming in a designated hitter. This is the second year in a row Shawn Michaels has been called upon to assist Triple H in replicating what Michaels and the Undertaker did naturally at WrestleMania XXV and XXVI.
The back-to-back matches between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker rival anything done on the grandest stage of them all.
Shawn Michaels is not being brought back because WWE is short a referee, either. The company believes he is still a draw and will help sell this match, even without wrestling again.
And though he may be a simple man away from the ring, HBK is still a showstopper and show stealer when the cameras are on.
Expect Shawn Michaels to grab his portion of the spotlight in the Hell in the Cell match.
After all, you don’t become Mr. WrestleMania by blending in.
It has been my opinion that Chris Jericho returned, most of all, for WrestleMania.
WWE looked at Chris Jericho and saw what he could do for CM Punk and what the two of them might deliver in a one-on-one match.
Much like when Chris Jericho had the opportunity to wrestle Shawn Michaels, this is an opportunity for CM Punk. It wasn’t that long ago that Punk was wrestling Rey Mysterio and claiming they’d steal the show at WrestleMania.
That was a very ambitious claim.
To say Chris Jericho and CM Punk may steal the show, however, is realistic.
The feud has intensified in the last week, and it remains to be seen how that will affect the match at WrestleMania. Will it be a wrestling classic or will it be a brawl? Will it be both?
One thing is for sure—CM Punk is not the only one who can gain from this match.
A friend and writer pointed out that if you count Jericho as a winner in his first WrestleMania (and we do), he is 4-5 all-time at WrestleMania.
Though records mean little in the grand scheme of things (aside from the streak), it is interesting that Chris Jericho has the opportunity to break even this year.
More than that, however, Jericho continues to stake his claim as a WWE legend.
It’s not a claim that comes as obvious as guys like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, nor am I convinced his name yet belongs beside Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels.
But Y2J's star is rising and, to me, the more he does for Punk and can do with this match, the more Jericho does for the good of his own legacy.
Finally...it's the Bottom of the 9th
For most of last year, I would have thought The Rock was the ultimate designated hitter.
I, like all others, expected him solely for WrestleMania XXVIII—one and done. It would have been proper enough.
The Rock could have given back, like Hogan did for him. But recent reports say not only is the Rock wrestling at WrestleMania XXIX, he may be wrestling Cena again.
I’m not yet sold on Rock/Cena II or III, and I hope WWE will be cautious before committing to such an on-going program.
But one thing is for sure: The Rock, who went to Hollywood and became Dwayne Johnson, is officially The Rock again.
It is more than one match. And one match is more than The Rock ever had to give. Every guy who steps into the ring is putting their health on the line.
The Rock is beyond that. He doesn’t have to. He wants to.
At WrestleMania XXVIII, The Rock is back, as if he never wrestled at Survivor Series, this is the return fans have been waiting to see.
The Rock is being brought in, like a batter in the ninth inning with the bases loaded. He was brought brought in to fill Miami, sell pay-per-views and deliver what is being called the match of the century.
And The Rock wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am not one who is against bringing back stars.
It is an advantage WWE has built, and it helps WrestleMania continue to deliver on the level at which we have become accustom.
I do wonder who we will be talking about when the lights go out in Miami.
Will it be designated hitters like The Rock, The Undertaker, and Triple H, or will it be the nine-inning guys like John Cena and CM Punk?
And what becomes of Sheamus and Daniel Bryan?
WrestleMania is less than two weeks away and the stars are coming out to play.
But are they coming out to stay?