WWE's annual February Pay Per View is usually one of the most overlooked PPVs of the year. Usually it's a great PPV to watch, as its a perfect lead in for Wrestlemania in April. All the rivalries are hit, and the matches push them to new levels.
Not this year, though.
The WWE itself can't be blamed, at least, not entirely. Match by match, I'll review what makes (or breaks) this years card.
1) Jack Swagger vs. Finlay (Singles Match for the ECW title)
This match, more than anything else, is padding for the card. Not only because its the ECW match for the card, but because it's had very little build up. Swagger, living up to his name, has been strutting through an impressive winning streak and Finlay is the latest name to get in the ring to try to bring Swagger his first loss.
Realistically, the only reason to watch this match is to see who wins. Despite its "C" rating as a show, ECW has been working hard to bolster their upper card.
Swagger has been effectively making his way up to match Mark Henry, and with the addition of Christian Cage, Finlay, and Tommy Dreamer now have more competition to get the latest title shot. It'll be interesting to see who wins this match if nothing else then to see who will get the title shot at Wrestlemania.
I expect we'll see Swagger steal a win, leading to some sort of a four way match involving himself, Finlay, Christian and possibly Dreamer for Wrestlemania.
2) Shawn Michaels vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (Singles match for JBLs contract for Michaels, and his likeness)
This is probably the match I'm most looking forward to on this card. With Wrestlemania broadcasting from Houston, Texas this year and both of these men being two of the biggest names currently working coming from the Lone Star State, something tells me there won't be a clean and decisive victory here.
Its also interesting to see what the two very experienced ring veterans will come up with for this match. There's two very different, very unique styles here, and it'll be fun to watch how they work together.
I'd think we'll see a surprise run-in during this match. Maybe Ric Flair, HHH, maybe even Mickey Rourke. Either which way it plays, I'd think we'll see someone interfere with the match, causing it to end in a no contest, and giving us another great match to look forward to at Wrestlemania.
3) Randy Orton vs. Shane McMahon (No Hold Barred Match)
Don't expect a lot of science here. This is being billed as a revenge match for Shane, trying to avenge the attack his father took from Randy recently. Further, Randy's sidekicks, the tag team Priceless, have been barred from ring side.
Think all that's leading into a great match? Think again. Shane, despite his constant willingness to sacrifice his body with very impressive bumps for the sake of selling matches, hasn't had in ring time in close to a year and a half. This was painfully obvious when he had his in ring work with the Legacy group a few weeks ago, and his punches connected with more wind than anything else.
If anything, expect to see a good amount of Hardcore style work, a back and forth exchange through a good portion of the match, including at least one bump that will make the audience stop and think "his father owns the company and he still does things like THAT?!?" and possibly the run-in of whomever the newest Legacy member will be.
Past that, Orton's going to have to win this one, thanks to his Royal Rumble victory, guaranteeing his title shot at Wrestlemania. Losing would take away too much steam.
4) Edge vs. The Undertaker vs. The Big Show vs. Triple H vs. Vladimir Kozlov vs. Jeff Hardy (Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship)
This is the second most badly planned match on the card, sitting behind the main event. With so many storylines interweaving here, it's hard to tell just what's going to happen here. Also keep in mind that five of the six men in this match have held the title, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see any one of them walking out with the title.
Recently, it's seemed Triple H's sights have been set pretty directly on Kozlov, who's been returning the sentiment. The Big Show's had an oddly cocky attitude when it comes to taking the belt from Edge, who is, of course, scheming on how he'll keep it.
Jeff Hardy SHOULD be in some sort of program with his brother Matt, so expect his interference at some point. And the Undertaker? Not only a wild card here, but another Houston native, and rumors have been going around for years about his impending retirement.
My thoughts? It comes down to Kozlov and Undertaker, with Taker winning the title to go into Wrestlemania for one last run as champ.
5) John Cena vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Chris Jericho
In my opinion, the biggest waste of time on the card. Two of the men in the match, Kingston and Knox, are no where near Main Eventers, and no where near title holder status. Kane would work well for a title run, but his work recently doesn't seem to be leading to one.
Jericho would make sense as a champion, but not as an opponent for Orton. And Rey Mysterio? As always, he'll be overlooked as a possibility, put in the match as a name to sell the event, not as a contender. So what does that leave? No surprise here, John Cena.
And as anyone could predict, Cena retains. He plays a good hero to Orton's villain, and the kids love him. The longer he keeps the belt on him, the happier the WWE is.
Now, given the current state of the WWE, here's the concession I'll make: If Batista wasn't injured, if CM Punk, JBL, HBK and Orton himself weren't already in angles keeping them out of this match, it could definitely have been improved.
You can't blame injuries on the WWE, and as much as many fans would want to blame them for not adding some of the other names in that list, I'd rather see the WWE keep them working the programs they're involved in than take them out for one match.
Now, also keep in mind, there's only give matches listed "officially" right now. I, for one, would be surprised to see them leave the card at just that.
Expect we'll see a Woman's championship match (Beth Phoenix vs. Melina), a tag match (The Colon Brothers vs. Miz and Morrisson maybe?), and either the IC or US title on the line (more likely Punk vs. Regal).
Overall, not exactly an impressive card, at least, nothing that won't spoil the next night's Raw by missing.